Monday, May 25, 2015

HSGL Lansing Goes to War & Be A Tourist in Your Own Town

One lucky kid who guesses the weight of a Civil War cannonball will win a year's supply of jaw breakers at the "Lansing Goes to War" exhibit in the lobby of Lansing City Hall as a part of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing's participation in "Be a Tourist in Your Own Town,", Saturday, May 30.

Also visitors to the exhibit will be able to climb aboard the WWI inspired Forty and Eight train which will be on display from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in front of Lansing City Hall.  The Forty and Eight train movement is named after the French train boxcars that transported soldiers and horses to the front in World War I.  the boxcar would hold either 40 troops or eight horses and in 1920 a charitable group raising funds for child welfare and nurse's training adopted the name as a means to raise funds.

Kids under 13 will have a free chance to guess how much a cannonball from the Civil War weighs, and the winner closest to the weight without going over will be awarded a large jaw of jaw breakers.  In case of a tie a drawing will be held among the entries for the same weight.

These events will help highlight the Historical Society of Greater Lansing's exhibit "Lansing Goes to War," a collection of more than 150 artifacts and ephemera from the Civil War to the Spanish America War and from World War I to World War II and to the First Gulf War.

"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 during World War II.

Another highlight includes 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.

Visitors 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 during World War II 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.

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 exhibit will be open through June 30 during normal City Hall hours and it will also be opened on special days and weekends.  

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