Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Postcards from the Archive

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Postcards from the Archive

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pokagon Tipi at EMU

Today during volunteer time at the Archives I found this much better 1916 photo of the onetime Pokagon tipi at EMU. Wow. This is very similar to the photo that, cropped, appears in my copy of the 1918 EMU "Aurora" yearbook (and in the post below). I'm definitely putting this photo into my book "Hidden Ypsilanti." One chapter of "Hidden" deals with the splintery edges of immigrant assimilation or cultural clashes between peoples, and this definitely speaks to that theme. At any rate, you can see that the tipi once stood on the eastern edge of the modern-day Sherzer Hall, which was nearly lost to a fire in the late 80s. To its credit, EMU rebuilt this venerable old 1903 (?) lady instead of wrecking it. Second oldest building on today's campus I believe. Props to EMU!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sherzer Hall (in 1918, the Science Building) with Pokagon Tipi

This photo from the 1918 "Aurora" yearbook from EMU has a hidden gem. Though it focuses on the Science Building, now called Sherzer Hall, take a look at the extreme right. That strange little structure is the onetime birchbark tipi that used to stand on campus. It was built by Simon Pokagon, and the story of its creation offers a thread back to the days of Potawatomi. The Potawatomi were onetime residents of Washtenaw County at one point in their migratory history, and later and today, continue to live in southwest Michigan (and areas in adjoining states as well as reservations out West).

Today of course the tipi is long gone. It stood on the east side of Sherzer.

Another view of the east side of Sherzer where the tipi once stood in its cage. You can see the north-south double walkway leading to the street to Halle.
Below is an early 20th-century picture postcard of the tipi. The story of this tipi and of its history and cultural background appears in my upcoming book Hidden Ypsilanti, which will be out this fall. I'm working hard on this book right now--it has summer deadlines, which is why blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately. Please bear with me as I try to make Hidden as good as I can, and stay tuned. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Postcards from the Archive

The front entrance to the onetime main building of the State Normal School.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Coldwater Doll

When Michigan orphans, including one girl in Ypsi, became indentured servants.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Postcards from the Archive Collection

A onetime corner of the Michigan State Normal School campus.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Sad Accident.
Mr. Walters in the employ of Cornwell & Co., at the paper mill, was caught in the shafting of the straw cutter last week, and the terrible result was the loss of his arm, which had to be amputated at the shoulder. He is just over from England, having been only two days in the service of the Messrs. Cornwell. --Item in the June 7, 1878 Ypsilanti Commercial

Local Support for an Unpopular Cause in 1874

When 19th-century women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave a pro-suffrage speaking tour in Michigan in 1874, the year the state voted on the issue, reactions ranged from warm support to derision. The divided reactions are seen in miniature by reactions within our own town in June of 1874. Ypsilanti's Sentinel newspaper, headed by Charles Woodruff, published anti-suffrage editorials against the movement, some quite scathing. At the Commercial, editor C. R. Pattison spoke out strongly in favor of suffrage, as in the editorial below. In it he criticizes the Detroit Post for its stance against Ms. Stanton [paragraph breaks added for readability].

"The Detroit Post is in tantrums about Mrs. Stanton’s canvass of the State.

"It copies every miserable, slimy slander in regard to her speeches. Mrs. Stanton’s speech in this city was entirely unexceptionable. It was very far from denunciatory; it was mild, persuasive, eloquent, argumentative, and convincing. The bitterest opponents of women suffrage were compelled to admit that her address was eminently adapted to win votes. We believe that this is the case wherever she speaks.

"The fact is, the Post and kindred sheets fear the powerful blows she is striking against the remains of feudalism and prescription of sex. Not possessing the manliness to come out and oppose it in an open above board manner, the Post and a few papers of its class seek to prejudice voters by side issues, and especially exciting prejudice against the ablest canvassers. This attempt will prove an utter failure.

"Wherever Mrs. Stanton speaks the hearers will be watching for the evidence of the slanderous cricicisms heaped upon her, and will be agreeably surprised to find that they are most unjust aspersions, and thus they will the more easily be persuaded to take the right side. So keep on your villianous, insidious, covert slanders. The rebound will make the cause a host of votes.

"Common sensed men will reason that a cause that can only be met by innuendo and misrepresentations must be based on the rock and worthy of their confidence."

Stanton image used under fair use provisos, from

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tour of the Interurban Car Barn on Michigan Ave.

Man, it sure is easy getting around on the interurban. The Detroit, Jackson, and Chicago lines go all over Southeastern Michigan, as seen in this Wikipedia map. Want to go shopping in Detroit? Just hop on at the downtown Ypsilanti waiting room and enjoy the ride. But how does this all work from a local standpoint?

The noisy, smoky nexus of the local interurban node stood just east of the Huron River, on the north side of Michigan Avenue. Though the main waiting area and boarding spot was downtown, this car barn was the site of cars coming and going for repairs, as workmen tended the enormous switchboard and rank of giant whirring dynamos.

The smoke belching from the plant was an issue in the southern River Street neighborhood, with residents complaining of laundry dirtied by falling soot; eventually the factory installed what were then called chimney "smoke suppressors," easing the problem somewhat. Many of the workmen at the plant, husbands of the wives battling with dirty laundry, lived in the same River Street neighborhood.

And we're in luck; look along River Street there--some workers are just walking back to work after lunch at home. How about this guy with the coal dust all over his pants? Let's ask nicely--does he mind if we tag along and take a quick look inside the plant? Yeah, he guesses that's OK, if we don't hang around. All right, we're in! Let's follow him and check it out.

Here's what we see as we approach the building, as viewed from Michigan Ave.

Our guide says that the bays on the left are the "car barns" proper. There's room for six cars. The central door leads to the main business office. On the right is a large bay leading to a big repair shop for the cars, which also houses a carpenter shop and a blacksmith shop. This is mass transit with a local DIY twist. Since our guide is headed there, let's tag along.

Our guide says he has to get back to work but that we can take a quick look around. Here's the repair shop. In the back right you can see the body of an interurban car. In the foreground lie stacks of...hmm, are these some kind of axle-transmission components? They also resemble motors. Don't want to bother one of the guys in back, but he could tell most of us, the names of this part are lost. Now let's check out the nerve center of the plant: the nearby switchboard area.

What did the switchboard control? I would guess the flow of electricity to various lines, to start and stop different cars without the expense of keeping all of the lines electrified at all times. Before we can ask, the worker there asks us to leave. OK, OK, but we're not done checking out the plant.

Exiting the main building with its switchboard, office, and repair shop, let's go outside, and circle around to the back of the building. Here, on the northeast side housed in a separate structure, was the heart of the plant: the dynamo house. Jeez, what a racket! Wow, look at that!

This is arguably the most dangerous place in all the plant, here by the rank of whirling dynamos. None of them have safety shielding. Considering the mass of the flywheels and their velocity...not a place to come to work a bit hung over on Monday morning. In fact, it's a bit scary here and I think we've seen enough. Let's skedaddle.

We've bothered the guys enough; they have work to do. As we leave, let's take one look back from the perspective of Materials Unlimited to wave and say thanks, guys, for this insider's look at our onetime local mass transit system.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Newspaper's Wooden-Wheeled Bicycles

Want to take a spin around town in 1892 Ypsilanti, but can't afford to buy a new bike? No worries: just pop down to the Ypsilanti Commercial offices at 316 North Huron (between Emmet and Cross) and rent one for a mere 15 cents per hour (about $3.60 today).

Not only did the paper rent bikes, they also sold them. At least, they sold the Elliott Hickory Bicycle, a model sporting two wooden wheels with tires that were "fastened" on. "Yes, FASTENED on," says the ad below. "They are not pasted on nor glued on, but so fastened that if worn to shreds the shreds would still be fast to wheel." Dusty D is not sure why riding on shreds is being advertised as a feature, as opposed to a nice soft tire, but I'm not a bigtime newspaper editor-slash-bicycle purveyor, and as such--clearly wiser minds than mine have made this ad.

The paper at this time was headed by Henry Coe, assisted by his brother Fred. Henry's twin career of newspaper editor and bicycle seller and livery manager seems to have been a short one. The Commercial continued for another eight years, but mentions of the bike livery vanish in short order from the paper. Perhaps it wasn't much of a loss; the livery had consisted of a fleet of only two bikes. The onetime cobblestones on many downtown streets might have made short order of those four wooden wheels (mounted to frames without shock absorbers), whether festooned with tenacious shreds or no.

Yet another brief flash of the onetime plethora of oddball business ventures in our town.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shockingly Immoral Boys

Student pastor Fred Merrifield had some news for the good Temperance ladies in June of 1909. According to him, the moral condition of Ann Arbor boys was in a shocking state. However, he had a plan to straighten them out with the help of some upright U-M students.

"Rev. Fred Merrifield, student pastor of the Baptist church, dropped a bomb in the middle of a W. X. T. U. meeting when he told the good ladies that boys in Ann Arbor between the ages of 13 and 16 were existing under shockingly immoral conditions; that gangs of these lads habitually associate with women of the lowest possible depravity; that the low class of Ann Arbor saloons encourage these young lads congregating at the rear doors of their places and furnish them with the filthiest literature.

"Mr. Merrifield pointed out that these boys could not be reached by the usual methods of the Y. M. C. A. because they were too poor to pay the fees that such organizations demand, and he asked for money to be donated for the rent of rooms, promising that he would have the help, without financial compensation, of 20 university students--'good, clean university men, not on the sissy order'--to take upon themselves the duties of giving these lads instructions in gymnasium work and in placing before them educational advantages that they could never hope for otherwise."

--June 5, 1909 Ypsilanti Daily Press

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Excursion to Wolf Lake: June 2, 1905 Ypsilanti Daily Press

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Postcards from the Archive

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X-Ray Finds No Heart in Miss Roosevelt

St. Louis--Miss Alice Roosevelt posed before the big X-ray machine at the German section of the educational building at the World's Fair to-day. The result was edifying to the beholders, but startling, too, for, try as he would, Prof. Leopold Bahlsen, who was operating the machine, could not locate Miss Roosevelt's heart.

Miss Warder, her Washington friend, and Miss Catlin, her hostess, stood revealed before the rays as possessors of hearts of generous proportions and so did the man of the party. Not so Miss Roosevelt. Repeated efforts revealed nothing more than the first experiment showed, and the other members of the party agreed that Miss Roosevelt must have lost her heart. --June 1, 1904 Ypsilanti Evening Press