1895 : Talbert Abrams Born, Father of Aerial Photography
Aug 17 all-day

Talbert Abrams Pilot License Signed by Orville Wright

Talbert “Ted” Abrams (August 17, 1895, Tekonsha, Michigan – August 26, 1990) was an American photographer and aviator known as the “father of aerial photography”.

While a child he read about the flights of the Wright brothers and was inspired to become a pilot. When he turned 18 he moved to Detroit and found odd jobs at area airports. The following year was hired as a mechanic at the Benoist Airplane Company in Ohio. Soon after he moved to Buffalo, New York where he worked for the Curtiss Aeroplane Company. During his employment there, Abrams learned to fly at the Curtiss Aviation School, and in 1916 was issued his Federation Aeronautique Internationale Pilot’s license, number 282, signed by Orville Wright.

Abrams began taking pictures from airplanes when he was a gunner in World War I, and his pictures were used to plan military maneuvers.

In 1923, he and his wife, Leota, founded the Abrams Aerial Survey Company. It was hired to photograph the route for a major north-south highway in Michigan, and that road, U.S. 27, became the first highway built using aerial photographs.

Beginning in 1945 Ted funded the Talbert Abrams Award for gifted students in science education. He also set up engineering scholarships through various engineering societies. Michigan State University had for years promoted a project to build a modern planetarium on the campus. In 1961 it became obvious that contributions were not going to cover the construction cost. Then Talbert Abrams, through the Talbert and Leota Abrams Foundation contributed the remaining $250,000 needed to build “One of the finest facilities of it’s kind in the world”. This was just another indication of his generosity toward his community. Michigan State University directed that the new facility be named The Talbert and Leota Abrams Planetarium. The Foundation also provided extensive funding to the Library of Michigan to finance purchasing of genealogical materials.

Ted continued to receive impressive honors for his community service and generosity. One such honor was a tribute from the Michigan Senate for his “outstanding service in the field of aerial surveying”. He was presented honorary doctorates from three Universities. He was the first individual inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. In 1973 he was installed into the OX-5 Hall of Fame, along with Jimmy Doolittle, Eddie Rickenbacker, Admiral Byrd, and Amelia Earhart. Ted was on the first scheduled flight to Moscow after WWII. He made the trip twice.

Abrams flight time is unlikely to be challenged. In one of his many testimonials he noted that he had “mapped 1,720 American cities, 515 counties, 5,800 miles of highways, 48,000 miles of utility lines, plus more than 1,000 major projects in 96 countries.

Every year, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) presents the Talbert Abrams Award to a person who makes an outstanding contribution to aerial photography and mapping. Mount Abrams in the Antarctic is also named after him.


Wayland Mayo, Talbert “Ted” Abrams : Father of Aerial Photography, A Tribute to Lansing’s Fallen Eagle:.

Talbert “Ted” Abrams, courtesy of Michigan State University Abrams Planetarium.

1915 : Kettering Receives Patent for Electric Self-Starter
Aug 17 all-day

On August 17, 1915, Charles Kettering got a patent for the electric self-starter. Early drivers had to crank to start the engine, so Henry Leland of asked Kettering for help. In 1911, he finished a starter to fit w/power needed to start a 1912 Cadillac.

Reposted from Aug 17

1920 : Seaplane Delivers Mail to Detroit From Cleveland — First Airplane Mail Delivery to Michigan
Aug 17 all-day

On August 17, 1920, a seaplane, arriving from Cleveland, landed at Detroit with the first batch of mail ever delivered to Michigan by air. Regular airmail service, however, did not begin for nearly six more years.

Source: Mich-Again’s Day.

1942 : Life Magazine Takes A Look At Wartime Detroit, and Finds Many Problems
Aug 17 all-day

The news from Detroit is bad this summer. Few people across the country realize how bad it is. Wildcat strikes and slowdowns, material shortages and poor planning at the top have cut into Detroit’s productions of war weapons. Detroit’s workers, led by the lusty U.A.W. seem to hate and suspect their bosses more than ever. Detroit’s manufacturers, who are the world’s best producers, have made a failure of their labor relations. And the government, which is asking Detroit to produce more and more, is divided within itself on how to get the most production.

For the full article, see “Detroit is Dynamite”, Life, August 17, 1942, p.15 on.

1980 : Al Kaline’s Detroit Tiger Uniform Number Retired
Aug 17 all-day

Al Kaline Wins Batting Title With 200 Hits in 1955, Youngest Player To Do So

On August 17, 1980, Al Kaline became the first Detroit Tiger to have his uniform number (6) retired.

Two weeks earlier, Kaline was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, one of the few players to get elected on the first ballot.

The outfielder played all 22 of his seasons with the Tigers, a record matched only by Ty Cobb, and was selected for 18 All-Star Games. His record is exemplary — 3,007 hits (the 3,000th was in his hometown of Baltimore), 399 home runs, a .297 batting average and 10 Gold Gloves.

Source : Detroit Historical Society Facebook Page

For more information, see Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: The Tigers retire Kaline’s No. 6”, Detroit Free Press, August 17, 2014.

2014 : Claudia House Morcom Dies, First Female African-American Judge on Wayne County’s Circuit Court
Aug 17 all-day

Fifty years ago this summer, a young black woman lawyer from Detroit named Claudia House Morcom arrived in Mississippi on a mission that really meant risking her life.

She was there to fight the system of institutionalized vicious racism that prevented black Americans from voting, and reduced them to subhuman status in virtually every way.

The very day she arrived, three other young civil rights workers were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. That was before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before the Voting Rights Act, and when the FBI was led by a man who was a blatant racist.

Years later, Claudia Morcom told me that she was scared, but felt she had no choice. She remembered that when her parents went to Mississippi, her father had to pretend to be her light-skinned mother’s chauffeur. Otherwise, somebody might have thought they were an inter racial couple, and killed them.

Somebody had to do something about this, so she did. She volunteered to be part of a rotating group of lawyers who went south then. Because it was so dangerous, they were only supposed to stay for a week at a time. She stayed her week, came home, packed her bags, and went back for a year. She had nerves of steel.

She not only provided legal defense for civil rights workers, she filed federal lawsuits asking that Mississippi congressmen be thrown out of office for not representing their black constituents.

“We drew the attention of the whole world to what was happening in Mississippi, and it led to a lot of changes,” she once said. She later came back to Detroit, and became the first female African-American judge on Wayne County’s circuit court.

Morcom stayed on the bench nearly 30 years. Both then and when she “retired” she never stopped fighting for civil rights for everyone, for women, for immigrants. Last fall, in failing health, she urged President Obama to release five Cubans she regarded as political prisoners in this country.

For the full article, see Jack Lessenberry, “This Detroit woman who fought for equal rights decades ago deserves to be remembered today”, Michigan Radio, August 19, 2014.

2015 : Jake Elliot Wins World Yo-Yo Contest in Japan
Aug 17 all-day

The world has a new yo-yo champion, and he’s from west Michigan.

Jake Elliot, 20, is originally from Grand Rapids and went to Grandville High School. Now, he lives in Milford, where he works full-time for teaching people how to yo-yo.

The annual World Yo-Yo Contest was held this year in Japan from August 13-17.

The 20-year-old pulled off the most narrow victory in world yo-yo competition history. In the exciting “Freehand” style of play, where the yo-yo is not attached to the player’s finger, Elliott edged out the six-time world yo-yo champion from Japan, bringing the title back to the United States for the first time since 2007.

For the full article, see Kayla R. Fortney, “Michigan man wins World Yo-Yo Contest in Japan“, Detroit Free Press,  August 20, 2015

1845 : German Lutherans Settle in Frankenmuth
Aug 18 all-day

The emigrants departed from Nuernberg on April 5, 1845 and traveled by foot, wagons, and trains to Bremerhafen, where they bought the provisions for their voyage. On April 20 they boarded the CAROLINE, where four engaged couples in the party were married, since they hadn’t been able to satisfy the strict German marriage law requirements. The trip began with a bad start, as the drunken captain steered the ship into a sand bank of the Weser River. Because of winds and storms, they had to sail around Scotland instead of through the English Channel.

Their journey across the Atlantic encountered violent storms, seasickness, a nightmare collision with an English trawler, and undesirable winds which drove the ship north into icebergs and dense fog for three days. The ship was damp and overcrowded, and their food became stale. Toward the end of the journey almost everyone in the group contracted smallpox, and a child in the party died from it. They reached New York Harbor on June 8, after 50 days of sailing.

To reach Michigan, they took a steamboat, a train (which collided with a coal train, giving them only slight injuries), and another steamboat. They took another steamer to Detroit and then a sailing ship on Lake Huron for a week-long trip to Bay City. From there they had to pull the ship 15 miles up the Saginaw River to Saginaw, where they stayed until their exact settlement site was chosen. They were objects of curiosity to the French and English of the city because of their Franconian dress and habits.

A few of the colonists walked to the future settlement region to examine the land. They selected a slightly hilly area which reminded them of the native Mittelfranken and built a rough shelter there. On August 18, almost four months after they had left Bremerhafen, the 15 colonists packed their belongings in an oxcart and walked about 12 miles through forest, thickets, and swamps to Frankenmuth.

They purchased 680 acres of Indian Reservation land from the federal government for $1,700.00. The colonists were often weakened with malaria while working at clearing the forest. A combination church-school-parsonage log cabin, built in the center of the land tract, was completed before Christmas day. The church was named St. Lorenz, after their mother churches in Neuendettelsau and Rosstal. The settlement, however wasn’t developed exactly according to Loehe’s original plan.

Pastors Loehe and Craemer wanted everyone to build their homes together near the church, so that the group would remain intact and organized in the manner of German villages. The colonists disagreed, and all decided to live on their own 120 acre farms which they would clear.

In 1846 a second group of about 90 emigrants journeyed to Frankenmuth. Loehe complained about the large number, because he felt that many didn’t have the missionary cause at heart. Many of these people came from the Altmuehl region of Bavaria (20 were from the city of Rosstal). After seven weeks of stormy sailing, they reached New York Harbor. Two and a half weeks later they reached Frankenmuth, traveling the same route as the 1845 group. This second group had a more difficult time traveling through U.S. cities, since none of them spoke any English. Upon reaching the Frankenmuth clearing, they were deeply disappointed. One settler wrote home, “The most miserable village in Germany has palaces by comparison.”

These colonists also bought land and began to clear the trees and build homes. Many of them would lead in the development of St. Lorenz Church and especially the business community of Frankenmuth. A log church was completed by December 26, 1846. The town developed about a mile east of the church and initial settlement in 1847, where a dam and mill were built on the Cass River.

Encouraged by the success of the Frankenmuth settlement, Pastor Loehe also organized three other colonies in Michigan. Frankentrost, about six miles north of Frankenmuth, was founded in 1847 by about 22 families. Loehe’s purpose was not another mission colony, but rather to cluster German Lutherans together in Michigan. Farms were set up in long, narrow strips along one road so that all the houses could be built close to each other, more like a German “dorf.” Frankenlust, 22 miles north of Frankenmuth, was settled in 1848 for the same reason as Frankentrost. Loehe’s fourth colony, started in 1850, had a different purpose: to help poor and/or unmarried Germans to lead new and better lives. Frankenhilf, called Richville today, is about 9 miles northeast of Frankenmuth. Originally, Loehe planned it as an industrial center for high employment, but farming prevailed after the forests were cleared.

All the settlements grew as farms replaced the pine forests. Immigration continued through the end of the 19th century as friends and relatives of settlers joined them in Michigan. Many were craftsmen and businessmen who continued their same trades here. Frankenmuth established a reputation for its flour, saw and woolen mills. They also produced beer, cheese, and sausage. A half dozen hotels served travelers. Agricultural and self-sustaining businesses were the norm.

Frankenmuth at ChristmasPicture of Frankenmuth today.

For the full story of the founding of Frankenmuth, visit here. Immigrating to Michigan wasn’t an easy trip!

Source : History of Frankenmuth.

1904: Belle Isle Aquarium Opens for First Time
Aug 18 all-day

The Belle Isle Aquarium was designed by famed Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, and opened on August 18, 1904. It is the oldest aquarium in the country and has served the Detroit community as a beloved attraction for generations.

At the time of its opening, it was also the third largest aquarium in the world.

When opening day finally came on Aug. 18, 1904, Detroiters were champing at the bit to take a peek. By the time dawn rolled around, the line numbered into the thousands and stretched from the aquarium’s front door all the way, across the bridge, back to East Jefferson Avenue. More than 5,000 people visited on the attraction’s first day. Some half a million would gaze into its tanks its first year.

larence M. Burton, in his history on the city of Detroit, attributes the idea of an aquarium to Rep. David E. Heineman, who had visited Naples, Italy, and studied that city’s Anton Dorhn Aquarium. Heineman, who had earlier been the city’s chief assistant attorney, introduced a bill in the Legislature to provide funding for the conservatory and aquarium. The act authorized that $150,000 in bonds be issued (about $3.7 million today) was passed on May 26, 1899. It just hinged on a vote of the people, which gave its support. The bonds were issued March 1, 1900, and the money was placed in the city treasury for building the two landmarks.

“The aquarium is pronounced by the leading aquarists of this country to be second to none in the world,” boasted Robert Bolger, the city’s Parks and Boulevard commissioner.

The firm of Nettleton & Kahn drew up the plans for the buildings. The building’s price tag: $165,000 (about $4.06 million today). At the time of its opening, the aquarium was among the six largest in the world. Its high-tech equipment allowed for the keeping of both seawater and fresh-water marine life and the keeping of the right water temperatures in the tanks. The water was recycled through the tanks because, it was said, that fish survive better in water they’ve been in before. Originally, a 8,531-gallon center tank with a railing around it occupied the center of the building. It was topped off with filtered water that snaked through 5 miles of pipes.

Kahn outfitted the interior with sea-green glass tiles to give visitors the feeling that they were in an underwater cavern. Forty-four tanks filled with critters from the Great Lakes and the world’s oceans line the walls. Combined, the tanks contained 5,780 gallons of water. Magnificent pillars and other details compliment the soaring arched ceilings, as high as three stories in the center of the building. A classroom sits near the main entrance.

The front of the slender, brick building features an elaborate Baroque entrance with carvings of dolphins and a grotesque of Neptune, the Roman god of water. In the center is the city’s seal showing the two maidens and the Detroit motto, “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” — “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.” Below that, the word “aquarium” is carved in capitalized, bold letters. The intricate details are sometimes masked by robust ivy that covers the front of the building.

In 2005, the city of Detroit announced that the Aquarium was to be closed due to lean economic times for the city. The building remained closed to the public until the Belle Isle Conservancy reopened it on September 15, 2012.  Over the past three years, the aquarium has exploded in popularity, evident by the attendance numbers that have TRIPLED over the course of the past year. “Momentum” is truly the best term for what is happening in this historic building! A work-in-progress, the aquarium continues to grow and flourish as new exhibits and fish are added, tanks are restored, and history is preserved for generations to come.

Click here to see photos from the current Belle Isle Aquarium.  The Aquarium is open to the public every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission and free parking.  At other times, you can book wonderful events at the Aquarium.  

For more history, see Dan Austin, Belle Isle Aquarium,

Jeremy Marble, “Belle Isle Aquarium is oldest in U.S. still operating“, MLive, August 24, 2017.

1922 : WKAR, Michigan’s First Public Radio Educational Station
Aug 18 all-day

WKAR is a National Public Radio member station in East Lansing, Michigan; broadcasting at 870 kHz. It is owned by Michigan State University, and carries news and talk shows from NPR. It is part of MSU’s Broadcasting Services Division, and is a sister station to the FM radio and television stations with the same call letters. Its studios and offices are located in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building, at the southeast corner of Wilson and Red Cedar Roads on the MSU campus.

The station dates to experimental broadcasts at Michigan State, then known as Michigan Agricultural College, beginning in 1917. WKAR-AM’s first official broadcast was a “Founder’s Day” speech on May 13, 1922. MAC was granted a full license on August 18, 1922. The station’s call letters were assigned randomly by Herbert Hoover, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce (which was the sole radio licensing authority). It was the only radio station in the Lansing area until 1934.

Source : Wikipedia

WKAR and Michigan State University entered the era of radio broadcasting on August 18, 1922. Every day during the month of August, we’ll bring you a piece of history from 1922 until now. Let’s start with what life was like when WKAR went on the air in 1922: There were 3.9 million people in Michigan. Lansing’s population was around 57,000 in the 1920s. Alexander Groesbeck was Michigan Governor. Michigan State University was known as Michigan Agricultural College in 1922.

Reginald Hardwick, “Remembering History as WKAR Turns 95“, WKAR, August 1, 2017.