Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Aladdin Home Featured in the Zonta Home Walk

The Zonta Club of Midland is hosting their Holiday Homewalk this weekend - December 3rd and 4th. Among the homes featured is an Aladdin Kit Home - the Cottage Tudor at 114 West Carpenter Street. This home has been extensively researched using the historic Aladdin Company Records, which can be found at the Clarke Historical Library. We were very happy to help research this historic home and we are delighted that this great piece of Michigan history can be shared with all thanks to the Zonta Club of Michigan. For further information about the homewalk, please click on this link for the Zonta Club of Midland's website or click on this link for a Midland Daily News article about the event.

Image taken from the Zonta Club of Midland Holiday Howewalk webpage.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Baking with Merry Cookie

by Christa Clare

We recently purchased a cookbook called Merry Cookie! The cookbook compiled and edited by Judith Bosley boasts that it has “one hundred, old, new, luscious, rich, plain, fancy, pretty, buttery Christmas cookies.” Mmmm.. . Just in time for holiday baking!

Did you know that the Clarke Historical Library has over 1300 cookbooks? We have an extensive collection and most of them are from Michigan authors. In 2004, we received a generous collection of cookbooks from a private collector, and we have been actively collecting them ever since.

Stop in the Clarke some time and take a look at some of these wonderful cookbooks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Setting the Stage for the War of 1812

by Frank Boles

On November 1 the William L. Clements Library’s curator of maps Brian Dunnigan spoke about Michigan on the eve of the War of 1812. In a wonderfully illustrated presentation he shared with his audience the physical characteristics and lifestyle of Michigan’s non-Native American residents. The few settlers who lived in Michigan were primarily found in three settlements: Detroit, “Frenchtown,” (today’s Monroe) and on Mackinac Island. Detroit was the oldest and largest of the settlements. As the territorial capitol it also had the largest concentration of English-speaking “American” residents.

Curiously, Detroit also had the newest buildings and the most unusual of street plans; the result of a devastating fire in 1805 that virtually destroyed the entire village. The resulting void allowed government officials to impose a new street plan that, unlike virtually every other settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, featured extraordinarily wide boulevards radiating from great circles. Dunnigan noted in a sly aside that although the plan looked wonderful on paper, after about twenty years of residents constantly complaining about oddly shaped lots and streets consuming vast amounts of space that could otherwise be put to good use, the plan was abandoned.

Frenchtown, located to the south of Detroit, retained the vernacular architecture and the largely French character that Detroit was beginning to lose. Indeed, one reason for the settlement was simply that some Francophones were not happy living in increasingly English-oriented Detroit.

Then as now Mackinac Island was a seasonal community. During the summer upwards of 2,000 individuals would come to the island, which was a center of the fur trading industry. But as winter approached the population rapidly dwindled and only a few hundred souls remained on the island. Among them was a small garrison of U.S. Army soldiers, serving in what was considered at the time one of the most remote and isolated outposts maintained by the military.

Dunnigan portrayed in images and words a world long lost and yet somehow strangely familiar. A remote country that nevertheless had a certain semblance of the home we know. It was a wonderful discussion of what was which hinted at what would emerge.

"Mitchell Map" image from Wikipedia (

Friday, November 18, 2011

Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

by Frank Boles

On October 19, The Clarke Library sponsored two programs celebrating the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF)’s 35th anniversary. Perhaps one of the best kept secret in state government, over the past 35 years the Fund has pumped over $816 million to acquire and improve Michigan public recreation and environmentally sensitive properties across the state.

At 2:00 p.m., four panelists, Michigan Oil and Gas Association (MOGA) President Frank L. Mortl, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board Chairman Bob Garner, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) Executive Director Erin McDonough, and Michigan Chapter of the Nature Conservancy Director Helen Taylor, spoke about the Fund’s founding, history, and impact.

Their collective presentations drew a portrait of one of the most successful political compromises made in the last generation. The Trust was born out of political compromise. A major discovery of natural gas in the northeast corner of the Lower Peninsula made oil companies very anxious to begin widespread drilling, while environmentalists fought vigorously to keep development away from what was a largely wilderness area.

As the battle raged on, the senior representatives of the two communities, Frank Mortl of MOGA and Tom Washington of the MUCC cut a deal. MUCC would support drilling – MOGA would support creating a Trust Fund into which all revenue received by the state as a result of oil and gas production would be set aside to fund outdoor recreational activity and the purchase of environmentally-sensitive land. Both men took their share of grief for the compromise, but with the support of each organization the enabling legislation became law.

The results have proved a huge benefit to the people of the state. Vast tracts of land have either been protected or developed into or benefited from improvements made to outdoor recreational sites. Fishing piers and marinas have been built or rehabilitated. Environmentally fragile land has been protected.

The panelists gave a fascinating insight into both the process of political compromise and the benefits that can accrue to society when groups with seemingly unresolvable conflicts think creatively about how to find common ground. Then as now, compromise was not necessarily popular, but it worked, and worked very well to serve the long-term interests of the public.

An added, an unexpected feature of the program was an unplanned set of comments made by special guest Howard A Tanner. Tanner, now 87 years of age, as then director of the Department of Natural Resources, had played a key role in implementing the MNRTF. Tanner talked primarily about what he saw as the essential breakthrough represented by the Trust: that funds received by the state as a result of the depletion of a state-owned, non-renewable resource, should be used to acquire for the public’s benefit additional non-renewable resources – primarily prime recreation land and land of special environmental sensitivity. Like any compromise the MNRTF was a trade-off, but one that replaced a non-renewable asset underneath state-owned land with a new asset, prime recreation land and the protection of the environment, that would benefit the public for generations to come.

This wonderful panel that brought together some of the most influential people, past and present, in the state’s environmental history, was followed Thursday evening by author Jack Westbrook discussing his recently published book, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, 1976-2011.While the panel dealt with the general good accomplished by the Trust Fund, Westbrook brought home the true impact of the Fund by looking at many of the projects it has funded. From funds spent to acquire the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula for public use to funds spent to improve recreational facilities on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, residents throughout the state have personally benefitted from projects made possible by the Trust. As Westbrook noted, the Trust has become a model other states have attempted to emulate; a solution “made in Michigan” to resolve one of the most vexing problems of our time.

image from American Oil and Gas Historical Society

Thursday, November 17, 2011

John Fierst on John Tanner’s Narrative

Next Monday John Fierst will be talking about the editing of John Tanner’s Narrative, a project he and his co-editor John Nichols have undertaken to produce a scholarly edition of Tanner’s 1830 Anishinaabe account. The presentation is entitled: “The Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner: Editing an Anishinaabe Text.” It will take place on campus in the Terrace Rooms of the Bovee Center at noon, November 21st. Part of the Office for Institutional Diversity’s Soup and Substance series, it is being given in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Circus in Town

By Marian Matyn

A large circus collection recently donated by Rev. James Challancin is being processed this term. Published materials, such as books, programs, and serials have been cataloged. Posters and scrapbooks have been processed and now thousands of clippings (all of which have to be photocopied), tickets, advertisements, and other miscellaneous items remain to be processed.

Here is a digitized image of a damaged poster. This Adams Bros. and Seils Bros Circus poster was printed by Neal Walters Posters Corp. of Eureka Springs, Ark., and advertised the circus performance in Caspian, MI (Iron County) in 1960.

The collection has issues. A lot of it has a strong mildew smell, which is not good, and some of it has water or mold stains. Being around this smell is unpleasant even with an air filter and air freshners going full strength. Mold can spread throughout stored collections and cause health problems in people. Because we cannot expose staff or patrons to mold, we have to withdraw moldy materials from the collection. Fortunately, with modern equipment we have some options and can preserve a scanned copy of the poster so we could preserve a nice, colorful part of circus history without causing contamination throughout the collection or health issues to staff, students, or the public.

Thanks to everyone who is helping in some way with this collection: Bronwyn, Tressa, Tanya, Sandy, Pat, Hayleigh, and me. Once the processing, inventorying, and rehousing is completed, I will edit the final copy of the finding aid, create the catalog record, and encode the finding aid making it Google searchable and linking it to the catalog record. A collection of this size and various formats is a group effort, led by yours truly, Marian Matyn, Archivist and Assistant Professor, Clarke Historical Library, CMU. For more information check out my blog at