Monday, March 26, 2012

Jennifer and Dan Digmann Speak March 15

by Frank Boles

On March 15, local authors Jennifer and Dan Digmann spoke about their recently published book, Despite MS, To Spite MS. Both Dan and Jennifer, who are married to one another, suffer from multiple sclerosis; Dan inflicted with the mildest form of the disease while Jennifer suffers from a much more severe version of the disease. In the presentation Dan and Jennifer talked about the disease but more importantly sought to put a human face on the affliction.

The presentation was touching, moving, and at times very funny. We thank the authors for giving us permission to record the presentation and make it available for viewing at CMU's iTunesU page (you will need Apple's iTunes to access the events). Be sure to take the time to view the whole recording. You can particularly anticipate Dan’s story about the day he found a bat in his shoe. The audience laughed at Dan’s wonderful retelling of the event, but also reflected on what it is like to live with an incurable disease, one symptom of which is numbness in the extremities so severe in Dan’s case that he didn’t notice a bat in his shoe. But Dan tells the story far better than I. Look for it.

You can also learn more about the book and the authors at their website,

image courtesy of

Friday, March 23, 2012

Paul Taylor Speaking Engagement Cancelled

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the next event in the Clarke Historical Library Speaker Series - a talk by Paul Taylor about his award-winning biography of General Orlando Poe - has been cancelled. This event was originally scheduled for March 26, 2012. We will work to include Mr. Taylor in a future Clarke Historical Library Lecture Series.

However, with the assistance of the Library of Michigan Foundation, we have the opportunity to host an additional lecture this semester. Sara Fitzgerald will speak about her 2012 Michigan Notable Book Award-winning book, Elly Peterson: "Mother" of the Moderates. This event will take place on Thursday, April 26 at 7 pm in the Park Library Auditorium.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Fairy Tales in the Clarke Historical Library

[editor's note: Today's posting has been done to highlight just one item of the Clarke Historical Library's extensive holdings. If you click on the title of the book, you will be linked to our catalog listing for the book. There you will view a bar in the middle of the entry noting that the book is available on-line. This link will take you to a digitized version of the book made available by Hathi Trust - a cooperative project of more than 60 institutions attempting to digitize their holdings and publish them on-line. If you can't make it into the Clarke to view the hard copy of this book, you can still enjoy an Irish fairy tale or two from the comfort of your own computer!]

Irish Fairy Tales in the Clarke Historical Library

by Hannah Jenkins

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, we turn our attention to the Emerald Isle, Ireland. One book pertaining to Ireland among many in the Clarke’s collection is Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens and illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Stephens is a well-known author for his work on compiling and retelling Irish myths and folktales. Rackham is a famous illustrator who often did work for children’s books as well as fairy tale and mythology books. Irish Fairy Tales contains stories of kings and queens in Ireland and the powerful men that worked for them, as well as stories of the mischievous Irish fairies who were always trying to trick humans.

In this book, one group of fairies leads a woman astray in her attempt to meet her lover. There are also jealous fairy men and women who attempt to curse humans or do them harm. However there are also nice fairies, such as the story of a fairy woman who asks for protection in exchange for her hand in marriage, and in another story a fairy lord helps protect Ireland and its kingdom. Irish fairy tales often present a very strong connection with nature because of the pagan beliefs that stretched across the country before Christianity. Ireland is known for its beautiful landscape of rolling green hills and this comes across in the stories. Again, in association with pagan beliefs, three of the stories found in this volume speak of animals. One tells of a man who transformed into various animals and survived hundreds of years. Another tells of a man who was granted the gift of the Salmon of Knowledge. The third tells of a woman who was transformed into a dog. Irish fairy tales such as these are full of wonder and fancy and often a bit of darkness. The Clarke Historical Library has many books on fairy tales from Ireland, and from across the world. If you would like to read more about them, we would be happy to help you. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Little Traverse Bay Exhibit Opening

[editor's note: The Clarke Historical Library will be suspending our Saturday hours for the next two weeks (March 3 and 10) because of CMU's spring break. We will be open our regular Monday through Friday hours during this time and we will resume Saturday hours on March 17.]

Little Traverse Bay Exhibit Opening

by Frank Boles

On February 29, Michael Federspiel spoke at the opening of the Library’s new exhibit, A Delightful Destination: Little Traverse Bay at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. Mr. Federspiel, who curated the exhibit, discussed the remarkable transformation that occurred at Little Traverse Bay between 1875 and 1925.

In the 1870s, Little Traverse Bay, like much of northern Michigan, was cut-over timber land. The Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of acres of land, was rapidly laying track between Grand Rapids and Petoskey. The railroad’s plan was to make money selling the land to settlers who would engage in farming and need the railroad to both bring in supplies and take out harvested crops. However the GR&I quickly realized this business model had a problem; the land was barren. The sandy, rocky, cut-over timberland was of limited agricultural value. The plan wasn’t going to work.

However, the GR&I, as well as thousands of individual entrepreneurs, invented something to replace it – “Up North.” The land may not have been suitable for agriculture, but it was a tourist’s paradise. The air was clean and crisp. The beaches were lovely. And soon the railroad, as well as steamships, began to bring summer visitors by the thousands, who realized that because of “modern” transportation they could reach this paradise from homes in Chicago, Detroit or even St. Louis in a day or less. In 1906, between June 25 and September 30, 13,000 trains arrived in Petosky, averaging 134 per day, 12 per hour or one every five minutes.

To entertain the thousands of people brought by train and by boat, all sorts of entertainments arose. Some were natural; others were artificially created. One of the most popular natural attractions was the “Inland Water Route," a 35 mile chain of lakes and rivers beginning in Oden and ending at the mouth of the Cheboygan River. By 1900 more than thirty boats made daily trips over the Route, taking tourists on site seeing excursions.

In contrast to the natural wonders of the Inland Route, the GR&I Railroad invented “Wa-Ya-Ma-Gug.” A tourist destination constructed in an unpopulated area along the line’s tracks, Wa-Ya-Ma-Gug offered the usual range of activities, dining, games, swimming and the like, but with a Native American theme. Tourists could sleep in a teepee, watch Native American artisans create handicrafts (and of course purchase the same in the inevitable gift shop). Tourists were much more likely, however, to attend the site’s top attraction, the daily “Hiawatha” play, which featured an all-Native American cast re-enacting a version of Longfellow’s epic poem.

All this tourist activity required the construction and maintenance of an amazing infrastructure. By way of example, while in 1900 Detroit had the largest local transportation infrastructure in the state, second place went to Petoskey and the other communities near Little Traverse Bay.

Up North, and the tourism industry associated with it, was invented in Michigan at the beginning of the twentieth century. Michael Federspiel, and the exhibit he created, tells the story of how it was done. We hope you will take the time to visit the exhibit, which will be open in the Clarke Library through Memorial Day, and then will, like so many others of us, travel north for the summer to be shown at the Harbor Springs History Museum.