December 3, 2013
Every year, the Steam Train Railroading Institute in Owosso operates an annual North Pole Express that takes you to the North Pole and back. Over on Absolute Michigan, The Polar Express Comes to Michigan from Michigan History Magazine explains that author Chris Van Allsburg his well-known children’s book, The Polar Express, on train experiences he had as a boy in Grand Rapids:
The book’s popularity led to a movie released in November 2004. Michigan railroad buffs recognize the sound of the movie’s train whistle, which comes from one of the nation’s few working steam locomotives.
Built in 1941, the Pere Marquette 1225 is an enormous steam locomotive, measuring one hundred feet long and sixteen feet high. Replaced in 1951 by a more efficient diesel engine, the 1225 was saved from the scrap heap and decades later, ended up in Owosso as the star of the Steam Railroading Institute (SRI). Shortly thereafter, the 1225 was restored to its former glory.
As researchers prepared the movie version of Van Allsburg popular book, they were drawn to Owosso and the 1225. Technicians recorded the sound of the whistle, the clatter of the wheels and the rumble of the four-hundred-ton locomotive rolling down the tracks. The sounds were merged with the animated Polar Express.
November 30, 2013
Small Business Saturday is a campaign backed by American Express to keep your holiday dollars local. It really seems to have some traction this year (unlike most of the cars in the pic above). I hope you’re shopping with your neighbors where you can!
creed’s grandfather took this photo on Monroe Center in Downtown Grand Rapids in 1978. While I couldn’t find a photo from the same vantage, a look at his pics on Monroe Center will tell you that this is a vibrant area today. View this photo background big and see more in his Grandpa Molt’s slides slideshow!
November 22, 2013
As everyone is no doubt aware, today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The Henry Ford in Dearborn has a feature entitled JFK Remembered: The X-100 that begins:
The car, code named X-100, started life as a stock Lincoln convertible at Ford Motor Company’s Wixom, Michigan, assembly plant. Hess & Eisenhardt, of Cincinnati, Ohio, stretched the car by 3½ feet and added steps for Secret Service agents, a siren, flashing lights and other accessories. Removable clear plastic roof panels protected the president from inclement weather while maintaining his visibility. The car was not armored, and the roof panels were not bulletproof. The modified limo cost nearly $200,000 (the equivalent of $1.5 million today), but Ford leased it to the White House for a nominal $500 a year.
It was a perfect marriage between car and passenger. The Lincoln’s clean, modern lines broke away from the showy chrome and tail fins of the pervious decade, and they seemed to mirror the young president’s turn toward a “New Frontier.” Kennedy used the limo many times during his thousand days in office, and it became tied to him in the public consciousness even before the tragedy in Dallas.
You can read much more about the X-100, which served Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter before being retired in 1977 and see a lot of photos at The Henry Ford.
November 19, 2013
Two interesting auto-related tidbits came across my desk in the last couple of days.
The first is from Deadline Detroit, and shows an excerpt from a 1917 newsreel with a Detroit Police Department driver-safety campaign trying to persuade drivers to slow down.
Fast forward to today and beyond with Michigan Senate approval of self-driving vehicle testing on Michigan roads. The Detroit News reports that (pending House approval):
Under the Michigan rules, a driver would be required to be in the driver’s seat at all times during testing to take over in the case of emergency. Manufacturers and suppliers would use an “M” license plate for automated vehicle testing. “Upfitters” of automated vehicles, such as Google, would be permitted to test vehicles along with manufacturers.
The action comes as the U.S. Congress is set to hold a hearing Tuesday on autonomous vehicles amid growing interest among automakers. They will hear from General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. executives along with the Michigan Department of Transportation.
…The University of Michigan says that by 2021, Ann Arbor could become the first U.S. city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles. That’s the goal of the Mobility Transformation Center, a cross-campus U-M initiative that also involves government and industry representatives. Ann Arbor has been home to a 15-month-long ongoing study of 3,000 vehicles that are linked to one another in a test of technology to see if connected cars can help each other avoid crashes.
More automotive features on Michigan in Pictures.
November 15, 2013
Today is Opening Day of the 2013 deer season, and if you’re a hunter I doubt you’re reading this. Almost all of Michigan is potentially open to hunting, so take extreme care over the two weeks of the November 15-30 Deer Hunting Season.
Confession: I usually root for the deer.
The Toledo Blade reports:
The 2013 “Michigan Deer Hunting Prospects” summary — which is essentially the scouting report on the season – states that deer hunter success in Michigan is sometimes tied to just “being in the right place at the right time,” and that is often the result of being in the field at the peak of whitetail breeding activity. During that fall period, normally ultra cautious bucks will drop their defenses and be on the move much more often.
The state experts say that the 2012 deer season in Michigan was better than the previous year, with hunter success rates showing increases in the Upper Peninsula (UP) and Northern Lower Peninsula (NLP). “Slowly but steadily growing deer populations” in those areas in recent years are credited with improving the harvest.
More than 700,000 deer hunting licenses were purchased in Michigan in 2012, and close to 600,000 hunters took part in the regular firearm season. Overall, deer hunters spent 9.4 million days in the field in Michigan last year, and harvested 418,000 whitetails.
November 13, 2013
We’ve covered the Haunting of Seul Choix Lighthouse on Michigan in Pictures. Dave Wobster has an article on Seul Choix Light at Boatnerd.com. He writes that Seul Choix (“only choice” as the only safe harbor in the area) was popular with Native Americans as early as the 1600s due to the abundant whitefish and lake trout that were waiting to be caught in Lake Michigan. A fishing village was established in the mid 1800s and a trading post around 1850.
The early navigation aids along the northern Lake Michigan coast were the lighthouses at St. Helena Island (1872) and Peninsula Point (1866). This left a 100-mile gap of dark shoreline with Seul Choix Bay located near the middle. Efforts were soon started to have a lighthouse constructed on Seul Choix Point. The efforts were successful in 1886 when Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light tower and fog signal on the point. Another $8,000 was added before the project was completed. Various complications and the rebuilding of the original tower delayed completion of the station.The light was first shown in August, 1892, but the complex was not completed until 1895 with the finishing of the fog signal building. The complex consisted of the present conical 78-foot tower and attached 2-story keeper’s dwelling, a steam fog signal building, stable, boathouse, two oil storage buildings, a brick privy, and boat dock and tramway to the fog signal building.
The keeper’s dwelling was expanded in 1925 with a lean-to addition to the west side. The interior living space was divided with a wall to provide equal space for an additional family. The wall has since been removed, but the building still contains two kitchen areas. Particular attention should be paid to the unique rounded gables on the east end of the dwelling. While they are reminiscent of a sailing schooner stern, history does not provide a reason for this detail.
The 78-foot high white conical tower is the typical elaborate “Poe-Style” named after General Orlando M. Poe who provided the original design. The Poe-style light towers are easily recognized by the ornate brackets which support the gallery around the lantern room and the four windows below the gallery which have semi-circular stone arch head pieces.
Read on for more including some photos of Seul Choix details at Boatnerd.com. The Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse is maintained by the Gulliver Historical Society and you can get a lot more info (and a snippet of a cool song that plays when you load) at their site.
Bill took this shot in 1997 with Plustek OpticFilm 7600. He writes that Seul Choix is located on the north shore of Lake Michigan a little east of Manistique. View his photo background big and see more in his great Lighthouses slideshow.
Many (many) more Michigan lighthouses at Michigan in Pictures!
November 8, 2013
Lake Fanny Hooe is located in Fort Wilkins State Park on the Keweenaw Peninsula near Copper Harbor. A great article from Marquette Monthly about the hard life of UP women back in the day tells about how the legend of the lake turns out to be a lot more dramatic than the reality:
Local tales related that the beautiful young woman had drowned in the lake, or got lost in the woods while picking blueberries and was never seen again. In truth, Lucy Frances Fitzhigh Hooe, Fannie, spent the summer of 1844 visiting her brother Thornton, who was stationed at Fort Wilkins. Her sister, Richardetta was the wife of Lt. Daniel Ruggles, also stationed there. At the end of the summer, she returned to the family home in Virginia. She then married Chester Bailey White in 1849, and had three children. While she led an interesting life, her visit to Fort Wilkins was not a major part of it. She died in 1882, probably in Fredericksburg, (Virginia).
Read on for lots more!
November 7, 2013
100 years ago today the most devastating storm in Great Lakes history began. It raged across the Great Lakes from November 7-10, 1913. As NOAA’s commemorative website explains:
In November of 1913 the Great Lakes were struck by a massive storm system combining whiteout blizzard conditions and hurricane force winds. The storm lasted for four days, during which the region endured 90 mile per hour winds and waves reaching 35 feet in height. With only basic technology available, shipping communication and weather prediction systems were not prepared for a storm of such devastating force. When the skies finally cleared, the Great Lakes had seen a dozen major shipwrecks, an estimated 250 lives lost, and more than $5 million in damages (the equivalent of more than $117 million today).
Nicknamed the “White Hurricane” and the ‘Freshwater Fury” the 1913 storm remains the most devastating natural disaster to ever strike the Great Lakes. One hundred years later, NOAA commemorates the Storm of 1913 not only for the pivotal role it plays in the history of the Great Lakes but also for its enduring influence. Modern systems of shipping communication, weather prediction, and storm preparedness have all been fundamentally shaped by the events of November 1913.
November 4, 2013
The Keweenaw Historical Society page on Central Mine and Village explains:
One of the most noteworthy historical sites in Keweenaw County is Central, or Central Mine, a village that once was the home for over 1,200 people, and the site of one Keweenaw’s most successful mines. The mine, opened in 1854, produced nearly 52 million pounds of copper by the time it closed in 1898.
Several miners’ homes and buildings still stand on the site. In 1996, the Keweenaw County Historical Society acquired 38 acres of the old Central site. Some of the residences are being restored, and a Visitors Center provides interpretive exhibits not only about the mine but also about the miners’ families, homes, schools and churches.
Click through for maps, photos and more information about Central and other sites.
Marty took this photo in Engine House No.2 at the Central Mining Company in Central, Michigan. He says that from 1875-1898, it housed the Steam Hoist for Shaft No.2. Check it out background bigtacular and see more in his Central, Michigan slideshow.
There’s a whole lot more from Marty and his travels to some of Michigan’s coolest places that once were on Michigan in Pictures!
October 30, 2013
Grand Island North Light, photo by Jeff Shook
The photo above is from the Grand Island North Light page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light. Head over there for all kinds of information about one of Michigan’s lonelier lighthouses.
As Halloween is tomorrow, I thought I’d share the tale of a mysterious murder at North Light from the Center for U.P. Studies at Northern Michigan University.
On June 12, 1908 the body of 30-year old Edward S. Morrison, the assistant lightkeeper at North Light, was discovered in a small sailboat near Au Sable Point. Although identification took a while, since few of the local people knew him, it was definite once made. Morrison had a distinctive tattoo of thirteen stars on his left arm, leaving no doubt as to the identity of the remains. Initial reports said his head had been “battered almost beyond recognition” and that “the head and shoulders were fearfully crushed, as if battered by a club.” Inexplicably though, a coroners jury concluded death was due to exposure, thought to be caused by the rough weather on the 7th. A reported second coroners jury also examined the evidence and returned a verdict that the members were not able to tell how he died, but they had a strong suspicion of murder!
Morrison had been assistant keeper only six weeks when he met his death. A native of Tecumseh, Michigan, he joined the Lighthouse Service on May 1, 1908 and secured the assistant keeper’s appointment at North Light. Friends claimed he had a “bright and sunny disposition” and that he “didn’t have an enemy in the world.”
The keeper of the light was George Genery, a long-time veteran of the Service. Appointed to North Light in 1893, he had been the assistant keeper at Menagerie Island, Isle Royale from 1887 until his posting to Grand Island. It was later claimed he had trouble keeping his assistants since none lasted longer than a season. Working with Genery was said to be difficult at best. The keeper was in Munising on June 6 to get supplies.
Baffled by the discovery of Morrison’s body and the knowledge that the beacon had been dark for nearly a week, a delegation from Munising went out to the light. They discovered the supplies Genery had brought back from Munising still piled on the dock. An empty wheel barrow stood nearby and his coat dangled undisturbed on a hook in the boathouse. Morrison’s vest was hanging carefully on the back of a chair, his watch and papers safe in a pocket. Of the three boats normally kept at the station, reports differed whether two or only one was missing. The last official log entry was made on June 5, while the slate entry for the 6th was made in Morrison’s hand. Neither gave a clue to anything being amiss. Other than the untended lamp, all else was normal, without evidence of any unusual occurrence. Local volunteers manned the light until the service send a replacement.
Authorities immediately started a search for the missing keeper, but he had completely dropped out of sight. There were reports that five different men had seen him at various times in Munising between June 9 and 12, and that he was drinking heavily. His wife, living in town, claimed no knowledge of his whereabouts and did not seem overly concerned with his strange disappearance.
There were several theories proffered to explain the case. One said the two men had gone out to lift nets and that Genery had fallen overboard and drowned. Morrison, unfamiliar with a sailboat, then drifted about helplessly until finally perishing from exposure. Friends, however doubted such reasoning. They considered Morrison an expert sailor, and in fact he had previously owned a 32-foot sailboat on the Detroit River.
Another theory is based on their having been paid on the 6th; that they were attacked by one or more unknown assailants on the island, murdered, robbed and the bodies dumped into the sailboats and cast adrift. Morrison’s eventually made shore. Genery’s never did. Lonely to distraction, no better location for such a crime could be imagined. No one else was in the area to witness such a heinous deed. The nearest other occupant on the island was the Cleveland Cliffs game keeper, whose house was seven miles to the south. There was a story that a body was later discovered in the east channel, but it was apparently never identified so whether it was the missing keeper is unknown. Finding “floaters” was not that unusual, so no definite link between it and Genery was possible.
The third theory was that Morrison was murdered by Genery…
The photographer is Jeff Shook of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, an organization that does great work in the preservation of Michigan’s lighthouses.