Local History Blog

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

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.

Thomas E. Dewey Visits His Alma Mater

thomas e. dewey

Crusading district attorney, governor of New York and two-time Republican nominee for president Thomas E. Dewey was a 1923 graduate of the University of Michigan with a soft spot in his heart for his alma mater. In July 1947, Dewey came with his wife Frances Hutt Dewey, and their two sons, Tom Jr. and John, to visit the campus and town. It was the year before his second run the presidency in 1948. Dewey suggested that the trip was to show his school to his 14-year-old Tom Jr., "a prospective student." He and his family met with UM President Alexander Ruthven, received a tour of the campus, including the Student Union, the office of the Michigan Daily and marveled at the growth of the school and town since he was an undergraduate.

At Michigan, Dewey was active on campus. He was editor of the Michigan Daily and performed in the campus choir. A photo from 1921 shows Dewey dressed as leprechaun for campus production of "Top of the Mornin'". He gave up a career in music for the law, attending Columbia University Law School. In 1956, Dewey returned again to UM campus to attend a meeting of Ann Arbor Republicans, meet with campus Young Republicans and promote the campaign of incumbent GOP President Dwight Eisenhower. Dewey was the first UM graduate to run for president of the United States. He was nominated in 1944 to run against incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in 1948 to run against incumbent Harry Truman. In 1958 the UM Board of Regents gave Dewey an award for Outstanding Achievement. Dewey was a native of Owosso, Mich.

Jimmy Hoffa Found At Willow Run Airport

Jimmy Hoffa

Old News has unearthed some photos from Jimmy Hoffa's triumphant return to Michigan following his election as President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in October, 1957. Over a thousand Michigan Teamsters lined up to welcome 'Jimmy' back home.

Willow Run Airport was awash in cars and semis. An honor guard preceded Hoffa onto the stage where he delighted the crowd with his homecoming speech. The Teamsters presented Jimmy with a Native American headdress to symbolize his new leadership role.

Hoffa had delivered a fiery speech at the convention decrying the McClellan Committee investigation and anti-labor legislation pending in Congress. Mr. Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975 three years after his tenure as President of the Teamsters ended.

Remembering World Champion Triathlete Karen McKeachie

McKeachie Swimming

On Friday, August 26, 2016, world champion triathlete Karen McKeachie was killed in a collision with a car on Dexter-Chelsea Rd. Ms. McKeachie won hundreds of events in cross country, road races and triathlons and was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014. She tried to join the cross country team at Dexter High School but was told only boys could compete for the school. Undeterred, she turned to even longer races and in 1977 set her sights on the Boston Marathon. By the 1980s she was focusing on triathlons like the Ironman, traveling the world in competition.

Over the years she won numerous Dexter-Ann Arbor runs and Great Lakes Triathlons at Half Moon Lake. McKeachie never stopped training, competing in elite and Master Division events. In 2000 she was honored as the USATriathlon Amateur Triathlete of the Year. Karen McKeachie was also a mentor and inspiration to many local athletes and will be missed sorely by all her knew her.

All Aboard the Freedom Train

Freedom Train

On August 18, 1948, the Freedom Train pulled into Ann Arbor at Ferry Field. This traveling museum of the most important documents in American history gave people a rare opportunity to view and learn about America's founding documents, historic events and guiding principles. Washtenaw County decided to celebrate the exhibit in a very big way with a week of parades and events leading up to the train's arrival.

There was a Veteran's Parade, a Children's Parade, a Community Organization's Parade, a Voter Registration Day, parties and speeches throughout the County. The Ann Arbor News covered the events extensively and put out a special Freedom Train edition. Old News has published the photos the Ann Arbor News photographers took -- not just the few that made it into the paper. There were floats galore, bands aplenty, excited kids, a sea of bikes, long lines at Ferry Field and in the Exhibit.

An interesting part of the special edition were the ads by local merchants tailored to the exhibit. Each ad highlighted an important freedom like trial by jury and unlawful search and seizure, or a civic duty like voting and volunteering. The focus of many of the ads and speeches were those running for office, exhorting them to be fully educated to our Constitution, Bill of Rights and civil liberties. 1948 was a Presidential Election year and the Freedom Train's travels throughout the 48 states surely had an impact on candidates and voters.

Sneak Peek at Performance Network at its Dawn

The Performance Network, formerly an Ann Arbor professional theater group, enters Old News in 1982 with the article Their corner of the world’s a stage. “Our immediate aim is to be studio or work space,” explained David Bernstein, one of Performance Network’s co-founders. For the first two years, Performance Network was a place for directors, playwrights, actors and stage crew to develop their professional skills. A unique feature was the “Works-in-Progress” series, stage readings of plays followed by a discussion with the playwright. Among them was Rachelle Urist, a reporter for the Ann Arbor News, who had her play, "Just Friends,” stage read and later developed into a full production. Opening their doors was the play, "We Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay,” which heralded the era of Performance Network. Stay tuned for additional articles, photographs, programs, and more, from Performance Network's long history.

Summer Is Here And So Are The Fireworks

independence blvd

Independence Day, the Fourth of July, or July 4th, however you wish to refer to the nation’s official founding day, it is the one and only big summer holiday. It rings in the country’s separation from the British Empire (a sort of Brexit of our own), and, for some, the start of summer. With BBQ’s, picnics, fairs, parades, and fireworks, fireworks, fireworks being sold and shot off all around town, now is a great time to look back on our own history of Fourths’ gone by. There's no better place to see some great pictures as well as articles from the historic Ann Arbor News than the library’s very own Oldnews site. If you remember a guy who dressed up as a clown nurse or another who brought a skunk to the parade, you can see them on Oldnews.

Wonder what fireworks were available back in 1961? See them on display here. Remember the Buhr Park fireworks? Relive a moment in time from one of those events in 1963 or read the article about it. And of course there are plenty of parades. You can see the Ypsilanti High School's Girls Drum & Bugle Corps or the Boy Scouts, Troop 88 float in different Ypsilanti parades. But by far the favorite is the Greenbriar Subdivision kid’s parade. But if enjoying the beach is more your speed, Groome's Beach circa 1963 may give you ideas for celebrating the Fourth in a more relaxed manner.

Any way you celebrate, enjoy a safe and happy holiday!

The University of Michigan Zoo

Wolverine

If you were in Ann Arbor between 1929 and 1962, you had the opportunity to visit the University of Michigan Zoo. On October 11, 1929, an article in the Michigan Daily said the zoo would open “in about three weeks” and would boast a weather vane by famed UM sculptor Carleton Angell. A December 11, 1929 Michigan Daily article reports animals moved in "last week". The tiny zoo enclosure was constructed behind the Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building, what most of us think of as U of M's Natural History Museum. (The giant pumas that guard the front doors of the Natural History Museum were sculpted by Carleton Angell too!)

Inside today's museum is a memorial to the zoo which explains "...In 1929, a University of Michigan alumnus anonymously offered a collection of live native Michigan animals. It was the donor's hope that the animals could be enjoyed by children staying in the hospital then located across the street. A circular animal house and pond known as the "Museum Zoological Park" were constructed behind the Museums Building." Old news articles and photos show zoo residents like badgers, a bobcat, red foxes, skunks, otters, raccoons, several pairs of black bears throughout the years, and a wolverine named Biff. At some point a "reptile pit" was added, which included snakes and turtles.

In 1938, elaborate plans surfaced for a forty acre zoological garden to be located near the University of Michigan hospital. A WPA grant was "expected to provide the finances" for a wildlife utopia, where animals of the tiny U of M Zoo would be turned loose to live with no cages. The location of this dream zoo, which never came to fruition, seems to be the edge of what is now Nichols Arboretum.

Despite the popularity of the U of M Zoo, it was torn down in 1962 to make room for an addition to the Ruthven Museums Building. A few Ann Arbor City Council members, as well as many Ann Arbor townspeople, appealed to the University Board of Regents to save and/or relocate the beloved 30something year old zoo, but eventually the animals were relocated and the zoo became a memory. By today's zoological standards, the animals of Ann Arbor lived in fairly terrible, tiny, cramped quarters. The "Animal House", as it came to be called, never grew to be a wildlife utopia, but certainly provided countless Ann Arbor children and their families the opportunity to appreciate Michigan wildlife up close.

Memorial Days Of The Past

Memorial Day Dad

Who doesn’t love a parade? And Memorial Day certainly is full of them. Ann Arbor is no exception either. Whether it is the Ann Arbor High Marching Band or Brownie Scouts or just groups of kids watching the parade, we have gathered some wonderful articles and photos. In addition to parades there are other commemorations for this holiday and for Armed Forces Day as celebrated in Ann Arbor. You can find them all here.

Happy 95th Anniversary Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor

Media Player

On May 13, 1921, the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor was founded. Old News has published hundreds of photos and articles chronicling the history of one of Ann Arbor's oldest and most generous organizations. Only a few of these great photos made it into the Ann Arbor News and we hope Kiwanians enjoy this expanded look back at their history.

The Kiwanis have donated time, money, expertise and compassion to such a wide variety of needs that it's impossible to name them all. First and foremost is the Kiwanis long association with University Hospital (later Mott) Children's ward. In the 1920s the Kiwanis realized that polio was consigning hundreds of Michigan children to years of hospitalization and determined they would make life as normal and enjoyable as possible for the kids. They funded a school, a therapeutic pool, arts and crafts rooms, a professional staff, and a bright atmosphere to counter the effects of polio. How did they do it? In 1927, the Kiwanis launched the most famous Rummage Salein Ann Arbor. The Kiwanis paper sale began in 1932 and ran for more than 30 years.

The Kiwanis sponsored 4-H Club picnics, rang bells for the Salvation Army, built Boy Scout cabins and a Juvenile Center play shelter. Schools, the YWCA's Camp Takona, the Public Library, area high schools and nursery schools, the County Farm Bureau, city parks, the Police Department, the Special Olympics, the Y, whatever the need, the Kiwanis stepped up.

The Kiwanis took time to have fun with card parties, club picnics, meetings and conventions, baseball, and one a very cool road trip . Happy Anniversary Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor, here's to 95 more.

View all Kiwanis photos
Read all Kiwanis articles

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