1837 : Ill-Fated Michigan Public Improvements Act Passed
Mar 21 all-day

Michigan would borrow five million dollars to build 3 railroads and 2 canals across the state. After the Panic of 1837 and failure of the state’s bonding agent, the state was broke and its credit was ruined. Two railroads were sold to private investors and the other projects were abandoned. One of the canals proposed by Governor Stephens D. Mason would eventually be built as the Soo Locks.

Source : Michigan Every Day

1865 : Major General Owen Squier Born, Inventor of Muzak
Mar 21 all-day

Major General George Owen Squier. The name may not be familiar, but his work in the fields of aeronautics and radio communications rivaled that of better-known contemporaries like Alexander Bell and the Wright Brothers.

Squier, a native of Dryden, Michigan, was the first military officer to fly, in a plane piloted by Orville Wright. Today, his hometown hopes to build a statue in his honor.

But among Squier’s many accomplishments there is one that stands out for its impact, not on our nation’s military history or technological capabilities, but on our ears. In short, Squier is responsible for the invention of Muzak!

During the 1920s and ’30s, Major General George Owen Squier was one of the most famous men in America and abroad, as a scientist, soldier, military strategist, electrical communications expert and inventor, aeronautical pioneer, diplomat, and philanthropist. He rose from humble beginnings in Michigan to the position of Chief Signal Officer of the United States Army. He led the effort in World War I to equip the United States and its allies with American-made airplanes and engines, an effort which started slowly but at the time of the Armistice was rapidly coming to fruition. He also equipped American forces with modern communications, the first belligerent in the war to do so. As an inventor he is not well known today compared to his contemporaries Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers, who respected his intellect and originality. Yet his inventions in communications technology are fundamental to today’s telephone system and were the technical basis for the company he founded, Muzak.


George Owen Squier, Major General, United States Army,  Arlington National Cemetery Website.

General Owen Quier : First United States Soldier to Serve on the Front Lines of WWI

George Owen Squier : U.S. Army major general, inventor, aviation pioneer, founder of Muzak / Paul W. Clark and Laurence A. Lyons.  Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, [2014]

1869 : Legendary Detroit Architect Albert Kahn Born
Mar 21 all-day

Photo of Albert Kahn, courtesy of Wikipedia

Legendary Detroit architect Albert Kahn was born on March 21, 1869 in Rhaunen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Kahn came to Detroit in 1880 at the age of 11. His father Joseph was trained as a rabbi. His mother Rosalie had a talent for the visual arts and music. As a teenager, he got a job at the architectural firm of Mason and Rice. Kahn won a year’s scholarship to study abroad in Europe, where he toured with another young architecture student, Henry Bacon, who would later design the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The architectural firm Albert Kahn Associates was founded in 1895. He developed a new style of construction where reinforced concrete replaced wood in factory walls, roofs, and supports. This gave better fire protection and allowed large volumes of unobstructed interior. Packard Motor Car Company’s factory built in 1907 was the first development of this principle.

The success of the Packard plant interested Henry Ford in Kahn’s designs. Kahn designed Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park plant, begun in 1909, where Ford consolidated production of the Ford Model T and perfected the assembly line. On Bob-Lo Island, Henry Ford had a dance hall designed and built by Albert Kahn, which was billed as the second largest in the world in a 1903 account…

Ten Albert Kahn designed buildings are recognized with Michigan historical markers:

  • Battle Creek Post Office
  • The Dearborn Inn
  • Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan
  • Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
  • Fisher Building
  • Delta Upsilon Fraternity, 1331 Hill St., Ann Arbor
  • Packard Motor Car Company factory
  • The Detroit News
  • The Detroit Free Press
  • Willow Run

Sources :

Albert Kahn wikipedia entry

Remembering Michigan’s legendary architect Albert Kahn, Michigan In Pictures, December 8, 2011.

Albert Kahn (March 21, 1869 – Dec. 8, 1942),

1891 : Eau Claire Incorporated
Mar 21 all-day

On March 21, 1891, Eau Claire was incorporated. First settled about 1850, the Berrien County settlement, whose name means in French “clear water,” becomes a village.

Source: Michigan History Magazine

1933 : Diego Rivera’s Murals Unveiled at Detroit Institute of Arts
Mar 21 all-day

Diego Rivera Murals in Detroit, courtesy of wikipedia

Despite fierce criticism of the President of Marygrove College Dr. George Derry, Henry Ford decided to go ahead and have the Marxist painter Diego Rivera from Mexico complete his murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts and they were unveiled on this day.

The murals celebrated the American worker, particularly those on the production lines of car plants.

On December 8, 2011 Google honored the painters 125th birthday with a Google Doodle.

Sources :

The Magnificent Diego Rivera Murals at Detroit Institute of Arts, The Sojourner, October 9, 2013.

Louis Aguilar, “Art that rocked Detroit: 80th anniversary of the DIA’s Diego Rivera murals”, Detroit News, March 23, 2013.

Alicia Pflaumer, Diego Rivera, communist and Mexican icon, honored with Google Doodle, Christian Science Monitor, December 8, 2011.

1946 : First Microfilm Projector Installed
Mar 21 all-day

the Battle Creek Sanitarium

On March 21, 1946, the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek (formerly the Battle Creek Sanitarium) installed the nation’s first microfilm projector. The device, made by University Microfilms and Argus Cameras of Ann Arbor, was used to project enlarged images on the ceilings of rooms of their bedridden patients.

University Microfilms, founded in 1938, has gone on to become a global information technology company and is still based in Ann Arbor. In 1999, the company renamed itself ProQuest. The company has grown from a publisher and archiver of doctoral dissertations into a company that archives and disseminates newspaper articles, scholarly journals, Congressional information and ebooks. It has also been declared an offsite repository by the U.S. Library of Congress for American dissertations.

Source : MIHistory – March 21: Microfilm at the Sanitarium, The Official Blog of the Michigan House Democrats (no longer available)

1953 : S. S. Badger Makes Maiden Vogage
Mar 21 all-day

S.S. Badger departs from Ludington, photo by RJE, courtesy of Flickr

On March 21, 1953, the S.S. Badger made its maiden voyage. Originally built to carry railroad cars across the lake, the Badger was considered a trainferry, rather than a carferry. However, when the business of transporting trains across Lake Michigan declined, the ship was converted into a carferry. Today, the car ferry, the last coal-fired steam powered passenger ship sailing on Lake Michigan, still transports customers to and from Ludington and Manitowoc across Lake Michigan.

Thanks to a consent decree from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the S.S. Badger will be allowed continue sailing through 2013 and 2014.

For more information, see History of the Lake Michigan Carferry, the S.S. Badger

Dave Alelxander, “S.S. Badger coal ash permit could be in limbo through early 2013”, MLive, January 2, 2013.

Noah Adams, “Steamship Anchors A Community, But Its Days May Be Numbered”, NPR, March 4, 2013.

Dave Alexander, “Congressman Bill Huizenga: S.S. Badger to start sailing season May 6 as coal ash issue could end up in court”, MLive, March 15, 2013.

Stephen Kloosterman, “EPA agreement outlines rules for the S.S. Badger to keep sailing”, Muskegon Chronicle, March 22, 2013.

1982 : 1st Black Woman Mayor (Harry Lee Scott) Featured in Detroit Free Press
Mar 21 all-day

According to the Michigan Municipal League, Harry Lee Scott is the first black female mayor in Michigan.   Born in Selma, Alabama, Harry Lee worked in the local foundry for most of her life.   When she retired, she ran for mayor and won.

Ms. Scott was elected President of the Village in November 1981. She took office in 1982 and remained Village President until 1987.  As a side note she married and becamse  Harry Lee Scott Boglin.

Source:  Charlotte W. Craig, “Harry Scott : Black, female, mayor”, Detroit Free Press, March 21, 1982, p.A3.

1851 : Flint Ladies Library Association Formed; Establishes Library
Mar 22 all-day

On March 22, 1851 a group of women, concerned about the lack of cultural and educational opportunities in their community, met at the home of Maria Smith Stockton. As a result of the meeting, the group adopted a constitution written by Sophia Gotee Jenney that established the Ladies Library Association. They selected the following officers: Maria Smith Stockton – president; Almira Simpson Walker – vice president; Sophia Gotee Jenney – recording secretary; Mary Dodge Miles – treasurer and Hattie Stewart became the first librarian.

Along with a variety of fund raising activities, the founders raised money through member and subscriber dues. In 1853 the Association was incorporated under the presidency of Louisa Smith Payne. The group provided the funds necessary to build a library that was located at Beach and Kearsley Streets. Governor Henry H. Crapo spoke at the dedication of the building on June 30, 1868. He had several daughters who were members of the Association. In 1871, the Association was presented with a copy of the first American edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America that can be viewed today on the first floor of the Library.

As the City of Flint grew, so did the need for a public library. In 1884, the Association offered to give to the City the building and its contents to be used as a public library for the people of Flint. City officials declined the gift. Fortunately, the Board of the Union School District of Flint did accept the offer and created the first public library.

Source : Flint Public Library, December 16, 2015.

1878 : Passenger Pigeons Wiped Out Near Petoskey
Mar 22 all-day

Michigan Historical Marker Near Petoskey

One of the final stands for the passenger pigeon occurred near Petoskey, Michigan during the spring of 1878.

When the first Europeans arrived in North America, it is estimated that there were 3 billion to 5 billion passenger pigeons. Early explorers and settlers frequently mentioned passenger pigeons in their writings. Samuel de Champlain in 1605 reported “countless numbers,” Gabriel Sagard-Theodat wrote of “infinite multitudes,” and Cotton Mather described a flight as being about a mile in width and taking several hours to pass overhead. Yet by the early 1900s no wild passenger pigeons could be found.

The habitat of the passenger pigeon was mixed hardwood forests. The birds depended on the huge forests for their spring nesting sites, for winter “roosts,” and for food. The mainstays of the passenger pigeon’s diet were beechnuts, acorns, chestnuts, seeds, and berries found in the forests. Worms and insects supplemented the diet in spring and summer.

In the winter the birds established “roosting” sites in the forests of the southern states. Each “roost” often had such tremendous numbers of birds so crowded and massed together that they frequently broke the limbs of the trees by their weight. In the morning the birds flew out in large flocks scouring the countryside for food. At night they returned to the roosting area. Their scolding and chattering as they settled down for the night could be heard for miles. When the food supply became depleted or the weather conditions adverse, the birds would establish a new roosting area in a more favorable location.

Because the passenger pigeon congregated in such huge numbers, it needed large forests for its existence. When the early settlers cleared the eastern forests for farmland, the birds were forced to shift their nesting and roosting sites to the forests that still remained. As their forest food supply decreased, the birds began utilizing the grain fields of the farmers. The large flocks of passenger pigeons often caused serious damage to the crops, and the farmers retaliated by shooting the birds and using them as a source of meat. However, this did not seem to seriously diminish the total number of birds.

The notable decrease of passenger pigeons started when professional hunters began netting and shooting the birds to sell in the city markets. Although the birds always had been used as food to some extent, even by the Indians, the real slaughter began in the 1800s.

There were no laws restricting the number of pigeons killed or the way they were taken. Because the birds were communal in habit, they were easily netted by using baited traps and decoys. The birds were shot at the nesting sites, young squabs were knocked out of nests with long sticks, and pots of burning sulphur were placed under the roosting trees so the fumes would daze the birds and they would fall to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of passenger pigeons were killed for private consumption and for sale on the market, where they often sold for as little as fifty cents a dozen.

By 1850 the destruction of the pigeons was in full force, and by 1860 it was noticed that the numbers of birds seemed to be decreasing, but still the slaughter continued.

One of the last large nestings of passenger pigeons occurred at Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. Here 50,000 birds per day were killed and this rate continued for nearly five months. When the adult birds that survived this massacre attempted second nestings at new sites, they were soon located by the professional hunters and killed before they had a chance to raise any young.

The concerned voices of conservationists had little effect in stopping the slaughter. Finally a bill was passed in the Michigan legislature making it illegal to net pigeons within two miles of a nesting area, but the law was weakly enforced and few arrests were made for violations.

By the early 1890s the passenger pigeon had almost completely disappeared. It was now too late to protect them by passing laws. In 1897 a bill was introduced in the Michigan legislature asking for a ten-year closed season on passenger pigeons. This was a completely futile gesture as the birds still surviving, as lone individuals, were too few to reestablish the species.

The last reported individuals in the wild were shot at Babcock, Wisconsin in 1899, and in Pike County, Ohio on March 24, 1900. Some individuals, however, remained in captivity.

The last Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died alone at the Cincinnati Zoo at about 1:00 pm on September 1, 1914. Who could have dreamed that within a few decades, the once most numerous bird on Earth would be forever gone?


Bill Loomis, “Slaughtered to extinction: Passenger pigeons in Michigan”, Detroit News, March 18, 2012.

Last Stand for the Passenger Pigeon, Detroit News Photo Essay, March 19, 2012.

The Pigeons Came To Petoskey, an excerpt from Larry B. Massie’s “Voyages into Michigan’s Past”.

Chapter VII, The Passenger Pigeon (1907) by William Butts Mershon

Project Passenger Pigeon : Michigan

Passenger Pigeon entry from the Smithsonian Encyclopedia.

Passenger pigeons were in the news more recently. See Kelly Servick, “The Plan to Bring the Iconic Passenger Pigeon Back From Extinction”, Wired, March 15, 2013.

Kristi Kates, “The Passing of the Passenger”, Northern Express, July 17, 2015.