Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

Welcome to AADL's local history page!

We have a large local history collection located on the second floor of the Downtown Library where you'll find a variety of sources for genealogy research. We've also produced several online collections you may be interested in, including...

50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair The 50 year history of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair including an exhibit on the path the Art Fair has taken, a collection of over 100 images including photos and promotional materials, audio memories of art fair participants and visitors, and videos.
Ann Arbor Architecture Archive Learn the history of the buildings around us with this gallery of images and text about Ann Arbor's historic structures. Includes the full text of Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Minutes A chance to view the history of Ann Arbor through the eyes of its governing body. Search the full text of Ann Arbor City Council meeting minutes from 1891-1930 or browse available meetings. All sets of minutes can be viewed as images or as searchable pdfs.
Ann Arbor Cooks Online collection of heirloom recipes and cookbooks from Ann Arbor area community organizations, churches and businesses. Browse or search recipes, or view cookbooks in their entirety. Includes access to Repast, the acclaimed culinary history magazine.
AACHM Living Oral History An oral history project in partnership with the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. The interviews serve as a road map illustrating what local African-Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today.
Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive The history of North America's longest running festival for independent and experimental film is told through programs, posters, flyers, photographs, newspaper articles and original interviews.
Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now Online collection of over 130 articles from the Ann Arbor Observer covering a wide variety of local history topics, fully searchable and browsable by subject. Also has an image gallery of historic Ann Arbor photos.
Ann Arbor Police Department History An online exhibit of the history of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Includes full-text of True Crimes and the History of the AAPD, The History of the Outdoor Range and hundreds of photographs and images of memorabilia collected by the department since 1847.
Ann Arbor Summer Festival Archive Learn about the history of one of Ann Arbor's largest cultural events, featuring programs and posters from each year, contemporary newspaper articles, hundreds of photos, and original interviews with past Festival directors.
Downtown A2 Historical Street Exhibit Program Tour the permanent sidewalk exhibits at sixteen landmark sites throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Includes full-text and keyword access to an image database of hundreds of images from each location.
The Ford Gallery of Ann Arbor Founders Who are the people who made Ann Arbor the city we all know and love? From the earliest pioneers to twentieth-century philanthropists, here are the stories of businessmen and women, visionaries and artists, educators and entrepreneurs, doctors, ministers, and mayors.
Freeing John Sinclair: The Day Legends Came to Town Learn about a piece of Ann Arbor's radical past with photos, essays, newspaper articles, the entire run of the Ann Arbor Sun, and original interviews. This website documents the activities of John Sinclair, the day John Lennon and Stevie Wonder played a concert in Ann Arbor, how an Ann Arborite ended up on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and the actions the White Panther/Rainbow People's Party.
Making of Ann Arbor Discover the history of Ann Arbor through full-text access to several books and several image collections. Includes a collection of postcards, historic buildings, advertisements, and maps of early Ann Arbor.
Old News Read newspapers from Ann Arbor's past to learn more about the places around you. Old News includes over 115,000 articles and photos from the Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor Courier, Ann Arbor Argus, and Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat. Read full issues of 19th century newspapers and browse or search articles and photos from the 20th.
pictureAnnArbor An online photo collection of Ann Arbor past and present. Search for images of Ann Arbor and add some of your own.
Signal of Liberty Ann Arbor's prominent abolitionist newspaper, with issues from 1841-1847 now available online. Browse the articles in the original or search all newspaper items.
University Musical Society: A History of Great Performances This collection includes full text searching and browsing access to the first 100 years of historical programs from University Musical Society concerts, as well as hundreds of photographs from their 131-year history.
Ypsilanti Gleanings Ypsilanti Gleanings is the official publication of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, which through painstakingly-researched articles, first-hand accounts, and historical photographs, presents a clear picture of the Ypsilanti that once was and still is all around us. Explore this online archive by searching, browsing by issue or browsing by subject, and check out the image gallery of photographs and illustrations from the collection of the YHS.

We've also invited some local historians to contribute to a local history blog, which begins below. Thanks for your interest, and enjoy!

Friend of AADL's Old News, Wystan Stevens, dies at 72

Wystan Stevens December 1981

Old News lost a vital member of the team this week with the passing of Wystan Stevens, the dean of local historians. Wystan generously shared his deep knowledge and love of Ann Arbor with Old News since it’s inception in 2010. He named unknown people, identified unknown buildings, streets and venues, gave context to hundreds of photos, corrected mistakes made by Ann Arbor News reporters and photographers as well as Old News staff.

Just last week Wystan helped us in trying to identify where a group of 1930s photos of bowling teams were taken. We had no names, places, or specific dates on the negative envelopes but Wystan was able to identify people, teams, venues. Here’s an example:

"The man with necktie number 3, second from right, is a very youthful Jerry Hoag, longtime manager of the Michigan Theater and other Butterfield theaters in Ann Arbor. His presence here strongly suggests that the venue is the Michigan Recreation Lanes, which was located in the Michigan Theater Building's basement." ~ Wystan Stevens

Wystan loved to include nuggets of history and the more controversial the better, like this one about the Wolverine Barber Shop:

"Like the old Dunbar Community Center, this building figured largely in the history of Ann Arbor's African-American community. And when it was a hotel, in 1902, it played host for a few days to anti-drink crusader Carrie Nation, on one of her lecturing and saloon-smashing excursions." ~ Wystan Stevens

All we had on this photo envelope was “House Being Demolished, September 1969.” We sent it to Wystan knowing there was simply too little to go but, once again, he knew exactly the where, what and why of the photo:

"Demolition of the former home of piano teacher Geraldine Seeback, who sold it to Comerica Bank for installation of their drive-up banking window branch office and driveway on the site, which was across the street from the 1925 Michigan Bell Telephone headquarters. The brick house next door now belongs to Peter Heydon." ~ Wystan Stevens

He was at his best detailing the history of buildings. The Haven Hall fire photos illustrates just how deep his knowledge of a building could go:

"The Law Building, completed in 1863 north of Mason Hall, was expanded and remodeled several times -- extensively in 1893, and again in 1898 following protests over the 1893 makeover, which had added a useless tower. After the beautiful new Cook Law Quadrangle was completed in 1933, the old Law Building was renamed "Haven Hall" -- it provided offices, classrooms, and library space, until it was destroyed in an arson fire on August 6, 1950. (After the fire, nothing ever again was built on the site.) ~ Wystan Stevens

When it came to making sense of an old aerial photos, which is always hard, Wystan could sort out the direction we're facing, as well as what was to come. Check out his unbelievable commentary for the photos of Tappan Junior High School and Stadium Blvd.

Wystan's contributions to local history go far beyond Old News. He contributed photographs to and research for the Downtown Historical Streets Exhibit Program as well as narrating the video introduction to the Streets Exhibit. And he donated his time and materials to the Ford Gallery of Ann Arbor Founders Exhibit. He even made makes it into our Old News UMS archive of historical programs as narrator in a program from 1979.

Wystan authored, introduced, or had been a consultant for numerous books on Ann Arbor history in the AADL collection. He did workshops on books set in Ann Arbor, led tours of the city's landmarks, including his most famous and popular tour, the Forest Hills Cemetery. He was a favorite subject of Ann Arbor News photographers and his sense of humor came through in every photo. The official historian of Ann Arbor and the unofficial Old News historian will be greatly missed by all of us at Old News.

Thanks for the memories, Wystan.

Were You There?

bikes and aapd

On Saturday, April 19, 1958 the Ann Arbor Police Department held a bicycle auction that drew a big crowd of bidders of all ages. The Ann Arbor News took a lot of photos of the event but only three made it into the April 21st edition. The human interest story concerned then eight-year-old Douglas Hehr and his almost-didn't-happen winning bid.

We've published many of the photos that didn't make it into print and hope you recognize someone, maybe even yourself, in one of them. If you do, share your memories with Old News through the Add New Comment feature at the bottom of this blog. Don't forget that you can earn all kinds of cool prizes in the Summer Game when you share your local history knowledge with Old News.

Mother's Day: The Whole Story

Newspapers have to make tough choices about what photos to publish with articles and how to crop the photo to fit the space available. Old News has a lot more flexibility so we're publishing Mother's Day photos that did and did not make the cut. In one article the photo is cropped but we're publishing the whole picture and perhaps you'll recognize some of the other Ann Arbor High School students.

Although the News usually picked the best photo from a shoot, sometimes we think the others are so darn cute we publish them all. We often don't have names to match the faces and they're too dear to be left anonymous. So if you recognize someone in our Mother's Day photos or have more to add to a story please use the Add New Comment feature to make sure Old News gets the whole story.

Ann Arbor Police Department: History On The Front Page

Old News has published another trove of photos and articles on the Ann Arbor Police Department that were digitally "ripped from the front pages" of the Ann Arbor News. In June, 1950, Haven Hall was set ablaze by arson. The AAPD investigation led to a graduate student, Robert H. Stacy. Fingered by a girlfriend (who briefly disappeared during trial), Stacy confessed in October, recanted, and was convicted in December, 1950. Many of the photos published on Old News never made it into the Ann Arbor News.

That's also the case with photos involving the murder of nurse Pauline Ada Campbell in September, 1951. The brutal homicide shocked the community and put everyone on edge. It took the AAPD only three days and a good tip to arrest three youths for the slaying. Crowds gathered daily outside the courtroom and legendary News photographer Eck Stanger was granted photo privileges unheard of today.

The Ann Arbor Police Department Online History Exhibit houses hundreds of photos from the AAPD and Ann Arbor News including badges, weapons, and memorabilia from the men and women who were and are the AAPD. We're continually adding to the collection of Ann Arbor News articles about the department, the personnel and policing. There are three full-text histories including Mike Logghe's True Crimes and the History of the Ann Arbor Police Department.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Archive Launched on Old News

radnerradner

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre is celebrating 85 years and AADL has launched a new website detailing the history of this award-winning local theater company.

View hundreds photos from the rehearsals, backstages and performances of the plays including never before seen shots from noted photographer Fred Beutler as well as the staff photographers at the Ann Arbor News. The Archive also includes hundreds of posters and programs from plays and over a thousand articles from the Ann Arbor News.

Old News will be adding more programs, photos and documents from the extensive collection at the Civic Theatre in the coming months but we need your help . . . can you identify any of the people in the photos where we don't have names? Everyone knows someone in Ann Arbor who worked in or for a Civic Theatre play, so browse the photos and add your knowledge in the Add New Comment feature. We have identified the lady at your left, that's Gilda Radner.

70 years ago this week...

Soldiers parade, FDR memorial

70 years ago, on April 14, 1945, Ann Arbor News photographer Eck Stanger took this photograph of a service parade in the U-M Law Quadrangle held in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died two days earlier.

The 60th Anniversary of the Polio Vaccine in Ann Arbor

Kids showing off their vaccine marks

60 years ago, the announcement of the success of the Salk polio vaccine took place right here in Ann Arbor. This momentous announcement followed one of the largest peacetime mobilization of volunteers in American history to undertake the 20th century's greatest public health experiment. Like many other community newspapers, the Ann Arbor News documented the determination of its citizens to fight polio, with feature stories on the afflicted and the swirl of local fundraising efforts to raise awareness, find a cure, and vaccinate area children. Local historian Grace Shackman has written a feature story on Polio in Ann Arbor for our Oldnews site, pulling together dozens of articles and photographs on the history of polio in our community and the announcement of the polio vaccine on April 12, 1955.

Join us on the 60th anniversary, Sunday, April 12, for a special discussion at the Downtown Library with Dr. David Oshinsky, Director of the Division of Medical Humanities, NYU School of Medicine, Professor of History, and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Polio: An American Story.

Show & Tell for Grown-Ups

Tuesday May 5, 2015: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm -- Malletts Creek Branch: Program Room

This event will be recorded

We all remember Show & Tell - bringing a treasured possession to school and telling our friends why we love it so much. As adults, we have many more treasures today.

Show & Tell events for adults are sweeping the nation, with recent publicity of the trend in the Wall Street Journal. Described as The Moth Radio Hour meets Antiques Roadshow, these events focus on connecting people through their personal histories.

Bring a treasured object, new or old, to this Show & Tell session for adults. An old photo or letter, family heirloom, vacation memorabilia, an ancient artifact, a work of art - it’s the story behind the piece that matters. No performing; this is amateur storytelling at its best.

Each participant will have five minutes to tell the story behind the object. Anyone is welcome! We will create a short video of you telling your item's story and post it to the aadl.org website.

Attendees are also welcome to just watch and enjoy.The local organizers for this event are members of the Association of Personal Historians and are promoting Show & Tells in May to celebrate Personal History Month.

February is Black History Month

Signal of LibertySignal of LibertyThe best way to celebrate and honor Black History Month is to delve into history. What better place to do that than the Library?

This February, AADL has several events and resources to help you mark Black History Month by honoring those who came before, their traditions, and our hopes for the future.
EVENTS:
April Ryan, a 30-year journalism veteran, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House has just released a new book, The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America, a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of race relations as it relates to the White House. She will be at the Downtown Library on Monday, February 16 at 7 pm to discuss the book, her career, the three presidents she’s covered, and her experiences.

The Sankofa Ensemble takes their name from a word that means “to retrieve the goodness from the past”. They will teach us about the traditions of Ghanaian and West African music and play authentic instruments from Ghana. Families will especially enjoy being able to get up and dance to the music, and learning more about traditional African dancing. The Sankofa Ensemble will perform on Saturday, February 21 at 2 pm in the Downtown Library’s Multi-Purpose Room.

The last very special Black History Month event features the relatives of a prominent Civil Rights figure: Rosa Parks. Sheila McCauley Keys is Rosa Parks’ niece, and she and her siblings grew up very closely with their aunt when she moved to Detroit. They have recently released a new book of memories of their aunt, Our Auntie Rosa: the Family of Rosa Parks Remembers Her Life and Lessons, and Sheila will visit the Downtown Library on Tuesday, February 24 at 7 pm. She will talk about her new book and her Auntie Rosa, and she will take questions from the audience.

PRIMARY SOURCES:
Of course, libraries are fantastic resources for more than just events. Here at AADL, we have the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County’s Living Oral History Videos. These are recorded interviews with local African-Americans discussing what they witnessed and experienced and their perspectives relating to race, gender, education, equality, faith, housing, employment, community building activities, and social infrastructure in our area. These amazing videos show what a historical resource our own people are, and make learning about history as easy as a conversation with your grandparents.

Newspapers are also great historical resources. AADL has digitized copies of local abolitionist newspaper Signal of Liberty which was started in April 1841 and published almost every week from an office on Broadway Street in Ann Arbor. Issues featured local and national news, anti-slavery poems, interviews with emancipated slaves, minutes from anti-slavery meetings, and stories by abolitionists about helping people escape from slavery. Reading these articles helps us to understand issues surrounding slavery, why people opposed this dark part of our past, and how ordinary people participated in the fight for freedom.

Whatever part of history you are interested in, your library is a resource for research, learning, and commemorating.

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