Lansing Goes to War Exhibit Opening
Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 6:00pm
Lansing City Hall - 124 W. Michigan Ave
The Wartime Conscription of Swing
Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Lansing City Hall - 124 W. Michigan Ave.
The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will open its newest popup exhibit "Lansing Goes to War" a collection of more than 150 artifacts and ephemera from the Civil War to the Spanish American War and from World War I to World War II and to the First Gulf War, 7 p.m., Thursday, March 5 in the lobby of Lansing City Hall.
MSU Professor David Stove will launch the exhibit with "The Conscription of Swing," a program on the music of World War II.
According to Stove, during World War II big band music and the war effort became inexorably intertwined.
Stowe wrote about Swing the War in his first book "Swing Changes: Big Band Jazz in the New Deal America." He wrote that "Swing represented the ideals though to inspire heroism. War conferred patriotic legitimacy on the music."
He said band leaders of the era were "referred to as the Soldiers of Music."
According to Stowe, big band music also contributed to the integration of popular music. He said President Roosevelt called music the "universal tongue" and said that it helped promote tolerance of minority groups.
Stove is interim chair of the English Department at Michigan State University. During the 2012 - 2013 academic year Stowe held a research fellowship in Music, Worship, and the Arts at Yale's Institute of Sacred Music, where he researched and wrote an initial draft of a book manuscript on the cultural history of Psalm 127.
He has been interviewed about his work on NPR< consulted for PBS, and lectured on the subject of religion and music in American life for a variety of national organizations. Stowe has published a study of New York cabaret culture and politics in the 1930s and 1940s in the Journal of American History, where he regularly reviews books.
Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society said "Songs provoke emotion like nothing else and music gives us permission to express the longings we feel, but cannot always express in words."
She said it is common for wars to influence popular music, but the Swing music of World War II was far beyond anything we had experienced.
"Music is just one part of our culture that adapts to the demands of a war," Marvin said.
"The current exhibit showcases how war changes all aspects of our life, forever," she said. "We wanted to express the concept that, once a generation, people in Lansing have sent family members off to war. The exhibit looks at the time when women worked in factories or were sent overseas as nurses and families received sober telegrams starting with "We regret to inform you...."'
The exhibit includes uniforms, medals for bravery and other mementos from Lansing families, she said. "We wanted to focus on the things they carried and the things they wore," Marvin said.
The exhibit also contains items from the home front including the first tank shell manufactured by Oldsmobile. Numerous items from the Civil War including the Grand Army of the Republic Medals also will be on display.
Another highlight includes items and letters from Freeman 'Mac' McClintock who was an auto mechanic in World War I and would service ambulances across the French countryside. At the end of the war he ended up in Paris servicing the cars of General Pershing and President Wilson. He later returned to Lansing and owned several car dealerships including McClintock Cadillac. His daughter, Mary Jane Wilson, will present a program at 7 pm, Thursday March 26 based on her father's letters from the front. Following the presentation guests are encouraged to bring their own or relative's letters and read snippets of them which will be recorded.
The exhibit also explores the role women played in the war as nurses and medical professionals, but also gaining their independence by working in wartime factories making everything from bombs to airplane parts. A banner from the Willow Run Bomber Plant, once owned by the Lansing aviatrix Babe Ruth, a WWII trainer for the Army Air Force, is on display for the first time.
You will also see how the war was integrally involved in every aspect of the home front including ration stamps, MIA bracelets, and the blue stars which families hung in windows to designate a soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine overseas.
One collection showcases how families and warriors kept in touch through Vmail and how they were able to vote from overseas. There are also items that feature souvenirs set home to family members, especially mothers and wives. An extensive scrapbook compiled by Joyce Hammond is an endearing record of her sweetheart fighting overseas. Ron Springer who served in Vietnam loaned what he calls 'the rucksack letter' which he sent home to his parents detailing what he carried into the field on a mission.
Local attorney Eugene 'Gil' Wanger has provided several items from his magic act which he took on the road with an entertainment troupe of college students assembled by Fred Warner. Amazingly, he kept the rabbit from the 'flat rabbit trick'.
A truly unusual piece of ephemera is one of the original manuscripts used by Luther Baker in speaking engagements describing his role in leading the group which captured John Wilkes Booth. Following the end of the Civil War Baker moved to Lansing and used the award money to invest in local real estate. Baker and his horse Buckskin were often seen in parades and at local speaking engagements.
The HSGL will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the capture and death of Booth in a month-long series of lectures and events in April called When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
All items in the exhibit are from local families or collectors of military items. Special thanks goes to Scott Shattuck of Mason, Ron Springer of Lansing and Craig Whitford of Holt. Jana Nichols, Carl Kenter, Eaton County Courthouse Square, Tom Plasman, the Baker Family, Jacob McCormick, and the Logan Family, also provided items for the exhibit.
The exhibit will be open through June during normal City Hall hours and it will also be opened on special days and weekends.