1916 : Harry Houdini Wows Grand Rapids
Nov 20 all-day

Image result for houdini photo

As a young performer struggling to make a name, Houdini visited Grand Rapids in 1897. His impressive, well-publicized handcuff escape at the police station brought large crowds to the evening theater show. A Grand Rapids newspaper reporter wrote that he was cuffed “until the blood stopped circulating and the veins stood out in knots on his arms.” He also did his “Metamorphosis” trick in which he locked his wife in a trunk, then traded places with her.

Between 1898 and 1926, Houdini performed at Smith’s Opera House and the Empress Theatre in Grand Rapids and at the Temple Theatre, Grand Theater and Garrick Theatre in Detroit. To get publicity for these shows, he performed special escapes. For example, on November 27, 1906, wearing two pairs of handcuffs, he jumped 25 feet from the Belle Isle Bridge into the icy cold Detroit River.

Harry Houdini staged one of his most dramatic escapes in Grand Rapids during a 1916 appearance at the Empress Theater. This is how the Grand Rapids Herald described it on November 20:

Houdini, Hanging by Feet High Above Ground, Wriggles Out of Straight Jacket

Several thousands of gasping Grand Rapids citizens watched Harry Houdini, the escape king, writhe free from a police strait-jacket and hand cuffs while suspended by his feet from the new Grand Rapids Savings Bank building yesterday.

Monroe and Ionia avenues were jammed for two blocks by an audience that watched nervously every move of the Empress star. With his feet securely bound, wrists handcuffed and his arms and abdomen cased in a strait-jacket Houdini was pulled from the pavement up to the fifth floor, and there held stationary, a cross arm on the rigging preventing tangling of the rope.

Writhing backwards and forwards, lifting his head and abdomen by sheer strength up to his feet, twisting and turning and all the time whirling about in the air, Houdini first removed the handcuffs from his wrists. Then he writhed without great effort from the straitjacket, and in one minute and fifty-five seconds after leaving the pavement the straitjacket dropped to the sidewalk, and his arms swung free.

A simultaneous cheer arose from the crowd as he was lowered back to the ground. It was one of the largest crowds that ever has gathered in the downtown section for any sort of an attraction, and as a
thriller, Houdini’s feat has never been excelled in this city.

Source: Excerpts from Escape With Houdini/ Magic in Michigan : Michigan Time Traveler Kid’s History, October 9, 2002.

1951 : Traverse City Woman’s Search for Husband Makes National News
Nov 20 all-day

On November 20, 1951, the Traverse City Record Eagle printed a front-page story about how 39-year-old Margaret Ealy wanted “a husband who will be a good father” to her 5-year-old son, Jamie.

A large caption underneath a large photo stated that Ealy wasn’t picky about a man’s age, but would prefer a “Protestant college graduate.” The man liking children was a necessity. Ealy had been a department store employee until she was stricken with pneumonia five months earlier and her illness made it difficult to raise her son alone.

The story was picked up newspapers around the country and by the next day she had three calls from suitors. The resulting flood of publicity was speculated by the Record Eagle to bring “a multitude of offers by phone, wire and mail.” It may also have been the country’s first personal ad.

Ealy married William Colteson six months later. It’s not clear whether she found him as a result of the ad.


Michigan Every Day

New Way to Find Husband, Ludington Daily News, November 21, 1951.

“Whole Nation Interested in Husband Hunt Request of Local Woman for Mate”, Traverse City Record Eagle, November 21, 2014.

1953 : Birmingham Is 1st City in Michigan With Direct Distance Dialing
Nov 20 all-day

Birmingham became Michigan’s first-and the nation’s second-community to have direct distance dialing enabling customers to dial their own long distance without operator assistance.

Source :

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

2014 : Dexter Officially Becomes a City
Nov 20 all-day

On Nov. 20, 2014, Dexter officially became a city after its charter was filed.

Village officials began taking steps toward becoming a city nearly a decade ago. And following lots of paperwork and countless trips to Lansing, the city charter was adopted by 54 percent of 1,769 residents who cast ballots on November 2, 2014.

The area was settled in 1824, 13 years before Michigan became a state, when land speculator Samuel L. Dexter purchased a large tract of land and founded the village. It was known as the “Mill Creek Settlement” until the village was platted in 1830 and the name was officially changed to Dexter.

Mill Creek and the Huron River, which form much of the western and northeastern boundaries of the village, respectively, have long been valuable resources to Dexter. A sawmill was built in 1827, a woolen mill in 1838, a grist mill in 1844, and a cider mill in 1886. After being appointed county cjurt justice in 1826, Dexter reportedly established a post office in his home, shuttling mail between there and Ann Arbor on horseback.

Dexter was chief justice of the Washtenaw County Court and a University of Michigan regent. His home just northwest of the village was built in the early 1840s. It is said that it may have served as a refuge for slaves on the Underground Railroad.

On March 15, 2012, Dexter was struck by a strong tornado, causing substantial damage to local houses and businesses. There were no deaths or injuries reported.

For the full article, see Karen Bouffard, “Dexter warily looks to future as newest Mich. city”, Detroit News, December 27, 2014.

2018 : Ontonagon River Part of USPS Wild and Scenic Rivers Series
Nov 20 all-day

A new stamp will allow a slice of the Upper Peninsula to be sent across the country.

The United States Postal Service unveiled the stamp which depicts the Ontonagon River, on Nov. 20. The 25-mile waterway flows across the Western U.P. to Lake Superior. Tim Palmer captured the image featured on the new stamp.

It was one of several stamps in the Wild and Scenic Rivers series, which celebrates American streams that run freely through natural landscapes without man-made alterations. The series was released as part of the USPS 2019 Forever Stamp lineup.

Since 1847, the stamp program has celebrated the people, events and cultural milestones unique to the history of the United States.

“The miniature works of art illustrated in the 2019 stamp program offer something for everyone’s interest about American history and culture,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Executive Director Mary-Anne Penner.

“From legendary poet Walt Whitman to the entertainment genius of Gregory Hines to the majestic beauty of our Wild and Scenic Rivers, this program is diverse and wide ranging and tells America’s story on stamps.”

The Ontonagon River is one of 12 featured. The stamp shows Tim Palmer’s photo of what appears to be Kakabika Falls on the Cisco Branch of the river in Gogebic County, according to the Ironwood Daily Globe.

Congress created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1968, according to the National Park Service, to, “Preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Sections of the Ontonagon River were designated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system in 1992. Forty-three miles of the river are designated as wild, according to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System’s website, with an additional 35 miles listed as scenic. The different designations describe how undeveloped and accessible the various waterways are.

The system protects 209 rivers in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, stretching 12,754 miles.

The series is one of roughly 20 forever stamp designs the Postal Service will use in the new year.

“The miniature works of art illustrated in the 2019 stamp program offer something for everyone’s interest about American history and culture,” U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Executive Director Mary-Anne Penner said in a news release. “From legendary poet Walt Whitman, to the entertainment genius of Gregory Hines, to the majestic beauty of our Wild and Scenic Rivers, this program is diverse and wide ranging and tells America’s story on stamps.”

Source : Brandon Champion, “Upper Peninsula river featured on new U.S. Postal Service stamp”, MLive, November 30, 2018.

1945 : UAW Initiates Strike Against General Motors
Nov 21 all-day

Joining the movement: Workers at the 36th Street GM plant in Wyoming joined in a bitter 113-day nationwide UAW strike starting in the fall of 1945. It ended in the spring of 1946, with a contract that provided a raise, paid vacation and overtime wages.

GM Strike

From November 21, 1945, until March 13, 1946 (113 days), the CIO-affiliated United Automobile Workers (UAW), organized 320,000 hourly workers in 96 plants to launch a nationwide strike against the General Motors Corporation. It was “the longest strike against a major manufacturer” that the UAW had yet seen, and it was also “the longest national GM strike in its history,” according to labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein.

As director of the UAW’s General Motors Department, i.e., coordinator of union relations with GM, Walter Reuther put forth the demands of the strikers: A 30 percent increase in wages and a hold on product prices.

 113-day strike against GM in 1945

President Truman and Walter Reuther Face Off

The GM strike was one of a number of large-scale labor actions in the immediate aftermath of World War II, when labor generally endorsed a “no strike” pledge to aid the war effort. Pent-up demands now emerged into the open. Reuther arguedthat the high productivity of modern industrialism offered the potential for permanent prosperity for the American people. But instead the UAW saw GM ownership using their power to maximize profits, creating “planned scarcity” (therefore driving up product prices) while cutting jobs. Such a system caused a cycle of problems, among them that Americans could not even purchase the limited goods they produced.

The possibility for success declined by the beginning of the year 1946, when the United Steelworkers and the United Electrical Workers accepted 17.5 percent wage increases. In the final contract with GM, UAW workers agreed to a raise of 18.5 cents an hour (17.5 percent), paid vacations, and overtime. The union gained no role in determining product pricing.

Although the strike was only partially successful, it did point the way toward the normalization of a decent working-class standard of living, with price controls geared toward maintaining the economic situation of the nation as a whole in the most socially beneficial way, honoring the sacrifices Americans made to defeat fascism.

In part owing to Walter Reuther leadership of this long strike, he was made president of the UAW in 1946. The decades from the late 1940s until the mid-1970s are seen as the apogee of “middle-class” success, when union density rose to its highest level, and solid union contracts, combined with reforms such as Medicare and expanded voting rights, guaranteed a better future for our children.

Sources :

Today in labor history: 113-day strike against GM in 1945“, People’s World, November 13, 2015.

Erin Marquis, “5 largest manufacturing strikes in United Automotive Workers history“, Autoblog, May 12, 2015.

1977: I-96 Between Muskegon and Detroit Completed
Nov 21 all-day

Interstate 96 in Michigan

On November 21, 1977, I-96 between Muskegon and Detroit was completed, with the opening of the final stretch of the Jeffries Freeway between M-39 and I-275.

Source : Detroit Historical Society Facebook Page

2005 : The Night a Red Wing Died, But Was Brought Back to Life
Nov 21 all-day

Every precious second became more and more desperate. There was Mike Babcock, a first-year Detroit Red Wings coach, who waved frantically for paramedics. Men in suits flooded the Wings bench. Wide-eyed players stood helplessly.

Doctors pumped their arms rapidly atop the chest of Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer, his No. 2 jersey flat on the floor, out of the view of the fans and cameras. Moments earlier, his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame competed against some of the best hockey players on the planet. But when he came off the ice, his heart thumped 300 beats per minute, unbeknownst to his teammates.

Fischer went into convulsions and cardiac arrest. It was an eerie scene as Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper skated a stretcher from the zamboni entrance to the blue-line door of the Detroit bench. Other Red Wings players – helpless as medics performed CPR to revive Fischer – exited the ice via the Nashville bench.

Fischer, who had an abnormal electrocardiogram reading in 2002, was fortunate that team doctor Tony Colucci was three rows away from the bench. He knew immediately Fischer’s heart was the issue, jumped down the railing to the playing level and cut through his shoulder pads and Winged Wheeled jersey.

Fischer underwent ventricular fibrillation, which is the most serious cardiac rhythm disturbance, according to the America Heart Association. Colucci said Fischer “was flat-lined for 24 seconds,” according to Medics used a defibrillator to shock his heart, which ultimately saved his life.

What the (TV) camera couldn’t catch (was the) intensity and the feverishness of our doctors and how Jiri was fighting to stay alive,” Shanahan said to Albom. “It was unbelievable. This could have been so much worse.”

Fischer never played again, a sad ending for a 25-year old filled with exuberance and potential. He was the last Red Wing to leave the ice in 2002 when the Wings beat the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 to win the Stanley Cup. He actually didn’t play in the game due to a suspension for cross-checking Tommy Westlund in the mouth during Game 4, but he took the ice for the championship celebration and posed with countless pictures as die-hard Wings fans pressed against the glass in the lower bowl.

Three weeks after the near-tragic accident, Fischer sniffled and sobbed at a press conference in Joe Louis Arena. He didn’t want a precious career ripe with potential to be taken away.

But it had to end, considering he suffered two more episodes in the next 15 days after the collapse. He wore a defibrillator vest that indicated ventricle fibrillation was the issue, both times. It would be impossible for a franchise to medically insure a player with his history.

The life-saving experience began a quest for Fischer, who traveled across the country to medical symposiums. He tried to discover the root cause for his cardiac arrest that 2005 night at Joe Louis Arena. He’s visited experts, shared theories, and despite advances in technology, he still hasn’t found a concrete answer as of this past summer.

And that’s OK. Life is good for Fischer, who’s in his seventh year as the Red Wings director of player development and is thankful for every breath.

“I died,” Fischer told’s Scott Burnside in 2006. “I died and I was brought back.”

Source : Bruce Mason, “The night hockey didn’t matter”, Detroit Athletic Co. Blog, December 6, 2013.

2019 : First Michigan Black Lieutenant Governor to Sign Bill Into Law
Nov 21 all-day

Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist has signed a bill into law, making him the first black lieutenant governor to sign a bill into law in Michigan’s history, according to the governor’s office.

“As the first black lieutenant governor to sign a bill into law, today’s historic action symbolizes the opportunity that exists when we create a space for more participation from a more diverse set of voices and experiences,” Gilchrist said. “Governor Whitmer and I built the most diverse administration in our state’s history because we believe that our practices, policies, and proposals should reflect and enable Michiganders from all backgrounds to be successful.”

The bill signed will reverse the lifelong ban on felons who submit applications for insurance producer licenses by allowing the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to issue those licenses to individuals who have not been convicted a felony in the last 10 years, according to the governor’s office.

While many applicants with prior felonies will be granted an insurance producer license, the new law will still provide exemptions for people with violent, fiduciary, or financial-related crimes, according to the office.

Under the current law, Michigan does not grant insurance licenses to individuals with felony convictions, and as a result the state denied 61 applications due to prior felony convictions in 2018. according to the office.

Lt. Gilchrist is serving as acting governor while Gov. Whitmer is overseas on a business trip to Israel to strengthen relationships and build business ties with startups and mobility companies to help Michigan compete for good-paying, high-tech jobs, according to the office.

The bill will take immediate effect.

Source :  “Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist signs first bill as acting governor”, WILX, Channel 10, Lansing, November 21, 2019.

1893 : Harley Earl, American Automobile Designer and Executive, Born
Nov 22 all-day

12-april 10-harley earl

General Motors designer Harley Earl sits inside the Buick Y-Job, the industry’s first concept car.

Harley J. Earl (November 22, 1893 – April 10, 1969) was an American automotive designer and business executive. He was the initial designated head of design at General Motors, later becoming vice president, the first top executive ever appointed in design of a major corporation in American history. He was an industrial designer and a pioneer of modern transportation design. A coachbuilder by trade, Earl pioneered the use of freeform sketching and hand sculpted clay models as automotive design techniques. He subsequently introduced the “concept car” as both a tool for the design process and a clever marketing device.

Earl’s Buick Y-Job was the first concept car. He started “Project Opel”, which eventually became the Chevrolet Corvette, and he authorized the introduction of the tailfin to automotive styling. During World War II, he was an active contributor to the Allies’ research and development program in advancing the effectiveness of camouflage.

He is also remembered as the first styling chief in the United States automobile industry, the originator of clay modeling of automotive designs, the wraparound windshield, the hardtop sedan, and factory two-tone paint, and tailfins. He said in 1954, “My primary purpose for twenty-eight years has been to lengthen and lower the American automobile, at times in reality and always at least in appearance.” The extremely low and long American cars of the 1960s and 1970s show the extent to which Earl influenced an entire industry and culture.

He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1986.

One of his concept car designs, the turbine-powered Firebird I, is reproduced in miniature on the Harley J. Earl Trophy, which goes to the winner of the season-opening Daytona 500 NASCAR race.

Conceived the CorvetteInt

Introduced the idea of tailfins on cars


Source : Harley Earl Wikipedia Entry.