Wednesday, June 8, 2016

HSGL Annual Meeting - A History of Fenner Nature Center

HSGL Annual Meeting - A History of Fenner Nature Center
Thursday, June 9, 2016 - 7:00 pm
Fenner Nature Center - 2020 E. Mount Hope Ave.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy one of our city's greatest treasures - Fenner Nature Center. We'll join longtime member and former President of the Friends of Fenner Nature Center Ron Eggleston for a talk on the history of Fenner Nature Center for our annual meeting. Ron's presentation will take place in the Visitors Center. Interested members are encouraged to arrive early and  hike the trails before the meeting.

The property that is today Fenner Nature Center was once part of Springdale, a large farm owned by J.M. Turner. The farm passed down through the Turner family through multiple generations. By the time Scott Turner acquired the farm around 1900, it had dwindled to less than 150 acres. In 1952 Scott offered to sell the farm to the City of Lansing, stating that he wished it to remain in a somewhat primitive state. Lansing's City Council agreed to purchase the land for a park late that same year.

In 1958 Carl Fenner, a forester educated at MAC, became the new head of the Lansing Parks Department. Inspired by the Morton Arboretum in Illinois, Fenner set out to create an ambitious park where Lansing area residents could pursue "information, instruction and general knowledge concerning landscaping, gardening, forestry, botany, and related subjects." Arboretum Park, as it was then known, opened on August 1, 1959, to a crowd of 11,000 visitors. In 1965 the City of Lansing renamed the park The Carl G. Fenner Arboretum.

Today "the Arb", as it is still known to some Lansing residents, is jointly managed by the City of Lansing and the Friends of Fenner Nature Center. Every year Fenner hosts dozens of school tours, a series of summer camps, and the ever-popular Apple Butter Festival and Maple Syrup Festival. It continues to be an excellent resource for Lansing area residents.

As our bylaws require, we will be voting on the HSGL Board for the 2016-2017 year at the meeting. The proposed slate of candidates for the board includes:

Bill Castanier, President
Valerie Marvin, Vice President
Ron Emery, Secretary
Tim Kaltenbach, Treasurer
Jesse LaSorda, Trustee
Zig Olds, Trustee

Mary Kwas, Trustee

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Most Memorable Moments of MSU Sports

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 7:00 p.m.
Downtown CADL - 401 S. Capitol Ave.

Every Spartan fan has a favorite sports memory. Perhaps yours was when Magic Johnson led the Spartans to the 1977 NCAA Basketball Championship, the career of Jumping Johnny Green, or the 2015 Women's Cross Country NCAA Championship. Join longtime sports journalist Jack Ebling, current host of the weekday radio program "The Drive" as he discusses some of his favorite moments in MSU sports.

"The Drive" is live weekdays from 3:00-6:00 pm on The Team 92.1 WQTX.

Ebling has covered sports and more as a writer and broadcaster in mid-Michigan since 1978. A three-time Michigan Sportswriter of the Year, he was a 2006 inductee into the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame.

He has authored several books on Spartan sports including Heart of a Spartan: The Story of Michigan State Football Renaissance, Spartan Champions JUD: A Magical Journey, Magic Moments, and Green Glory.

A Redford Township native and two-time graduate of MSU, Ebling has contributed more than 125 pieces for national publications, including The Sporting News, Basketball Times, Street & Smith's College Football, and College Basketball, and Sports Illustrated. He also has made frequent television guest appearances on the Big Ten Network.

He is currently the columnist for 247Sports Spartan Tailgate premium website. He also served as editor/columnist for Greater Lansing SPORT magazine from 2008-2012. The former English teacher and coach in Lapeer spent nearly a quart-century as a beat writer and columnist for the Lansing State Journal and won 21 major writing awards.

Guests are encouraged to bring their own lists of most memorable Spartan sports moments.

The event is free and open to the public.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ink Trails II: Michigan's Famous and Forgotten Authors

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Library of Michigan are hosting Dave and Jack Dempsey, authors of "Ink Trails II: Michigan's Famous and Forgotten Authors" at 7:00 p.m., Thursday, April 28 at the Library of Michigan, 702 W. Kalamazoo, Lansing MI. The event is free and open to the public.

The book is the second in the Ink Trails series and explores the life and writings of 17 Michigan authors, both forgotten and luminaries. 

Ink Trails II looks at four authors with ties to Michigan State University and East Lansing who created literary treasures. Glendon Swarthout, author of "Where the Boys Are" and "Road to Cordura," the MAC graduate, muckraker, and Pulitzer Prize winner Ray Stannard Baker, Emma Gertrude Shore Thornton, a poet, MSU Professor and an advocate for peace, and Russel Kirk, author of the seminal book "The Conservative Mind" are all included in the new volume. Kirk is an MSC graduate and was owner of Red Cedar Bookshop.

Other authors include Detroiter Donald Goines, considered one of the first authors of the "pimp" novel, children book author Frances Margaret Fox, from Mackinac City, bodice ripper author and educator Mary Frances Doner, also of Mackinac City, and, of course, Ernest Hemingway.

Valerie Marvin, Society president, said "The book is a delightful look at both famous and overlooked authors. It is filled with tidbits about authors and poet and will lead to further adventures in reading."

David Dempsey, an environmental consultant, is the author of six books includung the 2009 Michigan Notable Book Winner "William G. Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate." He co-edited the 2014 Michigan Notable Book "The Great Lake Sturgeon" and co-authored the award winning "Ink Trails I."

Jack Dempsey is an Ann Arbor attorney and author of several books on Michigan and the Civil War. He is also the chair of the Michigan History Foundation, vice president of the Michigan Historical Commission and was chair of the Michigan Sesquicentennial Commission. he has also won Michigan Notable Book Awards for "Ink Trails I" and "Michigan and the Civil War."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wolf Mouth Book Event with author John Smolens

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Everybody Reads Books is hosting a discussion and book signing with Upper Peninsula author John Smolens for his new book Wolf's Mouth at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 17 at Everybody Reads Books, 2019 Michigan Ave.

Smolens, who is the author of nine works of fiction, has written an epic historical novel revolving around the escape of a German Prisoner of War from one of Michigan's many POW camps during WWII.

The prisoner, with the help of a local woman, escapes to Detroit where many years later his past comes back with a vengeance as the former camp commandant tracks him with a sentence of death.

During World War II there were several prisoner of war camps in Michigan, including five in the Upper Peninsula and four in the Lower Peninsular, including nearby Owosso. There were multiple escapees, including one upon which Smolen has built his book.

Smolens will provide a history of the camps and the work that prisoners did there.

Smolens, who was for years a professor of English at Northern Michigan University, lives in Marquette, MI. His books include Cold, Quarantine, and The Schoolmaster's Daughter.

Smolens is Professor Emeritus and former director of the MFA program in creative writing at Northern Michigan University. During the past three decades he has taught at Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, as well as NMU, where he has been the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award.

In 2010 he received the Michigan Author of the Year Award from the Michigan Library Association.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Up Cloche: Fashion, Feminism, Modernity

Up Cloche: Fashion, Feminism, Modernity Exhibit Tour
Thursday, March 10, 2016  7:00 p.m.
MSU Museum, 409 W. Circle Drive
*Please note that this event coincides with MSU's spring break, so parking should be readily available.

HSGL will tour the MSU Museum's newest exhibit, Up Cloche: Fashion, Feminism, Modernity with curator Shirley Wajda. The exhibit explores how fashion reflects the politics, economics, and social changes of the Jazz Age. "Up Cloche: Fashion, Feminism, Modernity" features apparel and textile design collections with the iconic bell-shaped hat (the cloche) as the centerpiece.

The exhibit draws from the history and culture collections of the MSU Museum, including a striking array of 33 cloche hats, as well as other period fashion, and depictions to tell a story and reveal history.

"The exhibition highlights how identity and changes in society are reflected in changing styles of fashion," explains Shirley T. Wajda, MSU Museum curator of history, who organized the exhibition along with the MSU Museum's Lynne Swanson and Mary Worrall. "The post-World War I period was an exciting era of rapid social change, especially for women, who were finally able to break free to some extent from economic and social restraints, and literally break free of physical restraints of fashion." 

The exhibit will be on display through the end of August.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Library of Michigan History and Tour of Rare Book Room

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Library of Michigan are hosting a program at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 27 on the various services the Library offers and Library history followed by a chance to view some rare documents and books that relate to Lansing and Michigan history in the Library's rare book room at 2:30 p.m.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Society, said the Library of Michigan is a tremendous resource for researchers of all kinds from those wanting to know more about their family history to authors and for those doing business-related research.

"The Library services are available at no cost and the Library is open six days a week," she said. "It's a hidden gem where some of the greatest secrets of Michigan history lay in wait, just waiting to be discovered."

The program will start at 1:00 p.m. with an overview of the Library of Michigan's history by Librarian Bernadette Bartlett.

Bartlett said the Library is one of the oldest state government agencies in existence, predating statehood.

The State Library was established in 1828 as a territorial library. Today, it has the largest collection of Michigan newspapers on microfiche and the largest collection of fiction books by Michigan authors or about Michigan, Bartlett said.

Attendees will also learn about some of the library's often forgotten historical trials including the 1951 fire in the Lewis Cass building that threatened the existence of the State Library, destroying 20,000 books and damaging another 30,000 books.

Bartlett will also discuss the Library's groundbreaking travelling library program that began in the late 1890s. The traveling library program was created by Mrs. Mary Clare Spencer, who was named State Librarian in 1893. She soon committed the Library to making books available to all people of Michigan. Books "of the best literature" were sent across the state in oak cases. The books covered topics ranging from ethics and religion to biography and travel and were sent to Granges, women's clubs, and virtually any legitimate group.

Marvin said that early librarians like Mary Clare Spencer and Harriet Tenney were early career women. "Tenney knew her historical significance. In her first report to the Governor she wore that 'By the advice of the Chief Executive of the State, and with the unanimous consent and approbation of the Senate, on the 31st day of March, 1869, this Library was placed in charge of a WOMAN.'"

At 2:30 interested participants will tour the rare book room and see early photos and rare books including books made from birch bark, foredge painted books and miniature books. Also on display will be rare sheet music written by a Lansing resident and an employee of REO Motors also with other treasures.

In addition birders will be given the opportunity to see several forms of an Audubon etching along with the original lithographic stone. 

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary. More information on the Library's virtual collections along with curated content can be found at

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cupid Draw Back Your Bow....

Lansing's "lost generation" author John Herrmann met his spouse to be, Josephine Herbst, at a romantic cafe in Paris. He was hungover. Betty and Ange Vlahakis (proprietor of the former Jim's Tiffany in downtown Lansing) met on an airplane returning from Greece. Susan Kitzman married her boss, Matt Kitzman, after working with him at Schuler Books; Ray Stannard Baker, muckraker extraordinaire, married his botany professor's daughter, Jessie Beal; and Scott Harris and his spouse Marcy, both grieving losses, met in a bookstore.

You'll hear more about these pairings in the days leading to Valentine's Day as the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Lansing State Journal cooperate in the "Love Lansing" promotion to identify the most unusual romantic circumstances which brought two people together.

Judy Putnam, the award winning columnist, for the Lansing State Journal, has already written about other unusual pairings in her column, which you can read here.  One of them is downright eerie and involves an auto accident which brings a couple together 20 years later.

Tell us about the quirky, fateful, or romantic meeting between you and your significant other. The Lansing State Journal and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing will select one winner and nine runners up. All ten stories will be featured in the Historical Society's "Dating, Love, and Marriage" portion of the "Lansing Has Fun!" exhibit in Lansing City Hall. The winner will receive a box of chocolates from Fabiano's.

Submit your story by using the Lansing State Journal's letters to the editor option here. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life in Greater Lansing 100 Years Ago

Life in Greater Lansing 100 Years Ago
Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 7:00 p.m.
Downtown CADL, 401 S. Capitol Ave.

President of Historical Society of Greater Lansing Valerie Marvin will present a talk 7:00 pm, Thursday, January 28 on "Life in Greater Lansing 100 Years Ago" which will explore the Capital City during an era of immense growth, the prelude to World War I, and an influx of immigrants. The address will be in the lobby of City Hall and will be preceded by the opening of the Society's newest exhibit.

The discussion complements the Society's new exhibit on Prohibition: the Wets vs the Drys, which is the first installment of the year-long celebration "Lansing Has Fun" which will be on display in the Lobby of Lansing City Hall. Marvin said each month during 2016, a new thematic mini-exhibit will be added. For example, February will celebrate love, dating, and marriage.

The Prohibition exhibit covers the period 1874-1933 and includes the prelude to Prohibition, the Temperance Movement, which was very active in Lansing and 1920-1933, which saw the emergence of speakeasies, stills, flapper girls, and police busts.

Marvin said one police bust ended with a life sentence for Etta Mae Miller for alcohol violations and created a national furor which contributed to the end of Prohibition. The Chicago Tribune compared it to the Salem Witch Trials. 

"It also surprises people that Lansing was "dry" well before prohibition," Marvin said.

Included in the exhibit are artifacts from the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Lansing Brewing Company, Carrie Nation, and some unique items from Lansing taverns.

Marvin said the decade of 1910-1920 brought about the construction of many of the buildings, churches and homes that are still part of Lansing today. She also said that even given some of the anti-German sentiment in the U.S. Lansing still elected a German born mayor who served during World War I, Mayor Reutter. Interestingly, the City renamed the old City Park in his honor during World War II.

She also said that then, as now, Michigan Agricultural College was beginning to grow and influencing the community.

Marvin said that immigration was an important issue in the 1900s and immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans, along with the Great Migration fromt eh South, and the general movement from rural areas to the cities helped fill the need for workers driven by the expanding auto industry.

"A REO newsletter from that era reported that 87 Syrians who worked for the company became U.S. citizens through the company's night school program," Marvin said. "Also, in 1916 the largest number of students at MAC from any one foreign country were from China!"

"It's interesting--it seems the world should be so different, but it really wasn't!" she said.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

At the Crossroads of Fear & Freedom

At the Crossroads of Fear and Freedom

Dr. Robert L. Green
Tuesday, January 19 - 7:00 pm
Downtown CADL
401 S. Capitol Ave.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting Dr. Robert L. Green, a civil rights activist and friend and colleague of Martin Luther King, 7:00 pm, Tuesday, January 19 at the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library for a discussion and book signing of his new book, At the Crossroads of Fear and Freedom." The event is free and open to the public.

Green, while completing his PhD at Michigan State University, not only worked locally to assure open housing in East Lansing, but was recruited by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 to serve as the education director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

In the role he advocated for educational equity and led the crucial 1966 March Against Fear which, despite Ku Klux Klan threats and attacks by southern state troopers, advanced Civil Rights legislation.

At the book release, Green will not only describe the time he spent with King, but also will provide his views on relationships with MSU President John Hannah, Walter Adams, and Clifton Wharton.

In the 1970s, Green would become the first Dean of the newly formed College of Urban Development at MSU. He later became an expert implementing court-ordered desegregation for previously segregated school districts. He continues the role of education consultant from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, and, in 2012, he participated in President Obama's education summit.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society, said his memoir is a virtual who's who of the Civil Rights Movement in this country, as well as internationally.

"In addition to being on the front line of momentous change, Green also advanced the use of persons of color in textbooks which until the 1960s showed only white faces," she said. "He changed how children see history."

"His passionate dedication to Civil Rights has touched so many people's lives and the Historical Society is proud to be a part of the launch of this important book," Marvin said. 

"If you ever doubt the impact one person can have you much read this book."

Marin said that although Green was already active in social justice concerns and knew Martin Luther King prior to King's visit to MSU's campus in 1965 it was there that King turned to Green and said, "Brother Green, you ought to join us in the struggle."

Former Mayor David Hollister, a friend of Green and himself an activist  in the 1960s Civil Rights battles will welcome Green.

Books will be available for purchase at the event.