Wednesday, December 19, 2018

175th Anniversary of a Christmas Classic

By Bryan Whitledge

On December 19, 1843, the arguably most-beloved of Christmas stories was first offered to the public. Despite disputes and differences of opinion about the publication of the book, Charles Dickens and his publisher worked up until the very end to ensure that A Christmas Carol would be on the shelves ahead of the Christmas holiday. Dickens’ insistence on the highest-quality product possible created a great deal of work for the publishers. But most agree that all of the work to bring the novel to market prior to Christmas was a great idea - the entire run of 6,000 copies sold out on the first day! Before the end of that year – less than two weeks – Chapman and Hall, the publisher, produced a second and third edition of the text.

From the start, the book was a critical and popular success. In the United States, the story became Dickens’ most popular, with over two million volumes sold in the one hundred years following the initial release. Countless adaptations for radio, stage, television, and cinema have been produced. And our language has been forever changed – Bah! Humbug is a curmudgeonly way of dismissing anything, nobody ever wants to be called a scrooge, and merry is the preferred adjective for a Christmas greeting.

At the Clarke, you can find various editions of A Christmas Carol spanning 163 years -- from an 1843 first edition to a 2006 edition illustrated by award-winning Irish artist P.J. Lynch (pictured at right). Lynch is not the only award-winning artist to have added his or her graphical interpretation to the story. Lisbeth Zwerger and Roberto Innocenti (pictured at bottom), who have been awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award from the International Board on Book for Young People, have illustrated editions of A Christmas Carol. The beautifully-illustrated British and American editions of famed artist Arthur Rackham are among the most attractive copies of the book that one can find. And there are pop-up versions of the story from the late-twentieth century among the 39 different editions of Dickens’ classic yuletide story in the Clarke's holdings (pictured at bottom).

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Arthur Rackham

The first edition, one of the 6,000 copies released 175 years ago, is a special item found in the Clarke. The only book for which Dickens sprung for color illustrations, the famous red and blue title page and frontispiece of Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball are a delightful touch for a book published in 1843 (pictured at top). It is a wonder to think that this little book was part of a frenzy in England matching that of a new smartphone release in San Francisco today. One presumes that this book was a coveted acquisition when it was purchased on December 19, 1843. All these years later, anyone can have the same experience of opening the pages of this treasured story and reflecting on Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from a scrooge to a wisher of Merry Christmases.

"Marley's Ghost" from the 1843 first edition
A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

Pop-up editions of A Christmas Carol

Friday, December 14, 2018

Copies of Largely Unknown Annuity Rolls Donated to the Clarke Historical Library

By John Fierst

For years annuity rolls filed in the records of the General Accounting Office (Record Group 217 in the National Archives) were largely unknown to researchers. Entry 525, “Settled Indian Accounts and Claims, 1794-1894,” in this record group contains many rolls relevant to numerous tribes in Michigan and Wisconsin. This was brought to our attention by researcher and compiler, G. Russell Overton, who recently provided the Clarke Historical Library with PDF copies of these important files.

Each item in the collection pertains to a particular annuity paid, under a specific treaty, to a single band or group of regional bands. Each item lists names of recipients who received payments. The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, the Grand River and Little River Ottawas, the Grand and Little Traverse bands, the Sault Ste. Marie Band, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and many others—all are included in the collection.

Overton has carefully identified each document. The first page of each document is a title page containing a complete citation in conformity with the Chicago Manual of Style. Overton’s intention is “to provide scholars the information they need to cite these documents correctly and fully.”

“Sometimes annuity payments were late,” writes Overton. “Indian agencies in the mid nineteenth century were always overworked and understaffed, and an agent spent much of his time traveling throughout his territory making annuity payments. Because of challenging geography, difficult traveling conditions, and short summer months, the Michigan agents usually paid the Upper Peninsula tribes during the summer months and paid the Lower Peninsula tribes in the fall and early winter. The most southerly tribes often had to wait until January to receive their annuities. In an attempt to clarify how these late payments were made, I have entitled them by the fiscal year they represent.” Pulling these little appreciated documents off the shelves of the National Archives, making us aware of their importance, and then making them easily accessible, Overton has advanced our knowledge of tribal history in a small but significant way. A user’s copy of the Record Group 217 annuities can be consulted in the Clarke Historical Library reading room.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Grace Lin

By Frank Boles

On November 27, children’s author Grace Lin spoke to a large audience in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium in the Park Library. Grace Lin is a nationally recognized author and illustrator, but her topic for the evening was not exactly what you would expect an author with her reputation to discuss. She discussed how she grew up wanting to be white, like her classmates, and eventually embraced her Asian heritage.

Grace Lin was born in upstate New York, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She and her two sisters were the only Asian children in their K-12 school classes. Grace desperately wanted to fit in, but slowly realized she was “different.” What finally made her realize this was her experience after the class decided to put on the play, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Grace, like a number of other girls, very much wanted to play Dorothy. They would gather daily on the playground to practice singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a successful rendition of which was seen as a sure ticket to being cast in the role. On the day of the play audition, Grace asked a friend if she thought Grace had a chance at the role. The friend responded, directly and with devastating simplicity, “of course not – Dorothy isn’t Chinese.”

Grace decided she wouldn’t be Chinese either. She refused to learn the language. She refused to participate in “Chinese” customs at home. At college at the Rhode Island School of Design she studied western art, and eventually studied art in Italy. Sitting in a café one day in Rome, an Italian acquaintance asked, “so you’re Chinese, right.” Grace quickly set the man straight – she was American. When her companion looked puzzled, she went on to explain that her parents were Chinese. This led to another puzzled look, and to a question Grace had no answer to, “so okay, they're Chinese but why did they immigrate to the U.S., and how did that change you?”

That question led Grace to discover a new sense of self. She could draw beautiful depictions of European art, but as she noted ruefully on the auditorium stage, “let’s be honest – look at my package.” She began to study Asian art and also began to think about a career as an illustrator.

Like most struggling young children’s illustrators the road to her first book was torturous, but eventually she published The Ugly Vegetables, based on her own experiences with her mother. Unlike her upstate New York neighbors, who grew flowers around their homes, Grace Lin’s mother grew nothing but vegetables, Chinese vegetables.

The book was a reasonable success, and her publisher asked if she had an idea for a second publication. She most certainly did – a book about how her sisters learned about science, with sidebars that clearly explained the piece of science the girls were struggling to master. The publishers had several suggestions, the most important being that books about science that featured girls didn’t sell well – she should make the lead character a boy; a Caucasian boy. Lin didn’t mind too much the advice about what sold and what didn’t, which is certainly something a publisher would know – but why a white boy?

The publisher was as brutally honest as Grace’s grade school friend. “Your first book was ‘multi-cultural.’ That’s fine, but if your second book is also classified as multi-cultural you will be pigeonholed as ‘merely’ a multi-cultural author.”

As it turned out, another, much larger publisher approached Lin about a book before she really began working on the science publication. Dim Sum for Everyone sold well, and true to her first publisher’s advice, “classified” Lin as a multi-cultural author.

Lin admittedly candidly that this classification caused a crisis in her own work. Was she a children’s author and illustrator, or an illustrator and author who worked with Chinese themes? Was she valued for her work, or for her ethnicity? For a period of time, she refused to do another “Chinese” book, instead publishing volumes using animal characters. What she found, however, is that when she went on book tours, what parents and children showed up with to have signed was not her animal books, but her multi-cultural publications.

Perhaps the turning point was a signing at which she was approached by an Asian-American couple who asked for her autograph and tearfully thanked her for writing books in which their children could see themselves and their lives. The children in Lin’s books looked like them. That moment brought back to Lin her K-12 experience; that Dorothy couldn’t be Chinese, and by implication Lin wasn’t like the other girls and had nothing to offer them.

Lin realized her unique contribution to children’s literature was not drawing animals, but embracing her ethnicity, and through that embrace, allowing children growing up as she did to understand that they too were not only part of the American experience, but had their own enviable characters who looked just like them that other children would want to be.

In her award winning, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Lin tells the story of ten-year old Minli, who saves her village with the help of a dragon she befriends. What ten-year old wouldn’t want to save their village with the help of a Chinese dragon? And any well-read ten-year old knows that while Dorothy has a lot going for her, what with being acquainted with a wizard, and a scarecrow, and a tin man, and a lion, there aren’t any dragons to befriend in either Kansas or Oz. For that story to be told, the school play needs to be set in China, and the lead character becomes Minli.

It was an evening of true learning for many of those in the audience, who saw the world through a very different lens.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

George Weeks: A Tribute

By Frank Boles

George Weeks, member of the Clarke Historical Library Board of Governors from 1993 to 2002, died Friday, November 30, in Traverse City. A walking authority on Michigan government and politics, Weeks began his career as a political reporter in 1954, covering state government for United Press International. He would eventually become UPI’s Lansing Bureau Chief. When William Milliken became governor Weeks first became Milliken’s press secretary, and later his chief of staff. At the end of the Milliken administration, Weeks resumed his career as a journalist, becoming a columnist for the Detroit News until he retired in 2006.
Both as a journalist and while working in the Milliken administration, Weeks had a reputation of being thorough, fair, and honest. He also loved Michigan history. Weeks is remembered for his book, Stewards of the State: The Governors of Michigan, which one source considered, “one of the all-time great resources in Michigan government and politics.”
Weeks, however, was responsible for a bit more gubernatorial history than that book. In the 1920s, the Michigan Historical Commission had published a four-volume set documenting the official messages of Michigan’s governors. The fiscal crisis that gripped Michigan and the nation led the Historical Commission to end the series, something George thoroughly regretted.
In the early 1990s, CMU’s President Leonard Plachta struck upon the idea of CMU renewing this series, and suggested that the Clarke Historical Library serve as the home for the project. George championed the idea. The result are volumes five through ten of the Messages of the Governors of Michigan. The first of these five volumes was published in 2003 and began with Governor-elect Fred Green’s 1926 victory speech. The final entry of volume ten, dated August 23, 2002, documented Governor John Engler’s remarks to the Republication Party’s State Convention.
George Weeks was a good man, a good historian, and, when he was in town for the Clarke Board meetings, he almost always had a few good stories to tell about the goings on in Lansing. I will miss him.
For a more complete obituary, please read the story about his death published in the Detroit News and posted at .

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"How long has it been since someone used that book?"

By Frank Boles

In late November National Public Radio aired a story regarding a children’s book about William the Conqueror, sold by a British bookstore after it had sat on the shelf for 27 years. Check out the article here. In the story author Sarah Todd Taylor is quoted as tweeting what she thought the book might be feeling: "The book held its breath. It had hoped so often, only to have that hope crushed. Hands lifted it from the shelf, wrapped it warmly in paper. As the door closed on its past life, the book heard the soft cheers of its shelf mates."
It is a charming story, and one that speaks clearly to those of us who live in “special collection land.” We seek out books not because they are guaranteed use through their appearance on the required reading list of a university course or a quick turnover because of being a New York Times bestseller, but because there is information in the book, information someone is going to be looking for one day. Some of the books we save are not very well written. A few of them are virtually unreadable. But even in those with confusing pages are located gems of history. Little nuggets that, in the right hands, are things of great value.
And like the book about William the Conqueror in that British bookstore, many of our books quietly sit on the shelf, waiting for that reader who needs what they possess. Public libraries rightly weed out books that just sit, assuming the space can be given to something the public is more interested in checking out. Special collection libraries take a perverse pride in those same books. They are unused, but not useless. Rather, they are simply waiting for the right person to walk into the reading room and say, I need to look at you. Waiting for that moment when their shelf mates can softly cheer the arrival of a soulmate who asks to see the book, knowing that they share something very important between them.
I sometimes wonder, as I walk through the stacks, if the books are quietly holding their collective breathe, wondering who I’m coming to look at this time. Being blessed with an identity card that swipes me into the stacks, I have occasionally just looked across the shelves, wondering what would happen if all the books the library houses suddenly started to tell their story. Steam engines would roll down the tracks. Mysteries would be played out. The voices of those long gone would be again heard. It would be a wonderful learning opportunity, although certainly a bit noisy.

'Tis the Season

By Frank Boles
As the end of the year approaches, many people who support not-for-profit organizations will receive more than your fair share of “holiday greetings,” with a gentle (or maybe not so gentle) request for an end of year gift. The first one I received arrived in today’s mail. The flood will follow.
There’s a good reason for this; 30 percent of all annual giving takes place in December. Willie Sutton allegedly told a reporter that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” This sensible, if in Sutton’s specific case illegal, approach to fundraising also applies to those of us who raise money for libraries. While we keep it legal, If 30 percent of all annual gifts are going to be given in December, we are going to be sending year–end invitations to donate, because that’s when the money is being given.
And yes, I’ve got my hand out too. The Clarke Historical Library plays an important part in documenting Michigan history, in documenting Central Michigan University, and in preserving the best in children’s literature. Through exhibits and speakers we sponsor, we play a vital role in the cultural life of campus, the community, and the state. We offer ways to learn that are very different from other campus activities. And like most special libraries, as times get tough and campus enrollments shrink, much of what we can do depends on the value others place in our mission and activities.
One example of how this works is the images of the Soo Locks found on our website.
In this fiscal year a bit more than 20 percent of the Clarke Library’s budget will come from non-university funding sources. The reality is without help we would be a significantly smaller, poorer, less capable shop. We would have less money to add key new items to the collection itself. We would have far less interesting and informative exhibits, many fewer speakers, and likely no longer be able to freely travel exhibits around the state. Things would change, and not for the better.
It would be grand to say that we have reached a happy turning point – that enrollment will increase (and with it tuition dollars), state support will soar and my years of begging on behalf of the library will come to an end. And we may have reached a turning point, but not a very happy one. With a rapid decline in the number of students graduating from high schools in Michigan, CMU enrollment is not likely to increase. And the chance of the state funding the resulting financial shortfall created by declining enrollment is not good.
If the Clarke Library is to remain active and vital, it is going to need outside help – help you give. It is the end of the year, and likely you will be thinking about supporting things you believe are important.  As you weigh the many options you will have, I hope you will remember what the Clarke Library does, how important that is, and go beyond appreciating what we do to partnering with us, through a financial gift.
Believe me when I say, we could use the money – and would spend it wisely.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The 100th Anniversary of the End of World War I

by Bryan Whitledge

Sunday, November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in the First World War. Long-simmering tensions across Europe exploded into official declarations of war after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. Approximately 20 million people - military and civilian - died as a result of the war and nearly 24 million service members were wounded because the conflict. The impact of war stretched far beyond the battlefields of Gallipoli, Verdun, or Flanders. Thousands of young men from Michigan enlisted and made their way overseas.

In an era before satellite phones and internet video calls kept members of the service in contact with their loved ones, hand-written letters were the way those on the front sent and received news to and from home. Some of these letters have been preserved over the past 100 years. They give us a glimpse of what life was like during the Great War.

Letter from R. Wiltenburg
Private Lake sent a letter to a friend in Brooklyn, NY dated November 1, 1918 that shows how much caution men on the front took with daily activities. He mentions his desire for leave time away from the front to a place with “electric lights” that can be used at night time. This was different from his experience at the front, where, “if you light a match at night here, you will hear something singing in the air (and it is funny music).”

Another letter comes from Rudolph Wiltenburg of rural Ottawa County, Michigan, who wrote to his brother in December of 1918, after the fighting had ended but before all of the troops returned back to US soil. He wrote about the rumors that he would be returning soon and his plans after he was done in the Army: “Sometimes I think of going back to farming, and if the opportunity looks good, perhaps will. […] We may have a chance to get a little farm close [to] home and, as we talked [about], work it together.”

Plans for the future are common themes in letters from Doughboys. Dreaming of the future didn’t necessarily mean after the War was over and everyone returned home. Some of the dreams are like those of Alex Bayne of Grand Rapids, who sent a letter to his father in July of 1917. Bayne was recuperating from an injury, but that did not lessen his ambition to join an aviation unit. He wrote to his father, “I feel very lucky and also greatly indebted to Coty for making me acquainted with most of the men in his escadrille. […] They are the nicest bunch I’ve ever met and I’m certainly going to try and make good in school.”

During the War, the speed of letters crossing the Atlantic was quite slow and news was infrequent. Many servicemen note this in their correspondence. Alex Bayne closes the letter to his father in July 1917, “Don’t be worried if you don’t hear from me real often – the boats are uncertain and no news is always good news.” Private Lake, writing to his friend on November 1, notes, “I just received your letter dated September 11.”

Letter from F. Sigourney
It wasn’t just mail that crossed the Atlantic slowly. Fred Sigourney of Gratiot County, Michigan wrote a letter to his family chronicling his journey from New York to the front. He was aboard a ship for two weeks to reach French soil. Once on dry land, Sigourney traveled by rail and by foot through different parts of France for three months in preparation for combat. Only then did Sigourney’s unit start their march to the front. They arrived at the front on November 4, 1918, just one week before the armistice ending the fighting was signed. As Sigourney notes, the Armistice was a big deal for everyone – military and civilian alike: “We got news that the Armistice was signed and they rang the church bells enough to break them. Miss Margaret Wilson gave an entertainment in the opera house that night.”

100 years after Fred Sigourney witnessed the bells of the church in Domgermain, France break, we take a moment to reflect on the legacy of the Great War and the lives of all who were affected by it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Tragedy and Crystal Lake

By Frank Boles

On October 17, Stacy Leroy Daniels spoke on the history of Michigan’s Crystal Lake.  Located in Benzie County, Crystal Lake is one of the largest inland lakes in the state. It was considerably larger before Archibald Jones began an ill-fated canal project.

In 1873 various individuals interested in expanding commerce at Frankfort conceived of a canal between Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake. The canal would open up much of the interior to Frankfort, an idea designed to boom both farming and lumbering.
To accomplish this, Archibald Jones, who had arrived in the area a year earlier, began to sell shares in the Benzie County River Improvement Company.  The plan was straightforward – lower the lake level about four feet, and use that water to raise the depth of the Betsy River. With the addition of a few locks, this would create an easily navigated channel between Frankfort and Crystal Lake.
Survey work was begun, and soon construction started on an approximately eight mile long canal. By August the channel had been dug. What exactly transpired next is a bit unclear. Some accounts have Jones removing the “temporary” dam at Crystal Lake to let the water from the lake flow downstream and wash away much of the remaining dirt in the proposed canal route. Although stories in which Jones “pulls the plug” makes for a good tale, a more likely explanation for what happened is that violent storms washed out the temporary dam, freeing the water from the lake to flow downstream.
Whichever account is true, on Saturday, August 23, 1873 the dam broke, and within a short time the roar made by the water could be heard five miles away. When the roar finally ended, approximately one-quarter of the water in the lake had flowed into Lake Michigan. The water level in Crystal Lake had dropped eighteen to twenty feet, from about 615 feet above sea level to about 595 feet above sea level.

“Shorn of her glory” and “desolate looking” was how some contemporary observers described the lake a few weeks after the dam broke.  Perhaps all might have been forgiven had the canal really worked, but it soon became clear that a boat of any size still could not move up the Betsy River from Frankfort to Crystal Lake.
Unsurprisingly, at the time there was a good deal of finger pointing. In the long run, however, “pulling the plug” created lasting economic benefits that went far beyond moving lumber and agricultural products from the inland areas to Frankfort. Prior to 1873 Crystal Lake had almost no beach.  But by September 1873 almost 21 miles of very desirable beach had been exposed. Eventually a control dam was built and a good deal of legal proceedings resolved who owned all that newly available beach. Today, Crystal Lake is maintained at a level of approximately 600 feet above sea level in the summer, and about a foot lower in the winter. The beach front property is valued at approximately $660 million.
Archibald Jones, however did not to enjoy any of this long-term windfall.  Once it was clear that the Betsy River remained unnavigable, he moved to Illinois and later to Kansas. It was quite a story, one those present enjoyed.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The French in 19th Century Michigan

The French in 19th Century Michigan
By Frank Boles

On October 2nd, CMU Professor Amy Ransom gave an interesting presentation discussing the ongoing presence and influence of the French in 19th century Michigan. Professor Ransom, who has a particular interest in Quebec, used the lecture to talk about the long history of French-speaking people in our state.
Michigan was originally part of New France. And although the British took political control of Canada in 1763, the Europeans who lived along St. Lawrence River valley and near the Great Lakes remained a French-speaking community largely populated by the descendants of French settlers or Metis, people of mixed French and Indian descent. Similarly when the English ceded Michigan to the newly formed United States, the residents of Michigan, located in Detroit, Monroe, Mackinac Island, and Sault Ste Marie, remained a French speaking group of communities, whose political establishment consisted of a dusting of English speaking officials.

Map of Michigan in French from
France at Mackinac; a pictorial record of French Life and Culture 1715-1760 by Eugene T. Paterson 

One of the most interesting points about these French communities during their formative years was the determined independence of the residents. French “habitants” were clear in their own mind that they were not “peasants” under the thumb of some nobleman, but rather free residents of the land, who controlled their own fate. As such they were quite capable of standing their ground against French authorities, and later against British or American political leaders who crossed well established boundaries.

A depiction of Cadillac's Landing at Detroit from
Lingering Shadows of the Fleur De Lis by
Edith Watkins Worley Ash
Professor Ransom also noted that while the great wave of “Yankee” immigration which began to arrive in Michigan during and after the 1820s did much to dilute French influence, it was mixed with  a smaller wave of Quebecois immigrants, who left French speaking, and British governed, Quebec to seek their fortunes in Michigan. The quick ferry ride between cities like Detroit and Windsor made crossing the border between British governed “Upper Canada”, today’s Ontario, and the United States a simple matter. More to the point, no one would ask questions of a French speaking person boarding a ferry in Canada and getting off it in the United States. And a habitant would not be bothered much about something so superfluous as an international boundary drawn on a map he or she had not been consulted about.

From Cadillac's Village: Detroit under
the French Regime by the Detroit Historical Museum
As Professor Ransom easily demonstrated, there remains a longstanding French presence today, seen most notably in a host of generally town and street names. Although contemporary pronunciation of the words would make a true French speaking person shed tears of sorrow regarding what we have done to the language.
It was an interesting talk.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Tocqueville Exhibit Opens

By Frank Boles

On October 9, the Clarke Library opened its newest exhibit, Tocqueville’s Two Weeks in the Wilderness. The library’s reference librarian, and resident scholar of early nineteenth century Michigan, John Fierst, curated the exhibit and spoke at the presentation that accompanied the opening. If you’d like to hear the presentation please use this link:

Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831 trip to the United States resulted in one of the most quoted books describing governance in the young Republic. Democracy in America, published in 1835, was a liberal, French nobleman’s take on the great experiment in self-rule beginning in North America. Tocqueville believed democracy inevitable and overall he found the way it was growing in the United States to be successful.

The Clarke’s exhibit, however, does not focus on Tocqueville’s famous book, but rather a portion of the trip often overlooked – a visit to Saginaw, Michigan. Tocqueville and his friend and traveling companion, Gustave de Beaumont, came to America not just to learn about how democracy worked here. But they also wanted to see two things that Europe lacked: virgin forest and Native Americans. It was for these reasons Tocqueville Beaumont made the spontaneous decision to come to Michigan Territory. The forests of New York State were simply too well groomed by the settler’s axe. The Native Americans they met in the East were not the proud, independent warriors they imagined, and who in retrospect looked suspiciously like an idealized view of their own sense of what the French nobility should be.

What resulted, a long essay by Tocqueville entitled Two Weeks in the Wilderness, is in turns comic, inspiring and tragic. Tocqueville could certainly see the humor in America, and in how he sometimes had to deal with Americans and their idiosyncrasies. As they approached Todd’s Tavern, near Flint, Tocqueville was startled to see a large black bear standing in his path. He could not but wonder, “what the devil kind of country is this, where they use bears as watchdogs?”

Tocqueville also spoke with considerable unhappiness about “Yankee” settlers inability to understand his desire to see nature unblemished by civilization and their consistent disparaging comments about Native Americans. The settlers then pouring into Michigan found equally puzzling why someone would just want to go out and look at uncut trees or talk to Indians.

To find his wilderness, Tocqueville resorted to subterfuge. He visited the federal land office in Detroit early one morning and asked the typical question of where a man might profitably invest money in land. He was told that the land near Lake Michigan was particularly promising, and thus quickly removed that destination from his travel plans. He then casually asked if there were any places he would be wise to avoid. Saginaw, came back the quick reply; a place full of uncut forest, hostile Indians, and mosquitoes.

Overjoyed by discovering a location Americans found wretched, he and Beaumont hurried away to plan their trip. By 11:00 that morning they had rented horses, purchased supplies and were on their way. Saginaw proved everything they hoped for, and of which the land office supervisor thought so little. 

Of the forest Tocqueville would write of how he experienced “the sweetest and most natural emotions of the heart,” emotions he said words could not convey. Being in the forest near Saginaw was one of “those rare moments when the universe stands in perfect equilibrium before your eyes. When the soul, half asleep, hovers between present and future, between the real and the possible. When surrounded by natural beauty and quite warmth, man , at peace with himself amid universal peace, can hear the beat of his own heart, each pulse marking the passage of time as it flows drop by drop into the eternal river.”

Tocqueville was equally aware of the fragility of the environment he found so inspirational. “This savage natural grandeur is about to meet its end, and the idea of it mingles in the mind with the superb images to which the triumphant march of civilization gives rise. One feels proud to be human, yet at the same time one somehow feels bitter regret that God had granted man so much power over nature.”  He knew it would soon all be changed by ‘the impetus that drives the white race to conquer the whole of the New World.”

Tocqueville was less successful in meeting his idealized Native. Part of the problem was simply that he could not speak Ojibway. For example, along the trail he meets, an Indian, who did not speak English.  Tocqueville’s initial reaction was to fear the man, but although they could only communicate with signs, soon enough the mood changed. Of the experience Tocqueville wrote, “A serious Indian and a smiling Indian are two completely different people. A savage majesty predominates in the stillness of the former to which one reacts with an involuntary feeling of terror. Let the same man smile and his whole face takes on a simple, kindly expression that lends it real charm.”
Having hired two Native Americans to guide them on the final part of their journey to Saginaw, Tocqueville wrote, “We felt completely in their power. Here the tables were turned. Plunged into darkness and forced to rely on his own strength, the civilized man proceed blindly, incapable of negotiating the labyrinth or even preserving his own life. Faced with the same challenges, the savage triumphs. For him the forest holds no mysteries. He is at home. He walks with his head held high, guided by an instinct more trustworthy than the navigator’s compass….  As they led us by the hand, like children, their smiles seemed almost contemptuous.”
Tocqueville eventually reached Saginaw. He decided it was worth the trouble of getting there, and we hope you will take the time to join us and view the exhibit, Tocqueville’s Two Weeks in the Wilderness. We hope you will also enjoy the companion publication, Aristocracy on the Saginaw Trail: Alexis de Tocqueville In Michigan, written by John Fierst and available without charge in paper in the Clarke’s exhibit galleries or online at 
Our thanks go to Judge Avern Cohn, whose financial support made possible the catalog and maps found in the exhibit.
And for the record, Tocqueville and Beaumont not only found forests and Natives in Saginaw, they also found mosquitoes. 
“This little bug is the scourge of the American wilderness. Its presence would be enough to make a long stay unbearable. I have never been subjected to torture equivalent to what I experienced throughout this journey and especially during our stay in Saginaw. During the day the mosquitoes prevented us from drawing, writing, or remaining in one place for even a moment; at night thousands of them hovered about us. Any part of the body left uncovered immediately became their gathering place. Awakened by the pain of a bite, we would cover our heads with sheets, but they could pierce right through them. Hunted down and pursued by these small insects, we got up and went outside for some fresh air until at last we succumbed to fatigue and slept intermittently and badly.”
Tocqueville’s “triumphant march of civilization” in which he took such pride, seems to have met its match in tiny insects. Then again, we would be wise to remember that the twenty-first century has yet to figure out how to keep “the scourge of the American wilderness” from ruining a camping trip.

Friday, September 21, 2018

CMU Alumni Awards

by Bryan Whitledge

What happens when thousands of outstanding students earn degrees from Central Michigan University? They become outstanding alumni. And a few of the thousands of former Chips putting their stamp on the world will be honored on September 21, 2018 at CMU’s annual Alumni Awards event. This year’s honorees include René and Stan Shingles, Isaiah Oliver (2007), Sarah Opperman (1981), Bob Schellhas (1988), and Mackenzie Flynn (2018).

Each year, the Alumni Awards banquet is among the biggest events the CMU Alumni Association produces. But how did this long-standing autumn tradition come about? As with many things at CMU, it goes back decades.

The first Central graduate to be honored as a member of the alumni was Clara Moyer, who, in 1963, turned 100 years old and was honored by the University as the “oldest alumnus.”

Clara Moyer and her dog with
a guest and a copy of CM Life

Four or so years later, CMU created a plan to honor 75 people during the 1967-68 school year. These alumni, as well as other individuals who made significant contributions to the University, would receive one of the 75th Anniversary Awards. Included in the list of recipients are notable alumni such as Dick Enberg - a sports announcer and journalist, Alice Miel - a longtime Columbia University professor and chair of their Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Lem Tucker - award winning journalist, Bob Griffin - a US Senator and member of the House of Representatives, and Mamie Baird - a teacher and social worker in Cotazar, Mexico for over 30 years after graduating with a BS from Central in 1935.

Even though the 75th Anniversary Awards were a success, honoring alums wasn’t quite an annual tradition at that point. But the seed was planted. Just five years later, in October 1973, CMU presented Clarence Tuma with the first “Alumni Recognition Award” and Malcolm Kienzle with the first “Honorary Alumnus Award.” Four years after that, CM Life profiled one specific inductee into the “Golden ‘C’ Club,” as they called it, Ruth Mavis Williams (1927). While you may not know the name, you know the legacy she left Central 90 years ago – the lyrics to the alma mater!

Since 1973, every fall, CMU has handed out a variety of awards to alumni. Today’s awards include the Honorary Alumni Award, which was handed out first in 1973, as well as the Alumni Service Recognition Award, the Dick Enberg Alumni Commitment Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Future Alumni Leader Award.

Congrats to all of this year’s winners and congrats to the Alumni Association, for 45 years of recognizing outstanding Chips who have put their stamp on the world.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Unintended Consequences

By Frank Boles

Historical documentation is often an afterthought. People “in the moment” are usually not thinking about history or historical documentation – they are thinking about and recording things they need or learning about things they want to know. One of the primary examples of this phenomena is local newspapers. No one publishes or buys a local newspaper for historical reasons, but one of the Clarke Historical Library’s premier projects has been to preserve and distribute historical copies of Michigan’s local newspapers, which almost always serve as the most complete record of community history.

How fully local history is recorded in daily papers is the result of a wide variety of things; things no one would often connect to local history. The amount of local history found in newspapers is often an unintended consequence.

One example of this situation is the often proclaimed death of the newspaper as we have known it. I have read many a story proclaiming the end of printed newspapers. Others who read those same articles told me that if the trend continued the Clarke would soon be out of the “historical newspaper business.”
What we have seen, instead, is that many newspapers have remain financially successful, and that the vast majority of those financially successful papers have adopted a laser focus on local news. Although they can’t compete with CNN to report the latest events in Washington, they can make money covering local government, local schools, and local sports, things CNN never talks about.  

Although newspapers adopted a local-news focused business model as a way to survive financially, we at the Clarke quietly smiled at the unintended historical consequences of the change. Local papers with rich local coverage become a rich local historical resource. From our point of view, the often advertised “death” of the newspaper has resulted in a renaissance of local reporting in newspapers and a resurgence of material for local history. Times have been good for those of us in the historical newspaper business!

Workmen positioning newsprint
rolls in a warehouse.
But unintended benefits bestowed by one set of circumstances can be taken away by another. One ingredient of the plethora of local news appearing in today’s newspapers is cheap newsprint. Newsprint, however, has become a casualty in the growing trade war between the United States and Canada.

In the United States today there are only five paper mills which still make newsprint. The last newsprint manufacturer in Michigan, Manistique Paper, closed in 2011. American capacity to produce newsprint has atrophied because most American paper mills now produce other, more profitable paper products, particularly cardboard. Online purchasing has been very profitable not only for Amazon, but for the people making the cardboard and the boxes in which those purchases are shipped.

This migration of American paper mills away from newsprint production resulted in unmet demand that was answered by increased Canadian production and sales of newsprint in the U.S. Today about 60 percent of U.S. newsprint needs are met by Canadian paper mills. Given our state’s geographic nearness to Canada and easy access to Canadian markets over three international bridges, Michigan newspapers have usually turned to Canadian sources of newsprint. New tariffs on imported Canadian newsprint have significant financial implications for Michigan newspapers.

By way of example, Stafford Printing and Publishing, located in Greenville, which publishes a number of local newspapers, including the Grand Haven Tribune, the Lansing Pulse, the Ann Arbor Observer, two Spanish language newspapers (one distributed in Detroit and the other in Grand Rapids) and a newspaper for the Amish community, has seen newsprint prices soar. Stafford’s newsprint costs have increased about 30 percent; by about $2,400 for each truckload of paper they purchase. They purchase about ten loads a month. The papers they print, to which these costs are passed along, are cutting page count and taking any other steps they can think of to reduce the amount of paper they use.

A cartoon about the Tariff of 1842.

The unintended consequence of tariffs imposed on Canadian newsprint is less local news now, and less information for future local historians.  Unintended consequences are everywhere – even in things so seemingly different as a trade war between the U.S. and Canada and documenting Michigan local history.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Douglass Houghton's Impact on Michigan History

By Sam Tibebe

Douglass Houghton painting from A History of Michigan in Paintings by Robert A. Thomas. Courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library.

Growing up with a history professor as your father you learn to love and hate history, although it remained highly valuable, even today. Consequently, I ran far away from history only to study the history of the Earth, through geology. Webster’s Dictionary defines geology as “a science that deals with the history of the earth and its life especially as recorded in rocks.” The history of mankind pales in comparison to the history of the earth, which is over billions of years old. Earth’s history is recorded in rock records whereas mankind records history in written words. Although rock records do not reveal everything about their past, they are absolute and precise with the information they do provide. For example, one of the first things a geologist will look for in an outcrop is the rock's texture, ranging from grain size to types of minerals seen by hand. These textures are the written history of rocks, allowing geologists to make interpretations and assumptions about the environment’s deposition. While working as a student assistant at Clarke, I was asked to look up content about Douglass Houghton for a social media post. I jumped at the opportunity to combine geology and history together.

Douglass Houghton's Field Notebooks, c. 1838. Handwritten notes on Mackinaw and the Upper Peninsula. Courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library.

I have had the fortune of taking several field trips during my academic career at Central Michigan University, as the first time I heard of Douglass Houghton was during a trip up Quincy Mine in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Douglass Houghton was the definition of a renaissance man who was geologist, physician, mayor, philanthropist, Professor, and even was a U.S. Indian Agent (U.S. government official authorized to interact with Native Americans).

1st Edition Survey Map of Marquette Township by Douglass Houghton, c. 1838.
Courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library.

From the Detroit Historical Society site, in The Encyclopedia of Detroit, Houghton was born in September 21, 1809 in Troy, New York to a Lawyer/ Magistrate father who demand academic excellence from his sons and daughters. He then attended and graduated from Rensselaer School of Science, premier school at the time and still open in Troy, New York, with a degree of geology in 1830 and medicine in 1831. It was safe to say that Houghton was a child genius which made him a great mentee for The Rensselaer co-founder Amos Eaton, a renowned geologist himself. When a the territorial governor of Michigan asked Eaton to give a lecture, he deferred to his protégée Houghton, who quickly became the talk of the town. This led Houghton to form the Detroit Young Men’s Society.

Houghton became the first Michigan State Geologist when Michigan became a state in 1837. In this  role, he began the Township Survey Maps Project, which set the modern day county boundaries. It was during this time it made the greatest contribution to Michigan and the U.S. as a whole, with the exploitation and discovery of mineral deposits contributing to an economic and immigration surge. According to Mining History Association, this lead to the largest copper mining operation in the U.S. history, and led to the creation of many mining companies like Quincy, Tamarack, and Calumet and Hecla. Quincy Mine is now a popular tourist attraction and one of the few that actually take tourists underground.

Houghton was supported by many, which resulted in him being elected as Mayor while he was on one of his expeditions. Houghton was also a professor at the University of Michigan, and might have been governor of the state in the 1845. Unfortunately, Douglass Houghton died at the young age of 36 years old in 1845. Houghton’s dedication to this work lead him to misjudge a storm and to sail off in Lake Superior leading to this death. In homage to his legacy, there is a county and city, as well as statues, schools, and even a hall at the University of Michigan named after him. Mining in the Upper Peninsula has decreased, but as new and more efficient technology is being developed we are seeing a new surge in the area with the formation of new mines like Eagle Mine.

Biographic Sketch of Douglass Houghton - Michigan's First State Geologist, 1837-1845 by Wallin, Helen McCarthy. Courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library.

The Clarke Historical Library collection on Douglass Houghton is quite impressive not just in terms of geology, but also Michigan’s history. The first edition, personally written by Houghton, surveys maps of townships including Lapeer, Livingston, Marquette, Saginaw, Houghton, Oakland, Shiawassee, Tuscola, and Wayne. Other first edition paper, letters, field note, account ledgers, and even biographical sketches all written by Houghton but also material about him and his life from memoir to bibliography like Michigan’s Columbus: The life of Douglass Houghton by Steve Lehto. All of these and more can be found at the Clarke Historical Library, come check it out Here.