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.

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