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.

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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.

History Buffs Will Love These Six Fascinating Stories from Jackson’s Past

Jackson’s history is closely tied to prison history. The prison made Jackson a wealthy industrial town during the Industrial Revolution by providing valuable, cheap labor in the factories. Today, guest blogger Rebecca Calkins from Experience Jackson shares six fascinating stories from the city’s past. 

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Prison history is not just important to Jackson, it’s important to Michigan and the United States. Michigan’s most notable criminals, from Kevorkian to the infamous Purple Gang, have passed through those walls. In the 1880s, prison reformers of Europe looked to the reports of American reformers. The appeal of a prison story is nothing new. Whether it’s Shawshank Redemption or Orange is the New Black, stories of crime and redemption have always fascinated us.

Jackson Robber Gang
The first mass break out in 1840 freed ten convicts from the prison walls, then made of wood. They fled to Spring Arbor where they terrorized the area for two years until all but two of them were caught.  

Prisoner Sarah Havilland
Female prisoners were at the Michigan State Prison with the men up until 1882. Sarah Havilland poisoned her own children because she couldn’t feed them. Yet inside the prison she became the much beloved caregiver to the warden’s children, who at the time lived onsite.

Night Keeper John H. Purves 
Civil War hero, Night Keeper John H. Purves was one of the first true prison reformers. Although firm with punishments, he also believed in rewards to incentivize good behavior. He kept a journal published in 1882 “The Nightkeeper’s Reports” which provided the country inspiration for prison reform. The book is sold in The Original Jackson Historic Prison Tour Gift Shop.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

The Purple Gang, Jackson Prison and State Sen. Warren G. Hooper Murder 
About to testify before a grand jury, State Sen. Warren G. Hooper was shot on Jan. 11, 1945 on his way home to Albion, Mich. It was believed to be a professional hit by Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang, who at the time virtually had their way in the Jackson prison. Attorney General John R. Dethmers, theorized that Hooper’s murderer had been slipped out of the prison to commit the crime and returned to rest easy with a perfect alibi. 

Prison Handicraft: From Wedding Dresses to Leather Purses 
At Michigan’s First State Prison women bought their wedding dresses from the prison tailor shop. At the new Southern Michigan Correctional Facility, the Hobbycraft Sales shop was filled with finely crafted leather and woodworking items. Some of their handiwork can be seen at the Cell Block 7 Prison Museum.

Filming of the movie Stone with Robert DeNiro 
In 2009, the newest guests of the prison were Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich and Robert DeNiro. After 2007 when the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility was finally closed, several film crews used the old cell blocks including Stone, Conviction (starring Hilary Swank), and Street Boss.

Jackson has two opportunities to experience prison history. Spend time visiting both of the one-time largest walled prisons in the world.

The Original Historic Prison Tours
517-817-8960
HistoricPrisonTours.com

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

The Original Historic Prison Tours takes you through Michigan’s First State Prison, now Armory Arts Village, and covers Jackson’s prison history from 1839 through present-day. Judy Gail Krasnow, Owner and Operator shares her favorite tale.

“Our Original Historic Prison Tour is filled with amazing stories such as the clever use of the huge cockroaches. Inmates tied a smuggled cigar on the insect’s back. The first inmate lifted the bug and took his puff. Then, putting the bug down, he held the string. The insect scurried, but could only reach the next cell. There the next inmate enjoyed his puff and so-on down the row until one unlucky inmate just got the “roach”.”

Cell Block 7 Prison Museum
517-787-2320
CellBlock7.org

The only prison exhibit within the walls of an operating penitentiary, Cell Block 7 is not just a replica; it’s a real prison, where thousands of convicts have done hard time. You’ll inhabit the same cells, walk the same corridors, pass by the same gun towers as some of the most hardened criminals in Michigan’s history. The difference is, when you’re ready, you can just walk out the door.

Headshot 1 originalRebecca Calkins is the Communications Director for Experience Jackson. She grew up in Jackson and returned after attending college at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. When not working, Rebecca enjoys cooking and traveling, always looking for the next culinary or cultural adventure.

Try to Pronounce the Names of These 12 Michigan Destinations (#7 is a Tongue Twister!)

Have you ever wondered how Michigan was named Michigan? Before colonization, the now Great Lakes State was home to at least eight Native American tribes throughout the land, one of which being the Ojibwe Indians. The Ojibwe were the first people to openly interact with the French in Michigan, trading furs and knowledge of the area for guns and goods. Through translation, the state of Michigan was named after the Ojibwe Indian word “Michigama,” which means “great lake” or “land surrounded by water.”

With this in mind, we invite you to take a look at some other uniquely-named destinations found across the Great Lakes State.

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1. Mackinac Island. This is an easy one. If you’re a native Michigander, you know that this popular Northern Michigan destination is correctly pronounced “Mackinaw Island”. Tourists have visited Mackinac Island in the summers to escape the heat of the cities for hundreds of years. Condé Nast Traveler magazine added Mackinac Island to its “World’s Best” list as one of the top 10 islands in the world. In December 2007 National Geographic Traveler magazine named Mackinac Island as the top island destination in the United States and 8th in the world. Don’t forget the fudge!

2. Tahquamenon. One of Michigan’s most popular waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, can be found in the Upper Peninsula in appropriately named Paradise, MI. If you’ve ever wondered how to correctly pronounce the falls, it rhymes with “phenomenon.”

3. Ypsilanti. Ip-sill-ann-tee, or Ypsi to those who know it well, is located just down the road from Ann Arbor. Home to Eastern Michigan University, the city was originally a trading post set up in 1809 and called Woodruff’s Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. The name was later changed to Ypsilanti in 1829 in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti was a hero in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

4. Menominee.  Menominee (Men-om-in-e) is located at the gateway between the Upper Peninsula and Northeastern Wisconsin. This Pure Michigan destination gets its name from a regional Native American tribe known as the Menominee, which translates into “Wild Rice.” The area was originally the home of the Menominee Indian Tribe, who now have a reservation along Wolf River in Northern Wisconsin. Visitors can enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking and much more.

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 5. Sault Ste. Marie. The Soo! If you’ve traveled north of the Mackinac Bridge, you’ve probably passed through the town of Soo-Saynt-Ma-Ree. The Soo is home to many Michigan treasures, such as the Soo Locks and Lake Superior State University. If you do venture north, you’ll discover the rushing waterfalls that give way to majestic forests, rocky coastlines leading to picturesque lighthouses and engineering feats of man stand side-by-side with small fishing skiffs and buckets of bait.

 6. Hamtramck. Hamtramck (Ham-tram-ick) grew into a Polish enclave between 1910 and 1920 when large number of Polish laborers arrived seeking employment. Today, Hamtramck includes many different ethnic groups, but maintains its Polish identify as can be found in the shops, restaurants and bakeries in the area with a pierogi and a paczki.

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 7. Kitch-iti-kipi. Pronounced Kitch-i-tee-ki-pee (say that five times fast!) is another U.P. gem located in scenic Palms Book State Park. Known as “The Big Spring”, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring is two hundred feet across and 40 feet deep. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone as the flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies.

8. Dowagiac. The Grand Old City of southwestern Michigan. Dowagiac, pronounced deh-wah-jak, is nestled within the Fruit Belt, the city is surrounded by rolling farmlands and abundant orchards.  Enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating, water skiing and ice fishing.  Be sure to tour the historic train depot, too

9. Charlotte. If you’ve been pronouncing Charlotte like the city in North Carolina, guess again! Shar-lot (Not Char-lit) is located southwest of Lansing and home to some of the most beautiful historical buildings in Michigan. Charlotte annually welcomes visitors to experience the Eaton County Fair in mid-July and the pioneer spirit of the ever-popular Frontier Days in early September.

10. Bete Grise. Beet grease, you say? Not quite! Bay-dee-gree can be found southwest of Copper Harbor on Keweenaw County’s south shore. Bete Grise (French for “Grey Beast”) has a beautiful white sand beach as well as a wetland preserve stretching along Lake Superior.

11. Baraga. Bare-uh-gah is named after Bishop Frederick Baraga, located in Baraga County in the Western Upper Peninsula. Check out the statue of Bishop Baraga, which stands 35 feet tall and weighs four tons, holding a cross (7 feet high) and snowshoes (26 feet long.)  It floats on a cloud of stainless steel, supported by five laminated wood beams representing Baraga’s five major missions.

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12. Isle Royale. Last but not least, Isle Royal (Not roy-ale!) Wolves and moose, the wild North Woods forest, ever-changing weather and a cool climate, and the crystal clear waters and rugged shoreline of Lake Superior characterize Isle Royale’s National Park.  Roadless Isle Royale is accessible only by boat or float plane.  This is a Pure Michigan destination fit for royalty – if you love the outdoors!

Do you have any Michigan tongue-twisters to add to our list? Tell us below!