1832 : Detroit Arsenal Established in Dearbornville
Feb 28 all-day

detroit arsenal in dearbornville

On February 28, 1832, the U.S. Congress established the Detroit Arsenal in Dearbornville. The actual site was selected in July and construction of 11 buildings started the next year. One of those buildings, the Commandant’s Quarters, still stands at 21950 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. It is the oldest building in Dearborn still located on its original site, and is considered to be one of the seven most significant buildings in Michigan. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1956 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

The Arsenal was not a defensive fortification, nor was it a small installation. It was comprised of eleven buildings and a large parade ground which was surrounded by a brick wall and gates. To the east of the Arsenal, stood the powder magazine. This one story building, with walls four feet thick, was used as a storehouse for gunpowder and explosive ammunition. The magazine was located away from the Arsenal complex on what is now known as Brady Street. The location was chosen to prevent an explosion within the magazine from destroying the entire Arsenal. Below the magazine, on the Rouge River, there was a dock (Thompson’s), which was used during high water to bring heavy loads to the magazine and Arsenal.

Surrounding the Arsenal Installation was the United States Military Reserve. This was comprised of vast amounts of land, containing lumber, grasslands and water. The trees were very important as they were used for the building of the Arsenal, for gun carriages, ships, and any other needs of the military. To the north of the Arsenal on the flood plain of the Rouge River were the stables, barns and pasture. This northern area covered Ford Field and a little beyond.

Sources :

Detroit Historical Society Facebook Page

The Detroit Arsenal in Dearborn, Dearborn Historical Museum.

1837 : Emma Hall Born, First Woman to Lead State Penal Institution
Feb 28 all-day

Born February 28, 1837 on a farm in Lenawee County’s Raisin Township, Emma Hall was the second of her parents Reuben and Abby’s eight children. Most of the family relocated to Ypsilanti around 1870. Reuben’s teaching background and Abby’s upbringing as a Congregational minister’s daughter may have influenced Emma’s career as a prison reformer. She became Michigan’s first woman to lead a state penal institution, and was later made a member of the nation’s top prison advisory committee.

After graduating from the Normal in 1861, Emma taught recitation at Professor Sill’s Seminary for Young Ladies in Detroit, for a yearly salary of $550 [about $10,000 in 2014 dollars]. Emma met Detroit House of Corrections prison superintendent Zebulon Brockway. Beginning with his work at the Detroit prison, which opened in 1861, Brockway would become a nationally-recognized though controversial prison reformer.

In 1868, Brockway opened the House of Shelter. This adjunct to the Detroit House of Corrections offered a radical experiment for women prisoners, many of whom had been arrested for prostitution. Instead of barred cells, the House of Shelter offered a comfortable group home in which each woman had her own bedroom. The home was furnished and decorated as a well-to-do middle-class home.

Brockway made Emma its first matron. She moved in and lived full-time with the women.


Detroit's House of Shelter, Emma's introduction to prison reform methods.

Detroit’s House of Shelter, Emma’s introduction to prison reform methods.

Emma instituted a program of domestic arts education and cultural activities designed to impart marketable skills and a refined character. Family-style meals were shared at a table set with good china and table linens. The women learned sewing techniques and attended evening school and religious instruction. Recreation included singing, playing the parlor organ, embroidery, and a Thursday night tea with prose and poetry recitations. At least one woman learned to read at the house.

State officials praised Emma’s work in their 1873 report “Pauperism and Crime in Michigan in 1872-73.” They said, “Culture of this kind, amid such surroundings, cannot fail to be productive of great good in preparing those who receive it for useful home life, and we cannot but regard the House of Shelter as one of the best agencies for saving those likely to fall that it has been our province to find.”

A new supervisor at the Detroit House of Corrections took a dimmer view of the venture. In 1874, Emma and Zebulon resigned from the House of Shelter. The new supervisor converted the onetime sanctuary into his private residence.

But Emma’s devotion and energy had won the attention of state officials, and she was appointed matron of the state public school at Coldwater, Michigan’s institution for orphaned or disadvantaged children.

Here Emma first encountered a recurring nemesis to her drive and vision: a supervisory board of inexperienced members who encountered not obedience but authority from Emma. She resigned after only a short term at Coldwater. In a letter to Michigan governor John Bagley, she wrote of her resignation, “I would not be a tool in the hands of the local board.” The resignation did not slow her career; she was appointed matron of the School for the Deaf and Dumb in Flint, and remained there for several years.

In 1878, Mary Lathrop read her essay “Fallen Women” at the annual meeting of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Grand Rapids, a small event that would sweep Emma into a new role. Far from a quaint anti-tippling society, the WCTU offered vote-denied 19th-century women one of their most effective avenues into some measure of political power.

Discussions about Lathrop’s topic coalesced into a goal to erect a women’s and girls’ reform school. The plan led to an energetic WCTU-initiated petition drive across the state for the legislature to create such a school. Completed petitions, with dozens or hundreds of signatures, began pouring into Lansing. “Early in the session of the Legislature of 1879 these [petitions] began to fall around the members like autumn leaves,” notes the 1881 edition of the Joint Documents of the State of Michigan.

In 1879 the Michigan legislature approved funding for a girls’ reform school in Adrian. Governor Charles Croswell appointed Emma to its board of directors, and then made her supervisor, the ultimate authority for every facet of the Industrial Home for Girls and its highest-paid staff member, with a $1,000 annual salary [$24,000 in 2014 dollars]. The three members of the school’s board of directors, including president Arthuretta Fuller, lacked Emma’s experience in managing state institutions.

County agents across Michigan began to send girls to Adrian. Criteria for selection included prostitution, homelessness, a sordid home environment, or a determination that a girl was in some way “wayward.” The girls were examined by a doctor on arrival. Many had untreated medical issues and sexually transmitted diseases. The average age was just over 13.

Emma housed the girls in the campus’s four cottages that were meant to create a less penal, more homey “family style” similar to the House of Shelter. Nearby, a farmhouse on the grounds became the residence of the school doctor, engineer, handyman, housekeeper, and of Emma.

Emma organized a regular schedule for the girls, from 5:30 a.m. to a quarter to nine at night. During a typical day, the girls attended about 2 and half hours of school and 3 and half hours of sewing class. Together with staff, the girls sewed 4,650 items in one 14-month period, including all of the bed linens, carpets, and clothing required by the school. The output included machine-knit stockings and an undergarment that combined a chemise and pantaloons, called a “chemiloon.”

In the school’s 1882 biennial report the supervisory board noted, “the influence of Miss Hall upon the girls is manifest in their love for her, and in their steady improvement under her management.” Emma’s former boss at the Flint Institute for the Deaf and Dumb remarked, “during the many years she was connected with [this] institution, her knowledge of the duties of her position, executive ability, and habits of industry made her administration most successful. The same qualities have enabled her to organize and put in operation one of the best institutions of the state.” Zebulon praised her accomplishment in an 1882 letter: “It is in advance of anything I know in the same department of benevolent endeavor.” But in another letter of the same year, he cautioned Emma, whose zeal he had seen firsthand. “The average . . . supervisor will by and by complain that the comforts and care given to your girls is greater than that enjoyed by the children of such families as his own, and may therefore be hesitant to supply you funds.”

That Christmas the school featured a program of music and recitations, a dinner of chicken pie, and a welcome visit from University of Michigan alumnus Reverend Joseph Estabrook, president of Olivet College. A Christmas tree was covered in presents for the 91 resident girls. Additional presents that the girls’ family members sent were distributed – though not many. Emma later noted in a report, “Some girls [were] remembered.”

In the fall of 1883, delegates from almost every state attended the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky. Penologists, prison officials, and representatives from state institutions for the blind, deaf, orphaned, insane and “feeble-minded” gathered at Louisville’s Polytechnic Institute for eight days of presentations and discussions.

Emma Hall's 1883 talk, delivered at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky, analyzed the best methods of reforming girls.

Emma Hall’s 1883 talk, delivered at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky, analyzed the best methods of reforming girls.

On the morning of Sept. 26, Ypsilanti resident and Normal School graduate Emma Hall faced a distinguished audience. “The reformation of criminal girls,” she began, “is no longer a doubtful experiment.”

Shortly thereafter, National Prison Association secretary William Round, asked Emma to serve on its board of directors and advise on issues affecting penal institutions nationwide. Her colleagues on the board included former President Rutherford Hayes and future president Theodore Roosevelt. Emma wrote in reply, “To be associated with such distinguished and successful workers in the interest of humanity and to be one of two ladies chosen first gives me new courage and inspiration.”

This high honor may have sparked a different reaction in Adrian. The following spring, the school’s board of directors unanimously asked Emma to resign. Emma did so on April 14, 1884.

One hint that this action may have resulted from petty politics lies in an April 27, 1884 letter from Emma’s friend Theresa Burrows, apparently in reply to a letter that Emma sent to her. Theresa wrote from her home in San Bernardino, “How could, even as vindictive, unprincipled and selfish a woman as [board president] Madam Fuller accomplish such a fatal thing to all their interests as your resignation!”

The following day, Emma received a sympathetic letter from onetime Ann Arbor resident Reverend George Gillespie, chairman of the state’s Board of Corrections and Charities. He told Emma that in such cases with an inexperienced board of managers the supervisor often receives the blame. His letter was followed by a “letter of esteem” signed by numerous Adrian residents. Written in an elegant, almost calligraphic script, the letter had been hand-carried to each person who signed it, judging by the signatures’ varying pen nib effects and ink colors.

Emma left Adrian and embarked on a tour of the Western states. Within a month she was writing postcards and letters to her family in Ypsilanti, marveling that she was 2,600 miles away and praising the comfort of Pullman cars. Her July 7, 1884 diary entry reads only, “Yosemite!”

Emma secured a position teaching at a boarding school for Native American children in Albuquerque, a lowly job compared to Adrian. Teachers were paid little, housed poorly, and even had to purchase some of their own food. Emma wrote to her family in November, “I did not expect ease or many comforts hence am not disappointed.”

Emma’s situation was worse than was apparent. She experienced heart trouble. Her diary entry for November 29, 1884 reads only: “Could not get up.” The next day: “Not able to get up.”

Most of her letters to her family had heretofore been signed “Your affectionate Emma” or “Your loving Emma”; on November 30 she signed one “Goodbye, with love to each one.” In tiny script at the bottom of this letter Emma wrote, “Some things are intolerable.”

Among her surviving papers is a receipt from Albuquerque’s Sloan and Mousson Co. for “one oak air tight case, embalming, &c., $95.” After her December 27, 1884 death, Emma’s body was returned to Ypsilanti.

Her many friends sent letters of condolence to her family. Henry Hurd, medical superintendent at the Eastern Michigan Asylum wrote with his wife Mary, “We sympathized with her in the undeserved trials of the past year.”

Local lawyer C. R. Miller said, “It affords me some consolation to think I was not entirely useless to her and her work while she was at the head of the reform school. I gave her what aid and strength I could because I thought she was right and was doing a good work well.”

Reverend Joseph Estabrook recalled “the Christmas day of two years ago, a part of which I spent with her in the girls’ reform school in Adrian. Her work was a grand and glorious one there. No one can compute the good which she accomplished while there, and the immense loss to the state when she was removed. No mistake could have been more sad, and my sense of the great wrong done to her and to the unfortunate girls of Michigan was never so keen as now.”

The history of the Adrian school darkened after Emma’s departure. Conditions deteriorated and rumors of cruelty spread, so that the school was investigated by state officials in 1899. Twenty years later it had reached its nadir, and the Michigan legislature heard horrific descriptions of neglect, solitary confinement, and vicious abuse that at least resulted in a thorough overhaul of the incompetent staff.

Emma Hall had created a much different reality for her girls, and earned the respect of prestigious colleagues. It is an honor to the people of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County that she rests in our Highland Cemetery.

Source: Laura Bien, “In the Archives: Criminal Girls”, Ann Arbor Chronicle, May 2, 2014.

1907 : Detroit Hoping That A Bill To Allow Sunday Baseball Will Pass in Lansing
Feb 28 all-day

On February 28, 1907, the Detroit Free Press carried an article hoping that before the present week is ended, an act to legalize the playing of Sunday ball in any municipality, after a public referendum, will be introduced and passed. The bill is scheduled to be introduced by Rep. George Duncan of Detroit. While Sunday ball has been barred in Detroit and in Wayne County in fact, it has been played in a number of cities out in the state!

In addition, home town fans can look for a new electric scoreboard to be installed at Bennett Park!

Source : Joe S. Jackson, “Bill To Allow Sunday Baseball to Detroit Ready at Lansing”, Detroit Free Press, February 28, 1907, p. 8.

1928 : Smoky The Bear Campaign Begins
Feb 28 all-day

First Smokey the Bear poster, 1944, courtesy of the wikipedia commons

On this day, the National Park Service launched the Smoky the Bear advertising campaign to prevent forest fires. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also adopted Smoky for their own public service announcements and park signs.

Source: Pasty Central Day in History : February 28 This streaming video also features the start of the B&O Railroad in the Upper Peninsula.

First Smokey the Bear poster appearing in 1944, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

1942 : Race Riot in Detroit
Feb 28 all-day

A race riot broke out at the Sojourner Truth federal housing project in Detroit on Feb. 28, 1942, after white picketers protested African-American families moving in.

Scores of people, including six police officers, were injured. For 12 hours, outbreaks were raged due to the controversy over occupancy of the project. Tear gas was used and two shots were fired as rioters were jailed at police headquarters.

For the full article,  see Zlati Meyer, “Race riot breaks out over blacks moving in”, Detroit Free Press, Feb. 27, 2011, A16.

Also see Vivian M. Baulch and Patricia Zacharias, “The 1943 Detroit race riots”, Detroit News, February 11, 1999 and Detroit News photo gallery

Detroit Race Riot of 1943 wikipedia entry

1952 : Coleman A. Young Stands Up to House Committee on Un-American Activities
Feb 28 all-day

On February 28-29, 1952  the House Committee on Un-American Activities came to Detroit to hold a hearing to ferret out communists.  Unintimidated by the Committee and its efforts to destroy the lives of those it considered “subversive”, Coleman Young verbally jousted with its lawyers while refusing to name names in the National Negro Labor Council.

“I understood from your statement you would like to help us,” said committee legal counsel Frank Tavenner Jr. to Young during public testimony.

Coleman A. Young in 1964 | Detroit Federation of Teachers photo 

“You have me mixed up with a stool pigeon,” responded Young, who was represented by attorney and future Democratic U.S. House member from Detroit George Crockett Jr.

Young was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Coleman Young, a dry cleaner, and Ida Reese Jones. His family moved to Detroit in 1923, where he graduated from Eastern High School in 1935. He worked for Ford Motor Company, which soon blacklisted him for involvement in union and civil rights activism. He later worked for the United States Post Office Department, where with his brother George he started the Postal Workers union. George later went on to become Postmaster for this same facility, which handles over ten million pieces of mail each year. During World War II Young served in the 477th Medium-Bomber Group (Tuskegee Airmen) of the United States Army Air Forces as a bombardier and navigator. As a lieutenant in the 477th, he played a role in the Freeman Field Mutiny in which 162 African-American officers were arrested for resisting segregation at a base near Seymour, Indiana in 1945.

In the 1940s, Young was labelled a fellow traveler of the Communist Party by belonging to groups whose members also belonged to the Party, and was accused of being a former member. Young’s involvement in radical organizations including, the Progressive Party, the United Auto Workers and the National Negro Labor Council made him a target of anti-Communist investigators including the FBI and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He protested segregation in the Army and racial discrimination in the UAW. In 1948, Young supported Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace.

In 1952, Young stunned observers when he appeared before the McCarthy era House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and defied the congressmen with sarcastic retorts and repeatedly refused to answer whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party. The encounter came at a highly publicized formal hearing in Detroit. Young’s performance made him a hero in Detroit’s growing black community. On HUAC’s charge that he seemed reluctant to fight communism, Coleman said: “I am not here to fight in any un-American activities, because I consider the denial of the right to vote to large numbers of people all over the South un-American.” On the HUAC congressman from Georgia: “I happen to know, in Georgia, Negro people are prevented from voting by virtue of terror, intimidation and lynchings. It is my contention you would not be in Congress today if it were not for the legal restrictions on voting on the part of my people.” On the HUAC committee: “Congressman, neither me or none of my friends were at this plant the other day brandishing a rope in the face of John Cherveny, a young union organizer and factory worker who was threatened with repeated violence after members of the HUAC alleged that he might be a communist, I can assure you I have had no part in the hanging or bombing of Negroes in the South. I have not been responsible for firing a person from his job for what I think are his beliefs, or what somebody thinks he believes in, and things of that sort. That is the hysteria that has been swept up by this committee.”

Later on, Young would go to serve as a delegate revising the Michigan Constitution, a member of the Michigan Senate, and the first African American mayor of Detroit, being elected 5 times.

Sources :

Detroit African American History Project

Michigan Every Day

Coleman A. Young wikipedia entry

KenColeman, “On this day in 1952: Coleman A. Young tells congressional committee he’s no ‘stool pigeon’”,  Michigan Advance, February 28, 2022.

The MSU community and visitors to the MSU Main Library can access hearings with testimony by Coleman A. Young in the Proquest Congressional database.

1962 : Blue Water International Bridge Stops Collecting Tolls
Feb 28 all-day
Image result for blue water international bridge

Mike Connell of the Port Huron Times Herald wrote that one of the oddest events in Swainson’s term as governor came on Feb. 28, 1962, when the federal government ordered Michigan to stop collecting tolls on the Blue Water International Bridge, which connects Port Huron and Canada.

“Moments before midnight, Swainson went to the bridge and paid the final toll. As he handed the money to the toll collector, he said, ‘Well, Dad, I guess this puts you out of a job.’”

The toll taker was the governor’s 57-year-old father who had “collected tolls on the bridge for four years before his son laid him off.”

Source : Berry Craig, “Michigan’s Second-Youngest Governor Was a Double Amputee”, O&P News, June 2012.

1977 : First MHSAA Televised Basketball Game
Feb 28 all-day


On February 28, 1977, Earvin “Magic” Johnson scored 27 points as Lansing Everett defeated Lansing Eastern in a district basketball game. The game was the first in Michigan High School Athletic Association history to be televised. Two years later, Johnson led Michigan State University to its first national championship.

Sources :

Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

YouTube video of Magic playing basketball in high school. Another YouTube video of the same game.

1992: Ecoterrorist Strikes at MSU
Feb 28 all-day

The front page of the Lansing State Journal Feb. 29,

The front page of the Lansing State Journal Feb. 29, 1992. A firebomb attack the day before caused significant damage and destroyed decades of animal research. (Photo: Courtesy / Lansing State Journal Archives)

In the early morning hours of Feb. 28, 1992, Rodney Coronado crept onto Michigan State University’s campus. He wiggled his way through a first-floor window of Anthony Hall before kicking down the door to the office of Richard Aulerich. The MSU researcher spent decades studying nutrition and the decline of the natural mink population. Coronado believed Aulerich’s research was funded by the commercial fur industry.

Inside Aulerich’s office, Coronado built a pyre using wooden desk drawers, research papers and a makeshift firebomb. He recorded his actions on video, donning a mask to protect his identity.

Coronado set the timer on his makeshift bomb before walking out. He had confidence in his work; he’d perfected the technique while carrying out half a dozen prior attacks against other universities and fur farms on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front.

“I won’t sugar coat it; we were about psychological warfare,” Coronado, who was in his mid-20s at the time, said. “We wanted researchers like Aulerich never to know when they came to work and opened their office door whether there had been an attack. We wanted them to live in fear.”

Around 5:30 a.m., the firebomb detonated, and flames overtook Aulerich’s office, spreading to three nearby offices. Two students who were inside the building at the time fled unharmed but alerted officials to the fire. Decades of research by Aulerich and others turned to ash as firefighters made their way to the building.

“If it hadn’t been discovered, the fire would have spread and easily could have burned the whole building down,” said Fred Poston, who was the dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the time.

Coronado denied for years he’d ever been to East Lansing, let alone on MSU’s campus or inside Anthony Hall. When he pleaded guilty in 1995, Coronado maintained he wasn’t the person who carried out the attack.

Twenty-five years later, Coronado admits he was solely responsible. He said he has no reason to lie anymore.

For the full article, see RJ Woolcot, “Ecoterrorist admits firebombing MSU 25 years ago“, Lansing State Journal, February 23, 2017.

1995 : MSU Board of Trustees Votes to Affiliate With Detroit College of Law
Feb 28 all-day

This etching of the original Detroit College of Law was commissioned to commemorate the history of MSU Law, January 1, 1997, courtesy of the wikipedia commons

The Detroit Free Press reported that the MSU Trustees voted to affiliate with the Detroit College of Law today. The Detroit College of Law Trustees approved the motion last week. Interestingly enough, Wayne State University published a two-page add in the State News on February 7, 1995 — An Open Letter to the MSU Community — about why the proposal was a bad idea!

This etching of the original Detroit College of Law (above) was commissioned to commemorate the history of MSU Law, January 1, 1997. The photo below shows the law school building on the campus of MSU today.

The College of Law’s history dates to 1891 when the Detroit College of Law was established to serve residents of Detroit. Before the Law College’s founding, the only way a Detroit resident could become a member of the bar without leaving the city to study was by “reading” law in local attorneys’ offices. The Law College’s founders were a group of such “readers”—law clerks and students in southeastern Michigan. As a result, during the first two years of the school’s history, its directors were themselves students—a unique situation.

The first class of 69 graduates included a future circuit court judge and a future ambassador. A woman in the first class and an African American in the second exemplified the Law College’s commitment to offering all sectors of the population an opportunity for a quality legal education.

A current photo of the Law School Building on the campus of MSU

In 1995, the Law College affiliated with Michigan State University, thereby providing students with access to a wealth of resources and opportunities while preserving the school’s student-centric culture. As a private, non-profit, independent law college that is academically integrated into one of the nation’s premier research universities, the Law College’s academic policies are aligned with those of the university, and our dean represents the Law College whenever MSU deans gather. Law College faculty serve on university committees, curricular changes move through the university’s academic systems, and MSU Law students are represented in and sometimes lead the university’s Council of Graduate Students.

The College of Law is led by a Board of Trustees comprised of highly accomplished professionals drawn from the fields of law, business, and higher education. The Board provides strategic direction and counsel for the long-term success of the Law College. The president of the university serves as the president of the Law College, the Provost of MSU serves as Provost of the Law College, and one third of the Law College’s Board of Trustees are appointed by MSU’s Board of Trustees.

MSU College of Law History