Happy 320th Birthday Detroit!

the lamp post by kare hav

the lamp post by kare hav

320 years ago tomorrow on July 24, 1701, Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac realized the success of his plan with mentor and Governor General of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, to found a new settlement at the south of Lake Huron to increase the security of French interests on the Great Lakes. Frontenac died, and his successor was not fond of Cadillac so, as History Detroit explains, the story of Cadillac took matters into his own hands:

Cadillac set sail for France in 1698 in order to convince King Louis to allow him to found a new settlement lower in the Great Lakes. Specifically, he was interested in the area south of Lake Huron known as le détroit, or the straits.

The area known as le détroit was ideal for a new settlement because the land was fertile, the location on the river was felt to be easily defended against the British and the climate was more hospitable than that in the more northern settlements like Michilimackinac.

Cadillac returned to Quebec, then travelled to Montreal where he gathered canoes, farmers, traders, artisans, soldiers, and Native Americans to accompany him on his quest. The men set sail on June 4, 1701.

Cadillac and his men reached the Detroit River on July 23, 1701. The following day, July 24, 1701, the group traveled north on the Detroit River and chose a place to build the settlement. Cadillac named the settlement Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit in honor of King Louis’s Minister of Marine.

Kare hav took this photo of the Detroit skyline from across the Detroit River back in 2017. See more in their Detroit gallery & have a great weekend!

Lots more Detroit photos & history on Michigan in Pictures!

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The 1938 Phantom Corsair: Different by Design

1938 Phantom Corsair by Alden Jewell

1938 Phantom Corsair by Alden Jewell

In their Story of the Week feature, the Motor Cities National Historic Area shares the story of the “different by design” 1938 Phantom Corsair:

The Phantom Corsair was one of the most unique automotive designs ever when it was introduced to the public in 1938. he model was designed by Rust Heinz, who once had a dream of what an American supercar should look like. Heinz was from the well-known family that made its fortune selling condiments like ketchup and mustard across the country.

The Phantom Corsair was intended for a limited manufacturing run and would have sold for $15,000 on the consumer market. However, that price was a problem for the Phantom Corsair since it was designed and engineered when most Americans were still struggling with the Great Depression.

The Phantom Corsair was a prototype 2-door model sedan. A clay scale model featured an aerodynamic shape that was sleek and futuristic. The model offered room for six passengers … Heinz’s parents disapproved in the beginning of his developing the Phantom Corsair. His aunt ultimately agreed to fund the project. Unfortunately, Heinz was killed in an auto accident in July 1939, and the Phantom Corsair project came to an end.

…For many years since, automotive writers and historians have said that “Although sometimes dismissed as a failure because it never entered production, the Corsair is regarded as ahead of its time because of its futuristic features and styling cues such as faired-in fender and a low profile.”

The Phantom Corsair prototype offered an electric push-button door operation, along with green tinted triple-layer safety glass windows, hydraulic impact bumpers, and fog lights for nighttime driving. The instrument panel offered a flush design with a dozen instruments that included a compass and altimeter. The interior offered an aviation design theme with a warning light that signaled when the door was ajar. Other features included a multi-wave radio with twin speakers plus a great air conditioning and heating system. The prototype model used a Cord V8 Lycoming engine with a front wheel drive transmission.

Read more & see some really great photos at motorcities.org!

For a chance to really geek out on some wild automotive designs, have a look at Alden’s Concept Vehicles & Prototypes gallery on Flickr.

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The GM Futurliner

GM Futurliner by Bruce Bertz

GM Futurliner by Bruce Bertz

Wikipedia’s entry for GM Futurliners explains that these wild custom vehicles were designed in the 1940s for General Motors by the legendary Harley Earl:

Originally manufactured for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Futurliners were later featured in GM’s Parade of Progress, a promotional caravan travelling a 150-stop route across the United States and Canada. The Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, were driven by 50 college graduates, who also staffed the exhibitions along the route.

Typically arranged at each stop around a large tent and an information kiosk, each Futurliner featured a self-contained stage as well as a prominent deployable light tower, and each vehicle featured a particular subject. The mobile exhibition covered such topics as jet engine technology, agriculture, traffic engineering, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, television and other innovations.

At 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, more than 11 feet tall, and weighing more than 12 tons, each Futurliner featured heavily stylized art deco, streamlined bodywork, deep red side and white roof paint, large articulated chrome side panels, a military-grade 302 cubic inch GMC straight-six gasoline engine and automatic transmission, whitewall tires and a prominent, high-mounted, centrally located driver command position with a panoramic windshield.

There are only nine of these left & the last one to sell sold for a cool $4 million!! Photos & more info at Wikipedia. You may also enjoy the many pics & stories including a restoration project at Futureliner.org.

Bruce took this photo at Wing & Wheels at the Yankee Air Museum & you can see more shots in his Yankee Air Museum 2021 gallery on Flickr.

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America’s First Urban Freeway: Detroit’s Davison Freeway

The Davison Urban Freeway by Wayne State University

The Davison Urban Freeway by Wayne State University

The Daily Detroit is one of my favorite Michigan podcasts, and their story on The Davison, America’s First Urban Freeway in Detroit is pretty cool: 

While freeways are pretty standard in American cities now, it wasn’t always that way. Instead of the ability to potentially go up to 70 miles an hour like on today’s highways, motorists had to use regular city streets to cross town. That was especially the case for motorists who wanted to cross Highland Park and enter Detroit.

Everyone piled onto Davison Avenue, the only large street that ran through Highland Park and connected to Detroit running roughly east to west. The avenue and freeway was named after an English immigrant from the 1840s that settled in the area, Jared Davison (it was then Hamtramck Township). His farm was approximately between Woodward and Oakland avenues along the south side of the street.

It wasn’t uncommon for drivers to spend 15 minutes sitting in traffic to reach Detroit. By 1940, thanks to Detroit’s growth and the growth of auto factories, Davison Avenue was approaching gridlock during rush hour by 1940.

…By November 1942, the five and a half mile long Davison Freeway was finished. It opened without a dedication ceremony, probably due to the desperate need the defense plants had for a functioning freeway. Despite its lack of dedication, the freeway became the first one of its kind – an urban freeway meant to connect one part of a metro area with another with as little interruption as possible.

…Ironically, the invention from Highland Park eventually played a key role in emptying the city out. In 1992, Chrysler moved their headquarters down the road – off of I-75 with a special off-ramp built for the development – to Auburn Hills, to follow the trend of suburban sprawl that the American highway system helped enable.

Read more at the Daily Detroit!

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Sofa, Sand & Saipan

Private First Class Raymond L Hubbard from Detroit by Andrew B Knight

Private First Class Raymond L Hubbard from Detroit by Andrew B Knight

My buddy Cave Canem shared this absolute gem of a photo in our Michigan in Pictures group on Facebook. He writes:

A Special Treat…

“Sitting on top of the world: Of all things, Private First Class Raymond L. Hubbard from Detroit, Michigan chooses a huge exploded naval shell as a sofa as he removes a three day accumulation of Saipan sand from his field shoes.”

Photograph by: Staff Sergeant Andrew B. Knight, US Marine Corps WWII 1939 – 1945

PS: You can see some of Cave Canem’s photos from back in the day on Michigan in Pictures right here!

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Before the Mackinac Bridge: Remembering the Chief Wawatam

Chief Wawatam, St Ignace, MI by Bill Johnson

Chief Wawatam, St Ignace, MI by Bill Johnson

Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library shares that on August 21, 1984, the Chief Wawatam sailed for the last time:

Since she first sailed the Straits of Mackinac between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan in 1911, the Chief Wawatam carried thousands of passengers, automobiles, and railcars. The last coal-burning vessel on the Great Lakes, the Chief Wawatam made a name for herself for reliable, efficient service across the often-treacherous waters of the Straits. It was often the Chief who would deliver food and fuel to other Great Lakes vessels who became stuck in the thick winter ice.

After the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, the crossing time was slashed from nearly an hour by ferry to a matter of minutes by car. While other ferries ceased running almost immediately, the Chief Wawatam stayed in service for another twenty-seven years before finally retiring. Four years later, the boat was sold to a Canadian firm that cut the 338-foot ferry down to a deck barge.

Bill took this photo back in 1979 & writes:

The Chief is closing in on the dock at St Ignace, MI after crossing the Straits of Mackinac with another load of freight cars. There’s a Soo Line crew waiting for the Wawatam’s arrival. They’re taking a break right now, as are the deck hands on the Chief. Soon, everyone will be hard at work, moving their share of America’s freight. This was a daily scene way back when and will never be repeated. I was lucky enough to catch the action on September 24, 1979.

See more in his Boats, Ships & stuff that sails album on Flickr & have a great weekend everyone!

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Dearborn’s Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theatre #1 nationally!

Off Season by Derek Farr

Off Season by Derek Farr

The Freep tweets that Dearborn’s Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theatre was the top grossing movie theater in the nation last weekend. The Henry Ford shares a little of the history of this Michigan icon:

The Ford-Wyoming drive-in was built by Charlie Schafer, opening for business in May 1950. He and his family grew a veritable movie house empire in the Metro-Detroit area under the umbrella of Wayne Amusements, but the Ford-Wyoming is the only evidence of the legacy that remains. When it was first built, there was only one screen—the backside of the immense Streamline Moderne structure that sits at the front of the property. One screen with accommodation for 750 cars grew to nine screens and a 3,000-car capacity, and the theatre began to make the claim of being “the largest drive-in in the world.” Today the theatre has downsized to five screens.

Read more at The Henry Ford & visit the Ford Wyoming Drive-in online for current shows.

Derek took this photo way back in 2012. See lots more in his massive Detroit album on Flickr.

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Detroit March to Freedom – June 23, 1963

Walk to Freedom Detroit June 23 1963

Detroit March to Freedom by Jim Yardley (courtesy Walter P Reuther Library)

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at Cobo Hall
Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at Cobo Hall

Click on Detroit shares that the Detroit March to Freedom on June 23, 1963 was at the time the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history, with 125,000 marching down Woodward Avenue culminating in a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King at Cobo Hall:

The crowd carried signs and moved in relative silence as tens of thousands more watched from sidewalks and buildings.

The route of the march started at a twenty-one-block staging area near Adelaide Street. It followed Woodward Avenue to Jefferson Avenue, then headed west through the Civic Center. An hour and a half after it began, it ended at Cobo Hall, where 25,000 people, an estimated 95% of them African American, filled the building to capacity.

Thousands of demonstrators who could not find a seat spilled onto the lawns and malls outside, and listened to the programming through loudspeakers. Inside, public officials, African American business and civic leaders, and dignitaries including John B. Swainson, Congressman Charles Diggs, and Rev. Albert Cleage were among the speakers.

They note that the rally is remembered primarily for Dr. King’s first delivery of what became the “I Have a Dream” speech two months later at the historic March on Washington. Read on for more.

You can see a bunch more photos in the Walter P Reuther’s Equality & Civil Rights Activism in America photo gallery. Here’s a cool overview of the massive crowd from the Detroit Historical Society & listen to the speech right here:

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Michigan, Ohio, and the Best Worst Deal Ever

Lake of the Clouds by Tom Mortenson

Lake of the Clouds by Tom Mortenson

CMU’s Clarke Historical Library reminds us that on June 15, 1836 Congress passed the Northern Ohio Boundary Bill to resolve the ongoing boundary dispute between the state of Ohio and the Michigan Territory. Both claimed the mouth of the Maumee River (present-day Toledo) and offered surveys supporting their positions. The congressional compromise awarded Toledo to Ohio and granted Michigan the western Upper Peninsula and immediate statehood. Ohio was elated, but Michigan struggled, and eventually accepted a solution they believed was unfair.

Michigan State University’s Geography Department takes a deeper dive into the Toledo War and its aftermath, explaining that:

Sentiment against the proposed compromise was almost universal at first. A resolution adopted in March had dismissed the area that Michigan was to receive as a “sterile region on the shores of Lake Superior, destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness.” The Detroit Free Press called it “a region of perpetual snows—the Ultima Thule of our national domain in the north.”

Senator Lyon said the region could furnish the people of Michigan with Indians for all time and now and then a little bear meat for a delicacy, but he was nevertheless one of the few who thought that Michigan might eventually find it got the better of the bargain. There was resentment of the fact that Arkansas had been granted statehood unconditionally the same day that Michigan had been offered admission only on conditions that most Michiganians regarded as disadvantageous to the state.

If Michigan did not want the huge area in the northland that Congress offered, it is equally true that some of the residents of the Upper Peninsula did not want to be part of Michigan either. Congress had received a number of petitions from persons in this region asking that the area south of Lake Superior be organized as the territory of Huron. Michigan Territory, as originally established in 1805, had included the eastern Upper Peninsula, including the settlements at the Straits of Mackinac and at Sault Ste. Marie. These areas had been represented in the 1835 convention that drafted Michigan’s constitution and had defined the new state’s boundaries so as to include these parts of the Upper Peninsula within that state. Thus the statement that Michigan received the entire Upper Peninsula in return for surrendering the Toledo strip is not correct, but nevertheless the error continues to be perpetuated. It was approximately the western three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula that was involved in the compromise. Some people in the eastern section preferred to become part of the proposed Huron Territory, pointing out that Sault Ste. Marie was cut off from Detroit for six months each year and claiming that the region was treated by the rest of Michigan as a remote and neglected colony. Congress, however, paid no attention. Politics was more important than geography, and Michigan was saddled with the problem–never satisfactorily resolved–of uniting two areas which nature, for many thousands of years, has set asunder.

…Sure, Michigan did “lose” to Ohio in a way. At the time, we didn’t get what we wanted, the Toledo Strip, and they did. However, as a state we never really lost anything. While Toledo was conveniently located on the water, we still had Detroit, which was and continues to be the center of industry here in Michigan. We lost a little bit, but gained tremendously. At the time of statehood, surely the acquiring of the Upper Peninsula was thought to be a disadvantage. Time proved to tell that it was nothing like that at all. We really lost nothing, and gained immense mineral wealth, fortune from logging, and vast natural beauty.

I’ll definitely take that trade! Tom took this photo back in October of 2013. See more in his Upper Michigan gallery on Flickr.

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Earth Day at 50

Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Happy 50th Earth Day everyone! It’s without a doubt the weirdest one on record, but I thought you might be interested in the Michigan roots of Earth Day, at the University of Michigan to be precise. James Tobin of Michigan Today shares the story of the Teach-In on the Environment that UM held in March of 1970 because Earth Day fell right in the middle of exams. Students and teachers formed a group called Environmental Action for Survival (ENACT) and booked Democratic front-runner Senator Edmund Muskie, Ralph Nader and biologist Dr. Barry Commoner.

Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment was not the first Earth Day. It was the huge and spectacularly successful prototype of the first Earth Day, which happened five weeks later—“the most famous little-known event,” one historian has written, “in modern American history.”

…The crowd in Crisler Arena overflowed into the parking lots. Workshops and rallies were swarmed by Michigan students, schoolkids, retirees, and PTA parents. When it was over, the New York Times said Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment had been “by any reckoning…one of the most extraordinary ‘happenings’ ever to hit the great American heartland: Four solid days of soul-searching, by thousands of people, young and old, about ecological exigencies confronting the human race.”

Measured against the extreme rhetoric and violent protests that set the tone of the era, it was an earnest, even quiet, event. A few speakers were heckled and a few showy demonstrations drew heavy media attention—the “trial and execution” of a 1959 Ford on the Diag; the dumping of 10,000 non-returnable pop cans at a Coca-Cola bottling plant (afterward students picked up the cans and threw them away, an irony not lost on reporters); the smearing of tar and feathers on a building where an oil company was interviewing job prospects.

Read the rest right here. & dig into 2020 online events at earthday.org.

Check out Brooke’s Spring photo album on Flickr for more!

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