March 19, 2013
April 20, 2012
Paving Woodward Avenue in 1909, photo courtesy Woodward Avenue Action Association
On April 20, 1909,construction of the world’s first mile of concrete highway was begun in Detroit. The History of the World’s First Mile of Concrete Highway from the Wayne County Road Commission begins.
The year was 1909, and it was a big year in Detroit. Ty Cobb led the Detroit Tigers to a League Pennant at Bennett Park, Henry Ford introduced the Model T and J.L. Hudson was scouting out a location at Woodward and Farmer for his department store’s new location.
Also that year, the Wayne County Road Commission introduced the world to a new kind of road: Concrete. The only place it could be found that year was Woodward Avenue between Six and Seven Mile Roads in Greenfield Township, which is now northwest Detroit.
Roads up to that point – if they were paved at all – had been built with brick, cobblestone, or a material called macadam, which was not much more than stones sprayed with a tar to form some kind of wear resistant surface. Unfortunately, brick and cobblestone were uneven and labor intensive, while macadam didn’t last long.
Read on for more about this Michigan first, from the creation of Michigan’s first road commission in Wayne County in 1906 (Henry Ford was a charter member) to the details of this and other transportation innovations from the Motor City. They also have the facts about that first mile including the cost ($13,492.83) and daily pay of workers.
March 10, 2012
“Grindstone City received its name in 1870. It happened in this way. Mr. James Wallace, one of the owners of the quarry at that time was talking to Mrs. Sam Kinch Sr., when she remarked that the village was growing so fast that it ought to have a name. They were discussing Stonington as a name when Mrs. Kinch suggested Grindstone and Mr. Wallace added City and from then on the village has been known as Grindstone City.”
from Mabel Cook’s “History of Grindstone City, New River and Eagle Bay” (1977).
The excellent history of Grindstone City from the Michigan State University, Department of Geography tells the fascinating story of the Huron County town that was once where the world turned for grindstones. This was due to the particular qualities of “Grindstone”, a special rock formation from Marshall Sandstone that made the finest sharpening stones. It all began:
In the year 1834, Capt. Aaron G. Peer, with his Schooner, the Rip Van Winkle, was forced to take haven in this natural harbor, during a storm. Capt. Peer is known as the “father” of Grindstone City, and located the first land in what is now Huron County. The sloop took anchorage here in a storm, and that Capt. Peer, his crew and his father came ashore to what was then a wilderness of pine, cedar, ash, beech, and maple, the cedar being so thick that snow remained in places although it was midsummer. In their exploring they found some big flat stone along the beach and on further examination, found evidence that these strata of rock was underlying the area to a lesser or greater extent . Samples were taken to Detroit where they were found superior to the Ohio flagstone which city officials were planning to use to pave some of the streets.
…On one trip, the sailors rigged up in a crude fashion a stone slab and used it to sharpen their tools. That year (1838) Capt. Peer, getting the idea from the sailors began shaping the grindstones at the place later known as Grindstone City.
Definitely read on to learn about the process that produced the grindstones from quarry to turning the stones shown above and ultimately to market.
One of the most commented posts on Michigan in Pictures is Not much remains of Grindstone City which featured a photo of one of the few remaining grindstones by Marty Hogan on a beach that was once covered in them. Here’s the Google Earth of Grindstone City, and there’s also a Grindstone City Facebook page with some photos and folks sharing memories and photos.
February 25, 2012
Migrant girls working in cherry canning plant Berrien County, photo by John Vachon
February is National Cherry Month and back in the day (July of 1940 to be precise), the cherry sorting machine was any able body that could tell the difference between a good and bad cherry as they sped past.
Agriculture is a vital part of the northern Michigan economy, and the League of Women Voters in Leelanau County has released an interesting study on migrant worker visas. They study contends that although the care for and harvesting of crops is a critical, labor-intensive aspect of our agriculture, Michigan workers aren’t stepping up to fill seasonal agricultural jobs, risking closure or bankruptcy for farmers and processors. The study notes that it’s an issue that’s been with us for years:
Seasonal workers have been essential to the operation of area farms since the transition from subsistence farming in the early 20th century. Agriculture was the principal livelihood for Michigan residents throughout the 1800s, but by the turn of the century, the Industrial Revolution was transforming agriculture from a small, self-sufficient family art to a large, mechanized, scientific industry. The tractor, the telephone, and the automobile revolutionized cultivation, communication, and transportation, and rural isolation was broken. Although farm conditions improved, people left the farms in droves and resettled in the cities. Rural depopulation became so severe during the 1920s that many farmers and growers had to import migrant labor.
The need for migrant labor has ebbed and flowed over the years. World War II was the catalyst for the Bracero Program, which from 1942 to 1964 brought Mexican migrant agricultural workers to the US legally. The program increased Michigan’s reliance on Mexican farm workers for harvest, and when the program ended, many workers continued to work in US agriculture.
Some crops like cherries have become largely mechanized, but apples, wine grapes and many other crops still have to be harvested by hand. Check out Migrant workers and Michigan agriculture on Absolute Michigan for a lot more about a critical issue for our farms and farmers.
You can get this photo background bigilicious and click to view the Michigan cherries gallery at the Library of Congress and you can also have a look at UpNorth Memories cherries slideshow.
The article on photographer John Vachon from the LOC’s American Memory Project says that his first job for the Farm Security Administration held the title “assistant messenger.” Vachon was twenty-one and had no intention of becoming a photographer when he took the position in 1936, but as his responsibilities increased for maintaining the FSA photographic file, his interest in photography grew. A memoir by his son quotes Stryker as telling the file clerk, “When you do the filing, why don’t you look at the pictures.”
February 11, 2012
Detroit – Edison Illuminating Company high line crew, photo courtesy Seeking Michigan
The Life of Thomas Edison from American Memory at the Library of Congress says that:
Thomas Alva Edison was born to Sam and Nancy on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. Known as “Al” in his youth, Edison was the youngest of seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Edison tended to be in poor health when young.
To seek a better fortune, Sam Edison moved the family to Port Huron, Michigan, in 1854, where he worked in the lumber business.
Edison was a poor student. When a schoolmaster called Edison “addled,” his furious mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”(1) At an early age, he showed a fascination for mechanical things and for chemical experiments.
In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.
Read on for much more, and also see Thomas Edison at Wikipedia. While Edison’s life in Michigan didn’t include much of what one of the architects of our modern lifestyle was famous for, there’s some great places to visit to learn more about him. Two of the best are the Thomas Edison Depot Museum in Port Huron and Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory at Greenfield Village.
Post #350 on Michigan in Pictures!
January 20, 2012
Kim says that yesterday she braved -19 degree windchills in Marquette to take photos and came across the Coast Guard practicing rescues. This photo shows five rescuers heading out to rescue two drowning victims. See some more photos of the Great Lakes’ most vital branch of the armed forces in action on the Marquette Coast Guard Facebook page.
View another photo and read more about the Marquette Lower Harbor Ore Dock on Michigan in Pictures. Have fun this weekend and stay safe!
September 19, 2011
Sorry about the bad link this morning…
It was quite the double rainbow last Thursday in the Traverse City area. I was off to the right end of the bow in Suttons Bay but I couldn’t fit it all in in any of my photos.
The boat is the State of Michigan at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, a training ship that allows cadets to put into practice the theory and skill sets taught in the classroom. The vessel is a:
…224-foot former Navy submarine surveillance ship Persistent, which is now T/S State of Michigan. The vessel is relatively new, having been built in 1986 as part of a series of 18 Stalwart-class T-AGOS vessels designed to tow highly sensitive sonar arrays for the tracking of Soviet submarines. As the Soviet threat diminished in the 1990s, the Navy decided to decommission the T-AGOS fleet, and in 1998 Persistent and sister ship Vindicator were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard for primary use in drug interdiction.