Thursday, March 29, 2018

April & May 2018 Upcoming Events

Aladdin Kit Houses
Thursday, April 19 - 7:00 p.m.
Library of Michigan, 702 W. Kalamazoo St.

            Join HSGL and Dr. Frank Boles, Director of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University for a discussion about kit houses, and Michigan’s own Aladdin Company in Bay City, Michigan. The firm manufactured kit homes from 1907 until 1989. It was big business on a national level, second in sales volume only to Sears Roebuck & Company.

            The company’s story, though, is more about entrepreneurial endeavor than finance. The firm’s founders, brothers Otto and Bill Sovereign, were respectively a lawyer and an advertising agent, neither of whom knew anything about building houses. When a friend began to make money selling “knocked down boats” (kit boats), they decided they could do the same with houses. They “designed” their first house on their mother’s kitchen table. Through a piece of financial chicanery (a less kind person would say “fraud”), they placed a tiny ad for the house in one of the nation’s leading magazines, the Saturday Evening Post. Surprisingly someone actually ordered one, and paid the required one-third down! Soon enough Otto was posting new ads showing the “famous Board of Seven,” consisting of everyone then on the company’s payroll, carefully reviewing plans for new houses.

            The story of Aladdin is the story of American enterprise and vernacular architecture. The Sovereigns knew how to sell a house. They would ultimately sell about 75,000 of them. They also were keenly aware of what would sell to America’s emerging middle class and, along with their kit home competitors, defined the houses that most Americans aspired to own. Spend an evening learning about the Sovereigns and their homes.

            The over 350 linear feet of Aladdin Company Papers were acquired by the Clarke Historical Library from an abandoned warehouse in Bay City that had been sold for back taxes. They were processed for public use through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Lansing Police Department: Celebrating 125 Years of Service
Saturday, May 5 – 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave.

                        The Lansing Police Department invites Lansing residents to stop by Exhibit Halls B & C at the Lansing Center for their 125th Anniversary of Service event, which will highlight the department’s history through interactive experiences, displays, guest speakers, and other exciting programming.

            The department aims to build upon their legacy of community engagement by educating the region about its storied past and the ways they have evolved to meet the needs of residents. “We’ll be celebrating 125 years of service, but we’ve actually been around a little bit longer, since as far back as 1859. We became officially established in 1893 when we created a rules book to solidify our existence,” explained Sergeant Justin Moore of the Lansing Police Department. “Before then, serving the police was more of a political job, but this really brought us into the modern day as an organized public service organization with a purpose to serve the people. The concept of community policing saw a strong start here in Lansing, one that’s been all about making our community a safer place to live over the past 125 years.”

            The event will give residents a glimpse into the LPD’s past and its evolution as a public service entity by showcasing artifacts from throughout the department’s storied history, including objects that date back to the 1800s, retired Oldsmobile police cruisers from the 1950s, archival footage from the 1940s and 1950s, past uniforms and weaponry, oil-lit flashlights, and more. Residents can experience kid-centric activities and demonstrations of police technology, and even find opportunities to take a souvenir photograph.

            This family-friendly event is open to the public, including free parking and admission, and will be kicked off with an opening ceremony that includes remarks from Mayor Andy Schor, LPD Chief of Police Michael Yankowski, and members of the LPD Board of Commissioners. In addition, a special Memorial Service will be held to recognize and commemorate all LPD members who have fallen in the line of duty over the past 125 years.

            Volunteers are still needed to help oversee various historical displays for morning and afternoon shifts. Please contact Justin Moore at 517-483-4658 or or Angela Matthews at to sign up. For more information visit:

The German Backlash
Tuesday, May 15 – 7:00 p.m.
Library of Michigan, 702 W. Kalamazoo St.

            Sara Kosiba, English Professor at Troy University in Alabama and biographer of Lansing’s John Herrmann, will be featured at a book release party and signing for a rediscovered Herrmann manuscript. Lansing’s forgotten author, John Herrmann, pal of Hemingway and grandson of the founder of John Herrmann’s Sons, a bespoke Lansing tailor, often turned to his hometown for inspiration in his writing. His recently discovered manuscript Foreign Born is a fictionalized account of the anti-German backlash in Lansing during WWI.

            In Foreign Born Herrmann describes tar-and-featherings and other actions against German citizens who espoused pro-German feelings. Included in the manuscript is a nasty libel trial against the Lansing State Journal regarding their description of what led to the tar-and-feathering of a Lansing butcher.

            The manuscript was rediscovered by Kosiba, who uncovered it while researching the author’s life at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Kosiba then shepherded the manuscript through to publication. The book release party is free and books will be available for sale.

Old Germantown Walking Tour
Thursday, May 17 – 7:00 p.m.
LCC Administration Building, Board Room, 610 Capitol Ave.

            A companion walking tour of Lansing’s old Germantown neighborhood, adjacent to Lansing Community College, will be led by LCC history Professor David Siwik.

            When German families immigrated to the United States, they often settled in close proximity, forming “Germantowns” in many communities. Germans who settled in Lansing gravitated to an area along Capitol and Seymour Streets. Many of the new immigrants also started businesses in downtown and Old Town, including such notables as Herrmann’s, Kositchek’s, and Bissinger’s Flowers. Bissinger’s was located where the Lansing Community College Administration Building now stands.

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