Local History Blog

Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

John Glenn: 1921-2016

John Glenn, American hero, U. S. senator, WWII and Korean War veteran, and icon of the Space Age, on the day he became the first American to orbit the earth.
Read the article.

Pearl Harbor Day Meets Ann Arbor, July 1943

Today we remember and honor the U. S. citizens who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Here in Ann Arbor, a strange piece of Pearl Harbor history was paraded through our streets in the summer of 1943. Give a listen to the Ann Arbor Stories Podcast, The Suicide Sub Comes to Ann Arbor for the quirky details, and take a look at the newspaper's coverage of the Japanese Suicide Submarine Tour.

 

AADL Talks To: U-M Emeritus Professor of English Bert Hornback

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February 23, 2016 at Downtown Library

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In this episode, AADL talks to beloved University of Michigan emeritus professor of English Bert Hornback, who stopped by to chat with us during a recent return visit to Ann Arbor from Saarbrücken, Germany. Between 1964 and 1992, Hornback received two university awards for distinguished teaching. He was influential in bringing students and faculty together for literary adventures great and small, and is best remembered for his annual public reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In this conversation, Hornback brings back an Ann Arbor when poets were rock stars and students gathered at his Blunderstone Rookery to recite Ulysses through the night. He recalls bringing UK Prime Minister Edward Heath to U-M's campus; the night he ate a pig with former poet laureate, Donald Hall; and gives us his pick for the best Charles Dickens novel to help us navigate these tumultuous current times.

 

Donald Hall reads "Eating the Pig," 1978

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February 23, 2016 at Downtown Library

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Listen to 2006 Poet Laureate of the United States, Donald Hall, read his poem "Eating the Pig" in 1978.

Audio file courtesy of the Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard University.

You can read "Eating the Pig" here or visit Eating the Pig: A Dinner Party in Poetry, Photography & Painting for more information about the Ann Arbor dinner party that inspired the poem.

Election Day in Ann Arbor ~ 80 Years Ago

80 years ago, on November 3, the News posted this "Electoral Thermometer" on the outside of its new building at 340 E. Huron St. Total electoral votes were then 531, with 266 needed to win. At this point in the day, candidates Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) and Alf Landon (Republican) are neck and neck. The car parked at lower right with ladders sticking out the back is from the Ann Arbor Window Cleaning Co, which is presumably how they adjusted the "thermometer" as returns came in.

(You can click on the image to bring up a slightly bigger version, then click on the image once more and choose the "X" in the lower right-hand corner to enlarge it further.)

Activist, Author and Politican Tom Hayden dies at 76

Tom Hayden in Chicago
Tom Hayden in Chicago, 1971, by Leni Sinclair

Activist, lawmaker, author, and politician Tom Hayden died yesterday at 76. Hayden took the hard route towards politics with his involvement with the University of Michigan's Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and helped write one of the most significant 20th century political manifestos: the Port Huron Statement. His participation in the disruption of the 1968 Democratic convention as one of the fabled "Chicago Seven" made him an international celebrity. Visits to Hanoi during the Vietnam War brought attention to the conflict in ways that were unpredictable at that time, and his marriage to Jane Fonda gave him a celebrity-status he never quite lived down.

Right or wrong, Hayden proved that one voice can make a difference in American politics. Conventionally unsuccessful, he nonetheless served as a model for democratic political participation in ways that more orthodox politicians would never have dared to attempt.

Watch AADL's 2014 video "A Call to Battle Against the Climate Crisis", Hayden's discussion on how Michigan and the Great Lakes region can move the U.S. towards the protections of a clean energy economy.

Deja Vu All Over Again? Record Turnout For 1964 Presidential Election In Ann Arbor

Poll Lines

On November 3, 1964, the voters of Ann Arbor came to the polls to vote for President of the United States . . . and they came and they came. When the City Clerk finished counting, a new voter turnout record was set at 29,409. The Ann Arbor News tallies for Washtenaw County showed a 16,000 vote advantage for President Johnson over Barry Goldwater, a trend that was mirrored nationwide. Ann Arbor and the County also set a record for ticket-splitting, handing Governor Romney a sizable victory over Ann Arbor's Neil Staebler.

In the lead-up to the election, the News published a voter education guide, What You Should Know To Make Your Vote Count In 1964. The Guide featured profiles of the federal candidates and statewide candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. You'll see some very familiar names on the page. Included were civics lesson on Courts in Michigan, local elections and general elections. The 1964 election stood out for another reason: for the first time voters would elect the Governor and Lt. Governor as a team from the same political party. There was only one statewide ballot proposal and the question will be very familiar to voters in 2016.

Fast forwarding to 2016, the Michigan League of Women Voters has produced a non-partisan Voter Guide that is available at all AADL branches. The Ann Arbor League of Women Voters has been conducting local candidate forums that are available from the CTN Video On Demand page as well being rerun throughout the election cycle on Channel 19.

The Ann Arbor City Clerk has a web site with all the info you'll need to vote. The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, October 11, 2016. If you're not sure if you're registered or your voter information is up-to-date, check it out on the SOS Michigan Vote site. If you'd like to vote absentee, you can print off the Application for Absentee Ballot directly or stop by one of AADL's branches and we'll be happy to print it out for you.

Ann Arbor Yesterdays ~ How We Got To Here

Lela Duff

On February 12, 1960, Lela Duff launched a column in the Ann Arbor News called Ann Arbor Yesterdays that became so popular with readers that it ran for 75 weeks covering every aspect of local history in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Ms. Duff was well known to thousands of Ann Arbor High School students but after 34 years of teaching English she retired and began her "second career" as a local historian.

Ann Arbor Yesterdays began, fittingly, with a discussion of the history of the naming of Ann Arbor. Her research was impeccable, using every available University, City, County and private archive and collection to tell the story of our development. Although historic buildings where a continual topic of the columns, Ms. Duff gave readers a rich tableau that included the immigrants who settled the area, theaterand civic organizations, music and recreation. The story of Lower Town and Downtown, the University and the names that made them possible. Ms. Duff devoted five columns to the early churches of Ann Arbor, from First Presbyterian to St. Thomas.

There were humorous columns on crime and youthful shenanigans. Two of the most heartfelt columns were a remembrance of Armistice Day, 1918 and Albert Warnhoff who made sure Christmas came to all children. Ms. Duff bid Ann Arbor News readers goodbye in July, 1961 and was immediately honored for her columns by the Historical Society of Michigan. And by October the columns became one of the most popular and enduring local history books in Ann Arbor. You'll want to check out a copy of Ann Arbor Yesterdaysfrom AADL to see the added illustrations and photos that bring to life the buildings and people from her columns. Ms. Duff continued to fight the good fight for historic preservation throughout her life. The "Grand Lady" of local history died in 1983 but her legacy lives on in her columns, her books and her commitment to our past.

Ypsilanti Murder Still Unsolved After 70 Years

On March 8, 1935, the frozen body of seven-year-old Richard Streicher Jr. was found under a bridge in Island Park in Ypsilanti by another youngster, Buck Holt. The brutal murder remains unsolved to this day. Local law enforcement quickly developed a profile of the killer and the lurid headlines of follow-up articles left nothing to conjecture on the part of readers. The Mayor of Ypsilanti went so far as to warn parents to keep their children indoors with a "maniac" on the loose. Richard's parents and relatives were brought in for questioning and the Michigan State Police were called in by Governor Fitzgerald to assist in the investigation.

Lead after lead went dry, suspects were interrogated and released, and new clues failed to develop. In August, Circuit Court Judge George W. Sample took the unusual step of convening a one-man grand jury to air all the evidence thus far to put an end to the "intense feeling and suspicion within the community" regarding the investigation. The grand jury stretched to three weeks as local law enforcement officials were grilled and reluctant witnesses held in contempt but in November, 1937, proceedings were indefinitely suspended. Leads in 1938 and 1939 proved fruitless as well.

Although Ann Arbor News coverage of the Streicher case all but ended in 1939, interest in the case continued in the county. A 2007 article in Ypsilanti Gleanings asked readers for any information they might have on the case.

Recently, an obituary appeared on MLive announcing a formal graveside service and that funds had been raised to provide for a beautiful headstone for young Richard Streicher Jr.

Hugo Reichard and the Campus Radicals of 1940

Hugo Reichard

We recently stumbled upon an envelope of Ann Arbor News photo negatives from September 1940 titled “Radical Demonstration on Behalf of Dismissed Student Reinhardt," which eventually led to information on the student in question (including the correct spelling of the name): Hugo Reichard. It turns out that Reichard, along with several writers for the student-run Michigan Daily and members of the campus left-leaning American Student Union (ASU) had been ousted by U-M President Alexander G. Ruthven for “radical” and “fifth-column" activities following an April peace rally on campus - a decision that caused considerable controversy among faculty and students that year.

In November, two months after the photographs were taken, an “open hearing” on behalf of the dismissed students, sponsored by the Michigan Civil Rights Federation and the Michigan Committee for Academic Freedom, took place off campus in Ann Arbor’s Island Park. Roughly 500 people - including students, faculty, and family members - attended, where lawyers and members of the UAW-CIO excoriated Ruthven’s decision as a violation of the students' civil rights. The Ann Arbor News briefly covered the event in two articles, “Protest meeting is held at park” and “Father upsets ouster trial,” and further weighed in with an editorial on the hearing organizers' brazen use of "Marxist techniques."

Meanwhile, Ruthven defended his position in a speech in Chicago, where he advised administrative officers and professors of colleges and universities to "rid themselves of the notion that romanticism, sentimentalism, and indiscriminate tolerance are essential constituents of democracy." And on Friday, November 16, several former Michigan Daily writers, now leading newspapermen around the country, voiced their opinions on the matter during the Daily’s 50th anniversary dinner held at the Michigan Union.

With World War II raging in Europe and the United States not yet committed, these were indeed interesting times. For more on this controversial moment in U-M's history, read the 2015 article "The Doves of 1940" in Michigan Today by James Tobin.

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