At the dedication in 1991 of the second addition to the downtown library, director Ramon Hernandez explained that his goal was to have the library be strong in
three areas: children’s services, reference, and popular materials. This collection of Ann Arbor
News articles shows that these were goals from the very beginning.
The first article, dated 1886, is an editorial written when the library was still part of
the high school, then at the corner of State and Huron (site of today’s North
Quad), and the first librarian, Nellie S. Loving, was just three years into her almost 40 year
tenure. The headline reads “GOOD READING FREE: The Public Library of this City and the Good it is
Doing.” Although there had been earlier lending libraries in Ann Arbor, this was the first free
one. Starting in 1883, on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. the high school’s collection of 2,500 books was available to check out
by anyone in the school district over fourteen years of age. The library remained connected with the public school system until 1995. When the
high school library opened to the public, the main subscription library in town was the Ladies Library Association, who deeded their collection of 4,600 books to the
public library in 1908.
After the 1886 article, the collection jumps to 1930 when the first article is fittingly about
children reading, always a key mission. That summer young people could join the “Around the World
Club” and after reading ten books about different countries and writing reports on them, were
congratulated on having completed the “Library Cruise.” A picture shows the participants in front of the library, the façade of
which is now preserved on the Huron Street side of North Hall. Summer reading programs continued
for many years using themes such as Paul Bunyan, Space Ships, and Knights. Activities the rest of the year included story hours, talks on
children’s books, children’s book week, reading clubs, and displays of children’s books. When the bookmobile was introduced in 1954, it was touted as a way that children could
more easily get books. In the summer it stopped at all the supervised playgrounds.
From the beginning, the library worked to be relevant to current conditions. The second article
in the 1930s section, dated 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression, is headlined “Unemployed Make Wide Use of
Public Library.” Otto Haisley, superintendent of schools, boasted what a community resource
the library continued to be, giving the unemployed a chance to make good use of their unsought time
After World War II, technology began creeping in. In 1947 the Lions Club raised money to buy devices that allowed bedridden people to read on the ceiling, available to check out of the library as long as a letter
from a doctor was produced. In 1952 microfilm readers were introduced to save space. The
collection started with seventeen magazines, which the New York Times and Ann Arbor News was soon to
be added. Library director Homer Chance offered to show anyone how to use the readers.
The next year a drop off box, looking very much like a mail box, was underwritten by the Kiwanis and
the Friends of the Library. It could take books, but not phonographs, which by then had been added
to their list of library offerings. A picture of Homer Chance demonstrating its use
appeared in the paper as he stopped his car on a less than now trafficked Huron Street.
Ann Arbor High School moved to West Stadium when the buildings that housed the library and the high school were sold to
the University of Michigan and renamed the Frieze Building. After much discussion, the public
library decided to stay downtown. They hired Midland architect
Alden Dow to design a building on a site they had
purchased at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street. Dow demonstrated his motto, “gardens
never begin and buildings never end” by placing a garden on the roof of the veranda that ran
across the front of the building, as well as a second one at ground level in the front of the
building. A 1961 picture shows forsythia blooming on top of the veranda.
Ground breaking for the new building at 343 South Fifth Avenue took
place in October 1956. Its progress was well documented in photos, starting with the basement being dug and ending with staff filling the shelves with books. The final cost was $170,000. Pictures of the
interior show an open floor plan with lots of natural light, outfitted with modern
furniture of the day. The card catalogue was prominently placed where it could be seen when
people entered. There was enough room that students were encouraged to study there. Upstairs a listening room allowed patrons to enjoy music
or spoken word records. At the dedication in 1957, Howard Peckham, director of the University of
Michigan’s Clements Library, said the new library “added an extra room to each of our houses.”
He continued that even with TV, movies, and automobiles “nothing replaces the printed book.”
The Friends of the Library, organized to help the new library, began
holding book fairs every May. The first one, held in 1954 on the grounds where the new
library was to be built, was to raise money to buy a bookmobile. After the library was finished,
they held the sales on the long front porch, a perfect place protected by the roof of the
veranda. The News helped them with publicity by running pictures each year of the ladies, all
described by a Mrs. in front of their husband’s names, sorting boxes and boxes of donated books. At the 1962 sale the women dressed in
nineteenth-century garb to emphasize that the proceeds were to be used to
publish Lela Duff’s Ann Arbor Yesterdays, based on a series of newspaper articles
on historic subjects that she wrote.
In 1965 the first branch library opened, named after
first librarian Nellie S. Loving. Located on the east side of town at 3042 Creek Drive, just off
Packard, it served residents of the neighborhood that had until 1957 been the separate village of
East Ann Arbor. Local architect David Osler designed a modern building with floor to ceiling windows and sky
lights. Coupled with modern furniture it was very welcoming. In 1966 Osler received an award for the building from the Michigan Society of Architects.
In 1974 the downtown library celebrated the completion of a 20,000 square foot addition that extended straight
east behind the original building. Designed by Donald Van Curler, its purpose was to create more
seating and shelving space. Wells of windows that created sunny places for patrons
to sit and an enclosed garden on the south side fit well with Dow’s original conception.
The second branch library was completed in 1977, this one on the
west side of town in the Maple Village Shopping center. A few years later, in 1983, it moved across
Jackson Road to the Westgate Shopping Center. A third branch opened in 1981 in the Plymouth Mall Shopping Center] and was expanded 1985.
A second addition was opened in 1991 at the
downtown library. Osler Milling added two floors to the Van Curler addition,
renovated the older part, and updated mechanical systems to handle increased use of technology. The
first computer room was established with three PCs available for patrons to use.
The library was named “Library of the Year” of
1997 by the Library Journal, a national publication. They were becoming more computerized and
making plans for new branches when, in 2000, an independent audit showed not
only a deficit that the board had not known about, but also that money being
embezzled by the finance director. He was arrested and found
guilty, but it still left the library with the problem of funding. The board cut expenses, tabled
plans for new branches, and raised the millage.
The next year, then-director Mary Anne Hodel left for a new job and the head children’s
librarian, Josie Parker, was named interim director. In 2002 she was asked to stay on as permanent director. She started the job with the debt
paid off and staff support evinced by the fact that about a dozen attended the board meeting,
clapping when she was formally hired.
In 2004 the Malletts Creek Branch opened to replace
the Nellie Loving library, which after almost fifty years of use was too small and out of date.
Designed by Carl Luckenbach, Mallets Creek was done with attention to latest green strategies and
with new technologies including the first self-checkout machines. In 2006 Pittsfield opened to better serve people in the south side of the
district library area. Again designed by Luckenbach, it too paid attention to energy efficiently.
Parker suggested it could be used for community space and that children could come and run around, a
complete turnaround from traditional library philosophy. Traverwood, replacing the Northeast branch, opened in 2008. Architects Van
Tine/Guthrie of Northville took the green strategy a step further by using local
trees that had been devastated by the Emerald ash borer.
The archive ends in 2009 after Parker negotiated a deal with the Ann Arbor News to obtain their
archives after they had stopped publishing a daily print edition.
Since 1965 Ann Arbor has established six sister city relationships, two of which are still very
active. To document almost fifty years of these exchanges, the Ann Arbor District Library’s Old
News archivists have scanned articles and photos covering Ann Arbor’s affiliations with Tubingen, Germany; Belize City, British Honduras (later Belize);
Hikone, Japan; Peterborough, Ontario; Juigalpa, Nicaragua; Remedios, Cuba and Dakar, Senegal, plus an almost sister cities: Aix-en-Provence, France.
The sister city program was started by the Ann Arbor chapter of
People to People. The national People to People organization was the outgrowth of a 1956 White
House conference in which President Eisenhower suggested, as quoted in the Ann Arbor News, “Not among nations – but among people – are the true seeds of lasting peace
sown.” The local People to People group was formally organized in May of 1965. One of its
first actions was to send a delegation to Missouri where they, along with delegates from other
chapters, met with ex-president Harry Truman as well as officials of a number of national
organizations interested in international relations.
Tubingen, the first community invited to be a sister city, was compared to Ann Arbor by someone
who had lived in both places “like twins raised in different
countries. There is the university, the students, the river, the mills.” On December 9, 1965
the official charter of the partnership was presented to City Council, followed by a concert of Christmas carols sung in German by Ann Arbor High School students.
Honored guest, Georg Melchers, head of the Max Planck Institute of Biology in Tubingen, joined
in. Visits between the two areas started as soon as the decision was made.
In 1967 Belize City, then capital of what was then British Honduras, agreed to be Ann Arbor’s second sister
city, shortly after the state of Michigan asked British Honduras to be their first sister state.
Carl Zwinck, president of the local People to People chapter, explained that
whereas Tubingen had many similarities with Ann Arbor, that Belize was the opposite where
“primitive conditions remain in the wake of modern advancement.” However he said the goal was
the same, “to develop understanding and fellowship through personal contact and cultural
The first visit from Belize occurred a few months later when nine Boy Scouts and their two leaders, who had been at a jamboree in
Idaho, came to Ann Arbor a few days, staying with local scouts. The next year a delegation of Ann Arbor scouts stayed at a Boy Scout camp in British Honduras. Larger group
visits were more of a problem. When was it was suggested that a choir and orchestra from Ann Arbor
visit, Belize officials answered that they would welcome small delegations but couldn’t handle ones of that size.
The next year, in February 1968, five Ann Arborites attended a conference
in Belize. One of the members, Shata Ling, took the opportunity to look for specific ways Ann
Arbor could help. For instance, a play was performed for the delegation using a curtain made of
rags. She noticed that the school for the blind didn’t have enough braille books and that the
libraries could all use more books written in Spanish. In November Michigan sent a convey of six trucks to British Honduras with contributions from all
over the state including curtain material, school supplies, and hospital equipment from Ann Arbor.
In 1969 Hikone was approved by city council to became Ann Arbor’s third sister city. Again it followed a state action when Shiga,
Hikone’s prefecture, became Michigan’s second sister state. The local People to People committee
worked with Junko Sugie, a Univeristy of Michigan music student from Japan, to make the
arrangements. Evidently Hikone had no objection to large groups as the first visit was 100 members of the
musical youth international band and choir.
In the 1970s and 80s, the newspaper is filled with reports visits back and forth between the Ann
Arbor and their three sister cities, mostly with Tubingen and HIkone, but with a sprinkling from
Belize. In 1975 a neighborhood park at Summit and Fountain was named for Belize, after which no more reports of visits in either
direction were reported. Visitors ranged from high ranking officials to school children.Flags and keys to the city were presented, exchanges of children’s art were put on public display, music and dance was performed. Tours of the town, the university, public schools were arranged to fit with
whatever the visitors were interested in.
More informal comparisons could be made during dinners and receptions.
In 1983 Ann Arbor added a fourth sister city, this time in nearby Canada, in Peterborough, Ontario. The exchange was centered on yearly athletic
contests called the Arborough Games, between school age participants of both communities. It was
described as “cultural exchange and friendship through athletics.” The young athletics took
part in track, soccer, baseball, and field hockey, while being guests in their competitor’s homes.
It was not unusual for the other family members to become friends with their guest’s family.
Juiglapa, Nicaragua, Ann Arbor’s fifth sister city was
welcomed with much fanfare. It started in the April 1986 city election when voters, by a two-one
margin, approved a resolution condemning U.S. Military involvement in Central America and approving
setting up a sister city in the region. Many in Ann Arbor sympathized with the Sandinista government, formed by the rebels who had overthrown long-time
dictator Somoza, who were being challenged by the Contras with CIA help. A sister city task force
was appointed and after consulting with the Nicaraguan government asked Juigalpa if they would form
a partnership. It was formalized in September when Mayor Edward Pierce received a letter from their
mayor, hand delivered by an Ann Arborite who lived in Nicaragua.
“This is a very poor country –it’ll be much more us toward them than them toward us,”
said Pierce, echoing the report when Belize was chosen as the second sister city.
From Nov. 1-10 a seventeen member carefully picked
delegation of officials, representatives of various groups, and people with specialized knowledge
visited Juiglapa to learn how they could help and to deliver supplies, especially medical. They also had smaller items, such as aspirin and
t-shirts contributed at the sendoff party that was attended by 130
people. The visit became front page news when a Sandinista leader died in an ambush during the delegation's visit. The events were well documented by a reporter and photographer sent by The Ann Arbor
News who sent back regular reports. The independent Ann
Arbor newspaper, Agenda, also gave the partnership full coverage.
After their return, the group decided
to tackle the first item on Juigalpa ’s wish list which was that they would like a garbage truck. After doing the necessary fund raising to buy one, three people
agreed to drive it down, eventually reaching Juigalpa in spite of a delay at the Mexican border.
The endeavor garnered national attention and added to Ann Arbor’s liberal reputation. The 1990
elections resulted in the Sandinistas having to share power with another party, but the task force
members said that that was no reason to stop the sister-city relationship. However, it did
ebb as no more articles about Juigalpa appeared in the paper until 1995 when a piece about all the
sister cities mentioned that the garbage truck was now being used as a pick-up truck.
In 1997 Dakar, Senegal became the sixth sister-city, spearheaded by Ann
Arborite Richard Ross, who got the idea when visiting his niece who worked for an ambassador there.
“African descendants who live in Ann Arbor and the United States need to foster an understanding
relationship,” Ross said. The sister city status was approved
at a February city council meeting attended by representatives from Dakar. The following October
Dakar’s mayor and
several other officials from Dakar visited to learn what they could about Ann Arbor’s water
system, police, fire, economic development, and schools. The partnership seems to have fizzled out
after that. Three years later there was an attempt by Ross to organize a trip to Dakar but he couldn’t get enough
The archives also contain articles about several also-ran sister cities. In April of 1980 Mayor
Lou Belcher announced that he was in contract with leaders from Aix-en-Provence, France who were
interested in establishing a sister city relationship. In September their deputy mayor came for a
visit to firm up details. A picture in the Ann Arbor News shows the French
visitor being wined and dined at the Gandy Dancer. This was the last reference.
More recently, in 2003, council approved Remedies, Cuba as a sister city. The article in the newspaper says “so much for the U.S. prohibition against travel
to Cuba. Now Ann Arbor residents can say they are visiting a relative.” The city attorney
assured them that it was legal and mentioned that 17 other American cities have Cuban sister cities.
However, after this one article, it is not mentioned again.
Throughout this whole period, the only sister cities to appear consistently in newspaper reports
were Tubingen and Hikone. The vast majority of the articles tell of student visits both ways, with official visits sprinkled in periodically. In 1997, when Dakar became
a sister city, Mayor Ingrid Shelton warned that “this is truly a volunteer effort and requires
commitment from the community in doing it.” There is never an article of a sister city
relationship being formally ended; it appears that when there were not enough volunteers to sustain
relationships that they just faded away.
Even if most of the city sisters are inactive, they are still good memories for those who
participated. “It [sister city relationships] lets people have an excuse for getting to know
people in ways then never would otherwise,” said Ed Pierce, adding “the biggest lesson is how
similar most people are.”
The Old News collection of Ann Arbor News articles and photos on the Ann Arbor Garden Club spans more than 80 years, starting
in 1930, and chronicles not only changes in the club itself, but in women’s role
in the world. When the club started in 1930, it was an era when women were known by their
husband’s name with a Mrs. in front of it and took their position in society based on his
The club was formed by a merger of three community groups - The Garden Sections of the Faculty Women’s Clubs, the Woman’s Club of Ann Arbor, and the Ann Arbor
Garden Club. Of these three entities, the faculty women’s club appears to be the most active.
They had started a yearly garden show in 1926, held in the
Hudson-Essex agency on East Washington, and in the years following, at the Detroit Edison building (where the Detroit Edison
parking lot is now). Their most memorable activity, a year before the merger, was a visit to Mrs. Henry Ford’s garden arranged by Mrs.
Ford’s sister, a Mrs. Grant, the president of the Dearborn garden club.
The new garden club’s mission was “to make Ann Arbor beautiful by improving individual
gardens.” Most of the meetings were held in the afternoon, possible in the days when women
generally didn’t work out of the home. Their events - elections of officers, meetings in homes, speakers, public service projects - were given full coverage in the Ann
Arbor News, often accompanied with pictures of women
posing in their gardens dressed in formal attire. The Ann Arbor Garden Club was the first
federated garden club in Michigan and took a leadership role in the state as other communities
In the early days the emphasis was on educating themselves and the community on the basics of gardening.
Meetings were full of practical information such as the use of herbs or how to grow vegetables. Special interest groups led meetings
with talks on their specialties such roses or perennial shrubs. Eli Gallup, the city’s first
superintendent of parks, spoke to the group on
trees and soil. Larger events open to the public included “A Pilgrimage to God’s First
Temples,”a noted expert speaking in 1935 on his “round the world trip to see the rarest and
most beautiful trees, illustrated with tinted stereopticon pictures which his wife had colored using
notes from the trip.” A 1940s program featured a plant geneticist showing stereopticon pictures
“in natural colors of flower fields in Michigan and California.” A talk from the associate editor of Better Homes and Gardens was co-sponsored by
U-M’s school of landscape design.
To beautify public areas of the city, the club at various times provided flowers for the Michigan
League, the public library, and the post office. In 1937 they sponsored a City Beautiful contest, giving awards for gardens in a wide array of categories such as homes, industry,
businesses, fraternities and sororities, and institutions. They also visited schools to teach children about gardening and nature and helped them build bird houses.
Hospital work varied but was always one of their major projects. In the 1941, after hearing a
talk on flower arranging, they decided to start every meeting with a member demonstrating a
different arrangement, after which the sample was given to the hospital. In 1942 they committed
themselves to keeping the ninth floor of University Hospital filled with
flowers. They first collected vases that their members were not using. They then arranged that
every Wednesday members could bring flowers to the ambulance entrance and hand their contributions
to an attendant, thus avoiding the need to park.
The first mention of World War II in the garden club articles occurred in January 1942, a month
after Pearl Harbor, when members putting together the club book announced that it “was designed to meet war conditions.”
They assured the group that they had taken into account a shortage of materials and increased costs
and added information on Victory Gardens. The club finished out the year with a speaker on vegetables and a garden walk, after which
there is no mention of the garden club for the next seven years. These same ladies were no doubt
using their organizational skills to do war work. See “Ann Arbor Goes to War” in Old News.
Articles about the Garden Club reappeared in 1949 with the announcement of an exhibit at Clements Library that included books and drawings about flowers and
gardening. In the post-war era the club returned to many of their original projects but with less of
an emphasis on basic gardening techniques and more interest in the wider world. Their new
beautification project was raising money for a Shakespeare Garden at the Michigan
League. The garden was to contain plants mentioned in the Bard’s works. An art walk through
selected gardens was organized, with sculpture loaned by the Forsythe Gallery. Programs often focused on other nations, such as a talk by a
member who had returned from Japan on the gardens of that country or a Christmas program on Christmas tree decorations of others lands.
The intense coverage the News gave the garden club in the pre-war years lessened as the town grew
and more activities vied for attention. In the 1980s women gradually began being referred to by
their Christian names, sometimes used interchangeably with Mrs. in the same article.
In 1991 the garden club took on the big job of reinstating the yearly garden shows, which they
had stopped in World War II. After the war they held events that they called garden shows but they
were small events reserved mainly for their members. The new one was, and is, for the whole
community, as were the original ones. In 2001 garden club president, Kathy Fojtik encouraged “a large contingent of people to
bring their plants, something they’ve spent time raising.”
In the twenty-first century the News gave the garden club much less coverage, with only an
occasional article, usually about events open to the public such as an upcoming garden show or
garden tour. The last one in the collection is a 2006 article noting that the garden club gave
Matthaei Botanical Gardens a decorative garden gate.
Hill Auditorium, built in 1913, turned a hundred in 2013. To celebrate this
milestone, the Ann Arbor District Library has scanned articles about the auditorium from the Ann
Arbor News archives. Seen in the long perspective the changing programs mirror the interests and
concerns of the community.
Hill Auditorium was built using $200,000 that Arthur Hill, U-M regent, alumnus, and Saginaw lumber baron, had left in his will
for that purpose. It was the first university building on the north side of North University,
replacing U-M professor Alexander
Winchell’s 1858 octagon house. The auditorium was designed by Albert Kahn, best known for his Detroit factories but soon to become U-M’s
most prolific architect with major buildings such as Angell Hall, Burton Tower, Hatcher Library, and the Clements Library to his credit.
It is generally agreed that Kahn was inspired by Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building in
Chicago for the exterior design of Hill. For the interior, he was guided by acoustic expert Hugh
Tallant, who was brought in from New York. Although it was men such as Albert Stanley, Henry
Frieze, and Francis Kelsey, founders of University Musical Society and the School Music, who had
been lobbying for a better performance venue, U-M president Marion Burton told Tallant his
assignment was to create a space where the whole student body could meet and be able to hear the
speaker. Tallant’s final product did what they asked, but also created a wonderful space for
music, attested to by the world famous performers who come back again and again. (See
The dedication of Hill Auditorium, June 25, 1913,
was headline news in that day’s paper. An hour-long parade led by a fife and drum corps, followed
by a who’s who of important people and the whole senior class, wound its way from central campus
to Hill. A vocal music program including the Messiah’s Hallelujah chorus opened the program, thus
marking the first time the public heard music in the auditorium.
Four men made addresses, two representing the university and two from the state level but none
from the music community. U-M emeritus President James B. Angell, who had been a personal friend of
Arthur Hill, at the request of the Hill family, presented the building to the university and the
state. U-M regent William Clements (himself to later be donor of the library that bears his name)
accepted it for the university, while Governor Woodbridge Ferris and Senator Charles E. Townsend
accepted it for the state. The latter is of interest in that from the beginning the auditorium was
for all, not just the university community, which has indeed been the case.
Now best known for music, when the archive starts in Oct. of 1924, the events for the rest of the
year included two music series and five talking programs. The latter consisted of the Choral Union and another series with the Sousa Band headlining. The spoken programs included two
religious services, Vilhjalmur Steffansson on his Arctic adventures, a pro-League of Nations speaker, and a debate between U-M and the Oxford Union on prohibition. At the end of the evening, the packed
auditorium voted for the U-M team who were on the pro side.
The 1930s continued with the same mix. May Festivals were supplemented the rest of the year by famous
performers such as Paul Robeson, Ted Shawn, Sergei Rachmaninoff (listed as “Russian pianist”), Vladimir
Horowitz, and the “boy violinist” Yehudi
Menuhin. World events could be followed with an equally impressive roaster of speakers including
Winston Churchill in 1932 warming that the world was facing
disaster and Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, daughter of the
novelist, explaining the problems in her former homeland. Other educational lectures included ones
on Christian Science, historic Washington with “colored slides,” and a movie of the 1932 Olympics. Live theater ran the spectrum from a Broadway production of Robin Hood to a passion play for the religious minded. When
famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky played at Hill in 1937 his girlfriend,
Jacqueline de Rothchild, accompanied him so that they could secretly marry away from her family in
Europe. Alva Sink, wife of Charles Sink, head of University Musical Society, heard of their plans
and insisted that the ceremony be in the Sink home.
In 1948, with the war was over and people returning to civilian life, Charles A. Sink suggested that a bigger auditorium should be built to accommodate the
increased university enrollment and more demand for concert tickets. Lack of funding, rather than
appreciation for the building in the pre-historic preservation days, prevented the project. A year
later a major updating of Hil, which an Ann Arbor News editorial described as “creeping over a third
of a century,” was announced. The skylights were covered to allow
better use of the auditorium during the daytime, the chandeliers taken down because they were considered too
old fashioned, and a color scheme of maize and blue used throughout including painting the organ
pipes those colors. In the next fifty years only minor changes were made. In 1964 a kiosk announcing coming programs was put around the stately elm in front, which
stayed until 1977 when the elm was cut down. In 1973 Hill’s
granddaughter donated a portrait of her grandfather. Repairs to the organ were regularly reported.
Interest in world affairs increased after World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s lectures on this
topic included a visit from the Philippine Ambassador, a debate with two senators over foreign policy, and a talk By Saturday
Review editor Norman Cousins who is described as a “world traveler and
analyst.“ Travelogues aimed not just at the curious but to the
increasingly large group of foreign travelers became a staple. The effect of television on the
movie industry could be seen in the upsurge of travelling shows put on by movie stars including Bette Davis, Ilka Chase, Basil Rathbone, and Burgess Meredith.
The red scare that hit the nation after World War II affected Hill. In May of 1950 a talk by
Herbert Phillips, an avowed communist, was cancelled by the U-M regents. Students objected and tried to organize a student/faculty forum to
discuss the topic, but that too was cancelled because they couldn’t find
a faculty member willing to defend the ban. Fourteen years later, in 1964, the same issue arose,
this time the controversial person, neo-Nazi George Rockwell, was allowed to speak, albeit with picketers
and lots of heckling. In 1972, after an April Fools’ rally when in spite of no smoking rules, the U-M fire
marshal reported that “smoking of marijuana did occur”, the rules were tightened with more conditions on rentals.
The most unusual use of Hill may have been in 1950 when “Buff” McCuster, a former skating
partner of Sonja Henie, and a cast of 30 put on an ice show, “Icelandia,” using a portable ice
rink. Another unusual program took place in 1956 when a hypnotist demonstrated his skill using
volunteers from the audience.
The last part of the collection deals with the most recent restoration that updated systems while
returning the décor to as close as possible to Albert Kahn’s original conception. Articles trace
the project from its first suggestion in 1989, to approval by the regents in 1993 after a
feasibility study, to work finally beginning in 2001, the delay due to slowness of getting
We have several other collections to relating to the history of Hill Auditorium and the
University Musical Society.
AADL has digitized several images of Hill Auditorium taken over several decades, including this
wonderful photograph of Vladimir Horowitz by Ann Arbor News photographer, Jack Stubbs, as well as
many others by News photographers Eck Stanger and Robert Maitland LaMotte.
AADL, in partnership with the University Musical Society, has digitized a full run of historical
programs covering 100 years of concerts at Hill Auditorium and over 130 years of UMS concert
history. The Programs Archive is available for browsing and full-text searching, and is part of UMS: A History of Great Performances.
Much has been written about World War II, but this collection of articles from the Ann
Arbor News archives does something the general histories can’t: it provides a glimpse of how it
would have felt to be living in Ann Arbor during the two years leading up to the war. Old News has
culled through the The Ann Arbor News to find the articles from September 1939 to December 1941 that
deal with local events related to WWII. The articles start on September 3, 1939, the day after Hitler invaded Poland and
end December 12, 1941, five days after Pearl Harbor.
One of the first articles is an announcement that the Ann Arbor News had
printed up 5,900 maps of the European War Zone to give to school age children. The maps, which included naval bases, the British blockade, and the
topography of the area, aimed to give “an accurate and comprehensive picture of the war scene.”
Although the U.S. was technically neutral until Pearl Harbor, it was clear from the beginning
that public opinion was largely on the Allied side. However, there were a few dissenters. In
December 1939 radio commentator H. V. Kaltenborn spoke at Hill advocating
isolationism. In April of 1940, after another isolationist spoke at Hill, a Nazi flag, described as
“a home-made banner, a painted bed sheet,” appeared on the flag pole by the Natural Science
building. A month later the columns of Angell
hall were painted with numbers one to four with a three-foot red swastika on the fifth, a
reference to the “fifth column,” enemies within a state. Reaction in both cases was for
officials to immediately take action to remove them. University officials called the latter action
the work of “immature pranksters.”
When Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg in May 1940, attention veered from
Finland to those countries. The Red Cross opened a knitting center in a donated office in Nickels
Arcade where they distributed yarn, and inspected and packed the returned items. Kline’s Department Store announced that people
could drop off “old worn shoes, which still have many days wear in them,” in their shoe
department to be sent to Europe. Later a Greek war relief committee was formed, made up of leading
members of local Greek community as well as a few other community leaders who leant their names to
the cause. Another group of about a hundred met every Tuesday to knit and sew for French children under the age of four.
In the summer of 1940 France fell, leading President Roosevelt to sign a peacetime conscription
bill on September 16. The next day an article in the News explained that our county had been assigned to provide
250 or 260 conscripts, half from Ann Arbor and half from rest of county. On Oct. 16, all the men in
Washtenaw County between the ages of 21-35 were told to show up at their election precinct to
register for the draft. Volunteers were recruited to help with the paper work. On that date there
were long lines of men waiting, but as the News reported
they were “mostly good-natured.” In the following months names of the 14,586 registrants were
drawn on a regular basis and those called were taken by bus or train into Detroit to be inducted into the army. In July
a second registration was held for men who had turned 21 since October. In July 1941 the first draft objector mentioned was sent to a
camp to perform work connected with the war.
Along with the draftees, there was a steady stream of enlistments, for the regular army, army
pilots, navy, National Guard, and nurses. In 1940 Dr. Edgar Kahn, U-M brain surgeon, offered his
services to the American Hospital in Paris. In January, 1941, Stanley Waltz, general manager of the Michigan Union, was called
up for duty. By September 1941 twenty faculty members had asked for leave.
FDR’s agreement at the end of 1940 to supply Great Britain with war materials soon affected
Washtenaw county as we geared up to do our part in the Arsenal for Democracy. Our most famous
contribution was the Willow Run Bomber Plant, where the B-24 bombers were made. First mentioned in May of 1941 with two articles about its siting,
it was a continuing story. In July 1941 King Seeley was awarded a contract to make 60 mm mortar ammunition shells and
the next month American Broach was given a contract to make units used in gun
construction. Soon there were articles complaining that there was a labor shortage, something that was not a problem in the Depression.
New war industry necessitated more materials. The month of July 1941 was devoted to a community-wide aluminum drive, starting with an organizational
meeting at the Michigan Union at which most of the major service clubs were represented. The plan
was to have two days of picking up contributions from neighborhoods and in addition to provide drop
off sites. Wire contraptions called cribs built to hold donations were put on the courthouse house lawn and also on the Fifth
Avenue side of the armory. On the days the pick-ups were scheduled, 25 trucks provided by local
merchants were driven by volunteers, while fifty Boy Scouts went door to door. One volunteer reported
that he was surprised when at one of the houses that he stopped at the resident gave him the coffee pot right off the stove, only to have it happen a
second time. Another interesting contribution was from Randolph Adams, director of the Clements
Library, who donated his World War I
canteen. At the end of the drive Ann Arbor had collected 7,500 pounds of aluminum, almost four times over the goal
they’d been given of 2,000. Ann Arbor also gave generously that summer to the USO Drive, raising money to build USO Centers across the United States.
Relief work continued side by side with the military-based activities.
While the projects moved around from country to country depending on which one was in the most
trouble, English relief work was a constant. An on-going British war relief knitting group met in
members’ homes. At the end of 1940 the Women’s Club planned 40 parties for English war relief
to be held in private homes, doing what they did for fun but also for a good cause – suppers or
desserts, cards including bridge, musicales. The proceeds from the 1941 Juniors on Parade, a yearly production by the Roy Hoyer
Dance Studio to showcase the talents of their students, that year featuring military theme numbers,
was used to buy a truck with a mobile kitchen to be sent to England. That May a group of women
began making windbreaker jackets for
British seaman using scrap leather from the car industry. Individual English children could be
adopted by proxy for $30 a year, a project many locals participated in including a class at Angell
The local Red Cross was the key to much of this activity. They outgrew the office in
Nickel’s’ Arcade, moving to what had been the directors’ office in the old Catherine Street
hospital, and expanded from knitting sweaters to other knitted items such as mufflers, and mittens
and to sewing clothes and quilts, which could be made right there on sewing machines they had at the
headquarters. Surgical dressings were made in the Rackham Building. They commandeered all the help
could get, such as people accompanying patients to the hospital. The ever-present Boy Scouts
helped with the packing. To encourage more cooperation, garments were displayed at Mack and Co., the city’s
biggest department store. July of 1941 they began training people for canteen service, followed a
few months later by mechanics courses for women so
they could become Red Cross drivers.
To feed the public demand for more information on the situation in Europe in the days when
sources of news were more limited, there was a constant stream of public lectures. Early on they
were mainly by U-M professors putting events in context vis a vis their specialties or their points
of view. U-M President Alexander Ruthven felt called
on to make pronouncements now and then. The public library, then on Huron, highlighted their collection of books
relating to the subject. The local pundits were supplemented by national speakers, who came more often as the situation worsened.
Already in 1939 two famous speakers had come to town, Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt (like all the club ladies she is not
identified by her first name) and Leland Stowe, Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent, warning
about the situation in Europe. A few isolationists and pacifists also spoke, but by and large, at least those reported, were for
helping the Allied side. As the war heated up a steady stream of speakers from Europe also came
through including Jan Masaryk, son of the deposed president of
Czechoslovakia; Count Sforza, leader of the opposition to fascism in Italy; Sir Robert and Lady Mayer asking for help with British children;
Mrs. Robert Fraser, former Labor member of London City Council; Jack Jones, a Welsh miner; and Erika Mann, Thomas Mann’s daughter.
In mid-September of 1941 a group of ads that at first glance appear to have no connection to the
war – undergarments, electric supplies, stoves,pens, windows, appear under the rubric “Retailers for Defense.” Reading on we find an article
explaining that a group of local merchants have agreed to a list of wartime policies including
keeping prices low, finding replacements for products no longer available, and discouraging
Founded in the Depression years by businessmen who were as tough as the times, it employed, at its height, 1300 workers and occupied 2 city blocks on 4th Street.
In 1929, local inventor Charles A. Verschoor and Mayor William E. Brown Jr. started a radio manufacturing business with support from local bankers called the International Radio Company. In 1932 they produced the Kadette, the first radio that used tubes instead of a large transformer. Verschoor then traveled to Europe researching the idea of producing a camera (like the Leica) but made and sold for $10. With the first camera rolling off the assembly line in 1936, the name of the company was changed to Argus, after the Greek mythological god of 1,000 eyes. The Model A camera was so popular, it sold 30,000 units by Montgomery Ward in the first week.
Local historians like to point out that Argus Cameras, as one of Ann Arbor’s early industries, was 100% Ann Arbor: 100% Ann Arbor capital, 100% Ann Arbor brains, and 100% Ann Arbor people. The Old News staff have gathered decades of news articles, photos and videos that trace the rise and decline of this very important manufacturer in local history.
AADL has digitized hundreds of articles from the Ann Arbor News documenting the history of Argus Camera as it happened. These articles include announcements of new products, changes in the company, and the company's impact on the Ann Arbor Community. Argus Camera's role as an industry leader and a major employer in the area assured that coverage by the Ann Arbor News was in-depth.
AADL has digitized the Argus Eyes, the employee newsletter of Argus Camera. This publication includes details about the company and its workers, from descriptions of new product lines and facilities to birth announcements and company picnics. And of course, given its source, it is also full of spectacular photos, many of them from the Ann Arbor area.
In addition to the Argus Eyes, the Argus Museum and AADL have made available digitized copies of many of the publications created by the Argus Camera organization over the years. These include instruction manuals for many of Argus's products, parts lists for the same, and educational booklets on how to take better photographs using Argus cameras.
In the early morning hours of March 14, 1966, Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies reported sighting "four strange flying objects" in Lima Township. Soon police agencies from Livingston County, Monroe County and Sylvania, Ohio were also reporting "red-green objects . . . moving at fantastic speeds." By the end of the day the Civil Defense and U.S. Air Force were called in to an investigation that has never really ended for many of those involved.
AADL has assembled all the articles that dominated the Ann Arbor News for weeks in 1966 and continues to resurface through sightings, interviews and research into UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Two facets of the UFO story make it especially compelling. Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey did not immediately dismiss the sightings. In fact, he demanded a top-level investigation and challenged the U.S. Air Force's conclusions. Equally persistent was Bill Treml, the legendary and intrepid police beat reporter for the Ann Arbor News. His stories dominated the local pages of the paper with in-depth interviews with witnesses, seemingly 24-hour coverage of police operations in tracking the UFO sightings, and a dogged pursuit of U.S. government officials investigating the sightings.
The UFO story provides an interesting look at the way news events affect the lives of the participants and their communities. The Dexter family that reported the UFOs near their farm was overwhelmed by the coverage, became victims of vandalism and eventually distanced themselves from the story. The UFO sightings proliferated and swept Washtenaw area communities into a worldwide news event. Read the articles and decide for yourselves whether Washtenaw County's history includes close encounters of the first,second or third kind.
AADL Talks To Former Washtenaw County Sheriff Doug Harvey about the 1966 UFO Sightings
Colleges across America are once again gripped by March Madness. The University of Michigan Wolverines are in the thick of the NCAA’s annual contest to name the No. 1 men’s college basketball team. The Maize & Blue are seeded fourth in the Midwest.
To celebrate this annual hoopla, the Ann Arbor District Library is offering an opportunity to turn back the clock and experience the triumphs of an earlier Wolverine team, the 1963 ~ 1966 squad coached by Dave Strack and led by All-Americans Cazzie Russell and Bill Buntin.
The ups and downs of the three-time Big Ten champions was chronicled in the Ann Arbor News, especially in the passionate reporting of Wayne DeNeff. These articles are available online through the Old News site, presenting the dramatic story of a great team anchored by two outstanding players. Buntin set an all-time school scoring record, only to see it broken by his teammate Russell the following year.
The 1964 team made it to the Final Four, falling to Duke in the semifinal. The 1965 team had no losses going into its final Big Ten game before losing to bitter rival Ohio State, but they were named the No. 1 team in America by AP and UPI. The team went on to run through the NCAA playoffs with wins against Dayton and Vanderbilt. In the semifinal game they beat Ivy League champion Princeton and that year’s player of the year Bill Bradley. They lost in the final to the UCLA Bruins, another victim of John Wooden’s record-setting 1960s basketball juggernaut. At the time only 23 teams competed in the playoffs and only one team could compete per conference. Russell was named 1966 player of the year. Russell and Buntin had strong support from Oliver Darden, Larry Tregoning, George Pomey and other excellent players.
The News stories provide a glimpse of college basketball in a less frenzied media atmosphere, presented with behind the scenes atmosphere, drama and heart.
AADL recently interviewed one of the Wolverine’s big players from the 1964 and 1965 championship runs, George Pomey. George took on some of the toughest guard assignments in NCAA basketball history. His stories of student life, sports in a different era and how the team has remained close over the years is not to be missed.
While researching the Wolverine's 1964 ~ 1966 NCAA Championship runs we came across another bit of Michigan history, the debut of longtime Men's Glee Club director Philip A. Duey's fight song, Go Blue! Read articles on Mr. Duey's amazing song, his career at Michigan and even hear an excerpt of the song.
The Coed Murders riveted Washtenaw county from the first murder in July 1967 to John Norman Collins' conviction three years later on August 19, 1970. The Ann Arbor News featured hundreds of articles over these three years and the investigation and trial were covered in detail by News police reporter William B. Treml. A detailed summary of the Coed Murders is available in our online version of True Crimes by Sergeant Michael Logghe, formerly of the Ann Arbor Police Department. We've pulled together some highlights below.
Seven Years Later...
In 1977, News reporter Treml accompanied by staff photographer Jack Stubbs, visited Collins at Jackson Prison for an exclusive interview published in two parts on January 14, 1977 and January 16, 1977. Treml describes his impressions of the visit with Collins in his weekly "As I See It" column and in the interview below.
AADL Talks To Bill Treml about John Norman Collins and the Coed Murders
In late June, 1968, heavy rains swept through the region, causing the Huron River and other creeks and lakes to flood their banks inflicting massive damage to dams, roads, and personal property. The University Meteorology Laboratory recorded 5.28 inches of rain. Streets were impassable, bridges washed out, farm fields inundated, and nearly all neighborhoods affected, with water high enough to permit canoeing in Lansdowne subdivision south of Pioneer High School.
The Washtenaw County Health Department gave advice on coping with flood effects, including cleaning up home and disinfecting drinking water, though most insurance policies failed to cover flood damage which flooded hundreds of basments and backed up sewers throughout Washtenaw County.