1862 : Albert Sleeper Born, Future Governor of Michigan
Dec 31 all-day
Image result for Governor Albert Sleeper Michigan women presidential electors

Albert Sleeper was born on December 31, 1862, in Bradford, Vermont and was educated at the Bradford Academy.

In 1884, he moved to Lexington, Michigan, where he was a successful businessman owning several banks and extensive real estate. Sleeper also worked in mercantile industries.

Sleeper served in the Michigan State Senate, 1901–1904. The following year, he became a member of the Republican State Committee until 1907. Then he served as State Treasurer of Michigan from 1909 to 1913 under Governors, Fred M. Warner and Chase Osborn.

Sleeper was elected Governor of Michigan by a popular vote on November 7, 1916, defeating Democrat Edwin F. Sweet. He was re-elected to a second term in 1918. He served during most of World War I and started measures to supply men, provisions, and arms for the war effort. Also during his four years in office, a department of animal husbandry, a department of labor, and a public utilities commission were established. A county road system was advanced, a permanent state police department was founded, and the first driver’s license was issued. Sleeper signed the State Parks Act creating the State Park system and an epidemic of the Spanish influenza was dealt with. On April 19, 1917, Governor Sleeper created the Michigan State Troops Permanent Force (Michigan State Police).

In 1928, Sleeper served as a presidential elector for Michigan to elect Herbert Hoover as U.S. President. He died on May 13, 1934, in Lexington, Michigan, at the age of seventy-one and is interred at Lexington Municipal Cemetery.

In 1944, Huron State Park in Caseville, Michigan, was renamed Albert E. Sleeper State Park.

1862 : Battle of Stones River
Dec 31 all-day

Photo of Civil War Reenactor Firing a Cannon at Stones River, courtesy of National Park Service

On this day, a three-day battle began east of Nashville, Tennessee, one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. 71 Michigan soldiers would lose their lives.

Source : Michigan Every Day.

For more information, visit Stones River National Battlefield

1899 : SS Tashmoo Launched, One of the Most Beloved Pleasure Boats of the Early Twentieth Century
Dec 31 all-day

Postcard image of SS Tashmoo

The 306-foot paddle-wheeler steamship SS Tashmoo was launched Dec. 31, 1899, and was one of the most beloved pleasure boats to cruise the Great Lakes.

She was built for the White Star Steamship Co. of Detroit and regularly took Detroit area residents on a two-hour cruise to St. Clair Flats, about 20 miles north of Detroit near Harsens Island The flats was home of Tashmoo Park, featuring a dance pavilion, amusement rides, bathhouse and swimming beach. (The park closed in 1951.)

One of the more humorous stories from the Tashmoo’s time on the Detroit River came when she ran away from home. The night of Dec. 8, 1927, saw a nasty winter storm with winds of 60 m.p.h. When White Star employees arrived for work the next day, they found that the steamer had vanished. Turns out, the gale had snapped the 14 heavy cables securing the steamer at the dock. The vessel had run away from home. It turns out she had drifted upstream, where she collided with the Douglas MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.

The Tashmoo was chartered for an evening cruise by a Hamtramck social group June 18, 1936, and was on her way home when she struck a submerged rock near Sugar Island, off Grosse Ile. The crew were able to proceed to Amherstburg, Ontario, and dock before the ship sank in 18 feed of water. All the passengers were safely off the boat before she sank, though legend has it that the band was so good that people did not want to leave.

Initially, it was reported that the Tashmoo’s wounds were minor and could be patched up. Unfortunately, the damage proved to be far worse than originally feared. When a salvage crew came and tried to lift the Tashmoo from the riverbed, it “broke the steamer’s back,” likely a combination of the hull damage, the weight of the amount of water aboard the vessel and improper bracing and salvage strategy. The Tashmoo was dead.

“The Doomed Steamer SS Tashmoo Photo Gallery”, Detroit News, July 13, 2014.

SS Tashmoo wikipdia entry

Dan Austin, Tashmoo,

1956 : John Voelker’s Lucky Day
Dec 31 all-day

Photo of John D. Voelker (right) in the trailer for Anatomy of a Murder, with filmmaker Otto Preminger (left), courtesy of Wikipedia

On December 31, 1956 St. Martin’s notified John Voelker that they had accepted Anatomy of a Murder for publication. Coincidentally, Governor G. Mennen Williams telephoned that same day to offer John a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court to fill the remainder of a vacant term. Justice Voelker was sworn in as an associate justice several days later. At that time Michigan law required justices to stand for election at the next statewide election following their appointment to an unexpired term, so in addition to his court work and making revisions and corrections to the novel, he had to campaign for his court seat. He was elected by a resounding majority.

Publication of Anatomy of a Murder was scheduled for mid-September, 1957. However, the Book-of-the-Month Club chose the novel for one of its alternate selections and requested that publication be postponed until January 1958. St. Martin’s acquiesced, and the book was published in early January 1958. It was an instant success and quickly climbed the best-seller lists, staying there for over a year. St. Martin’s planned to have the book turned into a Broadway play and then a motion picture, and asked John Van Druten to write the play. Van Druten completed a rough draft of the script before he died in December 1957. Eventually Elihu Winer wrote his version of the play, which had its premiere at the Mill Run Theater in the Chicago suburbs in 1963. Meanwhile, St. Martin’s had made the film rights available, and they were finally acquired by Otto Preminger. All of the filming was done in Marquette County, and the film was very successful.

Now assured of an adequate income, Voelker resigned from the Michigan Supreme Court in January 1960 to devote his time to fishing and writing. He was quoted as saying, “Others can write my opinions, but no one else can write my books.” Some people would dispute that as his opinions have been termed the most literate opinions ever to be handed down from the Michigan high court.

Source : Anatomy of a Murder 50th Anniversary, Northern Michigan University website.

Note: Photo o John D. Voelker (right) in the trailer for Anatomy of a Murder, with filmmaker Otto Preminger (left)

1983 : Fred Dakota Opens The Pines, The First Native American Casino in Michigan
Dec 31 all-day

Fred Dakota Opens the First Native American Casino

Fred Dakota

On the last day of 1983, New Year’s Eve, Fred Dakota was ready to open the doors of The Pines, a casino and bar. Thinking back to the tribe’s success in marketing bingo with flyers, he had taken the same approach with his casino. He pinned flyers on bulletin boards, tucked them under car windshield wipers in grocery store parking lots. But as the opening moment neared, he recalls, “I was afraid, scared to death,” thinking about getting raided by the police. “I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen, but when you have five children to feed, you get innovative.”

Leading up to opening night, Dakota and his wife, Sybil, had been practicing how to deal blackjack. “We had a book that told how to do it,” he says. But come opening night, his wife was too nervous about dealing, so she tended bar, and Dakota did all the dealing at one table. And the people came to play. Cars parked in the driveway, on the shoulder of the road and in the trailer park next door.

Speaking of the bar, a shot of whiskey cost 70 cents; the good stuff 20 cents more.

“We must have had about 40 people in that two-car garage, and no law enforcement came,” Dakota says. “I thought, Well this is all right.”

The Pines casino opened every night from then on, just Dakota and his wife running the place. For a couple of weeks that was okay, but word spread fast, and soon people were standing around, waiting too long for seats at the table. Dakota built more blackjack tables and hired more dealers, eventually squeezing six tables into the garage.

“I started making decent deposits at the bank,” he says. “The bank was happy. I was happy. And there was no government interference whatsoever.”

Brad Dakota, Fred’s son who was in college then, remembers the first time his dad made $1,000 in a night at the casino. “He was standing in the kitchen, and he counted the money, and then he just threw it all up in the air.”

Eventually, a $1,000-night was not such a big deal. Brad recalls closing up in the middle of the night and carrying out lock-boxes with $10,000 in them. “I’d just take them to Dad’s house—it was a different time,” he says.

So, how was it that the state police didn’t raid the place and shut it right down? Here’s Fred Dakota’s reasoning for why he was legal. The state of Michigan already allowed casino gambling for something called Millionaire Nights. Nonprofit groups were allowed to hold Millionaire Nights three times a year, and customers could take part in limited gambling. With state policy allowing gambling in certain situations, it was certifying the activity as legal but regulated, like, say, distributing alcohol—it’s legal to do it, but you have to abide by certain rules. And since Indian reservations had the right to regulate legal activities, and since the tribe had written regulations for casino gambling, and since Dakota had a casino license based on those regulations, he was legal. This line of reasoning was ultimately rejected by the courts on various grounds, but Dakota ran with it.

Dakota’s garage quickly became too packed, standing room only. Within a few months he knew he needed a bigger place, so he leased some land from the tribe in Baraga, right along U.S. 41, and hired the tribal construction company to build a 3,200-square-foot casino, intending to open July 4, 1984.

“We gave the government vast tracts of land in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota when we signed that treaty in 1854,” Dakota told The New York Times in 1984. “And what did we get in return? We got the government to agree not to kill us. Well, now it’s time we got something more. Gambling is going to make a lot of Indians rich.”

Note : Fred Dakota was a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians (Baraga)

Source : Jeff Smith, “Fred Dakota Founded Native American Casinos — In a U.P. Garage“, MyNorth, February 17, 2014.

Fred Dakota, Native American casino pioneer in UP, dies at 84“, Detroit News, September 18, 2021.

2014 : Former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelly Turns 90
Dec 31 all-day

Photo of Frank Kelly, courtesy of Wikipedia

He’s not in the news frequently like he once was, but Frank Kelley, who served 37 years as Michigan attorney general and holds the record as the longest-serving attorney general in U.S. history, is still going strong as he turns 90 on New Year’s Eve.

He uses a walking stick (“It’s not a cane”), but still exercises in a swimming pool and drives a Packard he had custom-made from a Lincoln Town Car – likely the only car of its kind.

“I’m a health nut,” Kelley told the Free Press in a wide-ranging interview. “Wherever I went in Michigan, I would be in a swimming pool every other day for a half-hour. And I would lift weights and dumbbells for 15 minutes, four times a week.”

Kelley, a Democrat who served as Michigan’s attorney general from late 1961 through 1998 and became known as the “eternal general,” said he also ran a mile nearly every day for 30 years, until he was in his late 60s.

They no longer make politicians like Frank Kelley, either, says Jack Lessenberry, a political writer and commentator who heads the journalism faculty at Wayne State University and has been working with Kelley to publish his memoirs.

Though he was in some ways the “godfather of the Democratic party,” and had early influence on figures ranging from U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, to former Governors Jennifer Granholm and Jim Blanchard, Kelley worked alongside five governors, of whom three were Republicans, Lessenberry said.

Term limits instituted in 1992 limited the attorney general and other statewide officeholders to eight years in office and “you’ve got to be there a long time to get that kind of clout,” Lessenberry said. Michigan government was also less partisan prior to term limits and public servants such as Kelley “were citizens of America and Michigan first and partisans second and they could put partisanship aside when they needed to,” he said.

For the full article, see Paul Egan, “‘Eternal General’ Frank Kelley turns 90 Wednesday”, Detroit Free Press, December 30, 2014.

Frank Kelly wikipedia entry

2017: Lake Superior State University Releases Annual List of Banned Words
Dec 31 all-day

The wordsmiths at Lake Superior State University eschewed “fake news” and released LSSU’s 43rd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

“We’ve drilled down and unpacked tons of pre-owned words and phrases deemed impactful by hundreds of nominators during 2017,” said an LSSU spokesperson. “Let that sink in.”

LSSU’s word banishment tradition is now in its fifth decade, and was started by the late W. T. Rabe, a public relations director at Lake Superior State University.

Rabe and fellow LSSU faculty and staff came up with the first list of words and phrases that people love to hate at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975, publishing it on Jan. 1, 1976. Though he and his friends created the first list from their own pet peeves about language, Rabe said he knew from the volume of mail he received in the following weeks that the group would have no shortage of words and phrases from which to choose for 1977. Since then, the list has consisted entirely of nominations received from around the world throughout the year.

Through the years, LSSU has received tens of thousands of nominations for the list, which now includes almost 900 entries. Word-watchers target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, fields of education, technology, advertising, politics and more. An editor makes a final cut in late December.

The 2018 list:

Unpack – Misused word for analyze, consider, assess. Concepts or positions are not packed, so they don’t need to be unpacked.

Tons – Refers to an exaggerated quantity, as in tons of sunshine or tons of work. ‘Lots’ would surely suffice.

Dish – As in to dish out the latest rumor on someone. Let’s go back to ‘talks about’ and leave dishes in the cupboard.

Pre-owned – What is so disgraceful about owning a used car now and then?

Onboarding / Offboarding – Creature from the HR Lagoon. We used to have hiring, training and orientation. Now we need to have an “onboarding” process. Firings, quitting, and retirements are streamlined into “offboarding.”

Nothingburger – Says nothing that ‘nothing’ doesn’t already. I’ll take a quarter-pound of something in mine.

Let that sink in – One could say shocking, profound, or important. Let that sink in.

Let me ask you this – Wholly unnecessary statement. Just ask the question already.

Impactful – A frivolous word groping for something ‘effective’ or ‘influential.’

Covfefe – An impulsive typo, born into a 140-character universe, somehow missed by the autocorrect feature.

Drill Down – Instead of expanding on a statement, we “drill down on it.”

Fake News – Once upon a time stories could be empirically disproved. Now ‘fake news’ is any story you disagree with.

Hot Water Heater – Hot water does not need to be heated. ‘Water heater’ or ‘hot water maker’ will keep us out of hot water.

Gig Economy – Gigs are for musicians and stand-up comedians. Now expanded to imply a sense of freedom and a lifestyle that rejects tradition in a changing economic culture. Runs a risk of sharecropping.

Banished Words Archive

Complete List of Banished Words

LSSU Banned Words Facebook Page

Kim Kozlowski, “List of overused words: From ‘Conversation’ to ‘So’”, Detroit News, December 31, 2015 for the 41st list.

Jeff Karoub, “List: Ban ‘bae,’ ‘foodie,’ ‘takeaway’ from lexicon”, Detroit News, December 31, 2014 for the 40th list.

Scott Kleinberg, “Selfie, twerk, hashtag and more: The banished words of 2014 : University continues New Year’s Eve tradition that dates back to 1976”, Chicago Tribune, December 31, 2013 for the 39th list.

For more background, see “The History of Word Banishment“, Lake Superior State University website.

1838 : Patriot War Along Detroit River Begins
Jan 1 all-day

The first attempt the Patriots made to invade Canada was in January 1838. A group of Patriots or Pirates, met on January 1, 1838, and they raised $135.00 and ten rifles to aid their cause.

Before dawn broke on January 5, about 20-25 Patriots crept to the Detroit jail where they seized jailor Thompson and his arms and ammunition. The next day they seized the schooner Ann and fortified with the arms from the Detroit jail and reinforcements of over 100 men, they set sail for Fighting Island across from Ecorse.

An English steamer chased the Ann and when the Ann reached Ecorse a United States marshal and a posse of citizens hailed her. The Patriots aboard the Ann ignored the hail and as a stiff breeze filled her canvas, the Ann passed on down the river. A number of smaller boats joined the Ann and she landed at Gibraltar with at least 300 people aboard. Later that same evening a party of sixty men from Cleveland led by J.T. Sutherland arrived on the steamer Erie. The group of Patriots hatched a plot to capture Fort Malden in Amherstburg.

File:Fort Malden, Amherstburg, Sept 2010.jpgFort Malden in Amherstberg in 2010

Their plot didn’t play out the way they had planned. At Amherstburg,  loyal Canadians waited for them and cut the halyards of the leading schooner Ann with their first volley. The schooner drifted aground at Elliotts Point  and all on board were captured or killed. Colonel Prince and his men took part in this rout.

The Patriots would attempt again to invade Canada in February with equally disastrous results.  J.H.C. Forster’s Painting of the Battle of Fighting Island, February 25. The Patriots would be routed and would give up their efforts to capture Canada across the Detroit River.

Image result for patriot war amherstburg photo

For a more complete account see Kathy Warnes, “Downriver and the Patriot War- 1838“, Definitely Downriver.

John C. Carter, “Patriot Chronicles: The Battle of Fighting Island“, Windsor Star, February 2, 2014.

The Patriot War along the Michigan-Canada border : raiders and rebels / Shaun J. McLaughlin.  Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2013.

To free upper Canada : Michigan and the Patriot War, 1837-1839 / by Roger L. Rosentreter. Thesis (Ph.D)–Michigan State University. Dept. of History, 1983. 237pp. 123 767 THS Also available online to the MSU Community.


1879 : State Capitol Opens in Lansing
Jan 1 all-day

The state Capitol in Lansing opened on Jan. 1, 1879.

At the dedication, Gov. Charles Croswell said it was “evidence of the lasting taste, spirit and enterprise” of Michigan’s citizenry. It was Michigan’s third Capitol.

Eight years earlier, Gov. Henry Baldwin had proposed building a new Capitol. Lansing had become the state capital in 1847; Detroit had served as Michigan’s seat of government for the first decade of statehood.

The price tag for the project was approximately $1.5 million, so painters made pine, plaster, tin and iron look like walnut woodwork and marble.

It was one of the first state capitols modeled after the then newly rehabbed U.S. Capitol.

Image result for 1879 michigan capitol photo

For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: The Capitol opens”, Detroit Free Press, December 29, 2013.

Stefani Chudnow, “The Lion of Lansing: A Brief History of Michigan’s Capitol Building“, Awesome Mitten Blog, March 28, 2017.

1895 : C. W. Post Creates the First Batch of Postum
Jan 1 all-day

C.W. Post launched what is today one of the largest cereal companies in the U.S. on Jan. 1, 1895, in a small barn in Battle Creek.

His first product was Postum, a coffee substitute. Post was determined to create “a healthful coffee to be made of nourishing grains, that would have a good snappy flavor and, satisfying the user’s palate, would feed and rebuild the nerve centres broken down by coffee or other stimulants and narcotics,” according to a company booklet published in 1906.

After hundreds of tries, the final recipe included wheat, pure New Orleans molasses, potash, lime, iron and diatase.

Sources :

Historical Society of Michigan

Zlati Meyer, “C.W. Post founded what would become namesake cereal co.”, Detroit Free Press, December 28, 2014.

For more information about Postum, see Wikipedia entry

Also check out Post Heritage