Monday, December 7, 2015

Humanity in Photography of the North American Indian

Humanity in the Photography of the North American Indian

Saturday, December 12, 2015, 1:00 p.m.
Library of Michigan
702 W. Kalamazoo Street
Lansing, MI 48933

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing in partnership with the Library of Michigan is sponsoring a program on the early photography of the American Indian at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, December 12, at the Library of Michigan, located at 702 West Kalamazoo.

The program is being held in conjunction with the photo exhibit "From Sepia to Selfies; 150 years of Lansing Photographic History” featuring more than 300 professional and vernacular photographs of life in Lansing. The exhibit is free and will be on display until December 30.

Photographic collector and seller Doug Price of Ann Arbor will present “Humanity in the Photography of the North American Indian” and will display and describe the context of original photographs by numerous early 20th century photographers including Edward Curtis, Frank A. Rhinehart, Karl Moon and Grace Chandler Burns, a Michigan photographer who at the turn of twentieth century shot photographs in and around Harbor Springs and Petoskey of Indians performing in the Hiawatha Pageant. (Hiawatha pageants were dramatized enactments of Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha" performed by American Indians in the early 20th century for the tourist market.) Chandler was a photographer in Petoskey from 1899-1923 before moving to California.

Chandler also shot photographs of American Indian women going about their daily chores, Price said.

Price said that he will display original photographs from his collection that are representative of each photographer and provide the context within they were shot.

He said photographs of this type were virtually lost in time until the 1970s when Edward Curtis was rediscovered.

Curtis and the other famous photographers of that era worked in a technique called pictorialist photography which stressed the beauty of an image rather than its realism.

Price said pictorialist photography is sometimes criticized because the photographs were highly stylized and often posed for dramatic effect. Photographs were manipulated and retouched and often hand colored. Pictorialist photography was popularized by Edward Steichen as a way to put photography on the same plain as fine art.

Price began his interest in collecting and selling photography while working for the old Jocundry’s Books in East Lansing after he purchased a collection of Curtis photographs brought to his attention by a customer. He has bought, sold and collected prints since.

He believes what critics of pictorialist photographs often overlook is the photographers also shot as much as possible American Indians in everyday life going about work and recreational activities.

Curtis in particular was meticulous about Indian lore and life and did recordings, sketches and language interpretation. Curtis also allowed the particular Indians to choose their own traditional dress and artifacts to be photographed with.

“Some of his photography was the only record of some rituals which at the time were banned by the federal government. He was allowed by the Hopi to photograph the Snake Dance ceremony,” he said.

"Photographers who recorded traditional American Indian rituals and culture saw the value and beauty of cultures that were, at the time, largely discounted by most Americans. Their work is invaluable to historians and collectors alike," said HSGL President Valerie Marvin.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing’s exhibit “From Sepia to Selfies: 150 years of Lansing Photographic History” is on display until December 30 on the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan. The exhibit is open during regular Library hours 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays and the second Saturday of the month, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

From Sepia to Selfies - 150 Years of Lansing Photographic History Exhibit

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing
150 Years of Lansing Photographic History

Library of Michigan
4th Floor
Sponsored by the Library of Michigan, Central Michigan University Clarke Library, and Studio de Danse, Lansing

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing, the Library of Michigan and Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library are presenting “From Sepia to Selfies: 150 years of Lansing photographic history,” an exhibit that explores the roots and evolution of photography in Lansing.

Included in the exhibit are more than 300 rare, iconic and vernacular photographs representing virtually every aspect of Lansing from selfies to early cabinet photographers. The exhibit is free and on display until December 31. It also includes examples of rare, unusual and everyday cameras and photographic equipment.

Valerie Marvin president of the Society said more than 60 photographers, collectors and individuals loaned photographs and equipment for the exhibit. The Clarke Library provided interpretive panels on the history of photographic processes which provide an important timeline for the advancement of photography.

One highlight includes more than 60 cabinet cards from 60 individual Lansing photographers representing the full spectrum of portrait photography from the 1850s to 1930s in Lansing. The collection is from Jacob McCormick of Holt who has set his goal to collect a photograph from all of the 130 Lansing photographic companies who plied their trade in Lansing from the 1850s to 1930s.

Another segment of the exhibit focuses on Demonstrations and Celebrations at the State Capitol which was assembled by photojournalist David Olds and features both black and white and color photography of demonstrations as varied as bikers rallying against the helmet law to the massive right to work demonstrations.

Marvin said what is unusual about this exhibit is it blends both professional and vernacular (amateur) photography in showing events across Lansing’s history. She said an example is the photographs of the 1951 Cass fire which includes numerous images shot by bystanders and a professional photographer.

One particular Lansing amateur photographer Clara Heldemeyer was discovered through “lost” photo albums that turned up at an out-of-city estate sale. The three albums show some of Heldemeyer’s rare ability which led her to become a celebrated salon photographer and to exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. A number of her salon photographs including a portrait of Anais Nin are in the exhibit an on loan from.

The exhibit also has several salon photographs of Gerald Granger who competed and won recognition world-wide for his photography. At one time in the 1940s Granger was recognized in the top five of salon photographers, world-wide. Granger is also considered the first full time Lansing State Journal photographer.

Marvin said any exhibit on Lansing photography would not be complete without showcasing photography of Leavenworth Photographics which documented the 20th century history of Lansing as the premier commercial photographer. “

Their slogan “Anything Photographed. Anytime. Anywhere” does not give their talents and breadth of work justice. The firm, in its ninth decade, continues under the third owner Roger Boettcher who loaned several rare images and a panoramic camera belonging to the R.C. Leavenworth.

Other topics covered in the exhibit include Lansing disasters; daredevils; planes boats and trains; parades; aerial photography by Abrams; I-496 construction and deconstruction; how we see photography and how photography was used to record important events and life passages.

“Photography is one of the ways we have of recording and analyzing our history and this exhibit has opened the door to many more similar exhibits for the Society,” Marvin said.

“Visitors to the exhibit will walk away with their own favorite image and the photos will help us recall both good times and difficult times,” she said.

Two special events are planned focusing on news photography and photography of the American Indian.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Glendale Cemetery Tour on Sunday, September 13

This Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a walking tour of Glendale Cemetery at 2 pm on Sunday, September 13 at 2500 Mt.Hope Rd., Okemos. The tour is free. The cemetery is located west of Okemos Rd.

Jane M. Rose, author of the recently published "Meridian Township" part of the "Images of America" series, will give a brief history of the cemetery and highlight a few women pioneers. The cemetery which currently has 9,000 gravesites was established in 1887 on land provided by R.P. Soule and J. Blakley.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said the tour will highlight the first African American to be hired by the City of Lansing, a member of the Polar Bear Expedition of World War I, the Commissioner of the State Police in the 1950s, and three victims of the Bath School Disaster of May 1927 where 44 individuals were killed and 58 injured in bombings by a disgruntled school employee. The tour highlights include:

Charles Henry Doane, who was the first African Americans to be hired by the City of Lansing. His son Charles H. Doane Jr. Married Nettie Thompson. Nettie's brother was William Thompson who was the first person of color to graduate from M.A.C. in 1904. Nettie's other brother Paris Thompson was one of only 10 African Americans to serve in WW1 from Ingham County.

James Mckane was a World War I Veteran, serving in the Polar Bear regiment which was used to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad during the Russian Revolution. His father James Sr. came to the U.S. in 1866 from Northern Ireland and the Mckane family settled in Meridian Township sometime before 1900. In 1920, James Jr. worked as an inspector in an auto body shop in Ingham County. In 1930, James was living in Detroit and working as a contractor. By 1940, he moved back to Meridian Twp. and was self-employed in sales.

Michigan State Police Commissioner Joseph A. Childs, who was Commissioner from 1952-1965. He was born in 1909 and died in 1976. More than 10 Michigan State Police veterans are buried in Glendale. His predecessor Donald Leonard had just submitted his paperwork for retirement when the Jackson prison riots broke out in the spring of 1952. The papers were withdrawn quickly and Leonard commanded the efforts to bring the prison back under control, an effort that involved over 300 troops coming in from all across the state.

Childs also led disaster relief efforts in 1953 after a deadly tornado struck Flint and several communities eastward. One hundred and fifteen died and nearly 900 were injured. Troopers relocated to Flint for several weeks to help with disaster relief, receiving commendation from across the country for their efforts. To that end, he was part of the organization of the Michigan Civil Defense Emergency Team under Gov. Williams in 1954 for the purpose of putting in place a statewide team to handle disaster relief and recovery efforts.

He also introduced the blue police car, the diving team, and the canine patrol that we still know today, and saw the force grow to exceed 1000 for the first time.

Valerie Marvin said "Childs and others buried in Glendale are symbols of public service and a reminder that East Lansing, as the longtime headquarters of MSP, has been home to many who have served the state through MSP. Childs relatively simple gravestone gives little indication of the important work that he did to keep Michiganders safe and improve the quality of life in our state."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Eaton County Courthouse Tour

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Courthouse Square are hosting a tour of the historic Eaton County Courthouse and Museum, Thursday, September 3. The tour is free and participants should meet at the front of the Courthouse at 100 West Lawrence, Charlotte. A tour of the grounds and exterior architecture begins at 6 p.m. and the building tour at 7 p.m.

The Courthouse was constructed from 1882-1885 and was used for county business until 1976 when it was replaced by a new courthouse and county facilities.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said the Courthouse tour will cover everything from the architectural style to topics such as construction materials, how rooms were arranged and the symbolism represented in the structure.

Following the Civil War many counties in the North chose to celebrate the victory by erecting new and impressive public buildings. County courthouses were not only practical buildings housing important government business, but also were designed to elicit respect for the law and government, Marvin said.

In addition to touring the various rooms which served the court and government offices, the tour will explore how the architect David W. Gibbs of Toledo, Ohio, designed the brick and iron structure for efficiency in heating and cooling. Gibbs most notable work was the Wyoming State House, designed not long after the courthouse opened.

Marvin said the building was almost destroyed by fire in 1894 when fire caused the dome to crash to the floor, but the three side structures were unscathed and the Courthouse was restored.

In addition to public space the Courthouse included nine private offices for judges and public officials such as the register of deeds, county clerk and supervisor. It also contained water closets which Marvin said likely were a great surprise especially to rural residents at that time.

The Courthouse also included wood floors, doors and trim work constructed of pine, walnut and butternut harvested from nearby forests.

In 1976 the Courthouse was repurposed as a museum and a venue for weddings, parties and banquets.
Marvin said, Public structures were built in this time period with intent of celebrating civilizations accomplishments.

The residents of Eaton County are to be commended for saving this glorious structure, she said.

The HSGL will also host a tour of the Ingham County Courthouse on Thursday, September 17.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Walking Tour of Old West Circle on MSU's Campus

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will join with Stephen Terry, author of the postcard book “Michigan Agricultural College: 1900-1925,” for their first-ever walking tour of MSU's West Circle at 10 a.m., Saturday, August 22. The tour is free and begins at Beaumont Tower. Attendees should park in the ramp adjacent to the Olin Health Center just off Grand River.

Terry said the area to be covered in the walk was called the College’s “sacred space” where most of the earliest buildings and activities took place.

The tour will cover both standing buildings and those that were lost to demolition or fire such as Engineering and Wells Hall which both burned.

Terry said it is important to discuss MSU’s earliest days from the perspective of its architecture.
“There are only 12 buildings on the current MSU campus that were erected before 1925,” he said.
Included in that are the original Library-Museum building which anchors part of the east end of the Circle.

The building, which was built in 1881 and was repurposed over time for uses such as the Administration Building, was a place where students in the 1960s could go for a $5 loan to tide them over. It is now called Linton Hall.

Other sites on the walk include the newer Museum building, Agricultural Hall and numerous building and sites on what once was called Laboratory Row including Eustace-Cole Hall, Old Botany, Cook Hall, Chittenden Hall, Marshall Hall and Morrill Hall which was torn down in 2013.

Terry said the construction of Morrill Hall in 1899-1900 was really the marker for the establishment of the first Women’s College on campus even though there was a women’s curriculum as early as 1896 and women first attended the College in 1870. He said it served both as living quarters and classroom space for teaching domestic arts among other classes.

One example of the varied history of the buildings on the Circle is Chittenden Hall which was originally built in 1901 at the cost of $15,000 to house the dairy program and in 1913 was renamed the Forestry Building. It was recently renovated and now houses the University’s graduate programs.

Terry also will discuss the area where Gilchrist Hall is now located which was once home to Faculty Row, a collection of faculty residences. Only Cowles House is now remaining and that only has fragments from the original structure.

The “sacred ground” was also the site of many memorable gatherings and student events including the 1907 visit of President Theodore Roosevelt.

The author also will point out numerous quirky items along the tour including a horse watering trough which was a Senior Class Gift of the class of 1907 and was near where President Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “A Man Who Works With His Hands.”

Valerie Marvin said that the walking tour is one way to learn about the earliest architecture on campus but also about what went on inside and around the beautiful buildings.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Walking Tour Highlight West Side Neighborhood's African American History

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will conduct a walking tour of Lansing’s near west side 7 p.m., Thursday, August 6 focusing on sites reflecting African American life before desegregation.

Sites include the Lincoln School, the Dungey Subdivision, the Moon House, Union Missionary Baptist Church and I-496 and the neighborhoods representing the color-line.  

The Dungey Subdivision encompasses Huron, Kalamazoo, Hillsdale and Martin Luther King and is named after Andrew and Ray Dungey who developed the first subdivision by African Americans in 1915.

The Lincoln Elementary/Community Center was located at 1023 William Street (corner of William and Logan). The school was torn down in the mid-1960s. Students at the school were almost entirely African American.

The Darius Moon House at 213 Huron Street is being recognized because Moon employed African American tradespeople including William Allen, a mason, and William Prute, a carpenter.

The Union Missionary Church, 500 S. Martin Luther King, which dates to 1909 is one of several churches in the area which were predominately African American. The site on Martin Luther King is the church’s third building with the first two located at 1024 W. Hillsdale.

Also the significance of Lansing’s “Color-Line” will be explored. The line which stretched from Butler Street west to Westmoreland St.; south to the Grand River and north to W. St Joseph by construct became the neighborhood where African Americans were expected to live prior to desegregation in the 1960s.

The tour also will explore the impact that the construction of I-496 in the mid-1960s had on the predominately African American neighborhood including the displacement of hundreds of African American families.  Nearly 900 homes and commercial buildings were torn down for construction of I-496 which bisected Lansing’s African American neighborhoods.

"As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Right movements, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it's important for our community to reflect on the historical challenges faced by African-Americans in our own city. It's also a chance to remember a very vibrant community, where people lived, learned, laughed, and worshiped,” said Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society.

The tour will meet at the Union Missionary Baptist Church parking lot at 500 S. MLK. The parking lot is to the south of the church. The tour is free.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Vintage View of M-22 Book Event at East Lansing Public Library This Thursday!

After checking out the new book on touring Michigan’s scenic M-22 you’ll understand why you see all those M-22 stickers on cars.

Award winning authors M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson spent endless hours driving Michigan’s most scenic highway for their new coffee table book “Vintage Views Along Scenic M-22 Including Sleeping Bear Dunes.”

Byron and Wilson will bring their stories and new book to the East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Rd, East Lansing, at 7 p.m., Thursday July 30 for a visual presentation of the scenic drive.
The book, through clever use of vintage postcards, advertising ephemera and photographs, illustrates a time when the highway first beckoned travelers to the scenic drive outlining Leelanau Peninsula.

The 248 page book will take you on a trip back in time when things were slower and less commercial, said Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing which is co-sponsoring the event along with the Friends of the East Lansing Public Library.

The event is free event and books will be available for purchase.

“The couple’s love of Michigan and its history is shown on every page of this amazing book,” Marvin said. The authors have used their vast postcard collection and travel ephemera as the inspiration for five books which include visual tours of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Charlevoix and Petoskey, Leelanau County, M-22, the Straits of Mackinac and the West Michigan Pike.

Byron was previously the local history librarian for the Grand Rapids Public Library and Wilson is retired from Sears Roebuck and Company and is on the Grand Rapids Historical Commission. Their books have won three Michigan Notable Book Awards and the book on the West Michigan Pike won the 2012 State History Award.

The event is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Friends of the East Lansing Public Library.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Downtown Lansing Restaurant Tour

Downtown Lansing's Favorite Old Restaurants Walking Tour

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a downtown Lansing walking tour featuring the “lost restaurants of Lansing” 10 a.m., Saturday July 25. The tour which will leave from Lansing City Hall is free and is being held in conjunction with the Capital Car Auto Show and the Taste of Downtown sponsored by Downtown Lansing Inc..

Walkers will explore locations of more than 12 area restaurants and discuss the history of those restaurants including the Plaza Room and Fielder’s Room in the Olds Hotel, Jim’s Tiffany Lounge, Dines, the Knight Cap, Brauer’s 1861 House, Tarpoff’s, Foo Ying, Estelle’s, Kewpees, Home Dairy and the Parthenon.

Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Association of Greater Lansing said the tour will explore both the fine dining experiences and the more casual eateries that once graced downtown Lansing.
“These were the type of dining establishments where people celebrated anniversaries, birthdays and became engaged. Younger residents remember romantic pre-prom and hop dinners,” Marvin said.

She also said several of the restaurants are where legislators went to work out compromises and lobbyists entertained. Numerous clubs also held their monthly meetings in several of the restaurants.
Only two of the restaurants, the Knight Cap and Kewpies, are still serving diners today.

The tour will be conducted by Gary Koelsch, and is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Downtown Lansing Inc.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Historic Houses in Downtown Lansing Walking Tour This Thursday, July 9

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing’s 3rd historical summer walking tour is set for 7 p.m., Thursday July 9 in a downtown neighborhood adjacent to the State Capitol and includes five homes on Capitol Ave, Genesee St. and Seymour St. The tour meets at the historic Carnegie Library at 210 W. Shiawassee Street.

Homes which will be discussed on the tour include the former homes of a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, a former president of MAC, an auto pioneer, and an early Lansing industrialist along with one of downtown’s first apartment buildings.

President of the Historical Society Valerie Marvin said the walking tour will cover both the historical and architectural aspects of the homes. Several of the homes have been converted to offices.

“Many of us drive by these homes every day not knowing of their importance in Lansing history,” Marvin said. "Yet they serve to remind us that downtown Lansing continues to involve, while remaining both a desirable place to live and work."

She said one example is the current Maurer-Foster building at 615 N. Capitol Ave which was originally the home of William Newbrough who was one of  the founders of the New Way Motor Co. The home was later sold to Auto Owners which used it for its first offices and later housed the city’s Community Foundation.

Another example is the original home of T. C. Abbot at 327 Seymour St. Abbot was one of the early presidents of Michigan Agricultural College and built the home for his retirement.

Also included is an early apartment building, designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.  "The Spanish Colonial Revival movement is really the first time that Midwestern America begins to look to Western America for design cues.  Suddenly, it was avant-garde to have a little bit of California in downtown Lansing!" Marvin said.

Houses on the tour also cover a range of architectural styles including Stick Style, Romanesque, Neo Classical and even Spanish Colonial Revival.

Cathy Babcock, the former head of the Lansing Art Gallery, will conduct the tour along with Valerie Marvin.

Marvin said the tours are an easy and informal way of learning about the city’s history while getting an overview of architectural styles.

Since the Common Ground Festival is held the same evening the tour will last only one hour giving participants plenty of time to arrive for the Festival’s events. Marvin said parking is relatively easy to find west of Seymour St.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lansing Snapshots: From Sepia to Selfies

We need your photos. The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Library of Michigan are sponsoring “Lansing Snapshots: from Sepia to Selfies” which will cover 150 years of Lansing’s photographic history.

The concept of the exhibit is to show both iconic photographs, but also what are called vernacular photos or everyday photos of Lansing and its people, said Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society.

“We want to showcase photographs that will surprise you and that you haven’t seen before in addition to some photographs that have become icons like the 1975 flood photos”, she said.

Marvin said the Society is especially looking for photographs from all eras that include famous Lansing citizens such as R.E. Olds, Malcolm X, Earvin Johnson, and the Stratosphere Man. She also said the Society is searching for photographs of weather calamities such as floods and snowstorms along with celebrations ranging from family events to holiday events.

The exhibit which will be on display in the Library from September through December will feature photographs, including their context in the history of the photographic processes from daguerreotypes to selfies.  Also featured is a major exhibit on loan from the Clark Library at Central Michigan University which focuses on the history of photography as seen through its many photographic processes.

The exhibit will be broken down by a historical timeline, but will include images representing the MSU campus, lost Lansing, recreation, entertainment, sports and city and family celebrations.
One segment of the exhibit will include a look at Lansing’s professional photographers across time and their contributions to the history of Lansing.

Since it is important to include all aspects of Lansing society we are looking for photographs from African American, Hispanics, Asians and other racial and ethnic groups that represent their place in Lansing history, Marvin said.

The exhibit will also include rare photographic equipment and cameras on loan from area residents.
Original photographs and photographic equipment can be loaned or will be scanned for inclusion in the exhibit. All original photographs and photo equipment will be in locked cases.

So who out there has the best photograph of Lake Lansing amusement park or the long gone R.E. Olds Mansion, the Michigan Theatre, the original city hall, a family Christmas tradition or even early horse racing in Lansing?

To loan us a photo, e-mail or call 517-282-0671.

HSGL reserves the right to reject or accept photography on the basis of content and suitability to overall exhibit.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Holling C. Holling June 25 Event Canceled!

We regret to inform you that our program scheduled for Thursday, June 25, at Lansing City Hall about author and illustrator Holling C. Holling has been canceled.  We hope to reschedule for sometime in the fall.

Please remember that our current exhibit, Lansing Goes to War, will close on June 30!  Stop by Lansing City Hall anytime Monday - Friday between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm to see the exhibit before it closes.

Monday, June 15, 2015

East Side Walking Tour This Thursday, June 18

Growing Eastward on Michigan Avenue Walking Tour
Thursday, June 18, 7:00 pm
Tour Starts at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, 125 S. Pennsylvania
Tour Free, Open to the Public

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing hosts the second of eight summer walking tours of Lansing 7 p.m., Thursday, June 18 on East Michigan Avenue. The tour starts at the Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, 125 S. Pennsylvania Ave. where walkers will be able to go inside. Parking is available at the Church and the tour is free. The first 50 walkers will get a free treat from Fabiano’s candy store.

The summer’s second tour explores the history of Lansing’s movement east on Michigan Ave and includes several of the byway’s churches including Resurrection (walkers will have access to the Church,) Christ Lutheran Church, Sparrow Hospital and Fabiano’s. The tour will be led by John Folkers who served as minister of several area churches including East Lansing’ People’s Church. He is currently a tour guide at the State Capitol, an on-call chaplain for Sparrow Hospital and a member of the city of Lansing’s Board of Ethics.

Michigan Ave is perfect place to explore Lansing’s immigrant history from the Italians to the Irish to the more recent “lost boys of Sudan” Marvin said. Integral in that development, Marvin said, was the involvement of the various churches along the Avenue.

President of the Historical Society Valerie Marvin said the walking tours, in their third year, have proven to be a popular attraction during the summer and early fall months.

“There is no better way to learn about Lansing than to walk and talk,” she said.

“This year’s tours are all new and include visits to the Ingham and Eaton County Courthouses, a walk through Lansing’s African American West Side, the Historic Homes in Downtown Lansing and a tour that will explore some of Lansing’s Favorite Old Restaurants,” Marvin said.

She said the Society is also hosting a walking tour of MSU’s Historic West Circle Drive which will take walkers back in time to the days of MSC and MAC on the campus of Michigan State University. Stephen Terry who is author of the award-winning “Michigan Agricultural College Campus Life 1900-1925: A Postcard Tour will cohost the MSU tour.

All tours are free. For more information on the Historical Society go

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lansing's Forgotten Novelist, John Herrmann

Thursday, June 11, 6:00 Meet the Author, 7:00 Lecture
Library of Michigan
702 W. Kalamazoo St.

John Herrmann may be both Lansing’s most notable and most forgotten author. That is about to change thanks to the dogged efforts of Alabama’s Troy University English Professor Sara Kosiba.
Kosiba said she ran across Herrmann’s name while doing research for her dissertation on Midwestern writers and was fascinated by Herrmann who was a member of the “lost generation” in Paris. What tugged at her the most was that he wrote a book, “What Happens,” that was banned in the United States in 1926 for obscenity, the same year Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” was published.
“The minute I saw “banned book” and read about his scandalous past I was hooked,” she said.

More about the scandals in a moment, but Herrmann who was born in 1900 was a scion of the wealthy John T. Herrmann family which had built a family tailoring business in downtown Lansing catering to politicians, including governors, and the state’s business elite. The likes of W. F. Kellogg sought out the bespoke suits from John Herrmann’s Sons. The company, the largest tailor in Michigan, employed 35 tailors; some travelling the state for trunk shows.

It’s likely John Herrmann, as one of the oldest grandsons, would have taken over the helm of the family business, but after graduating from Lansing High School in 1919 his lifelong wanderlust first took him to Washington D.C. for law school. While there he worked with his high school classmate Paul Mixter as a news correspondent which becomes part of the storyline in his first novel.

Herrmann would then move to the University of Michigan where he studied drama appearing as the lead in Pygmalion. A full page article in the Detroit Free Press showing Herrmann as Professor Higgins likely gave his family bragging rights back home in Lansing. He was then off to Germany in 1922 where he studied art for two years. His next leap was to Paris in 1924 where he would serendipitously meet another aspiring novelist Josephine Herbst while having a post-hangover coffee at the legendary Café du Dome. Herbst and Herrmann would become a couple, later marrying and then divorcing.

Herbst would be his entrance into the “lost generation” where he would meet and become friends with the likes of William Carlos Williams, Isadora Duncan, John dos Passos, Nathan Asch, Gertrude Stein and scores of other ex-patriots.

The affable, handsome six foot three Hermann would also meet up with the group’s alpha dog Ernest Hemingway and through their “up north” Michigan connection they would become close pals. Both the Hemingway and Herrmann families had cottages at Walloon Lake and Hermann’s younger brothers, the twins, Robert and Richard, were friends with Hemingway’s younger sister, Sunny.

Kosiba said most what was previously known about Herrmann was seen through the eyes of Josephine Herbst in her biography.

“Herrmann and his writing became an asterisk, a huge asterisk,” she said.

She said that is in part due to not being able to read his first book. His second books aren’t readily available either. That will soon change. Kosiba has championed the publication of “What Happens” by Hastings College’s small press in Nebraska and has written a new foreword for the book to put Hermann and his writing in context.

Kosiba said she stumbled across Herrmann while researching Midwestern writers and wanted to know “Who is this guy?”

She said much of what has been written about Herrmann is misinformation.

“Some of the core texts are a little bit off,” she said, citing one that has Herrmann only writing one novel and another which has him meeting Herbst in New York.

Even after the bitter disappointment of having his first book banned Herrmann penned two additional novels “Summer is Ended” and “The Salesman” in addition to becoming a formidable short story writer. His 1932 short story “The Big Short Trip” shared the prestigious Scribner’s Best Short Novel Award in 1932 with Thomas Wolfe.

Now back to the scandals. In 1930, Herbst and Herrmann, by then married, travelled to the Soviet Union to attend a proletariat writers’ conference. There they became radicalized about the plight of American farmers and began working for reforms back home.

Herrmann would become involved in the Communist Party and was recruited by another noted communist Hal Ware and although the jury is still out on the depth of Herrmann’s involvement he was named in several House Un-American Committee (HUAC) hearings especially one where prominent Communist Whittaker Chambers named him as the go between and courier for passing on state secrets to communists.

Despite these claims, Herrmann enlisted in the U.S. Coastguard serving through WW II, later moving to Mexico with his new wife Ruth Tate. There he would attend college studying drama and would meet up with a loose collection of “beat writers,” including William Burroughs.

Kosiba has yet to see extensive FBI interview records since they are unavailable, as yet, so she won’t definitively say what Herrmann’s role was during that time..

One characterization, Kosiba decries is that Herrmann was a deadbeat.

“That’s definitely not true whenever he and Josie needed money he would return to what he did best working as a travelling salesman selling seeds as a teenager to later in life selling books and jewelry,” Kosiba said.

However, Kosiba said that Herrmann lived what we describe now as “in the moment” working until he had enough money saved for his next venture. As an example, Herrmann worked in 1927 until he saved enough money to buy a sailboat which the couple christened Josy. They spent that summer sailing.

Kosiba has visited three major university archives putting together the life of Herrmann and has discovered numerous letters to and from Herrmann, mostly from other authors, from which she has started to piece together his life.

The letters include the friendly letters between Herrmann and Hemingway where they go back and forth bantering about writing and their friends.

Kosiba, who initially researched Herrmann and the Hemingway connection for a paper she delivered at the International Hemingway Society in 2012 in Petoskey is now planning on an extended biographical paper or a full- blown biography of Herrmann.

While in Lansing for the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature this week Kosiba plans to spend time in Capital Area District Library’s Local History Collection pouring through newspapers.

She hopes to identify characters and places that Herrmann used in his novels.

“They were very autobiographical,” she said. Kosiba knows this since Herrmann would use actual Lansing characters in his novels without changing their names. In her archival research she discovered a letter from Paul Mixter chiding Herrmann for using his real name.

Another letter she discovered between Hemingway and Herrmann has Hemingway thanking Herrmann for sending him one of his suits.

“The suit is fine,” Hemingway wrote in his usual sparse prose.

Hemingway did write he had to have the pants altered, likely because Herrmann was six foot three while Hemingway stood at six foot.

One letter Kosiba hadn’t seen until recently was provided by Herrmann’s niece Susan Brewster of Okemos. The letter was from his later days in Mexico and sent from a hospital bed. After thanking Susan for sending presents for his son Juanito, Herrmann wrote “Please tell your old man (Richard, one of the twins) to speak to some of my old classmates at LHS and let them know I was ill or I would’ve written a humdinger of a letter on the occasion of the class reunion.”
“I bet the punch was spiked,” he wrote.

It’s good to have Herrmann home again and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing in cooperation with the Library of Michigan is hosting a book release party for What Happens, 6 p.m.- 9 p.m., Thursday June 11 at the Library of Michigan,  702 West Kalamazoo St. where Kosiba will speak on Herrmann and will discuss his Hemingway connection along with his life in Lansing. The event is free and books will be available for sale-- the first time in 89 years.

Monday, June 8, 2015

John Herrmann Book Banned 89 Year Ago to be Republished

Thursday, June 11, 6:00 Meet the Author, 7:00 Lecture
Library of Michigan
702 W. Kalamazoo St.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Library of Michigan will honor Lansing’s “most forgotten” author, John Herrmann, with an event celebrating the release of his 1926 banned book “What Happens” 6 p.m. Thursday, June 11 at the Library of Michigan Forum Room, 702 West Kalamazoo. The event is free, books will be for sale. Meet Sara Kosiba, the author of the book’s new foreword, at 6 p.m. with the presentation following at 7 p.m.

Historical Society President Valerie Marvin said that Herrmann was an intimate member of the “lost generation”, friends with Ernest Hemingway and a noted radical writer of the 1930s.

“Herrmann went on to write two other novels and numerous short stories drawing liberally from his experiences growing up in Lansing and using his friends and acquaintances as characters in his writing,” Marvin said.

Herrmann was the scion of a successful Lansing family which owned John Herrmann’s Sons, the largest bespoke tailor in the state which at one time employed 35 tailors in downtown Lansing.
State Librarian Randy Riley said that the confiscation of “What Happens” and the resulting obscenity trial is an important part of Michigan literary history.

“The obscenity trial was one of the first major tests of community standards and what’s obscene. “What Happens” was defended by Morris Ernst who would become a noted free speech expert and one of the founders of ACLU,” Riley said.

 “What Happens”, a classic coming-of-age story set in a fictional Lansing, was first published in Paris in 1926 by an avant-garde publisher, but was deemed obscene and confiscated when a shipment of books arrived in the United States and copies were destroyed in New York City following a controversial trial. The book tells the story of Winfield Payne, a young man from a wealthy Michigan family, who struggles with his awakening sexuality and fickle affections.

Now, Hastings College Press of Nebraska, has put the book in print for the first time in 89 years. Learn more about this remarkable author who went on to write two more novels and numerous short stories including “The Big Short Trip” which shared the $5000 prize for Scribner’s Magazine Best Short Novel of the Year Award in 1932 with a story by Thomas Wolfe.

Herrmann is noted for his radical writing and his close association with the U.S. Communist Party figures including Hal Ware, Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. He later moved to Mexico where he connected with beat writers including William Burroughs. He died in 1959.

Dr. Sara Kosiba, a biographer and English professor at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama, has written a new introduction for “What Happens” placing it in its proper context in literary history and achievement. Kosiba will present a lecture on Lansing’s most famous and forgotten writer along with his close association with Ernest Hemingway and other prominent Twentieth Century writers and his tumultuous marriage to novelist Josephine Herbst whose novel “Rope of Gold” is semi-autobiographical and partially set in Lansing. The lecture is sponsored jointly by the Library of Michigan and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.

John Herrmann’s work is important, according to Kosiba, for “the way it adds to our understanding of American literature and history.  John Herrmann was a participant in several significant movements in the Twentieth Century, from the famed expatriate literary circle in Paris in the 1920s to the social and political efforts of the 1930s to the Communist hysteria of the late 1940s and 1950s.  Herrmann’s life and career provide additional understanding and nuance to these moments and show how a boy from Lansing eventually ended up involved in some of the most interesting and continually debated moments in American history.”

On December 17, 1924 Herrmann presented a talk to Michigan State Library Association in Lansing on books, reviews, and writers with special attention to James Joyce and H.L. Mencken. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Society to Host Annual Meeting and Walking Tour of Lansing Community College

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is holding its annual meeting 11:45 a.m., Saturday, June 6 in Room 104 and 105 of the Arts & Sciences Building on the campus of Lansing Community College. Lunch will be provided by reservation only at 11:45, and a walking tour of the Campus will follow at 1 p.m. Call 517-282-0671 to reserve lunch.  Reservations must be made by June 1.

Lansing Community College (LCC) opened in downtown Lansing in 1957 and 50 years ago a millage was passed which provided funding for the expansion of the downtown campus. Since then the downtown campus has grown to encompass more than 40 acres spanning seven city blocks. In a typical year more than 18,000 students attend Lansing Community College.

Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said LCC has become an important bookend at the north end of downtown as well as an integral part of our community’s advanced learning network.

She said LCC has also saved and maintained several historically significant buildings on the campus including the Carnegie Library, The Herrmann House and the Carrier Dodge House.

This past year the College began a major sculpture installation to beautify campus resulting in more than 25 sculptures on display; most of them either designed and or executed by current or former students and faculty.

“The campus has added significantly to the beautification of downtown Lansing while creating numerous quiet areas for reflection such as the Japanese Garden and koi pond,” Marvin said.

“The campus is very walkable and you will be able to immerse yourself in the history of LCC while taking in some wonderful art,” the Historical Society President said.

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.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Vietnam Veterans Panel on Thursday, May 21

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a panel discussion featuring three Vietnam War veterans at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 21 in the lobby of Lansing City Hall.

Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society, said that the program is being held in conjunction with the Lansing Goes to War exhibit which features more than 150 items representing wartime and civilian experiences from the Civil war to the first Gulf War.

"In recognition of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War the panel discussion will explore one of the United States' most complex engagements from the viewpoint of three men who served on the ground there."

The panel will be moderated by Scott S. Shattuck of Mason.  Shattuck has been a high school teacher for more than 30 years; is a member of the Ingham County historical Association and on the Board of the Mason Historical Society.  In addition, he is a collector of military memorabilia.

The panelists include Ronald Springer, Larry Emery, and William Murphy, all from the Lansing area.

Murphy, who is retired from the State of Michigan, is also an author of seven books and has written a book, "Souvenirs of War," on his experiences in Vietnam.

Murphy served 13 months in Vietnam, as a Marine Corps' infantry rifleman and was in-country from mid-February 1968 to late March 1969.

He was in the 3rd Battalion of the 27th Regiment for one-half of his tour, and in the 2nd Batt 9th Marine Regiment for the second half.

Both of these battalions were front line units and he was involved in 12 major combat operations as a fire team leader (small 5-man units).  Besides the usual service medals for service in Vietnam he received two Purple Hearts and the Naval Achievement Medal with a combat "V" for valor.

With two friends Spring volunteered for the draft and entered the US Army from Lansing on May 6, 1969.  He took Basic Training at Ft. Knox, KY and Advanced Individual Training, (AIT) in Infantry at Ft. Polk, LA.  He was then sent to Ft. Benning, GA for NonCommissioned Officer's School (Infantry) and then back to Ft. Polk for training with an Infantry AIT company.

He served in Vietnam from April 1970 to March 1971 with Co A, 1/502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile).  His positions included Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant (acting) and Platoon Leader (acting) with the 1st Platoon.

His unit operated in the lowlands and triple canopy jungle mountains 10-20 miles west and south of Hue, known as Military Region 1 or I Corp in the northern region of then South Vietnam.

Firebases in his area included Arsenal, Bastogne, Birmingham, Brick, Jack, and Rakkasan.

His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.

A third member of the panel was recently added and did not provide biographical information.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Secrets of the Harper House Fundraiser

The Secrets of the Harper House
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 6:00 pm
Harper House - 1408 Cambridge Rd., Lansing
$50 per person

Join HSGL for a behind the scenes look at the Harper House, Lansing's largest and most elegant historic home.  Built for Harry and Ragna Harper just before the Great Depression struck, the home stands as a testimony to Lansing's auto prowess in the 1920s.  President of the Prudden Wheel Company, and then the President and General Manager of Lansing's Motor Wheel, Harper used his wealth and civic standing to do great good in the community, including serving as a major patron of both Sparrow and St. Lawrence Hospitals.

The evening will include hors d'oeuvres and a tour of the home led by home owner Brian Huggler and HSGL President Valerie Marvin.  All funds raised benefit the Historical Society of Greater Lansing's museum fund.

You may order tickets by calling (517) 282-0671, by clicking on the the form at the bottom of the page, printing it, and mailing it with payment to HSGL, or by clicking the Paypal link below and ordering with your credit card.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Civil War Series Ends This Weekend!

Capitol Grounds Civil War Monument Tour
Friday, April 24, 6:30 pm
Michigan State Capitol

                Built in the years following the Civil War, the Michigan State Capitol stands as a memorial to the Michigan faithful who answered the call to preserve the Union and end the scourge of slavery.  The architecture of the building, including the early use of a tall cast iron dome, echoes the renovations carried out on the national capitol during the Civil War, and the grounds are dotted with memorials honoring Michigan men and women who sacrificed much during the war years.  This walk will include information about both the Capitol’s exterior architecture and the memorials, including the statue of Austin Blair, Michigan’s Civil War Governor, the First Michigan Sharpshooters Monument, the Grand Army of the Republic monument, and the Women’s Relief Corps Monument.  The walk will also tell the story of the first painting of the Capitol’s dome by a disabled Civil War Veteran, Allen Shattuck.

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Michigan State Capitol Tour Service

Mount Hope Civil War Cemetery Tour
Saturday, April 25, 1:00 pm
1800 E. Mt. Hope Ave.

                Descendants of Civil War soldiers and local historians will present brief biographies of 6 Lansing Civil War veterans buried in Lansing’s Mount Hope Cemetery, including Luther Baker, who led the party that captured John Wilkes Booth, Charles T. Foster, the first men from Lansing to enlist, and an African American soldier who served with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first northern raised regiment made up of entirely African Americans.   

Dr. George E. Ranney, recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, will be honored by fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War veteran Duane Dewey.  Dewey will lay a wreath at Ranney’s grave.  Dewey received his medal for shielding his fellow squad members from a live grenade with his own body, causing him to sustain serious wounds when the grenade exploded. 

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Curtenius Guard Camp #17, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Luther Baker and the Capture of John Wilkes Booth
Saturday, April 25, 4:00 pm
 Dart Auditorium, Lansing Community College
500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing

                Historian Steve Miller of Chicago will give a keynote address on the capture of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, led by Lansing’s own Luther Baker, cousin of Lafayette Baker, founded of the Secret Service.  The speech will detail Baker’s chase as Booth slid through the shadows away from Washington and into the former Confederacy.  Miller will also examine the men that made up Baker’s party, focusing particularly on Luther and Lafayette Baker, and their return to Lansing. 

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Lansing Community College

Thank you to the Michigan Humanities Council for supporting this program with the gift of a quick grant!  

Civil War Foods of the North and South
Sunday, April 26, 2015, 1:15 pm
Michigan Historical Center Auditorium
702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing

                Food historian and MSU Professor Helen Veit will speak on the first two publications in the American Food in History series, Food in the Civil War Era: The North, and Food in the Civil War Era: The South.  Veit’s presentation will include recipes, historical misunderstandings about food, differences between food in America’s vastly varied landscapes, and will reveal a peak into the food ways common in America 150 years ago.

                Hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Michigan Historical Center

Michigan's Civil War Battle Flags
Sunday, April 26, 2015, 2:30 pm
 Michigan Historical Center
702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing

                Join historian and Save the Flags co-chair Matt VanAcker for a behind the scenes visit the Michigan Civil War Battle Flag Collection.  Approximately 90,000 Michigan soldiers fought in the American Civil War and almost 15,000 made the ultimate sacrifice.  The bullet torn, blood stained battle flags that these men carried and died beneath were their proudest possessions, they stood for the Union, for their loved ones back home and also as the rallying point in combat.

The Michigan Capitol Battle Flag collection, includes 240 battle flags carried by Michigan soldiers in the Civil War, the Spanish American War and World War I.  This visit to the flag storage facility at the State Historical Center in Lansing will focus on the Civil War collection, flag terminology, the importance of flags in battle, some specific regimental histories in connection with the flags and the history of the collection including current conservation efforts. 

Sponsored by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, Save the Flags, and the Michigan Historical Center