Carrie Nation in Ann Arbor, May 3, 1902

Carrie Nation

submitted by Wystan Stevens. Click here for a version with mouse-over features highlighting historical details in the photograph; or here, for a much larger view.

Mob cheers for a State Street hatchet job: but hey, who axed that woman to come here, anyway?

Carrie A. Nation (1846-1911), the "Vessel of Wrath," was 56 and at the peak of her fame on May 3, 1902, when, standing on the back of a horse-drawn cab at the corner of State Street and North University Avenue, she engaged in rollicking repartee with a boisterous crowd of Michigan students. Emerging as a Prohibition crusader in Kansas in 1900, Mrs. Nation had obtained quick national renown by vandalizing the stock and furnishings of numerous saloons -- at first hurling rocks, then switching her M.O. to smashing with a hatchet that she carried beneath her waterproof cape. She was arrested again and again, and paid the fines for her "hatchetations" by lecturing and selling souvenir hatchets and photographs. In this area, she spoke in nearby Milan and in Ann Arbor (at the Athens Theater, the former Opera House, at the SW corner of Main and Ann). Although she entered several Ann Arbor saloons to confront their owners or barkeeps, she was on good behavior there, and smashed nothing. Newspaper reports suggest that too-high admission fees kept her Ann Arbor lecture audiences small, and there were few verbal fireworks. In fact, while here she drew her biggest crowd during this free appearance on the edge of the University of Michigan campus.

"I have been to all the principal universities of the United States. At Cambridge, where Harvard is situated, there are no saloons allowed, but in Ann Arbor the places are thick where manhood is drugged and destroyed." --Carrie Nation, in her memoirs (1905).

The following report appeared in the "Washtenaw Daily Times," May 3, 1902:

One thousand students had a rollicking old time with Carrie Nation at the campus this morning and the collegians applauded everything she said . . . .

Just before the close of her address Mrs. Nation made a strong plea for the Prohibition party: "Now I want to see the hands raised of all you who vote the Prohibition ticket after this," said the smasher. Every mother's son in the mob put both hands high in the air. "Good!" shouted Carrie, with a broad smile and at the same time clasping her hands gleefully at the thoughts of making so many "converts." "Oh," she said, "that made the devil awful mad when he saw those hands."

"Rah-rah-rah! Rah-rah-rah! Rah-rah-rah! THE DEVIL," yelled the students in chorus.

Mrs. Nation spoke from an open hack at the northwest corner of the campus. During the early part of her address somebody passed up a whiskey flask that was labelled with a well-known brand, and containing a fluid that looked for all the world like genuine booze. Carrie held it aloft.

"Smash it!" yelled the crowd, and she complied. She bent down, took a good aim at the iron tire on the hack wheel and -- "crash" -- went the bottle.

Then the crowd was sorry that it had spoken, as the fluid in the bottle was a solution of hydrogen de sulphide, which is the polite name for the smell of rotten eggs. Some student pursuing chemistry had fixed up the dose and Carrie and the crowd got the benefit of it.

"Whew!" said the students, backing away and holding their noses, but it didn't seem to phase the agitator.

"Tell us about Doc Rose [an Ann Arbor saloonkeeper]," shouted some one.

"I'll tell you about that old Doc Rose," she declared.

"Rah-rah-rah! Rah-rah-rah! Rah-rah-rah! DOC ROSE!" yelled the students.

"All he wants you to go there for is your money," she said.

"Ain't got any money," remarked the student who has been waiting to hear from home.

"You go in there sensible, continued Mrs. Nation, not noting the interruption, "and you come out --"

"Broke," emphasized a student.

"I want you to be like Daniel of old. Daniel was a captive and --"

"Rah-rah-rah! Rah-rah-rah! Rah-rah-rah! DANIEL!" yelled the students in chorus again.

The collegians simply made a farce of the whole performance. At the close of her talk Mrs. Nation reminded the crowd that she had some souvenir hatchets and photographs for sale.

The mob rushed in and she was proceeding to do a land office business, when it began to look as if the hack would be overturned in the mad rush. The hackman whipped up the horses and the carriage rolled away, but not before one student had climbed up behind and stole a hatful of little hatchets. He dropped down and distributed them among his friends.

The crowd chased up the hack for about a block and then gave up the pursuit.