Born in Detroit on November 23, 1864, Henry Bourne Joy was the son of Michigan Central Railroad president James F. Joy, who was involved with the great railroad push to Missouri, and hired Abraham Lincoln to assist him with mergers.
Joy began his career as an office boy with Peninsular Car Company (a Detroit company controlled by his father), working his way up to becoming assistant treasurer. He left to try his hand at mining in Utah, but returned to Detroit to become treasurer (and later director) of the Fort Street Union Depot Company. Joy also held various positions at the Detroit Union Railroad Station and Depot Company (treasurer, vice president, president, and director), becoming president after his father’s death in 1896. He was later treasurer and director of the Peninsular Sugar Refining Company.
He also took time to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War and the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WWI. (Not many people step down from being President of a major car company (Packard) to enlist in the Army, but he did so, and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.)
In 1902, on a trip to New York City, Joy happened to see two Packards chase down a horse-drawn fire wagon. Intrigued, Joy bought the only Packard available in the city. Joy loved the car, and, impressed by its reliability, he visited James Ward Packard at his Warren, Ohio headquarters. Packard told him he and his brother William Dowd Packard needed more capital. Joy enlisted a group of investors that included his brother-in-law, Truman Handy Newberry. On October 2, 1902, the Ohio Automobile Company became Packard Motor Car Company, with Joy’s investors obtaining majority ownership.
Henry Bourne Joy, the Packard Co.’s president, tooling around in the snow in a 1912 Packard 6 Runabout.
The company moved to Detroit, where Joy engaged Albert Kahn, then a young architect with novel ideas, to design and build the world’s first reinforced concrete factory on East Grand Boulevard. The company prospered under Joy’s leadership; he became the president in 1909 and chairman of the board in 1916.
During this time, Packard gained a reputation for technology and luxury. Joy steered Packard into innovative motor truck developments, and the creation of a V-12 engine. Joy began investigating airplane engines with Packard engineers, a research program that culminated in the renowned Liberty Motor.
Joy’s interest in aviation led the company to continue developing aircraft for use in World War I combat in Europe. Packard acquired a large tract of land on Lake St. Clair, near Mt. Clemens, Michigan at the behest of Joy, who wanted a place to test the airplanes with the Liberty engines. The air field was at first named Joy Aviation Field and assisted the government with manufacturing and testing aircraft. After World War I the government acquired the field, renaming it Selfridge Air Base, for Thomas Selfridge, the first person killed in an airplane. The street leading to Selfridge is still called Joy Road.
Henry Joy served at Packard until 1926 (with a temporary interruption to serve in WWI).
His belief that the national prohibition of alcohol would lead to a safer, healthier and better society led him to be very active in the Anti-Saloon League. However, after the social experiment was implemented he saw first-hand some of its negative consequences. For example, Treasury agents twice came onto his land and destroyed the property of his elderly watchman looking for illegal alcohol. Then a fisherman boating near Joy’s house was fatally shot by an agent because he couldn’t hear over the noise of his motor the demand of the agent that he stop and be searched for contraband beverage. Joy’s testimony to the United States Congress contributed to the success of the movement for the repeal of prohibition in 1933.
In 1913, Joy became one of the principal organizers and president of the Lincoln Highway Association, a group dedicated to building a concrete road from New York to San Francisco. The effort, which was heavily promoted by his vice president, Carl Graham Fisher, succeeded, and a monument to Joy along the Lincoln Highway at the Continental Divide was dedicated on July 2, 1939. Henry Bourne Joy actually died on November 6 , 1936 in Laramie, WY.
George Bulanda, “The Way It Was: Packard Motor Car Company, 1912“, Hour Detroit, January 2018
Hawley Crippen, a Michigan-born homeopathic doctor who became the first criminal caught using wireless telegraph, boarded a ship to escape the manhunt for him in England, on July 20, 1910.
He was accused of poisoning and dismembering his wife, a showgirl named Cora (a.k.a. Belle Elmore), then stuffing her down in the basement. Then, Crippen, who had attended the University of Michigan, and his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, tried to make their way to Canada, poorly disguised as father and son.
However, the captain of the ocean liner the SS Montrose noticed that they looked like the “wanted” photos of the infamous couple in the newspaper and used the ship’s wireless to send word back to England that the pair was aboard. Scotland Yard investigators rushed to board a faster ship to beat the pair to North America.
Crippen and his paramour were arrested on July 31, just as the lovers were to disembark in Quebec.
They were tried in London. A jury found the Coldwater native guilty after 27 minutes of deliberation, and he was hanged the following month, despite his protestations of innocence. Le Neve was acquitted.
For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: Hawley Crippen tries to escape murder charge in England”, Detroit Free Press, July 20, 2014.
For more information, see “MSU Forensic Scientist Proves That Britain’s Most Notorious Murder Was Innocent”, Red Tape Blog, November 26, 2007.
When the Rouse Simmons went down, it was the end of an era: The last hurrah for a dying age of wooden schooners and the final act of the Great Lakes’ real-life Santa Claus. Although the exact time the Rouse Simmons sank is unknown, it is usually attributed to November 23, 1912.
The Rest of the Story
In the late 1800s and early 1900s ship owners and crews who normally ran lumber soon found out that making one last run on the lake with freshly cut Christmas trees could result in a very nice profit. It was most times the last run of the year on the lake before the gales of November became deadly.
Since 1896, Herman Schuenemann had been transporting Christmas trees to Chicago. However it was his older brother August (nicknamed ‘Christmas Tree Schuenemann’) who first began to deliver cargoes of evergreen trees to Chicago in 1876. Tragically, August was lost to the lake in 1898 when his own ship S. Thai sank in a November storm near Glencoe, Illinois. Ironically, August’s ship was also carrying Christmas trees when it went down.
Chicago Maritime Museum.
Captain Herman Schuenemann also had his own nickname — Captain Santa — and his boat was always called the Christmas Ship by Chicagoans. Every year he also would dock his schooner on the river in Chicago and sell his trees directly to his customers. He was the hit of the season loved by locals. Herman was known for providing the cheapest and freshest trees having a pleasant and distinctive smell. And Captain Santa was known for giving away trees to families who could not afford the fifty cents to one dollar he charged. After a long season of hauling lumber it made for a nice Christmas bonus for him and his crew, and Christmas cheer for the folks of Chicago.
In the year 1912 Captain Santa told his wife this would be his last trip, as he was getting old, and so was his ship. He sailed to Manistique’s Thompson’s Harbor on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and loaded the Rouse Simmons with over 5000 trees, setting sail for Chicago around noon on November 22nd.
Winds picked up that night to near 70 knots and the schooner, her crew and some passengers, a total of 16 were lost in the storm. Three other ships were lost that night as well. Chicago grew anxious awaiting the arrival of their Christmas Tree Ship, but it never arrived. The next year the city of Chicago erected it’s first City Christmas tree in honor of the Captain and his crew. Over 100,000 citizens attended.
The Christmas Tree Ship was gone, but Schuenemann’s daughters (including Elsie in the above picture) kept the tradition alive for another twenty years, bringing trees in by schooner and selling them along Chicago’s waterfront.
And the vibe lives on today, as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw hauls its load of trees from northern Michigan to the Chicago Navy Pier each year. The trees are donated to help make Christmas a bit brighter for deserving families throughout the city—a gesture that picks up right where Captain Santa left off.
Nearly 60 years later, divers discovered the wreck lying on the bottom of the lake off the coast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Most of its hull was covered with mussels, and clusters of trees were still in the ship’s hold—some still hanging on to their needles.
Resting on the bottom of Lake Michigan.
Evan Lubofsky, “Captain Santa’s Last Sail: The Mysterious Fate of the Christmas Tree Ship“, Mental Floss, December 22, 2017.
“Captain Santa and the Christmas Tree Ship lost on last voyage“, Boat Jobs Only, December 14, 2018.
“Lost to the Lake: The Last Voyage of The Christmas Tree Ship“, Lake Effect Living.
Tammy Waite, “Coast Guard Recreates Christmas Tree Ship after Tragic Sinking in 1912“, American Security Today, December 5, 2017.
The Rouse Simmons and the Great Lakes Christmas Tree Ships“, Absolute Michigan, October 25, 2017.
Fred Neuschel, Lives and legends of the Christmas tree ships, Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c2007. : Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships brings the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes to life, using the tragic story of the schooner Rouse Simmons as a porthole into the robust but often forgotten communities that thrived along Lake Michigan from the Civil War to World War I. Memorialized in songs, poems, fiction, and even a musical, the infamous ship that went down in a Thanksgiving storm while delivering Christmas trees to Chicago has long been shrouded in myth and legend. As a result, the larger story of the captain, crew, and affected communities has often been overlooked. Fred Neuschel delves into this everyday life of camaraderie, drudgery, ambition, and adventure—with tales of the Midwest’s burgeoning immigrant groups and rapid industrialization—to create a true story that is even more fascinating than the celebrated legends.
Victim of one of the greatest halfbacks of all time, Tom Harmon, and a great Michigan team, the Buckeyes were smeared with a smashing, terrific loss, 40 to 0.
The great Harmon, in his collegiate final, was magnificent. He ran, he passed, he kicked. He scored three touchdowns, bringing his all-time touchdown total to 33, and surpassing by two the Big Ten record set by the great Red Grange 15 years ago. In his finale, he ran for two rushing touchdowns, passed for two more, returning an interception for a score, and kicked four extra points.
Even the Ohio State fans had to cheer for Harmon, who was taken out early just before the end of the game.
Source : John Dietrich, OSU-Michigan 1940: Tom Harmon’s Wolverines hand Buckeyes worst loss since 1905, 40-0, Plain Dealer, February 26, 2012.
Tom Harmon versus Ohio State, November 23, 1940 via YouTube
It’s a stormy November evening in 1953. Somewhere in North America’s Great Lakes region, an unexpected object has just appeared on a United States Air Force radar screen. Keen to get to the bottom of this mystery, officials dispatch two airmen to take a closer look. But as this pair approach the anomaly aboard their aircraft, something happens. Mysteriously, they seem to vanish into thin air.
Based at Truax Air Force Base in the Wisconsin city of Madison, First Lieutenant Felix Moncla wasn’t exactly wet behind the ears. In fact, by November 1953 he’d clocked more than 800 hours of flying time. But somewhere in the skies above Lake Superior, he encountered a challenge that he couldn’t defeat.
On board an aircraft known as the F-89 Scorpion, Moncla and Second Lieutenant Robert Wilson set off in pursuit of the unknown object. And before long, they began to close in, thousands of feet above the dark waters of the lake. But what happened next continues to defy explanation, sparking a mystery that endures to this day.
The story began on the evening of November 23, 1953, at an Air Defense Command facility on the border between Canada and the U.S. According to some reports, snow was falling, while other sources state that the weather was stormy. But whatever the conditions, at just after 6 p.m., something unexpected occurred.
Around that time, an operator detected something unusual on the radar. Traveling through restricted airspace, an unknown entity appeared to be nearing the commercial hub of Soo Locks on the southeastern shore of Lake Superior. However, there were no American or Canadian crafts cleared to be in the area at the time.
Puzzled, officials scrambled to a F-89 Scorpion jet that was temporarily stationed at Kinross Air Force Base, around 20 miles from Soo Locks. Normally, this craft was based some 400 miles away at Truax Air Force Base, which is situated in the Wisconsin city of Madison. Unfortunately, it would never make the journey back down south.
When the aircraft was relocated, two men who were also based at Truax Air Force Base made the journey to Michigan, as well. In the pilot’s seat was Moncla, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force with over 120 hours’ experience flying planes just like this one. Initially on track to be a doctor, the 27-year-old had abandoned a career in medicine to join the military some three years previously.
On the evening of November 23 Moncla set off in search of the mysterious object. And with Wilson manning the radar equipment, the two were soon in hot pursuit. However, the Second Lieutenant struggled to keep track of the unknown craft, which appeared to dart swiftly from place to place.
Thankfully, a radar operator on the ground was on hand to assist Moncla and Wilson as they gave chase. On the screen, they watched as one blip followed the other in a high-altitude game of cat and mouse, slowly descending from 25,000 feet to just 7,000. And then, finally, it looked as if the F-89 was gaining ground.
At a point some 70 miles off the Keweenaw Peninsula on the southern shore of the lake, Moncla and Wilson’s jet caught up with the unknown object. By that time, the airmen had tracked the unidentified craft for some 160 miles. But then, something happened that no one could have predicted.
According to witness reports, the two blips on the radar somehow locked together as one. Days after the incident, local Madison paper The Capital Times published an article about the strange occurrence. It read, “The Truax jet was followed on the radar screen at Kinross until its image merged with that of the plane it was checking.”
After that, Moncla and Wilson’s jet seemed to disappear into thin air. Later, an official report would note that the F-89’s radar signal simply vanished. And if that wasn’t strange enough, the blip representing the unknown craft veered off course before also disappearing. Dumbfounded, the U.S. military launched a search-and-rescue operation to track down the missing airmen.
But despite an extensive search of the area by both boat and plane, no sign of Moncla, Wilson or their F-89 was ever found. Both men, along with their jet, seemed to have disappeared without a trace. So, what happened to the experienced pilot and his second-in-command? To this day, the truth has never been uncovered.
So, what really happened to Moncla and Wilson that fateful night? Two years after the incident, Donald Keyhoe published The Flying Saucer Conspiracy. In this book, the writer speculated about the true cause of the airmen’s disappearance. Specifically, he hinted that the missing F-89 had been in pursuit of an alien craft. Source: “This Air Force Jet Was Scrambled To Intercept A UFO – But Then Disappeared Without A Trace“, Twenty Daily,
So, what really happened to Moncla and Wilson that fateful night? Two years after the incident, Donald Keyhoe published The Flying Saucer Conspiracy. In this book, the writer speculated about the true cause of the airmen’s disappearance. Specifically, he hinted that the missing F-89 had been in pursuit of an alien craft.
Source: “This Air Force Jet Was Scrambled To Intercept A UFO – But Then Disappeared Without A Trace“, Twenty Daily,
November 23, 1991. It was the annual Ohio State-Michigan game, and with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first half, a Buckeye named Tim Williams uncorked a punt high and deep into the slate gray sky of Ann Arbor.
Howard caught it at his own 7-yard line, took three stutter steps to the right, turned directly up field and proceeded to shred the Buckeyes. On the ABC broadcast, even the grizzled voice of Keith Jackson was awestruck.
“Oh my goodness,” Jackson said breathlessly, before delivering one of his all-time signature calls as Howard got free and clear and impossible to catch along the sideline.
“Good-bye. … Hello, Heisman.”
As Howard crossed the end zone he debated with himself whether he should just soak in the cheers of the roaring 106,156-person crowd or turn to his teammates or, perhaps, flash an image-making pose he’d been joking about unleashing for a while now. He knew some would see it as ostentatious, yet fueled by adrenaline he decided, ah, why the heck not. So he unleashed a big smile, planted his right foot, lifted his left knee and extended his left arm forward.
During his college career at the University of Michigan, Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Michigan records. He also led the Big Ten Conference in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and earning first-team All-American honors. Howard captured 85% of the first place votes in balloting for the Heisman, the largest margin in the history of the trophy at that time.
Interestingly enough, a picture of the event is the basis of a lawsuit in 2013.
Standing not far from Howard that November day, in back of the end zone, was a man named Brian Masck. He was a staff photographer for the Muskegon Chronicle, a paper serving the blue-collar town in Western Michigan. Masck was working as a freelancer for that game, as he often did on weekends. He attended area college games in an attempt to make some extra money by selling shots to newspapers, wire services or, hopefully, the best-paying gig out there, Sports Illustrated.
With the freedom to seek out the perfect picture, Masck was one of the few photographers who abandoned shooting from a traditional spot near the action of the line of scrimmage. He instead took position in the far end zone, just in case Howard did the kind of spectacular thing he was about to do.
Masck worked with a motor-driven Nikon F3 camera, but he’d found, through experience, that simply holding down the shutter release and shooting as many pictures as possible rarely worked in the fast pace of a football game. Cameras were far slower then, particularly on cold November days, and even slightly blurry prints were worthless.
So Masck took each shot individually and, finding himself at such a fortunate angle, hit the button during the instant Howard was in full pose before his teammates piled on top of him. He had his money shot, even if he didn’t know it until Sunday, when back in Muskegon he developed the film.
The photo eventually appeared in SI, and Howard’s pose became a seminal moment in the game’s history. Now almost all aspiring Heisman candidates do it – and they generally use Howard’s version, with one leg lifted in the air, rather than the one on the actual trophy, where both feet are on the ground. It’s even transcended the game; both President and Michele Obama have been pictured doing it.
Even though Howard, now 43, went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL, won MVP of Super Bowl XXXI in part due to a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that sealed the Green Bay Packers’ title and is now a fixture on national television, the pose remains his signature. The photo has been used on commercials, video-game covers, posters and all other varieties of commoditized goods. Howard has been paid for only some of it.
Twenty two years later, Brian Masck is suing for copyright infringement.
Source : Dan Wentzel, “As Johnny Football is in a photo-related flap, ‘Heisman’ Howard is embroiled in one of his own”, Yahoo Sports, August 6, 2013.
Republican canvasser Norm Shinkle, bottom left, repeatedly made it clear in the meeting that he has wanted to delay certification and audit results because of irregularities he called troubling. (Screenshot)
The Michigan State Board of Canvassers voted Monday to certify the state’s election results, formally granting President-elect Joe Biden the state’s 16 electoral votes — and all but erasing any pathway for President Donald Trump’s to overturn the election results through legal challenges that have been dismissed in key states.
One of the two Republican members of the Michigan state canvassing board, Aaron Van Langevelde, joined the two Democrats to vote to certify the election results, after it was unclear how he would vote prior to the meeting.
The question of certifying Michigan’s election results moved center stage amid the Trump campaign’s dubious claims of voter fraud and efforts in court to delay certification and overturn the election results in several key states that voted for Biden.
The state’s highly-anticipated certification was the latest in a series of episodes over the past week that have reinforced Biden’s victory, even as Trump has refused to concede. The President instead spread wild false conspiracy theories about the election and invited Michigan state GOP lawmakers to the White House while his allies and legal advisers suggested the legislature should overturn the popular vote result — something they do not have the power to do.
After Michigan’s Republican state legislative leaders visited with Trump at the White House last week, they issued a statement saying, “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election.”
A Biden spokesman said of the Michigan election results, “We appreciate the state board’s recognition of the plain facts: President-elect Joe Biden resoundingly won the state of Michigan by more than 150,000 votes — 14 times the margin of Donald Trump in 2016.”
The Trump campaign said it wasn’t done fighting the election result.
“Certification by state officials is simply a procedural step,” said Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis. “We are going to continue combatting election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes. Americans must be assured that the final results are fair and legitimate.”
There was uncertainty swirling over the Michigan canvassing board meeting on Monday. The board is made of up two Democrats and two Republicans, and one of the Republican board members signaled he would oppose certifying the election result.
Aaron Van Langevelde, the other Republican board member, had not tipped his hand before the meeting, but he signaled how he would vote quickly after it got underway. Van Langevelde said that he believed he was required to certify the vote under state law, regardless of whether he believed there should be an audit of Wayne County’s election results. He supported an audit, he said, but that did not mean the board should wait to certify the election first.”We must not attempt to exercise power we don’t have,” he said.
Norman Shinkle, the second GOP board member, abstained from the final vote. He argued that the board should not certify the election results until an investigation into voting in Wayne County — the state’s largest, which includes Detroit — was completed. Shinkle asked the Republican-led Michigan legislature to create a bipartisan commission to conduct a review of the 2020 election, which all board members backed, in a moment of bipartisanship. The legislature has already launched an investigation into the state’s election, conducted by the House and Senate Joint Oversight Committee.
While Democratic board member Julie Matuzak supported certification, she did make a call for the state’s election system to be modernized. Matuzak said that while she did not believe there was any fraud in the November election, the state needed to allow for the processing of absentee ballots earlier, modernize how poll workers and poll challengers are trained, and allow for unbalanced precincts to be recounted in order to eliminate some of the human error that still exists.
‘The law is pretty clear here’
Before the vote, the board heard from election officials like local clerks, campaign lawyers and other experts, which Van Langevelde requested before voting. He revealed his viewpoint of the rules that govern the board through his debate the board’s role with an attorney for GOP Senate candidate John James, who argued the canvassing board could adjourn and wait for the results of an audit before certifying the results.
“I found nothing about authority for us to delay certification” he said. “I found nothing that gives us the authority to review complaints fraud. I mean, I think the law is pretty clear here, and again this board has such limited authority.”
Shinkle sought at the meeting to ask questions of Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, who initially was not slated to speak but appeared via video, like other witnesses, after a brief recess. Shinkle asked whether the city had hired sufficient Republican poll workers for the election as required under state law, claiming Republicans who sought to work the polls were denied.
Winfrey responded that the city had hired as many Republicans as it could, but those who applied too late were not allowed to take the job.
Republican and Democratic state and local officials appeared via video to speak at the meeting. When one Republican repeated debunked conspiracy theories about the vote count, one of the Democratic board members asked whether the allegations had been submitted to the attorney general, because the canvassing board could not investigate those claims.
Brendan Flynn, who was a poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit where absentee ballots were counted, spoke to what he observed on Election Day. “The only disruptions I observed the entire day were from GOP challengers, who had difficulty following the rules” Flynn said. “The bottom line was there was nothing irregular or fraudulent about what I observed at the TCF center on November 3.”
Source : Annie Grayer, Jeremy Herb and Chandelis Duster, “Michigan certifies Biden’s win as Trump challenges in other key states fizzle”, CNN, November 23, 2020.
Inspired by a squeaker of a University of Michigan football win over the University of Chicago on this day in 1898, University of Michigan band member Louis Elbel pens the iconic fight song “The Victors” later that night.
Elbel, a student at the University of Michigan’s school of music, had been watching the match between the Wolverines and the University of Chicago Maroons from the stands. It was an intense match – a win would bring Michigan its first undefeated season since 1891 and the league championship. Michigan’s success was unclear to the end, until Michigan broke out a last-minute 12-11 win with a touchdown followed by an extra point. Michigan students who had traveled to Chicago for the game broke out in song and celebration, following their marching band into the streets of the big city.
Everything would have been perfect, except Elbel didn’t feel any of the marching band’s music lived up to the big occasion.
Elbel had a sister living in Chicago at the time, and as he made his way to her house, the first lines of the tune came to him. He rushed to her home and banged out the rest on her piano, then finished the piece off on the train back to Ann Arbor. When finished, he’d written a march for a 23-piece ensemble.
Elbel premiered the song the following year to none other than John Philip Sousa, the “March King” who wrote such notable tunes as “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Liberty Bell” (later used by Monty Python as the ending tune as credits rolled on their Flying Circus television show). Sousa directed his own band in playing Elbel’s “The Victors.”
The catchy tune made the University of Michigan’s fight song one of the best-known college anthems. In fact, former president and Michigan alum Gerald R. Ford liked it so much that he sometimes instructed the Naval Band to play it instead of “Hail to the Chief” at official events. It was also the song that played at Ford’s 2006 funeral procession at the U.S. Capitol.
Elbel received the University of Michigan Band Alumni’s first Honorary Life Membership in 1951 for writing the song. The university’s Elbel Field is named in his honor.
Source : Official Blog of the Michigan Democrats, November 24, 2014.
Ernest Hemingway’s family cottage, “Windemere,” in Emmet County was added to the list of national historic landmarks. In 1899, Ernest Hemmingway’s father built the “Windemere” cottage in Emmet County. And it was here that the famous fiction writer spent nearly all the summers of his youth. It was here that he began his life-long passions of hunting and fishing. And most importantly, it was here that he wrote some of his first serious fiction. Hemmingway produced numerous volumes of short stories and some of the most significant novels of the modern era, including The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952). “Windemere” was added to the list of national historic landmarks on November 24, 1968.
A picture of very young Ernest Hemingway fishing on Horton’s Creek, July 1904. Photo by Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
“Michigan Historical Calendar“, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.
Jill Arnold, “The Son Also Rises”, Seeking Michigan, September 18, 2012.
When one reads a physics paper in an esteemed journal, one does not generally wonder if it was written by a cat. But such was the case for an article in the 1970s credited to co-author F.D.C. Willard—the Cat Who Published.
Jack H. Hetherington was a professor of physics at Michigan State University in 1975, when he finished what would become an influential and often-cited physics paper. The academic writing, entitled, Two-, Three-, and Four-Atom Exchange Effects in bcc 3He, was an in-depth exploration of atomic behavior at different temperatures. It would have flown over the heads of most lay people, not to mention cats.
He was all set to send it to Physical Review Letters, which today describes itself as “the world’s premier physics letter journal.” However, before he dispatched it, Hetherington gave the paper to a colleague to get one one last set of eyes on the piece. This is when he ran into a strange problem. Hetherington had used the royal “we” throughout the paper. As his colleague pointed out, Physical Review Letters generally only published papers using plural pronouns and adjectives like “we” and “our” if the paper had multiple authors.
Now I Know points out that in 1975, Hetherington couldn’t have simply done a find-and-replace to correct the offending articles. In fact the whole paper had been produced on a typewriter.
In the 1982 book More Random Walks in Science, Hetherington gave other reasons for not wanting to add another human authors, including the fact that the compensation for a published piece is changed with each additional author, that a scientific writer’s reputation is tied up in what they publish, and that prestige can take a hit when multiple authors are involved.
Hetherington wrote that after giving the issue “an evening’s thought,” he decided the paper was so good that it required rapid publishing. Unwilling to go back and replace the plural voice in the document, he did the next best thing and just added a second author: his Siamese cat, Chester. Of course just listing “Chester” as a co-author probably wouldn’t fly, so he invented the name F.D.C. Willard. The “F.D.C.” stood for “Felix Domesticus, Chester.” Willard had been the name of Chester’s father.
Portraying F.D.C. Willard as one of his colleagues at Michigan State, Hetherington submitted his paper, and it was published in issue 35 of Physical Review Letters.
Hetherington didn’t feel too bad about the deception, recognizing the possible publicity value of such a stunt. In More Random Walks in Science, he wrote: “Why would I do such an irreverent thing? … If it eventually proved to be correct, people would remember the paper more if the anomalous authorship were known. In any case I went ahead and did it and have generally not been sorry.”
After the paper was published, it didn’t take long for Willard’s true identity to come to light. The first time anyone outside of Hetherington’s close colleagues learned of the cat scientist was when a visitor to the college came looking for the authors. Hetherington was away. As quoted in a piece on Today I Found Out, Hetherington said, “Everyone laughed and soon the cat was out of the bag.”
After that casual reveal, Hetherington leaned into the joke and even issued a handful of article reprints signed by both authors. His was a standard signature, while Willard’s was a pawprint. Clearly, Hetherington wasn’t too worried about how the community would take to his kitty co-author. He even began describing Chester/Willard as the university’s “Rodentia Predation Consultant.”
University officials seemed to love the idea of the cat as a sort of physics mascot. In 1975, the college’s Physics Chairman, Truman Woodruff, even wrote a letter to Hetherington, asking him if he could persuade Willard to join the department full time. The letter read, in part, “Can you imagine the universal jubilation if in fact Willard could be persuaded to join us, even if only as a Visiting Distinguished Professor?”
According to Hetherington, the only people who didn’t think the joke was very funny were editors.
Willard went on to publish another paper in 1980, this time being credited as the sole author (assumedly Hetherington helped out a little, too). This paper, written completely in French, was published in the popular science magazine, La Recherche. While it didn’t hold the prestige or exciting surprise as his first published piece, who knew the cat spoke French?
Willard’s short but sweet publishing career did have a lasting effect on cat-authored physics papers. Inspired by the kitty’s contributions to physics, the American Physical Society declared in 2014 that all cat-authored papers would now be available as open-access documents. The date of this declaration? April 1.
Reposted from Eric Grundhauser, “In 1975, a Cat Co-Authored a Physics Paper“, Atlas Obscura, August 30, 2016.