Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Immigration in Another Era

By Frank Boles

Today’s heated political discussion over immigration, with its often strident rhetoric about immigrants, was not always a part of America’s political discourse. Before the Civil War and continuing during Reconstruction, the state of Michigan not only welcomed immigrants, it paid people to recruit settlers to migrate from Europe to the United States. A product of this work, Der Staat Michigan, published in 1859, was recently obtained by the Clarke Historical Library staff from a book dealer in Austria.

Der Staat Michigan, 1859, front & back Cover

Germans had been early settlers in the state. German immigrants founded a colony near Ann Arbor in the 1830s. In 1845, a second large group of German immigrants began to settle in along the Cass River, in an area that would become Frankenmuth. Between 1845 and the beginning of the Civil War, Germans immigrants came to Michigan in increasing numbers. Part of this immigration resulted from forces that pushed people out of their homeland. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, significant crop failures plagued many German farmers. The failure of the liberal revolt of 1848 also meant a large number of politically active Germans had good reason to fear retaliation from the government officials they had tried to unseat, and thus, they found it expedient to place a great deal of distance between themselves and those who remained in political power.

But “push” was not the only reason Germans came to Michigan. The state government of Michigan also actively “pulled” German immigrants. In the 1840s, many of the state’s political leaders had come to have high regard for Germans. These immigrants had demonstrated devout religious belief and economic energy, both of which struck resonant chords with the political leadership of the day. In addition, German immigrants were often either educated already or very much interested in establishing educational institutions for their children.

Der Staat Michigan, 1859. Map of Michigan with information on Ingham, Eaton,
Ionia, Montcalm, and Kent Counties. 

To obtain more of what Michigan’s legislators saw as an ideal foreign settler, they passed a law in 1845 to fund a “foreign emigration agent” in New York City to “encourage immigration into the state and travel on our public railroads.” Governor John Barry appointed John Almy to the position. Almy quickly wrote a six-page pamphlet in German extolling the state’s virtues. State government paid for five thousand copies of the pamphlet and it distributed not only in New York City but also to emigration societies and U.S. government consul offices overseas.

In 1850, Michigan’s governor, John S. Barry, let a bill continuing this outreach to German immigrants die on his desk. Barry was reported to believe that the state was now so well known to potential immigrants that further publicly-funded efforts to attract them to Michigan were unnecessary. Others disagreed with that assessment. In 1859, the legislature established the position of Commissioner of Emigration. Two well- known members of Detroit’s German community were appointed to the post – one working out of Detroit while the other was in New York City.

One of the two men, Rudolph Diepenbeck, was the former editor of a German-language newspaper. In 1859, he wrote in German and had published Der Staat Michigan, a 48-page pamphlet, which he used as a tool to recruit more Germans to come to Michigan.

By 1860, there were 38,787 German immigrants in Michigan, about five percent of the state’s total population of 749,113.

Michigan’s political leaders’ interest in German immigrants only increased after the Civil War. In 1869, the legislature sent the Michigan Commissioner of Emigration to Germany, where he set up an office in Hamburg. There the commissioner regularly published an eight-page “magazine” extolling the state to anyone willing to read it. Although the office in Hamburg was closed in 1874, the office of Commissioner on Emigration continued until 1885. The person who held that office continued to print publications in German, and later Dutch.

While the exact number of German immigrants will never be known, C. Warren Vander Hill’s Settling of the Great Lakes Frontier: Immigrant to Michigan, 1837-1924, offers a best guess that in 1920, of the state’s 3,723,000 residents, 670,000, or around eighteen percent of the population, were either German immigrants or their descendants.

Der Staat Michigan is an important historical publication that documents this long effort by the state to recruit foreign immigrants. The copy in the Clarke is particularly important in that only three other copies of this publication are known to exist. Two are found in German libraries while the third is preserved in Boston. It’s impossible to say when a copy of the pamphlet was last seen in Michigan, but we are very pleased to bring a research copy of Der Staat Michigan back to the state from which it came.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

STEM, the Clarke, and a Bit of Cultural History

by Frank Boles 

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education has been a buzz phrase in education for at least a quarter century. Anchored in a concern that America’s edge in technological innovation was in danger of being lost because of a lack of technologically competent individuals, STEM seeks to reinvigorate teaching and learning about these four interrelated disciplinary fields at all levels of American education.

STEM advocates usually had little to say about the liberal arts, and those involved in teaching the liberal arts usually had little to say about STEM, except to more than occasionally lament why they couldn’t get some of the money being given to evolving STEM programs. Without entering into what has at times devolved into a bitter debate, in one important way STEM fundamentally depends on the arts – pedagogy.

For all the emphasis on involving students in STEM programs, there can be no question that unless the STEM disciplines are taught in a way that interest students and successfully educate them, the entire enterprise is for naught.

To accomplish this, the highest likelihood of success is to be achieved by thinking about how these subjects have been taught in the past, and how that body of historical information, a catalog of what worked, and what didn’t work, can inform and improve teaching in the present and future.

The opportunity to better understand this learning process is made possible by an extraordinary gift of over 250 mathematics textbooks by Dr. Robert G. Clason to the Clarke Historical Library’s textbook collection. Dr. Clason taught mathematics at CMU for over 30 years. In addition to teaching his own course, he became interested in how the subject was taught in the past, and began to assemble a collection of arithmetic textbooks printed from the eighteenth through the twentieth century.

First Lessons in Numbers in their Natural Order,
by John H. French, 1874.
A sampling of Dr. Clason’s collection gives a flavor of what is to be found. Many of the books are, of course, designed to introduce young children to the subject. John H. French’s First lessons in Numbers In their Natural Order, published in 1874 by Harper & Brothers, is typical of a genre of textbooks for children that poured out of publishing houses in the 19th century. Often published as a series, virtually all of them claimed, like French’s First Lessons, to be “unlike other works for the same grade of learners,” a claim begging to be examined today both in terms of its authenticity and, if true, in terms of which teaching method worked best.

Standard Service Arithmetics: Grade Five,
by Scott, Foresman, and Company, 1927.

Grade school books became a highly profitable, and often quite standardized product. Scott, Foresman, and Company’s 1927 Standard Service Arithmetics: Grade 5 seems a nice example of the development of grade school books in the first few decades of the twentieth century. The volume was part of the company’s “standard mathematical service,” edited by George Myers.

Other books in the collection show how teachers were taught to teach the subject. The growth of “normal schools” in the late nineteenth century, institutions of learning designed to educate teachers (of which Central Michigan was originally one), spawned a new market for more advanced books. The Normal Mental Arithmetic by Edward Brooks, published in 1869, was an early example of book designed to sell to this market, while An Arithmetic for High Schools and Normal Schools, published in 1902, moved into an already established market.
The Normal Mental Arithmetic,
by Edward Brooks, 1869. 

Books were also written to meet the needs of special communities. How to Become Quick at Figures; Comprising the Shortest, Quickest, and Best Methods of Business Calculations, tells the potential buyer everything one needs to know about the contents of the book.

Although the principal use of the collection is to discover how arithmetic has been taught over time, sometimes the books offer social insights that go well beyond that subject.

For example, Charles Davies Primary Arithmetic, published originally in 1855 and republished in 1883, included a bit of mathematical history. Lesson IV
noted that “the ten figures of Arithmetic were first used in Arabia.” The next sentence is both stereotypical and a historical, “The Arabs are a wandering people, live in tents, [and] have fine horses and camels.” Nevertheless, a child might wonder how these wandering people in their tents came upon the concept of Arabic numbers?

An Arithmetic for High Schools and Normal
by Benj. Sanborn & Co., 1902.
That question was silently reinforced by Lesson V, printed on the adjoining page. It shows a “Roman father teaching his son to count” using Roman numerals. Seated in his chair with many scrolls at his side, the Roman father is the proverbial picture of an education rooted in a European cultural tradition harkening back millennia. Despite the weight of the imagery, the seven letters he is teaching to his son as a means of counting is not what Davies will be teaching, and Arabia, not Rome is, as lesson 4 notes, “the country from which we got our ten figures.”

Primary Arithmetic,
by Charles Davies, 1855. 
In an age when “scientific racism” was widely taught and believed, to inform children that something as fundamental as the way Europeans counted was rooted in a non-European culture was a subversive act. It could lead to more questions about what other ideas Europeans had learned from people who “live in tents [and] have fine horses and camels.” In a world where Europeans had declared themselves the biological and intellectual summit of natural evolution, such questions were not ones asked lightly.

Dr. Clason’s gift opens up both social questions and questions that apply directly to the success of today’s STEM programs. We are extraordinarily thankful to him for this gift.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The History of Faygo Pop

by Frank Boles

On Wednesday, June 12, Joe Grimm spoke in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium in the Park Library and shared his entertaining history of Faygo, published in his work, The Faygo Book (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2018). The company has been making soda pop, or as Detroiter’s simply call it, “pop”, since 1907. Perry Feigenson had arrived in Detroit two years earlier and opened a bakery. Business was okay, but Perry, who had been a baker since 1900, had come to an unhappy conclusion - the hours were terrible.

Looking for a new business with better hours, he persuaded his brother Ben to join him in Detroit. Ben had worked in a Cleveland soda pop firm, a brother-in-law of the owner. Knowing this, Perry planned to go into the pop business. Unfortunately, after Ben arrived in Detroit, Perry learned his brother knew how to bottle pop, but Ben’s brother-in-law had never shared the flavor formulas. Perry was unconcerned, assuming that it would be simple to adopt the frosting recipes he used as a baker to the purpose.

Oddly enough, this notion worked. Why it worked is anybody’s guess. Harry Lipsky was hired in 1958 as the company chemist. He simply didn’t believe that you could use frosting recipes to flavor pop. Co-founder Perry, who lived until 1964 finally decided one day he was getting too old to personally flavor the pop, and pulled the young chemist aside to demonstrate how to brew Rock & Rye, one of the firm’s signature flavors. After adding a few cups of this and several dashes of that, the old man waved a towel over the final mixture, while speaking an incantation.

Lipsky rolled his eyes at this performance but took careful notes about everything else. After several months work, he scientifically recreated the formula, without the mumbo-jumbo. What resulted looked the same and smelled the same, but it didn’t taste right. He tried again, with the same result. Finally, Lipsky reproduced the entire process as he had been shown it, complete with towel and incantation, and to his amazement the flavor was correct. Lipsky claimed that after that trial, he just gave up the science and made Rock & Rye the old man’s way. Although lacking evidence, Grimm likes to believe someone is still waving a towel and invoking the secret words over every fresh batch of the flavor.

Whether their flavors came about by magic or skill, there was always a lot of them. The Feigenson brothers’ business strategy was to market a wide variety of flavors. Unlike companies like Coke or Dr. Pepper, which put all their effort into a single flavor, Faygo marketed a “rainbow of flavors.” Over the years, the company has marketed over one hundred flavors, some becoming perennial favorites, some selling well for a time but then being retired as sales lagged, and few notable flops. The company even tried to market substitute adult beverages (minus the alcohol) such as Chateaux Faygeaux, and Faygo Brau, which Faygo claimed was only to be sold to those under 21, it lasted five months.

When Perry and Ben opened the Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works in 1907, they faced many problems; one of the more intractable ones was the length of their name. The glass bottles were small, holding only about 7 ounces of beverage. Printing “Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works” on each bottle resulted in some pretty small type. They struggled with a solution for years. Finally, in 1920, they found it. Their pop was renamed, “Faygo,” a nice, short, five letter logo.

Faygo also became memorable for its advertising. Television seemed like a golden opportunity for sales, and as Grimm noted, “no pun was too low, to sell Faygo.” Perhaps the best know commercial appeared in 1956 when the Faygo Kid rode onto the black and white television screen to save the day. When Black Bart held up the “Wells-Faygo Express,” he assured the distraught woman in the coach that all he wanted was the Faygo root beer. The Faygo Kid returned the stolen drink, and when the question is asked, “which way did he go?” Black Bart’s horse delivered the commercial’s tag line, “he went for Faygo!”

In another commercial, Herkimer Bottleneck, whose job was to blow bottles in a pop factory, becomes “too pooped to participate.” His unhappy foreman announces Herkimer will “blow or go," and gives him a bottle of Faygo Uptown. In no time at all, Herkimer is back on the job. Both commercials were made by one of the best animation firms of the day, the same firm which made cartoon classics such as the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo.

Jim Henson, who would later invent the Muppets, also created Faygo ads. In ten commercials, each a mere eight seconds long and planned to be used in station identification slots, a Kermit-like Muppet named Wilkins tried to get a grumpy Wontkins to drink some Faygo. Wontkins always says no, and invariably something awful happens to him. The goal was to eschew the hard sell for a laugh, and hopefully, get across the implied moral: never say no to Faygo!

Faygo also employed local celebrities in ads. Detroit Lion’s football player Alex Karras became a regular. Karras was a mountain of a man, who after retiring from football, got even bigger. In one commercial, he is seated in front of a table, facing an enormous pizza and a can of pop. The announcer asks, “Hey um Alex? I thought you were on a diet?” To which Karras replies, "I am on a diet, See? Faygo sugar-free Red Pop. Boy, nobody makes a diet pop as good as Faygo." The announcer takes his point but says, "Yeah, but Alex, what about the pizza." Karras pauses, and then deadpans, "Faygo doesn't make pizza."

Faygo also tried to market is adult-aimed beverages through creative advertising, When Frosh first appeared, an actor doing an impression of WC Fields intoned, "Frosh is made for grown-ups. Yes, indeed. … Any soft drink that's not made for small children can't be all bad." To get the commercial right, Faygo's advertising firm went through 140 potential Fields imitators. When they found the right one, Bill Oberlin, they discovered he couldn't read lines. It took nine hours of taping to get five minutes of commercials. But it was worth the effort.

Faygo today is still marketing a wide variety of pop. Its history was told in colorful detail by Joe Grimm.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fiftieth Anniversary of President Boyd's Inauguration

by Bryan Whitledge

The handover from one university president to the next is a momentous occasion. The investiture of current CMU president, Bob Davies, on March 19 was no exception. As the CMU News press release noted, there was much “presidential pomp and circumstance.” But pomp and circumstance are not always part of the inauguration program. Sometimes, the word, “interim” is removed from an interim president’s title and the change is completed with little ceremony. On other occasions, the spirit of the times might set an agenda, one to which the new chief executive might be aligned. 50 years ago, on May 12, 1969, such was the case at Central Michigan University.

President Boyd (center) during his inauguration, May, 12, 1969

President William Boyd, who was the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UC-Berkeley, became CMU’s 7th President in July of 1968 and changes were many – CMU ended the policy of in loco parentis in September 1968, the Faculty Association was organizing, and CMU started its first effort to reach out to students of color. In the weeks surrounding the inauguration, things were hopping: Stevie Wonder played a concert; Greek Week occurred; the third annual Gentle Friday was happening; and President Boyd would announce that Dr. Robert Thornton of San Francisco State College – the school that started the first Black Studies program in the country in March 1969 – was going to be on campus to help CMU incorporate Black Studies into the curriculum. There is no doubt that everyone’s plate was full.

In the midst of this change and activity, the plan for the inauguration was envisioned a little differently. As Board of Trustees Chair, Albert J. Fortino, wrote in the invitation sent in March of 1969:
    Contemporary problems highlight the urgency for an institution such as ours to concentrate its efforts and resources toward meeting the needs of all social and economic segments of our society. Central Michigan University will, therefore, allocate the funds which would have been designated for the traditional formal inauguration of Dr. Boyd to a fund to assist disadvantaged students. We hope that you will share the spirit of this inauguration with us. You may in fact, wish to direct the expense funds which may have been incurred ... to your own university’s projects for disadvantaged students.

With the spirit of the occasion laid out, the Monday inauguration ceremony, which started at 2:00 pm, began modestly and rather traditionally. Classes ended at noon so students and other attendees could pile into Finch Fieldhouse for the event. There were remarks from the Governor of the State, William Milliken, as well as performances by the Women’ Glee Club and the Symphony Orchestra. There were also comments from Trustee Fortino, the outgoing student body president, and the chair of the University Senate. The President of Alma College, Rev. Robert D. Swanson, gave the invocation. During his speech, President Boyd spoke about the social unrest of the times – disharmony, revolution, and discontentment – but he also offered the audience some inspirational thoughts about what the future held for CMU: “We now have the resources needed to build [the finest educational institution in the state] here. As a threshold university, we can delight in the happy circumstance that our moment of greatest success should still he ahead.”

Inaugural reception in the University Center, May 12, 1969

After the “informal ceremony,” as the CM Life referred to it, students and the campus community were invited to a reception in the University Center. But the real party was to begin a bit later, when folk singer Buffy Saint-Marie played a concert a 8:00 pm that evening in Finch Fieldhouse. The concert was hosted by the new president as part of his inauguration and was free for everyone.

Students surround Buffy Sainte-Marie, May 12, 1969

In addition to being a popular folk singer and songwriter, Sainte-Marie is also a social activist, and her performance that evening did not hold back. During her performance, Sainte-Marie, who is a member of the Piapot Cree Nation, sang many songs about the plight of indigenous peoples of North America. She also sang about the Vietnam War and other social issues of the time, all of which roused the crowd to their feet on several occasions. As Mary Irvine, who was a freshman at the time, later recalled:

    Buffy Sainte-Marie performing,
    May 12, 1969
    [Sainte-Marie] did a free concert and that place [Finch Fieldhouse] was just full. And after her set, she went off and people were just clapping and yelling. And she came back out and some of the folks up in the balcony in Finch yelled “Universal Soldier” and she did that and she went off [the stage again] and people were going nuts and she came back out. I blurted out very loudly, “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying,” which is a history of Native American problems with the government. And she gave her all and that was the end of that concert.”

Not often does a university president offer students an afternoon off from classes to attend an “informal ceremony,” a reception, and a concert performed by a legend of activism and folk music. Fifty years later, the Boyd inauguration is remembered as a notable moment in the history of Central Michigan University, when the students, the trustees, and the President opted to forego pomp and circumstance in favor of "a 'swinging' ceremony." 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Shepherd's Train Calamity

Isabella County, and Mount Pleasant in particular, has been fortunate to have had some excellent local historians. One of our favorite, Hud Keenan, over the years has often provided the librarians at the Clarke Historical Library with answers to local history questions. He wrote the following story a number of years ago. It was never published, and he decided to donate it to the library recently. We thought it deserved to be shared. So we are putting it up on the Clarke blog, as an expression of gratitude for all the help he has provided.
-- John Fierst

Shepherd's Bizarre Log Train Calamity

May 9, 1891


Coe Township in the southeastern corner of Isabella County was the first township to be organized in the county, in 1855. For governmental purposes it was attached to Midland County for over a decade awaiting settlement of adjacent areas and the organization of Isabella Co. From the beginning the township was recognized for its good farming land and stands of hardwoods. Now in the mid 1880's the economic opportunities of the area broadened in a profound manner. The Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Railroad was pushing its way northwestward on a route that would eventually end in Frankfort on Lake Michigan. Salt River had given way to the village of Shepherd located on the new railroad with a station and now a developing village.

Thirty year old Charles Walling had seen these changes and being young and energetic saw a way to make some money in this changing environment. In the early 1890s in central and western Coe Township many stands of high quality hardwood woodlots remained. The papers were full of advertisements for timber for mills manufacturing everything from clothes pins to furniture during those years. An Owosso furniture firm was desirous of obtaining some good saw logs for delivery to its factory. Walling, raised in the Shepherd area, was familiar with Coe Township people, lands and farms. Consequentially he had taken a contract to procure the wanted timber during the winter of 1890-91. The lumbering was completed and the logs were decked ready to be shipped by rail in the spring as soon as arrangements could be made.

The decked trackside timber was at a site known at the time as "Taylor's Hill" which is 2 ½ miles south of the Shepherd village. Not much of a hill, being a part of the gently undulating Gladwin Moraine, it is now farmland. One can view the location just north of the Coe Road crossing of the railroad. Coe road is also an overpass on the 127 expressway. In addition, it is the high point on the railroad grade between Alma and Shepherd.

Since no siding existed at this location a time had to be found when cars could be loaded on the main line. This being the case, special clearance had to be obtained to set a train on the site. Sunday May 9, 1891 was determined as the best time to load the logs.

Train schedules were arranged to clear the main line of traffic. Accordingly, the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern dispatched engine #36 a "ten wheeler" with nineteen flat cars and a caboose.

From all accounts, it is fair to say that the conductor of the train, one Sanford Anway, was not in the best humor. His day had started at 2AM when he and his train crew were dispatched from Owosso.

Exactly what time they arrived and started work is not recorded, but it must have been near sunrise. It is known that by 6 PM all but two cars were loaded when it was decided to return to Shepherd for supper. Time was running short for the allotted clearance to be blocking the main line to through traffic.

Walling wanted to finish the job and so on arriving at the station telegraphed the road superintendent, Connors, for permission to return and load the last two cars. His request was honored with the requirement that the job be completed by 9:30 PM. Walling knew that if he didn't get the last two cars he would have to wait at least a week to get clearance to spot two flat cars on the site not to mention the additional expense.

Conductor Anway was tired and let Walling know he was not in favor of going back to load two more cars. Nevertheless he proceeded to the Shepherd depot with the entire train. Next he confirmed the order and requested protection for his train. He was told he needed no protection and further he could leave his loaded cars on the main line within switch limits of the village and thus retain possession of the track.

So engine 36 proceeded to move the loaded cars to the north of Wright Avenue and past the depot in Shepherd. Rear brakeman Charles Carr separated the caboose and 15 loaded cars from the four empty flats. The station agent, watching the proceedings, pointed out to conductor Anway that his train extended beyond the north switch limits of the village by about five cars. He then suggested they be moved within switch limits. Amway took a stem look at the agent. The Mt. Pleasant Enterprise reported his reply; "With an oath he declined to do so and remarked they could run into them if they wanted to."

Charlie Walling's day wasn't getting any better either as he was busy rounding up some additional men to finish loading logs on the flats. Most of the original crew who had worked through the long day refused to go back, instead going their separate ways. In securing more help he approached a number of young men about the depot and offered them 50 cents if they would go and help load the final cars. In this he succeeded. The assembled crew boarded the waiting flats and with a short blast of the whistle, steamed back south to Taylor's Hill.

Our story now turns to the north fifteen miles. Engineer Jim Leathers was on the downgrade coming into Mt. Pleasant from Rosebush. His relatively new engine was the common American type (4-4-0). Trailing behind it as it approached the depot in Mt. Pleasant were 15 flats of logs. The station operator passed up orders to proceed to Shepherd, the time was just after 9 PM.

How fast engine #20 was going as it approached Shepherd is controversial. Some residents of the village said he was going faster than most freights. As many a reader may know the tracks curve from southeast to south as one approaches the north edge of Shepherd. Rounding the curve Leathers received a terrible fright that made his heart jump. At about two train lengths ahead stood the parked log train, previously mentioned. There it was, dead ahead on the main track, its caboose lights glowing in the gathering darkness. What Leathers did next is not all together clear. The Alma Record and the Mt. Pleasant Enterprise give conflicting reports of the events which followed, but the results were the same.

He whistled for the brakes and reversed his engine, but time, distance, grade and momentum were against him. On down the tracks slid #20 until contact was made with the standing caboose. The engine pulverized the wooden caboose to splinters as it worked its way to the last log car which it derailed, sending logs in every direction. The engine then rolled into the ditch, badly damaged. The Alma paper reported that although timbers crashed through the cab, Leathers held to his lever and emerged from the debris without a scratch. The Mt. Pleasant paper reported that, when he could see he could not check his speed, Leathers and his fireman jumped before impact. What they did agree on is that no one sustained a major injury.

But now the story goes on—

Unfortunately, Charles Carr, rear brakeman on the crew of engine 36, for whatever reason, had not set brakes on the loaded log flat cars left at the depot. The impact of train 20 into the caboose had the immediate effect of transferring energy to those standing log flat cars. The thirteen remaining loaded flats of logs started rolling south out of the village on a down grade toward the Little Salt River with ever increasing speed. No mention is made of anyone recognizing at the time the potential disaster these free rolling cars might present. In any event it was too late—they moved quickly away in the darkness.

While all this was happening in Shepherd several miles south at Taylor's Hill conductor Sanford Anway pulled out his pocket watch. It was just a bit after 9:15 PM and at last the loading portion of the job was complete. The train had four cars, two completely loaded behind the tender, followed by one partially loaded and one empty. Most of the men quickly took positions sitting on logs of the partially loaded flat car. Conductor Anway and brakeman Bert Squires also took positions on one of the flats. The signal was given and the engineer threw the lever in reverse and #36 started, backing into Shepherd.

They had gone but a short distance and the train rapidly picked up speed backing through the darkness to join the existing loaded cars of earlier in the day. Walling told Anway that it was not safe to run so fast. That was the wrong thing to say to Conductor Sanford Anway at this point in the day. It was later reported that he turned to Walling and said "Go to Hell, I'm running this train!"

Rolling towards them through the darkness and approaching the river were the impacted log cars from the Shepherd depot. Probably no more than three to four minutes elapsed between the first accident and the second which was about to occur.

It is doubtful if anyone on those flat cars had more than an instant of warning before the impact. Just as the backing train was approaching the Little Salt River the rolling flat cars reached the bridge. The collision was just south of the bridge, the location was in sight of "Kennedy's Corners," today the junction of Pleasant Valley and Shepherd roads. The impact resulted in logs and men flying in all directions. The leading empty flat car was broken in the middle, derailed and slammed into the following partially loaded car with persons aboard. The two fully loaded cars ended up in a pool of water just south of the bridge on the flood plain.

How long it was before outside help arrived in not clear. The engineer and fireman on engine 36 were not injured in the least, being furthest from the impact and protected by the tender as they were backing up on the return trip. Local citizen Ed Kelly drove by shortly after the collision and seeing the carnage ran his horses as fast as possible to Shepherd a mile away for help.

The Shepherd News related that it was but a few moments before the word of the catastrophe had spread over he the entire village. Fire and church bells were rung for the purpose of arousing the populace. The paper reported 200 people were at the scene of the wreck to render assistance as was necessary.

Groups of men arrived on the river flood plain with lanterns. Mostly by brute force they attempted to unscramble the mess. The logs had exacted a toll of death and injury. Three men, all in their twenties, were instantly killed by the crush of logs. They were Zeb Bigelow, Sherwood Clark and Clark Struble. Struble, married and the father of two children, required two hours of continuous work to remove his body from the debris.

Conductor Anway and contractor Wailing were both in the words of one paper "knocked insensible," and for a time it was thought that both would die; however, both were to recover from the experience. The other 12 received an assortment of bruises, lacerations and broken bones. Most of the injured were initially cared for at nearby farm houses. Several days after the Sunday evening wreck, a coroner's jury was convened in Shepherd. They gave their verdict in a long statement blaming Charles Carr, the rear brakeman for negligence and Sanford Anway, the conductor on train 36 with indirect negligence in the death of the three men.

The upshot of the coroner's jury statement was that H.O. Bigelow, father of Zeb Bigelow, one of the three men killed, filed charges of manslaughter against brakeman Carr. Charles Carr was tried in the June 1891 session of the Isabella County Circuit Court. He was acquitted after a two day jury trial. Free Estee, well known local attorney, was appointed in the defense of the accused Charles Carr. He was able to show that the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Railroad work rules for brakeman were such that Carr could not be held liable.

The case faded from the papers with a final note in The Shepherd News They reported the "boys" injured in the accident had settled with T.A.A & N. RR Settlements ranged from George Starr getting $25 to Lewis Cole receiving $75 and two 500 mile tickets on the railroad.

I would suspect people in the Shepherd area talked about the log train calamity for a long time. And—if you are looking at who to blame—well, where would you like to start?

Friday, May 3, 2019

Children's Book Week

This week, April 29-May 5, is the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week. To mark the occasion, the New York Times profiled the Library of Congress's digitized children's books collection. This site provides anyone with an internet connection access to dozens of the most classic children's books printed in England and the United States before 1924. One can scroll through W.W. Denslow's illustrations of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Kate Greenaway's Pied Piper of Hamelin, Howard Pyle's The Wonder Clock, and Walter Crane's The Baby's Own Aesop.

Illustration from The Rocket Book,
from Library of Congress
digitized collections
Among the titles Perri Klass and the experts she interviewed for the Times article mentioned was the Rocket Book by Peter Newell (1912). It was lauded for the engaging design of the book, with illustrations of a rocket that flies from the basement through the floors of a building. And Klass expounded at length on the importance of Isaiah Thomas's A Little Pretty Pocket-book (1787) as a landmark in American publications for youth.

The Library of Congress site is an excellent source of digital scans for anyone with an interest in classic children's literature. For those who wish to see and read the real books, you don't have to go to Washington, D.C. to access these rare volumes; you only have to go to the Clarke Historical Library. The Clarke holds the first editions of all of the titles mentioned in this blog and more. Can anyone think of a better way of celebrating Children's Book Week - or children's books at any time of the year - than enjoying rare and historic children's books that are still favorites of young and old to this day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Farewell Barnes Hall

by Bryan Whitledge

President Charles Anspach and Mrs. C.C. Barnes, 1952
Barnes Hall started life as the addition to the dormitory wing of the student union building, known then as Keeler Union (today, Central students, staff, and faculty call this building Powers Hall). The initial dormitory wing - a men-only dormitory - had beds for 90 students when it opened in 1939. But male students at Central weren’t accustomed to living on campus, so many of the beds stayed empty that first year. After the US entered World War II, a US Navy V-12 training school was established at CMU and the Keeler dorms became home to 125 cadets. After the War ended, the student population at Central started to boom. In 1949, the Keeler dorms housed 180 students – double the original 90 beds! There was definitely a need for more beds for students.

Central constructed an addition to the Keeler dorms in 1951 and on October 25, 1952, this new structure - one that could accommodate an additional 144 students - was officially dedicated Charles C. Barnes Hall (pictured above). The building was named in honor of the long-serving faculty member, registrar, and the Central’s first Dean of Men. With three beds to a room, the old Keeler dorms and Barnes Hall had room for 266 men. But the post-WWII student boom meant that beds were filling up faster than Central could build them - Robinson, Larzelere, Calkins, and Robinson Halls were all constructed between 1954 and 1959. In 1957, another addition to Barnes Hall was erected. This “third wing” had room for 120 men and incorporated a new innovation first used in Robinson Hall in 1954 - bathrooms in the suites as opposed to common bathrooms, which were found in the first two wings of Barnes Hall. Most students loved the individual bath facilities, but “about 10% of students [at the time] opposed private bathrooms, saying it would make it more difficult to meet people,” as Don Kilbourn, long-time CMU housing staff member noted.

Barnes Hall, ca. 1960s
One of the biggest changes in CMU Housing policies occurred at Barnes in 1971. It was the first hall to allow men and women to reside on the same floor of buildings. Of course, there were rules: students had to be over 21 or they had to have at least 55 credit hours and parental permission. But it was the start of a new era of co-ed living for Central students.

With Barnes Hall regularly filled to the gills with students - over 300 in the late 1950s - many notable alumni called the place home during their time at Central. Central’s first All-American in football, Jim Podoley was in Barnes (1953-54). So was Walter Beach, a professional football player and civil rights activist (1956-57). Broadcasting legend and student body president Dick Enberg called Barnes home from 1953-54. And Janice Fialka, an advocate for disability awareness and CMU commencement speaker in December 2018, hung her hat in Barnes from 1972-74.

And many memories were made by the students who lived in Barnes. Sometimes, it was because of a light-hearted story that brought attention to the students – like in 1964, when the men of Barnes adopted a family of ducks who lived in the courtyard near the building (pictured at right). Or in 1979, when Barnes students paid $20 to bring a 1968 Ford Galaxie to campus…to smash it up! The Barnes Dorm Board charged $0.25 per swing of a sledgehammer or three shots for $0.50 as a way of blowing off some steam at the end of the fall semester.

Other times, the memories were made because of the programs students participated in, such as the Leader Advancement Scholars or the Public Service Residential Community. And of course, thousands of Barnes Hall students have represented the hall in intramural sports.

But most importantly, the memories made were because of the major life changes students experienced while living in Barnes. A poem, found in the Old Ronan Hall when it was demolished in 1970, might best sum up the sentiment for all who passed through the doors of Barnes:

“I would like to know:
How many students laughed in this building? How many cried?
How many rebelled and then grew up?
How many didn’t?
How many found home within these walls?
How many found themselves?
How many housemothers lay awake in the night wondering if it was really worth it…
and found out that it was?
How do you measure love, so I can find out if anyone loved you more than I did?”

In only a few short weeks, we will say farewell to a building that has been a home to many and an anchor in the middle of CMU campus for over 60 years. We look forward to reading and hearing the memories of generations of students who fondly remember their times in this historic building.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Terrible Fragility of History

Frank Boles

On April 15 Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris experienced a catastrophic fire. The images of flames shooting through the roof and the collapse of the cathedral central spire were horrifying to see.

People reacted to the fire in many ways. Those who worshipped at the cathedral or shared the faith of those worshippers could only pray as they watched their beloved church consumed in fire and smoke. Historians grieved over the massive damage occurring at a world heritage site. Those of us in special collections libraries saw the fire through our own lens.
Medieval cathedrals such as Notre Dame were both grand architectural statements and carefully crafted instructional books. The beautiful stained glass windows were not only a form of worship, prayer expressed in color and glass, but also illustrated important religious scenes for a largely illiterate worshiping community. A sixteenth century worshipper inside Notre Dame might not be able to read the Bible, might not understand the Latin spoken by the priest celebrating the mass, but by glancing up to the light, much of the faith’s most important teachings were there to be seen.
As Notre Dame burned, a century’s old tutorial work in the Catholic faith made of glass and stone was suddenly at risk. The fire was a tragic reminder for keepers of history, archivists and rare book librarians in particular, that the collections whose safety they are responsible for are a fragile heritage subject not only to subtle decay but sudden calamity.
Unlike a medieval cathedral, a modern storage facility for rare books and archives such as the Clarke Historical Library has fire walls, smoke alarms, fire suppression systems installed and ready to operate, and many other tools to protect the material. If the worst still happens a disaster plan outlines salvage procedures and priorities. The library has installed precautionary technology and written solid emergency plans, but like any human effort, they are not foolproof. As the fire at Notre Dame starkly illustrated, tragedy can suddenly overcome the physical media that carries our history, whether it exists on paper or is enshrined in glass and stone.  The physical “stuff” of history is fragile. Paper and vellum, light sensitive material used to create visual images, the bits and bytes through which computers store data, are all prone to long-term failure and sudden catastrophe. Preserving these media from destruction is one of the core objectives of the archival profession.
That archival imperative to preserve and protect the material on which history is recorded makes the fire at Notre Dame not only tragic to archivists, but deeply moving. It is what we spend years trying to avoid, and why watching the dramatic failure of those efforts was so profoundly chilling. I am sure I was not the only archivist who watched the video of the cathedral’s central spire falling in flame who, despite all their thought and planning to preserve the collection entrusted to their care, recalled the saying often attributed to the sixteenth century English evangelical preacher John Bradford, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
We offer our deepest sympathy to the community of worshippers who called Notre Dame their spiritual home, to the people of Paris for whom the building was a central feature, and to the global community who have seen a world heritage site suffer grievously. We hope that all these people and others will unite to preserve those parts of the building that remain and rebuild those parts which have been lost. It is how I like to believe people like archivists, and historians, and those who cherish the past respond, whenever a cultural disaster strikes.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Hemingway Exhibit Opening

Frank Boles
On February 21 the Clarke Historical Library opened its current exhibit, The Hemingway Collection at the Clarke. For almost two decades the library has worked closely with a number of key partners to locate, develop, and make use of a growing body of material documenting Nobel-laureate Ernest Hemingway’s experiences in Michigan.
Hemingway’s family owned a cottage on the shores of Walloon Lake, near Petoskey. Ernie Hemingway, the eldest son of Dr. Clarence Hemingway and Grace Hall Hemingway spent his summers exploring the lake’s shoreline, learning more and more about life and people as each summer passed.

Ernest Hemingway at 17 years old
near Wallon Lake.
Today, the Hemingway collection in the Clarke Historical Library is of national importance. The presentation, however, did not dwell on the pieces of the collection that make this statement true.  Rather than talk about what was in the library, the presentation, made jointly by Mike Federspiel, Janet Danek, and Frank Boles, talked about how the collection came into being, and how it is used to educate and inform through exhibits and other outreach tools. The talk was, in practice, a case study on how archival collections are built and the uses they can be put to in public programming.
To hear their presentation please visit, which is the website of Mt. Pleasant’s local public access television station, which recorded the talk.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Dr. Robert A. Thornton and Black Studies at CMU

by Bryan Whitledge

On June 1, 1969, the administration at Central Michigan University took a proactive step to improve diversity at CMU. President William Boyd hired Dr. Robert A. Thornton, a dean and professor of physics at San Francisco State University, to be a racial affairs consultant at the University. Dr. Boyd came to Mt. Pleasant from UC Berkeley in the summer of 1968 and, as he noted in a 2014 oral history interview, CMU struck him as a relatively homogeneous campus made up mostly of white students from Michigan.

Before Dr. Thornton came to campus, strides were already underway to improve curricular offerings in African-American studies. Just a few months into Dr. Boyd’s tenure, CMU convened the "Ad-Hoc Committee on Black Experience" with a charge of developing curricula and programming dedicated to exploring and informing the CMU community on matters of black culture. Additionally, the History Department was given permission to fast-track filling positions with professors to teach African-American history courses, and other departments, including English and Political Science, were encouraged to bring forward proposed courses that would incorporate the emerging discipline of African-American studies.

But Dr. Boyd knew that expanding curricular offerings in the humanities and social sciences was not enough. He drew upon his Bay-Area connections and requested that Dr. Thornton come to CMU to serve as a special assistant. His charge was "to help departments develop courses related to black studies, establish better relationships with predominantly black high schools, and recruit black students and faculty members." Dr. Thornton was a distinguished physicist and administrator who knew academia very well. He also came from San Francisco State University, which gave him a particular insight into the development of black studies curricula – only five months earlier, San Francisco State had officially created the first Department of Black Studies in the country. Dr. Thornton was a man familiar with the cutting edge of the black studies movement and he was asked to impart his knowledge to the CMU community.

Dr. Thornton arrived in Mt. Pleasant on June 1, 1969 and stayed at CMU for two months. He then returned for another two weeks during the following winter break. The programming developed by the administration, with the help of Dr. Thornton, resulted in several changes on campus directed at the African-American community and those interested in black studies. The University sponsored a Black Symposium, bringing black scholars and artists to campus to give students on the majority-white campus insight into black culture.

Another initiative was the creation of the African-American Cultural Center in 1969-70. It was established in the "Old Library," known today as Ronan Hall, as a place for all students on campus to go, but specifically geared toward African-American students for academic resources, cultural programming, and a location for studying. Just one year later, students, faculty, staff, and administration developed programming for the first African-American History Week at Central in 1971 with various performance art exhibitions, forums, and guest speakers aimed at increasing awareness and a sense of community at CMU.

Not all of the efforts undertaken during the Boyd administration resulted in success. Despite an effort to recruit African-American faculty, in 1974, ten of the 604 faculty (1.6%) identified as minority with eight African-American faculty members or 1.3% of the total faculty. The course in History about the African-American experience was taken off the books after only year because the university could not find a qualified instructor.

In the years immediately following Dr. Thornton’s time on campus, small and meaningful steps were taken to improve diversity and cultural understanding. While Dr. Thornton was not an instructor at Central, he made an impact on the many students who took part in the black studies programming he helped to establish. In 2019, the 50th anniversary of his visit to our university, we reflect on Dr. Thornton’s groundbreaking tenure at Central. His contributions to physics, academia, and our society serve as an inspiration to academic pursuits here in Mount Pleasant and beyond.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Historic CMU Emergency Shutdowns - Part III

by Bryan Whitledge

Clarke Director Frank Boles
in winter, 2014
Earlier in the week, we posted a piece about historic shutdowns, focusing on the Great Blizzard of '78 and a three-week closure due to a flu epidemic in 1968. In searching for those stories, we missed two major events pointed out to us by Central alumni who remembered their Mother-Nature-induced vacations from classes. So we jumped back in our time machine and revisited the Flood of '86 and the Not-So-Fired-Up Power Outage of '85 in a subsequent blog post. Well, as great as our time machine is (which is really just a collection of digitized newspapers and some super-savvy archivists and librarians who are good searching for information), we've been tipped off by CMU alumni and friends of the Clarke who remember other major weather events that caused trouble for the CMU campus. Thanks to all who have brought these to our attention. With that, we bring you Part III of emergency campus shutdowns. The only thing that seems to make the recent ice storm bearable is reading about the miserable weather suffered by others who have walked the grounds of the CMU campus over the years.

First off is a terrible winter storm that may or may not have caused cancellations at CMU. On Tuesday and Wednesday, January 26 and 27, 1971, a winter storm slammed the Midwest and dozens of schools and businesses closed that day. The Michigan Daily at the University of Michigan reported on it; the Farwell News from of a town just a few miles north of Mt. Pleasant reported on it. And the CM Life reported on it on January 27: "The extremely cold winds and snow closed schools and businesses all over the state, and more bad weather is in store all day today." The blurb was part of a caption featuring an image of a young woman bundled up in a very fluffy, shaggy coat (straight out of 1971 for those who enjoy reminiscing about fashions of the past). It's clear that the weather was awful. But despite that, it seems that Central students trudged through the snow and faced the winds to head to class with no closures or cancellations mentioned in the CM Life.

Spectators at the Polar Plunge supporting Special Olympics, February 2008

The second set of campus closures to mention came more recently, in January and February of 2008. In March that year, the CM Life reported on Academic Senate discussions about adopting a formal "snow day" policy. As the reporter pointed out in the first sentence, that semester was unusual in that there were five days of cancelled classes. Because of the extreme circumstances, the majority of senators did not believe a formal policy was necessary. As one senator was quoted: "I think, while it certainly did impact this semester, time spent on a policy for something that may not happen again for 20 years would be a waste of time." Flash forward 11 years, to 2019 -- and it looks like we are nine years ahead of schedule. In just two weeks, snow, ice, bitter cold, and a polar vortex have forced CMU to cancel or delay classes five times.

As Benjamin Franklin and other great thinkers have said, death and taxes are the only certainties in life. But it seems that horrible weather in Michigan leading to campus shutdowns at CMU every few years could be added to that list.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Historic CMU Emergency Shutdowns: Part II

by Bryan Whitledge

Yesterday, we posted a piece about historic campus shutdowns that we found via the digitized historic campus newspapers (and you can read all of the CM Life and the yearbooks via!). In our haste to journey back in time to the Great Blizzard of '78 and the flu epidemic of 1968, we skipped two major campus closures. Thanks to members of the CMU Alumni for remembering these extended "vacations," as CM Life referred to them.

First up, Monday, March 4, 1985. That day, a snowstorm passed through Mount Pleasant and brought campus operations to a standstill. Just one week before spring break, students got an extra vacation day. From the reports, it seems like everything would have been up and running the next day and students would finish out the week before heading to Panama City or Daytona... or Lansing. But at 7:00 am Tuesday morning, a lightning bolt struck near Foust Hall and sent a surge of electricity through campus. Most campus buildings lost power and campus was closed for another day. Repair crews worked like mad, but the power was still out for most of campus on Wednesday as well, and campus remained closed. At that point, President Harold Abel met with other campus administrators and decided to cancel classes through the end of the week.

For CMU students in 1985, spring break started a week early. It wasn't until Friday, March 8th that the power was completely restored. With the university closed, followed by spring break, CM Life's first opportunity to report on the less-than-fired-up campus wasn't until the week of March 18.

Just 18 months later, in September 1986, another storm brought campus to its knees. This time, it rained and rained... and rained. From September 9 to 11, it rained nearly 12 inches! Because the campus was inundated and the campus power infrastructure was damaged, University administrators cancelled classes on Thursday, September 11 for two days. University staff members thought they would be able to assess the problems by Friday and have everything back up and running for classes the next week. But that wasn't the case. Campus staff couldn't access the power system until Monday. Then, it took another two days to fully restore power to the campus. In total, students were given five days of "vacation."

We appreciate the memories of Central alumni who fill us in on the stops we missed on our journey back in time. Yesterday, we mentioned that today's students join the ranks of those who survived the Great Blizzard of '78. Today, we can add to that those who survived the Not-So-Fired-Up power outage of '85 and the Flood of '86.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Historic Central Michigan University Shutdowns

by Bryan Whitledge

On Monday, January 28, as a powerful snowstorm pounded Mt. Pleasant, Central Michigan University cancelled that day's operations at 9:00 am. Two days later, because of temperatures and wind chill values well below zero degrees Fahrenheit, CMU shuttered again for two days. These campus closures sparked curiosity around the campus – has Central cancelled classes for multiple days at a time in the past?

In our memories here at the Clarke, we couldn’t definitively remember any such occasions. But with over 100 years of campus newspapers at our disposal, we knew we could find the answer! Immediately, we headed to for our journey back in time.

We set our eyes first on 2014, remembering the last polar vortex that chilled Mt. Pleasant to the bone. We found that CMU closed twice that winter: January 28 due to the bitter cold, and the evening of February 21 due to snow. Central had closed multiple days in 2014, although not consecutively. We were early in our journey, so it was no surprise that we didn't have a positive answer, yet. The next stop for our time machine was February 2011. That month, Central cancelled classes twice. But again, not consecutively. On February 2, a winter storm closed classes all day. On February 21, all morning classes were delayed due to poor road conditions. The search would have to continue to find out if Mother Nature had previously wreaked havoc in Mt. Pleasant à la January 2019.

As our time machine cruised through the 2000s, the 1990s, and the 1980s, we found a couple single snow days – February 16, 2006 and December 4, 1990 – but no major shutdowns. Like any trip down snow-covered roads, we were diverted off our course. In this case, we took a detour to see some fun artifacts of the past, like an ad from 1990 for an IBM Personal System/2 computer with 1 megabyte of memory and 30 megabytes of hard disk storage for the tidy sum of $1,649! Or you could swing by WhereHouse records to buy 1995’s hottest soundtrack, Men In Black, for $8.99…on cassette!

But we quickly moved through the detour and got back on the path to solving this campus closure curiosity. As we moved beyond 1980, we came to January 25-27, 1978. For those of a certain age who lived in Michigan at the time, they know exactly what we are about to describe. For those who were not yet alive, they, too, know exactly what we are about to describe, thanks to a relative, friend, neighbor, teacher, or some random person in the grocery store on a snowy day – because anyone who survived it can't seem to go a winter without mentioning... “the Great Blizzard of 1978.” And there is a reason people who lived through it remember it well. Considered one of the worst winter storms in US history, Mother Nature and her friend Old Man Winter slammed the Great Lakes region with multiple feet of snow and wind chill values that plunged below -50 degrees F. As a result, schools, universities, businesses, and municipalities throughout Michigan cancelled operations. Governor Milliken declared a state of emergency. Traverse City was declared "unofficially closed."

For two days, Thursday, January 26 and Friday, January 27, CMU told students, faculty, and non-essential staff to stay away from campus. With classes cancelled, students managed to keep busy, thanks in part to the Intramural Department at CMU. The IM staff hosted a disco dance night with over 1,500 attendees in the Rose Arena. They also sponsored a snow sculpture contest for the residence halls; Trout Hall won with a Wizard-of-Oz-themed sculpture. Off-campus, some enterprising businesses – specifically Tom’s Foolery and the Wayside, capitalized on students looking for a way to pass the time with all of their regular curricular engagements removed from the agenda. The Wayside, which opened at 2:00 pm on Thursday, reported over 500 people inside by 2:30 pm.

CM Life spread with photos from the Great Blizzard of '78

We finally answered the question of whether there was a previous instance of a consecutive-day closure in CMU’s history. But the Clarke staff didn’t stop there (our time machines can handle a lot more than those 1990 IBM PS/2’s with 1 MB of RAM). As we kept heading back in time, we came across another winter-related, although not weather-related, closure. This one was much longer than any other on record. Fifty years ago, in December 1968 and January 1969, Central officially closed down for three weeks because of an influenza outbreak.

Back in 1968, the fall semester started on September 14 and ended on January 24 with a 2-week break, from December 21 until January 6. The flu epidemic, which killed over 30,000 people in the US and approximately one million worldwide, caused the CMU winter break to start one week early. By Saturday, December 14, over 1,000 of the 6,000 students who lived in campus residence halls had already reported being ill. In response to the health emergency, and for the safety of everyone at Central, university administrators cancelled all operations from December 14 until January 6. Although students only missed one week of classes, the official closure lasted over three weeks, making this the longest emergency closure in Central’s history.

As far as we can tell from the campus newspapers, CMU has closed down for consecutive days three times in the past fifty years. Despite all the environmental risks that come with living in the middle of Michigan – polar vortexes and blizzards, ice storms and snowstorms, floods and flu – Central staff and faculty have done a great job keeping the university open for business. When CMU has shuttered for multiple days, it has been because of extreme circumstances. And just like people of a certain age reminisce about the extreme circumstances of "the Great Blizzard of 1978,” today’s students will one day be of a certain age and they will probably boast, “Back when I was at CMU, during the polar vortex of 2019…”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Small-Town Citizen: Minion of the Mob - A Review

By Robert Knapp

A Review by Frank Boles

It is no secret that in its history, Clare, Michigan played host to nationally-known mobsters. In the late 1920s and early 1930s the booming Michigan oil patch proved a way for mob figures from Detroit and other locations to invest, and launder, their illicitly obtained money.

Robert Knapp’s book, Small-Town Citizen Minion of the Mob: Sam Garfield’s Two Lives  (Clare, MI: Cleophile Press, 2018) tells the intriguing story of Sam Garfield, a man whose life and finances were intimately tied to organized crime, and a well-liked and respected citizen of Clare.

Garfield was not a native. He was born in Russia and grew up in Detroit. In one of those curious twists of fate the grade school he attended turned out to not only graduate students skilled in readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic but a fair number of individuals who would go on to careers in organized crime. Sam knew them from the old days, and they knew Sam. In the 1920s Sam demonstrated a skill of much interest to his old friends; he was quite good at running “respectable” gambling clubs, “respectable” in that the clientele was well-off citizens engaging in illegal activities, both gambling and invariably the purchase and consumption of Prohibition banned alcohol.

Illegal gambling brought only minimal risks to those who were involved. If arrested gamblers were usually given small fines and almost never received jail time. In fact the biggest problem the operators of gambling establishments faced from the law was property damage. The police, who occasionally raided gambling parlors, often made a show for the press of busting up the furniture and otherwise trashing the premises. The result was a rather expensive bill when the club re-opened, which it often did.

Garfield would be involved in gambling all of his life, sometimes on one side of the law and sometimes on the other. He was, for example, heavily involved in the mob-related but completely legal gambling casinos that sprang up in Las Vegas after World War II, while at the same time having his hand in other, illegal, gambling operations.

Sam developed a second talent even more valuable to his mob associates; money laundering. In 1929 Sam was invited up to a cabin in Harrison by Carl “Jack” Livingston, a very successful oil “land man” (the fellow who convinced land owners to sign over the mineral rights). The meeting was also attended by Isaiah Leebove, a lawyer tutored in money laundering by New York City gangster Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein had been gunned down in a gangland murder in November 1928, and his close associate, Leebove, had found it convenient to leave the Big Apple soon thereafter.

The three men created the Mammoth Petroleum and Producing Company. Garfield learned the oil business from Livingston and how to launder money from Leebove. Sam Garfield turned out to be a pretty good in both areas. Mob money went into his oil investments dirty at the beginning and clean when he was finished. Better yet, mobsters who “trusted” him with their money often were paid a bonus dividend when a well in which Sam invested struck oil. Not only did Garfield make a good living in mid-Michigan, he also decided to make Clare his home.

Knapp’s book details (insofar as one can detail these sorts of things) Garfield’s many, many sometimes legal and sometimes marginal or simply illegal activities. Knapp also details Garfield’s life in Clare, where he was a “regular guy” and a generous person both individually and within the community. The public library benefitted handsomely from his largesse. Many individuals told stories of Sam helping them out in hard times.

Charlie Moskowitz, a long-time oil man from Mt. Pleasant, told the story of how when he was up against a tough financial situation Sam told him to drop by the house. When Charlie arrived in Clare, Sam had paper sack full of $50 bills waiting for him; $62,500 in all.  Moskowitz had no collateral for the money and honestly told Garfield he had no idea when he could pay him back. Garfield growled, “get outta here – I’m busy.”

Stories about Sam and bags full of cash were many in Clare. He often stopped by the local bank to deposit similar bags.

Garfield’s generosity to members of the community who he did not do business with was also legendary. If friends where going to “Vegas” he encouraged them to stay at the MGM Grand, and drop his name. Those who did uniformly report that they were treated “like royalty.” If you wanted to see a sold out show, Sam’s name would be enough to receive complimentary, front-row seats. Often management threw in an added bonus, the hotel stay was also made complimentary.

If Sam heard of someone in need at Christmastime, the need was taken care of. Same frequently ate at the Doherty Hotel. Knowing the local girls who waitressed over the summer were often working for college money, he often left them huge tips -- $100 in the 1950s.

Garfield’s wife, Ruby, was one of the community’s leading citizens. She was gregarious, personally generous with her money and time, frequently taking young people under her wing who would subsequently refer to her as “Aunt Ruby”, and a leading light in community philanthropy. She gave generously to her church. Like Sam, she loved the library. She chaired the local United Fund drives in 1951 and 1952. It was hard to find anyone in Clare, even those who held Sam at arm’s length, who didn’t like Ruby.

Of course, there was the occasional public embarrassment.  In 1963, popular Life magazine published an expose of a particularly egregious case of securities swindling and subsequent jury-tampering. Garfield had been indicted in the affair, and eventually pled guilty to one charge.  Sam’s picture was prominently featured in the magazine. Somehow that issue of Life disappeared from the Clare stores that usually sold the publication, perhaps more to spare Ruby’s feelings than Sam’s. This is but one example of how Clarites often reciprocated Sam and Ruby’s generosity with a few favors of their own. Another was a tendency to speak well in public of the couple’s civic and personal generosity. Residents also tended toward rather poor memories if the FBI came around asking questions about Sam’s whereabouts and associates.

Knapp’s book is a wonderful read into one of those often quietly forgotten corners of life in rural Michigan. In the happy world of many local history books there isn’t much ink spilled on town figures with shady reputations. When it does occur, the mention is usually brief and often accomplished by reference to an amusing, if admittedly technically illegal, situation.

Sam Garfield was a man of incredible contradictions. He was a generous local benefactor. He was an astute businessman engaged in many very successful legal activities and investments. He was a front man for the mob who frequently made money through activities on the wrong side of the law. Locally he was a personal friend and generous benefactor to many of Clare’s residents. Nationally he was a trusted business partner and friend of some of the mob’s leading figures.

Buy the book.  It’s a fun and informative read.