Ann Arbor History

70 years ago this week...

Soldiers parade, FDR memorial

70 years ago, on April 14, 1945, Ann Arbor News photographer Eck Stanger took this photograph of a service parade in the U-M Law Quadrangle held in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died two days earlier.

The 60th Anniversary of the Polio Vaccine in Ann Arbor

Kids showing off their vaccine marks

60 years ago, the announcement of the success of the Salk polio vaccine took place right here in Ann Arbor. This momentous announcement followed one of the largest peacetime mobilization of volunteers in American history to undertake the 20th century's greatest public health experiment. Like many other community newspapers, the Ann Arbor News documented the determination of its citizens to fight polio, with feature stories on the afflicted and the swirl of local fundraising efforts to raise awareness, find a cure, and vaccinate area children. Local historian Grace Shackman has written a feature story on Polio in Ann Arbor for our Oldnews site, pulling together dozens of articles and photographs on the history of polio in our community and the announcement of the polio vaccine on April 12, 1955.

Join us on the 60th anniversary, Sunday, April 12, for a special discussion at the Downtown Library with Dr. David Oshinsky, Director of the Division of Medical Humanities, NYU School of Medicine, Professor of History, and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Polio: An American Story.

Researching Your Home's History

Wonder what secrets your house may hold? Who lived there 25, 50, or even 100 years ago?

Join Patrick McCauley, co-author of Historic Ann Arbor: an Architectural Guide as he walks you though his own experience as a researcher. Along with the considerable research required for his book, McCauley spent years doggedly uncovering his own home's history, and has plenty of guidance, tips and advice.

Whether you're just starting to dig into your work, or already an bit of researcher, McCauley will relate a few of his own research scenarios and share resources, extract lessons and highlight useful tips that you can use in your own historical hunt. Copies of Historic Ann Arbor will be available for sale and signing at the event.

Show & Tell for Grown-Ups

We all remember Show & Tell - bringing a treasured possession to school and telling our friends why we love it so much. As adults, we have many more treasures today.

Show & Tell events for adults are sweeping the nation, with recent publicity of the trend in the Wall Street Journal. Described as The Moth Radio Hour meets Antiques Roadshow, these events focus on connecting people through their personal histories.

Bring a treasured object, new or old, to this Show & Tell session for adults. An old photo or letter, family heirloom, vacation memorabilia, an ancient artifact, a work of art - it’s the story behind the piece that matters. No performing; this is amateur storytelling at its best.

Each participant will have five minutes to tell the story behind the object. Anyone is welcome! We will create a short video of you telling your item's story and post it to the aadl.org website.

Attendees are also welcome to just watch and enjoy.The local organizers for this event are members of the Association of Personal Historians and are promoting Show & Tells in May to celebrate Personal History Month.

Celebrating African-American History In Ann Arbor

Dating back to the Underground Railroad, Ann Arbor boasts a rich and vibrant history for African-Americans. A wonderful piece about this time in Ann Arbor’s history is written by Grace Shackman and can be found here.

There are many African-Americans that created their own piece of history in Ann Arbor. For instance, you can read about Ann Arbor’s first African-American mayor, Albert H. Wheeler, first African-American teacher and later principal at Northside Elementary, Harry Mial and his wife, Joetta Mial, Huron High School's first female African-American principal.

O.Herbert Ellis, who passed away last year is notable for being the first African-American to serve on and to chair the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. You can read more history and the individuals that created it here.

Ann Arbor responds to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kids showing off their vaccine marks

In the days following the assassination, Ann Arbor held a memorial at Hill Auditorium and Ann Arbor News photographers snapped dozens of photos of townies and students participating in marches and peaceful demonstrations. Here they are, for the first time, from the Oldnews archive.

Images of America: Downtown Ann Arbor

Author Patti Smith will share stories and a slideshow of images from her new book, Images of America: Downtown Ann Arbor, which was released in early November. The book looks at the remarkable people and businesses who have helped build our town. Its images show a town with mud streets, wooden sidewalks, liveries, tanneries and telegraph offices. It also features businesspeople, merchants, and citizens who lived and worked in our downtown. Described as a "love letter to a beloved city", Images of America: Downtown Ann Arbor provides a look at the past and the people who helped to make Ann Arbor what it is today.

Author Patti Smith wanted to move to Ann Arbor since she was five years old, and is very grateful to live near downtown. She teaches special education and has recently finished writing a YA book. In addition to local history, Patti enjoys storytelling, social media, boxing, writing, and brewing beer. She lives in the Kerrytown area with her fiance, Ken, and their two cats.

Books will be available for sale and signing.

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

Halloween ClownHalloween Clown

Don’t look now, Ann Arbor, but just in time for Halloween, we’ve unearthed a few frightening photos from our Oldnews vault.

Did you know Ann Arbor had a Haunted Tavern? Or that a roving band of Devil Dogs terrorized Tree Town in the late 1930s?

In 1945, a pirate, some clowns and...a singing cornstalk(?) took over the former WPAG radio station at Main and Liberty, and in 1952 Ann Arbor Civic Theatre conjured up this disturbing scene during its production of The Spider.

We've also exhumed ample evidence that witches, goblins and other monster mites haunted the Burns Park neighborhood in 1951 and 1952. Similar creatures appear in a 1957 JCC Halloween Parade. And in 1964, this vampire stalked Art Fair booths.

So click if you dare, Ann Arbor. You can browse all things Halloween or search the past at Oldnews - your gateway to Ann Arbor's hair-raising history.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Salk!

Dr. Jonas SalkDr. Jonas Salk

In honor of Dr. Jonas Salk's 100th birthday, we've just posted a few photographs and articles from our archives celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Jonas Salk, the American medical researcher and virologist who spent time at the University of Michigan doing critical research on the influenza virus before inventing the first successful polio vaccine.

On April 12, 1955, the vaccine was declared to be safe and effective and within weeks was being shipped around the world.

Falling Water Books & Collectibles to Close

Falling Water on AshleyFalling Water on Ashley

The owners of one of Ann Arbor's signature stores, Falling Water Books & Collectibles, just announced they will be closing after 26 years. Here's a 1988 article and photograph (left) from the store's grand opening in July of that year. Falling Water was first located at 318 S. Ashley St., and later moved to Main St.

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