Six Fascinating Artifacts to See at the Michigan Historical Museum

A day spent exploring a Michigan museum can cure your cabin fever in a hurry! Guest blogger Mary Dettloff from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources give us some inside information on what you’ll find at the Michigan Historical Museum this winter and beyond. 

Michigan Historical Museum

Michigan Historical Museum

The end of the U.S. Civil War, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the economic boom in post-war Michigan – these facets of American history are all examined in a new special exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum called “Conceived in Liberty.”

The exhibit takes its themes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It opens with the Battle of Gettysburg and follows Michigan soldiers through the end of the war. There are stories of cavalrymen in battle, engineers and mechanics building bridges, Native Americans serving in Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters and Michigan’s 102nd U.S. Colored Troops.

The exhibit then turns to the war’s end and the following two decades. It includes artifacts associated with Lincoln’s assassination, stories of Michigan’s economic expansion and diversity, and illustrations of equality and inequality following the war. The final segment, which includes the Civil War flag exhibit area, focuses on how we have remembered the war.

Some of the special artifacts included in the exhibit are:

1. An 1863 newspaper from Vicksburg, Mississippi, printed on the back of wallpaper because there was no newsprint available due to the Union siege.

2. A rosette from the casket of Abraham Lincoln. Dell Root Howard, who graduated from Coldwater High School in 1876, donated the rosette to the Coldwater Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which in turn donated to the Michigan Historical Museum in 1941. It is unknown how Howard came to possess the rosette. She was 8 years old the year Lincoln was assassinated. An illustration of Lincoln lying in state shows a very similar rosette as part of the casket presentation.ConceivedInLiberty-20141003-5273_rosette_small

3. An invitation received by U.S. Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan to attend President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral services at the White House on April 19, 1865. The card is on loan from the Library of Congress.

4.  A lady’s jacket said to be worn by a Michigan resident who was at Ford Theater the night President Lincoln was shot there.

ConceivedInLiberty-20141003-5269_jacket_small

5. A headband created by Michigan Indians from Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters for their commander, Colonel Charles V. DeLand.

6.  A tobacco pouch carried by abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth, who lived in Battle Creek after the war. She traveled to Kansas in 1879 in support of the “Exodusters,” blacks who fled the south after federal troops were withdrawn at the end of Reconstruction.

Sojourner Truth Tobacco Pouch

Family programming related to exhibit is being offered through the summer of 2015. For more information on the popular “Second Saturdays” program, go to www.michigan.gov/museum.

The Michigan Historical Museum is located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. near downtown Lansing. Weekdays during the school year, the museum is busy hosting students from across the state on educational field trips. Weekends and summer months are less crowded. The museum is an easy drive from the Grand Rapids and metro Detroit regions.

The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free. General admission fees for the Michigan Historical Museum, which include the special exhibit, are $6 for adults 18-64, children through age 5 are free, youth ages 6-17 are $2, and seniors 65 and up are $4. Annual passes are available, and there is no admission charge on Sundays.

Have you ever made a visit to the Michigan Historical Museum? 

Mary Dettloff is senior advisor for communications for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and a native of Northern Michigan.

Explore Michigan Weather at the Michigan Historical Center

What’s your favorite season? No matter how you answer, the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing has you covered with its new exhibit which explores Michigan weather in all seasons! Today, chief curator Maria Leiby gives us the inside scoop. 

These relics are from The Rockaway, which sank in November 1891 off of South Haven while hauling lumber from Ludington to Benton Harbor. All hands were rescued.

The exhibit takes its title, Lake Effects, from a major influence on our weather—the Great Lakes that surround us. Weather systems generally approach Michigan from the west or south, but the lakes add interesting twists in all seasons.

The Lake Effects exhibit is open now until Aug. 24, 2014 at the Michigan Historical Center.

This lightning rod was once on top of the Traverse City State Hospital.

Everyone who’s ever lived in Michigan, from Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago to school kids today has paid attention to the weather. In addition to information about earlier ways of predicting the weather, the exhibit looks at how Michiganians’ work and play are weather-influenced. Artifacts as varied as early spouts for collecting maple sap, a lightning rod from the Traverse City State Hospital, hunting decoys and a circa 1970 brown-and-orange snowmobile suit build a seasonal mosaic that gives visitors of all ages opportunities to learn, reminisce and tell family stories.

The exhibit also focuses on memorable weather events from Michigan’s past. Survivors of the tragic Great Lakes storm of November 1913 may have passed from the scene, but you might know someone who remembers the heat wave of 1936, one of Lansing’s numerous 20th century floods or an opening day at Tiger Stadium when the weather was actually spring-like!

This small child's sled was made in 1910 by an employee of Durant-Dort Carriage Company, in Flint, for his grandson.

Younger visitors can offer a weather report or forecast at a magnetic weather map or dress a magnetic figure for the weather — actual or hoped for. A full slate of programming beginning in December includes monthly family sessions on second Saturdays, a spring kite festival and an exploration of extreme weather.

The museum also invites you to share photos of your Michigan weather experiences on our Flickr page. Send them to icy27ran@photos.Flickr.com with the photo title in the subject line. You can include the story in the body of the message.

For more information about visiting the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing, including admission fees and hours of operation, go to www.michigan.gov/museum. Admission to Lake Effects is included in the regular admission price each day. While at the Center, don’t forget to visit the museum’s store for several Michigan-related books and gift options.

What do you love about Michigan weather? 

Maria Leiby is the chief curator of the Michigan Historical Museum.

Step Back In Time at Walker Tavern in Michigan’s Irish Hills

It’s amazing how much history there is to explore in Pure Michigan! And if you head towards Michigan’s Irish Hills, there’s plenty to uncover. Today, the team at the Michigan Historical Center shares the story behind one of the area’s historic gems – Walker Tavern Historic Site.

The Irish Hills of southern Michigan, formed by glaciers millions of years ago, have been home to Native Americans for thousands of years and to Europeans for a little more than three centuries. Located within a two-hour drive of most of Michigan’s major metropolitan areas, they are a great place to bring a picnic, enjoy swimming in a local lake or camp at one of several campgrounds. One of the area’s long time summer destinations is Walker Tavern Historic Site at Cambridge Junction, near Brooklyn.

Passing through kettle lakes and rolling hills, two Irish Hills roads meet at Cambridge Junction. One road, a worn Indian trail surveyed in 1825, joins Detroit with Chicago (now US-12); the other the La Plaisance Bay Pike (now M-50) joins Monroe on Lake Erie to Alto in west Michigan.

High traffic on these two roads in the 1830s created the need for a wayside tavern where people traveling by stage, wagon or foot could rest, take a meal or stay the night. Cost for a meal and lodging was 50 cents — the cost for an acre of land was $1.25. Most travelers on the two roads were looking for farms to purchase. Today’s travelers looking for rest, relaxation and the excitement of learning something new still find Walker Tavern Historic Site an enjoyable stop along the road.

The historic site includes three buildings and 80 acres of park land. Walker Tavern and the barn focus on the 1840s and 50s with artifacts and exhibits about people, travel and work. The Hewitt House is undergoing restoration as it tells stories of early auto tourism. Sundays are the busiest of all the days at the site, with visitors coming by to purchase locally-grown produce at the onsite Farmers Market or to take in a baseball game played by 1869 rules.

Railroads built in the 1850s turned Cambridge Junction from stagecoach hub to community gathering place. For many years the site was a farm. With the advent of the automobile at the beginning of the 20th century, life at Cambridge Junction began to change.

In 1922, the Rev. Frederick Hewitt purchased the old frame tavern, once owned by early settler Sylvester Walker, as well as its counterpart, the brick tavern he built across the road in 1853. Hewitt loved the Irish Hills as a place to hunt and fish, and now he saw opportunity to follow his passion for antiques.

Opening the taverns as antique store, hotel, restaurant and museum, Hewitt capitalized on the automobile tourism that brought a boom to the Irish Hills economy. A day’s ride by car from Detroit, the Irish Hills drew thousands of vacationers, who came to enjoy the lakes, hills and other tourist attractions. In 1929, Hewitt built a colonial revival home on his property. His visitors included Henry and Clara Ford and Michigan Governor Woodbridge Ferris. In 1965 Hewitt’s daughter sold the frame tavern and the land around it to the state, and it became Cambridge Junction State Park.

Today, the park offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Irish Hills and imagine a time of stagecoaches and one of early automobiles.  New this year in the newly painted red room of the Hewitt House are photos and the scrapbook of the family that recognized the historic value of Walker Tavern and preserved it.

To close out summer, why not find the road that takes you to the Irish Hills? Cambridge Junction State Park is open for picnics and gentle strolls seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The three historic buildings on site are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Park activities include a local Farmers Market on Sundays through Oct. 6, vintage baseball and various educational programs sponsored by the Friends of Walker Tavern.  To check the site’s events schedule please visit michigan.gov/walkertavern.