Monday, November 26, 2012

Purple: organized crime in a small town Film Showing

On Tuesday, November 27, the Clarke Historical Library will be co-sponsoring the Mount Pleasant premier of Purple: organized crime in a small town. Filmed in Clare and produced by CMU Broadcast and Cinematic Arts faculty member Ben Tigner, Purple chronicles the Purple Gang, an organized crime syndicate that operated in central Michigan during the 1920s and ‘30s. The film will be shown at 7:30 pm in the Plachta Auditorium located on the campus of Central Michigan University. Admission is free and open to the public, but you are asked to RSVP via this website or by calling 989-774-331.

Due to the film showing and the preparations involved in this, the Clarke Historical Library will be closing at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, November 27. We apologize for any inconvenience that this presents.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Sinking of the Christmas Tree Ship

[editors note: The Clarke Historical Library staff would like to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. Because of the holiday, we will be closed Thursday, November 22 through Sunday, November 25. We will open with our regular hours on Monday, November 26. 

And don't forget, Tuesday, November 27 is the Mount Pleasant Premier of Purple: Organized crime in a small town. The film will be shown at 7:30 pm in Plachta Auditorium. Visit this site for more information.]

From R. M. Pennington's The Christmas Tree Ship : the story of Captain Santa
The Sinking of the Christmas Tree Ship

by Lindsay Gabriel and Bryan Whitledge

Today, November 21, marks the 100th anniversary of the final departure of the Rouse Simmons, also known as the "Christmas Tree Ship." The Rouse Simmons was a Lake Michigan vessel that was most noted for being loaded with freshly cut Christmas trees to be delivered to the city of Chicago in November and December each year. At the time of her maiden voyage on September 4, 1886, her original purpose was not to haul Christmas trees, but to be used as a lumber boat traveling between Manistee, Michigan and Chicago. In the 1890s, the Rouse Simmons began an annual journey from Michigan laden with Christmas trees for the Chicago market. As the years passed, the schooner was re-purposed to transport iron and copper ores, lumber, piling, and rough stock of all descriptions, but the annual voyage with Christmas trees was always part of her program. The Captain of “Chicago’s Christmas Tree Ship” was Herman Schuenemann. For his part in transporting the cargo, Schuenemann was known as Captain Santa.
Grand Rapids Evening Press,
Dec. 4, 1912, p. 1, col. 4

On the 21st of November of 1912, the Rouse Simmons left Thompson, Michigan, near Manistee on its final voyage. A particularly violent storm had blown across Lake Michigan during the trip. On November 23, the Rouse Simmons was last seen flying a distress signal near Twin River Point and Kewaunee, Wisconsin -- an area “long [...] considered one of the most dangerous portions of the Lake.” During the first week of December, 1912 news reports found in several Michigan newspapers noted that the ship had gone missing and that the haul of the ship - Christmas trees - had been washing up on shore in Kewaunee, Two Rivers, and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and Pentwater, Michigan. The Rouse Simmons, along with Captain Schuenemann and the fifteen members of the crew, went down, most likely on November 23, 1912.

The story of the fateful journey of the "Christmas Tree Ship" is documented in the newspaper and book collections of the Clarke Historical Library, particularly The historic Christmas tree ship and The Christmas Tree Ship: the story of Captain Santa, both by Rochelle Pennington. Discover Michigan's maritime past at the Clarke Historical Library.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lecture and Book Signing at Ziibiwing Center

This Saturday, November 17 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Raph Naveaux will speak about Michigan and the War of 1812. The event takes place at the Ziibiwing Center for Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways, located at 6650 E. Broadway in Mount Pleasant.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Association for Documentary Editing Call for Papers

This year, the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) is holding its 35th Annual Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 11-13, 2013. For those interested, the Program Committee welcomes submissions for presentations or posters on all aspects of documentary editing and textual scholarship, including but not limited to editorial practice, theory, varieties of texts, collaboration, uses of edited documents in K-12 curricula, and publication. To propose a paper or poster, send an abstract of no more than 250 words to the chair of the Program Committee at no later than February 1, 2013. Please include a brief c.v. or biographical note and your address, email, and phone number.

Through its annual meeting, the ADE promotes cooperative networking and the exchange of ideas among editors who employ critical thinking and technical skills to present original texts to diverse audiences in a variety of formats. In addition to the Annual Meeting, there will be workshops and training from July 7-11, including the Institute for Editing Historical Documents, otherwise known as "Camp Edit."

For more information, please visit the ADE Annual Meeting website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bringing Election History to the Clarke (With A Little Help from Our New Best Friends)

by Frank Boles

With Tuesday, November 6 being election day (remember to get out and vote!), we thought that this would be a great time to focus our exhibit on U.S. presidential campaigns. Exhibits often need a visually appealing item to help bring people in the door. For our current exhibit, we found what we thought would be just the thing, an old-fashioned mechanical voting machine. First introduced in the 1890s and still being used in a few places as late as the 1990s, these metal monsters were an amalgam of gears and counters that weighs around 500 pounds. For the better part of a century, mechanical devices like this one were how many Americans registered their vote.

The Michigan Historical Center, which included one of these machines among its collection of artifacts, was happy to loan it to us for display, provided we came down to Lansing and picked it up. Given the size of this machine, this wasn’t going to be a typical field trip. In mid-September, Janet Danek, the Libraries’ coordinator of exhibits, and I got into a rented truck and started south. With the help of several staff from the Center we managed to roll the machine, which was mounted on four large metal casters, out of the large state warehouse where it is stored into the truck and tied it down with rope.

The "guts" of the automatic voting machine
As we drove away from the loading dock, things were looking good, until the first stop sign. A bumping, grinding sound made it clear the machine had begun to roll around. The noise got worse with every start and stop. A few blocks later we pulled over to see what was happening and discovered the ropes we had brought simply weren’t holding the machine in place. A few more miles and the machine was either going to roll into the cab of the truck or through the truck’s back door. Either way, we guessed the folks back at the Historical Center wouldn’t be too happy with us.

As I struggled with the ropes in a vain effort to make them work Janet, a wiser person than I, walked into a local business – a recycling center. Having been to more than one such facility in my day, we used to call them by the somewhat less elegant name of “scrap yard,” I was doubtful that she was likely to find anyone much interested in our problem. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Friedland Industries has been in Lansing for more than a century. Founded by a Latvian immigrant, the public-spirited firm has a long history of recycling, civic involvement, and a deep love of history. Mike Bass, great-grandson of the founder, came out and looked over our situation. We needed tie downs, and after telling Janet where to buy them he decided maybe he should go over and help her pick them out.

When Mike and Janet came back, Mike sized up the situation pretty quickly and said, “Hey, let me help you get those on right!” Half an hour later, after having come inside to look at wonderful historic photos of the company that Mike had, we were on our way. And Mike was our new BFF!

If you have some time, drop by the Clarke exhibits galleries to see the engine of democracy that nearly decimated a rental truck on the short trip between Lansing and Mount Pleasant (no need to mention that decimating thing to the Mt. Pleasant Rental Center – this is all between friends, right?), as well as viewing a promotional film made during the 1950s by the machine’s manufacturer.

And if you happen to have some scrap you need to dispose of, you might consider Friedland Industries at 405 E. Maple St. in Lansing (telephone 517.482.3000 or visit their website, Ask for Mike and tell him Frank and Janet sent you! We’re in his debt for a big favor!