1881 : Saginaw’s Hotel Bancroft First to Use Commerical Incandescent Electric Lamps
Mar 20 all-day

Bancroft House Hotel, Saginaw Michigan, around 1900.

Sept. 7, 1859 — Lumber baron Jesse Hoyt financed the building of the Bancroft Hotel, and named for his friend, George Bancroft, a historian. The main entrance was on East Genesee, and a women’s entrance was on South Washington.

On March 20, 1881, the Bancroft Hotel featured the first incandescent electric lamps used commercially in Michigan.

The first street corner in the world to have electric light was Washington and Genesee, outside the Bancroft Hotel. It was suspended from a rope and people came from miles and miles away to see it.


Mich-Again’s Day and What Was There

Bob Johnson, “Historical timeline: downtown Saginaw’s Bancroft and Eddy buildings“, Saginaw News, January 11, 2013.

1897 : First Kresge Dime Store Opens in Detroit
Mar 20 all-day

On March 20, 1897, Sebastian Spering Kresge and associates opened the first Kresge dime store in Detroit, carrying over 1500 items costing a dime or less.  Kresge Store #1 would go on to become one of the top three such stores in the country, making Kresge very wealthy.

The company was renamed the Kmart Corporation in 1977, and evolved into today’s Sears Holdings Corporation, parent of Kmart and Sears.

In 1924 Kresge established The Kresge Foundation, a non-profit organization whose income he specified simply “to promote the well-being of mankind.” By the time of his death, Kresge had given the foundation over $60,000,000

Source : Bill Loomis, On this Day in Detroit History (2016), p.49.

Also see S. S. Kresge wikipedia entry.

S. S. Kresge Obituary, New York Times, October 19, 1966.

Note:  Kresge bought half-ownership in two 5 and 10 stores in Detroit and Memphis in 1897 with John G. McCrory; by 1899 he was sole owner of the Detroit store and went on from there to build a retail empire.

1898 : War Fever Grips Detroit
Mar 20 all-day

At a March 20, 1898, rally in Detroit, the speaker’s platform was covered in a tent and canopy made from a giant American flag with American and Cuba Libre (Free Cuba) flags lining the sides of the auditorium. Rousing marches from local brass bands and thunderous applause encouraged fiery speeches from clergy, business leaders and politicians.

Michigan Gov. Hazen Pingree proposed the U.S. buy Cuba from the Spanish. (He suggested $500 million.) Detroit Mayor William C. Maybury took the podium to what was described by the Detroit Free Press as deafening cheers.

“My friends … this war in Cuba is war for those who dare not fight the fathers, husbands and brothers but rather burn the homes of defenseless women and children, poison the wells from which they draw water, and burn the fields that give them their nourishment. We should be the first of this country to say that kind of war has gone far enough and must end! (Prolonged cheers.) When we look at [Spanish] orders for starvation and annihilation, I say it should be stopped now and forever.”

“Those on the platform arose and in an instant every man, woman, and child was on his or her feet waving tiny banners or hats and canes in the air. The enthusiasm reached fever heat as the band ran from ‘Yankee Doodle’ to ‘Dixie’ the crowd went wild.”

Source : Bill Loomis, “‘Remember the Maine!’ Michigan men fight in the Spanish-American War”, Detroit News, January 5, 2014.

1900 : Calumet Theatre Opens, First Municipally Built Theater
Mar 20 all-day

In 1875 the Village of Calumet was the center of the copper mining industry in North America. As the community grew, the Town Hall was built in 1886; and in 1898 it was decided that an opera house was needed to serve the community. At that time the village had a population of approximately 4,000 and more than 30,000 lived within walking distance.

The Theatre opened on March 20, 1900 with a touring Broadway production of Reginald DeKoven’s “The Highwaymen.” Newspapers reported the Calumet Theatre as one of the most elegant theaters in the Midwest.  Built at a time when gaslights were the norm, the electric lights, crimson, gold and ivory color scheme, grills of the box seats, curved balcony and gallery, and the proscenium arch provided one of the finest interior decorations found anywhere on the American continent!

 In the ensuing years, the Theatre’s marquee read like a Who’s Who of American Theatre: Madame Helena Modjeska, Lillian Russell, John Philip Sousa, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Lon Chaney, Sr., Jason Robards, Sr., James O’Neill, William S. Hart, Frank Morgan, Wallace and Noah Beery.

The Calumet Theatre was the first municipally built theater in the country and it remains one of few municipally owned theaters in the country today.

Visit for schedule of events, ticketing, and more information.

Source :  Calumet Theatre Company website

1919 : Wayne County Allows Women Jurors
Mar 20 all-day

On March 20, 1919, women served as jurors for the first time in Wayne County.

Sources: Historical Society of Michigan and Detroit Historical Society Facebook Page

1941 : Elizabeth Sparks Adams Appointed to Michigan Historical Commission, Starting 54 Years of State Service
Mar 20 all-day

Elizabeth (Betty) Sparks Adams was born on December 12, 1911 in Romeo, Michigan. She graduated from Pontiac High School (as valedictorian) in 1930 and received an A.B. from Eastern Michigan University in 1934. She went on to receive an M.A. in history from the University of Michigan in 1935, through a State College Fellowship. While a Research Assistant in 1935, she assisted Professor Lewis G. Vander Velde in establishing a home for the archives of the University of Michigan. She subsequently became the first curator of the Michigan Historical Collections working in that position from 1938 to 1939.

Elizabeth Sparks married Donald E. Adams, an Oakland County attorney and later Judge of Probate, in 1936. Together they have been very active in the Democratic Party on the local and state level. Mrs. Adams was elected Justice of the Peace in Waterford Township in 1943 and was elected to the Waterford Township Board of Education for two terms beginning in 1954, where she served as President for two years.

Mrs. Adams has served on the Michigan Historical Commission since her appointment by Governor Murray D. Van Wagoner on March 20, 1941. Appointed at age 29, she served 54 years as the first woman member of the Michigan Historical Commission, and was reappointed eight times by Governors of both parties. She was the longest-serving member of any State of Michigan board, commission, or committee, and is the longest-serving public official in Michigan history. . She stepped down in 1995 (but remained active until her successor was appointed in 1996).

In 2016, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame for being both the first woman appointed to the Michigan Historical Commission and the  longest-serving member of any State of Michigan board, commission, or committee, and is the longest-serving public official in Michigan history. .


Elizabeth Sparks Adams papers  1861-2001, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

Jessica Shepherd, “Motown star, civil rights leader among Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame honorees“, MLive, August 9, 2016.

1948 : University of Michigan Wins First NCAA Hockey Championship
Mar 20 all-day

On March 20, 1948, the University of Michigan became the first NCAA hockey champs. In the first National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey championship — now called the Frozen Four — the University of Michigan, Dartmouth University, Colorado College and Boston College met at Colorado College. In the semifinals, Dartmouth eliminated Colorado College (8-4) and Michigan beat Boston College (5-4, in overtime). Dartmouth entered the final game with a record of 21-2: Michigan had a 19-2-1 record. After falling behind 4-2, Michigan buried a stunned Dartmouth, winning 8-4.

Source: Michigan History

1952 : Panty Raid / Riot Breaks Out on University of Michigan Campus
Mar 20 all-day

Panty raid or riot? The campus newspaper reports Mass Riot Rocks Campus. But others claim spring fever. Either way, the events of that night set off a panty-raid craze at campuses around the nation.

The “mass riot,” as the Daily called it, drew a good deal of news coverage, even making the national newsmagazines. Within weeks, copycat episodes sprang up on other campuses, and a national “panty raid” craze ensued. The spontaneous swiping of women’s underwear that night at Alice Lloyd became a standard, planned practice that went on for ten years—the ritual seeking of trophies by men raiding women’s dormitories and sororities. Although the term “panty raid” apparently had been used earlier, it was the Michigan fracas that inspired the national fad.

For the full article, see James Tobin, “Panty Raid, 1952, Michigan Today, July 15, 2008.

Michigan History : the Birth of the Panty Raid via Absolute Michigan

1970 : Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Assassinated
Mar 20 all-day


Burton I. Gordon, the head of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, was murdered three blocks from a Detroit Police station on this day, only six years after the commission was created. Although white, Gordon aggressively strove to enforce the state’s civil rights statutes and made many enemies because of it. No one was ever convicted of his murder and many speculated he was assassinated because of his zeal for his work.

Sources :

Michigan Every Day

Arthur M. Horwitz, “Who Killed Burton Gordin?“, Jewish News, April 3, 2013.

1971 : Lake Superior State University Celebrates Arrival of Spring By Burning Snowman
Mar 20 all-day

Members of Lake Superior State University’s maintenance department and student volunteers are working on the main attraction for the University’s time-honored tradition of welcoming spring. At high noon on Tuesday, March 20, LSSU will mark the first day of the spring season by burning a massive paper snowman, as it has done for almost 50 years. The ceremony takes place at the Cisler Center’s south plaza that faces the campus main entrance.

Spring officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at that same day 12:15 p.m. EDT.

The first spring snowman burning was held in March 1971 by a former campus club called the Unicorn Hunters. Traditionally, the ceremony has been held on the first day of spring to bid good-bye to winter and welcome to spring.

The ceremony takes its inspiration from the Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-en-der-Bergstrasse, Germany. In the festival, a parade passes through town to a central location, where the mayor makes a proposal to the town’s children: If the children are good, study, obey their parents and work hard, he will order the (straw) snowman to be burned, and spring will officially arrive. After the children yell their approval and make their promise, the snowman is burned.

Some people contend that smoke from the conflagration wards off blizzards and ushers in spring-like weather. The Unicorn Hunters validated this theory by the second or third year of the event. At that time, after the snowman was burned, a blizzard passed through the eastern Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula but missed Sault Ste. Marie.

Students and employees of the University’s maintenance department construct the snowman mostly from paper destined for the recycling bin, along with a wood and wire frame. The snowmen are husky and stand 10-12 feet. This year’s is 14 feet tall.

LSSU’s snowmen have taken on many shapes over the years. During the 1970s, when women’s liberation was a news issue, a gender-neutral ‘snow person’ was burned. In the 1980s, when clones and ‘cloning’ were first in the news, a ‘snow clone’ was torched.

This year’s creation is an oversized snowman, pure and simple.

Poetry is always cornerstone event at most snowman burnings. LSSU students, employees, retirees, townspeople, and elementary school children are encouraged to read spring-related doggerel as a torch is applied to the paper snowman. Usually, a master of ceremonies – often LSSU’s president – welcomes the crowd and gives a history of the activity. Then, as poems are read and daffodils get handed out to participants, supplemented by free hotdogs and soda, the snowman reduces itself to ash.

From introduction to conclusion, the ceremony lasts approximately 20 minutes.

Point your Web browser here to read about snowman burning’s 47-year history.

Source : “LSSU to welcome spring with annual snowman burning“, Lake Superior State University News Release, March 6, 2018.