Calendar

Jun
18
Sat
1782 : Antoine Dequindre Born, Hero of Monguagon
Jun 18 all-day

Antoine Dequindre (June 18, 1782–February 24, 1843) was a soldier, landowner and shopkeeper in Detroit, Michigan in the first half of the 19th century. He is best known for heroism at the Battle of Monguagon (August 9, 1812) during the  War of 1812, when he was serving as a captain in the Michigan Legion. Dequindre Road, which runs through Detroit as well as Oakland and Macomb counties, is named for him.

Dequindre was born in Detroit. He served as an apprentice and clerk, and in 1810 opened his own store in the city. When war broke out with England in 1812, Dequindre raised a company of riflemen, which joined the Michigan Legion. During the Battle of Monguagon, Dequindre’s company was the first to attack and enter the British breastworks, and his men later sank a British gunboat on the River Rouge with a cannon mounted on shore. For his conduct, he was tendered a commission as major in the U.S. Army. He declined the position but was thereafter known as Major Dequindre

Sources:

Clarence Munroe Burton, “The City of Detroit, 1701-1922“, Volume 4.

“A Warship” (PDF) – via Great Lakes Maritime Institute.

1855 : The Steamship Illinois is First Ship To Pass through Sault Ste. Marie Locks
Jun 18 all-day

Great Lakes Maritime Society Image of Illinois (Steamship), courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The steamship Illinois became the first ship to pass through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, which connect Lakes Huron and Superior via the St. Mary’s River. Workers spent two years building two 350-foot locks, which allow vessels to navigate the twenty-one-foot difference between the lakes. The state of Michigan operated the locks until 1881 when the federal government took control. Today, the locks are the world’s busiest and carry more annual tonnage than the Panama and Suez Canals combined. By 1997, the total tonnage locked through “The Soo” was nearly 8.4 billion tons. Between 1987 and 1996, the average annual tonnage was 85.5 million tons.

Source : Michigan Historical Calendar, Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

1898 : Bob-Lo Island Opens
Jun 18 all-day

On June 18, 1898, the Bob-Lo Island Amusement Park opened for the first time on Bois Blanc Island, ON, Canada. It would be a favorite summer destination for Detroiters for the next century.


Clipping from Detroit Free Press, June 19, 1898 provided by Michigan Past Twitter Feed


Postcard provided by Michigan Historical Society.  Shown here are picnickers in 1916 w/casino in the background.

1923 : 1st Checker Cab Taxi Produced in Kalamazoo
Jun 18 all-day

On June 18, 1923, Checker Cab rolled its 1st taxi off the line in Kalamazoo, Michigan.   Morris Markin founded the company in Chicago, but moved the operation to Kalamazoo due to skilled labor available and extra space at the Handley-Knight & Dort Body plants.

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Notably, the term “checkered car” came from the distinctive checkerboard patterns painted on all of Markin’s taxis, to signify the finish flags at races, a symbol of winning, according to Morris.

The rest of the story:

Morris Markin was a American businessman, famous for creating the Checker Cab company, the manufacturer of the American taxi idol and staple, the truly cult vehicle.

Born into a poor Jewish family in Smolensk, Russia, Morris Markin (July 15, 1893 – July 8, 1970)  worked in a clothing factory from a very young age. His determination and hard work got him promoted to a supervisor position by the age of nineteen, when he emigrated to the United States in November 1912. When he arrived at Ellis Island, he spoke no English and couldn’t afford to pay the bond required to enter the country. According to legend, a janitor at the facility loaned him the twenty-five dollars he needed for the bond.

From New York City, Markin went to Chicago to live with his uncle. He held several jobs as an errand boy, the last for a tailor who taught him the trade. When the tailor died, Markin purchased the business on credit from the widow. He worked hard and saved enough money to bring seven brothers and two sisters to the States. Markin then teamed up with one of the brothers and opened a factory which made pants under government contracts during World War I, earning a fortune.

In 1921, Markin entered the automobile business when he collected an auto body manufacturing company from an engineer named Lomberg. Markin had loaned fifteen-thousand-dollars to Lomberg earlier in an effort to keep the company afloat. When it failed, Lomberg returned to Markin to ask for more money. Markin refused and took over the company for his debt.

He then picked up a failed automobile manufacturer, Commonwealth Motors,   and with it the accountant, Ralph E. Oakland. Then, in a bold move, Markin purchased the defunct Handley-Knight chassis plant and the Dort body plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He moved his entire operation to Kalamazoo and on February 2, 1922 formed the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company.

Early Checker Motors Taxi GreenTo a degree Markin owed his success to the Prohibition and the Mafia of the 30s: thanks to his cars’ common appearance, the roomy boot, where one could hide several small barrels with forbidden liquids, and the spacious interior, fit for up to 9 people, it became the favorite among the gangsters, and even Al Capone himself rode in a modified “checkered car” around Chicago.

Markin also was fairly notorious himself in his dealings with taxi companies, unions, and his main competition John D. Hertz (founder of Hertz Rent-a-Car).  At one point, his home in Chicago was bombed.  By 1929, Hertz sold out his taxi business to Markin.

checkercab-598

The iconic Checker Marathon in classic taxi livery.

More trivia:  In 1960 the company produced the cult model “Marathon” for public consumption, made famous by Martin Scorcese’s “The Taxi Driver” film starring Robert DeNiro.

An advertising image for the Marathon sedan from the 1960s. Checker stressed the vehicle’s value for a family.

By the time of his death in 1970, Markin was a pillar of the Kalamazoo community and the unsavory history of his company was long forgotten.

Markin’s son David took over operation of the company after his father’s passing and production of the Checker taxi continued until Checker Motors stopped taxi production in 1982.

David gifted his father’s homestead to the city of Kalamazoo in 1970, creating Markin Glen County Park , a 160-acre park at 5300 N. Westnedge Ave.  Not only did Markin’s son donate the property, but he also provided an endowment of more than $1 million to sustain it.

The city later sold the park for a nominal amount to Kalamazoo County. Part is a nature preserve and part has recreational areas developed in the late 1990s and thereafter with swimming and fishing ponds, a camp ground, a playground and tournament-rated tennis courts that are open to the public.

Sources :

#ThisDayInAutoHeritage, June 18.

Morris Markin Wikipedia entry

Business: Checkered Yellow“, Time Magazine, September 22, 1930.

Barry Moreno. Ellis Island’s Famous Immigrants.  Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco,2008.

Morris Markin Russian American Heritage entry

Ronnie Schreiber, “Uber’s Legal Woes Are Nothing Compared to Taxicab’s Early Days“, The Truth About Cars, February 26, 2018.

Checker Motors: Taxicab Makers“, Kalamazoo Public Library.

Al Jones, “David Markin Remembered As A Passionate Businessman, Art-Lover, Tennis Booster, Philanthropist, and Father“, Kalamazoo News, June 1, 2013.

 

2016 : Arianna Quan, First Asian-American Miss Michigan
Jun 18 all-day

 

Competing as Miss Wayne County, Quan beat out 32 other women from around the state to earn the title of Miss Michigan inside the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon.

A resident of Bloomfield Hills, Quan was born in Beijing, China, where she lived for the first six years of her life before moving to Metro Detroit and becoming a naturalized citizen at 14.

Since being crowned, she has advocated for her platform, “Being American: Immigration & Citizenship Education.” In her first appearance as Miss Michigan, she helped Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder welcome a group of Chinese business officials to Detroit.

She spends time interacting with the Asian-American community, encouraging people to vote. Or as she says, “integrating as many different cultures and organizations together as she can.”

Brandon Champion, “From China to Miss Michigan: Arianna Quan says America must embrace its diversity“, MLive, June 20, 2016.

Brandon Champion, “Miss Michigan reads nasty comments people make, and she’s ‘thankful’ for them“, MLive, August 23, 2016.

2018 : Big City Greens Premieres on Disney; Inspired by St. Johns Roots
Jun 18 all-day

Big City Greens  is an American animated television series produced by Disney Television Animation. The series is created by Chris and Shane Houghton, who grew up on five acres of land just south of St. Johns, Michigan and graduated from St. Johns High School before heading off to college and eventually Los Angeles. Director Rob Renzetti serves as executive producer, and the Houghton brothers serve as co-executive producers. The show premieres the week of Disney Channel of June 18-22, 2018.

Chris and Shane Houghton

Chris and Shane Houghton

As children, the Houghton brothers’ nearest neighbor was a half mile away, but a creek running through the property provided hours of entertainment  They built make-shift dams and tree forts, played with the pigs and chickens on the property, and ran through the wooded area behind their house.

Their rural Clinton County roots left a life-long impression and helped inspire a comic book series, “Reed Gunther”, about a Grizzly Bear-riding cowboy who fought monsters in the wild west.  (For more information check out the April 18th post.)

Now it’s become the springboard for “Big City Greens”, a new Disney Channel cartoon the brothers created.  It’s based on memories of their family, friends, and community members in St. Johns.

It premiers June 18th on the Disney Channel and has already been picked up for a second season.  Chris Houghton even provides the voice of the main character, Cricket Green, a ten-year old from the country who moves to the big city with his family.  Other characters include Cricket’s older sister Tilly, his dad Bill, and Gramma whom they are living with.  The first season will include 30 half-hour shows, with each show offering two cartoons.  The show has a staff of 50 people, who do everything from writing the dialogue to working on the story boards.

Characters from Big City Greens

Viewers get to watch them put down roots in a strange new place — the city.  The message to kids watching is simple, the brothers said — anyplace is home  when you have friends and family with you.

Sources:

Rachel Greco, “New Disney Cartoon Inspired by St. Johns Roots” Lansing State Journal, June 19, 2018.

Charley Ridgely, “‘Big City Greens’: Watch an Exclusive Clip From Disney’s Newest Animated Series“, Comicbook/Tv Shows, June 5, 2018.

Dave Trumbone, “Exclusive: Disney’s ‘Big City Greens’ Images Reveal the Co-Creators’ Real-Life Inspiration“, Collider, June 5, 2018.

Big City Greens Theme Song from Comic-Con 2017.  July 21, 2017.

Big City Greens wikipedia entry.

Ellen Wolff and Ramin Zahed , “Animation Magazine’s Rising Stars of 2018“, Animation Magazine, April 2018.

Jun
19
Sun
1879 : General Sherman Declares War is Hell in Pontiac
Jun 19 all-day

On June 19, 1879, William Tecumseh Sherman, General in Chief of the U.S. Army, delivered a variant of his famous “War Is Hell” speech to the graduating class. A total of 10,000 people arrived to listen to Sherman’s speech, and the press reported that it was the largest number of people ever to gather within the township’s boundaries (at that time the village of Orchard Lake was part of West Bloomfield Township). He said: “There is many a boy here today who looks upon war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.”

Source : Michigan Military Academy Wikipedia entry

1911 : Aero Club of Grosse Point Farms Holds Aviation Meet; Records Set
Jun 19 all-day

Imagine that you are fourteen years old in 1911, and your dad is into the latest transportation fad—not automobiles, but aeroplanes! He and nine of his buddies are so smitten with the new technology that they contract with the Wright Brothers to have their newest biplane and best pilot come to Detroit for three days of “test driving.”

Now imagine that you get to go for a ride with the finest aviator in North America, Frank Coffyn, who has over a year’s experience flying for the Wright team. After ten minutes in the air, you hold the record as the youngest person in the country to have flown on an airplane!

That’s exactly what happened to Miss Josephine Alger on June 19, 1911.

1_JosAlger

 

This story recently came to light at the Collections Resource Center when we “found” a scrapbook high on a shelf in the archives. An engraved cover bears the title “Aviation Meet of the Aero Club of Michigan at the Golf Links of the Country Club, Grosse Pointe Farms.” The book carries a warm, hand-written dedicatory inscription to Mrs. D. Dwight Douglas—Josephine’s married name—from Orville Wright, dated August 1945. The content includes the original invitation sent to club members, numerous newspaper clippings detailing the event, and twenty-five priceless photographs.

As a time capsule, this book captures the very early days of Detroit’s love affair with airplanes—a rich history that most Detroiters don’t know. Just a year earlier, Archibald Hoxsey and Ralph Johnson had taken the first powered flights in the state at the Michigan State Fairgrounds (by the end of 1910, both pilots had perished in crashes). The men of the Aero Club—Fred and Russell Alger, William Metzger, Roy Chapin, Burns Henry, Alvin McCauley, and other industrialists—saw opportunity in aircraft as they had in automobiles. Thus the Aviation Meet was born.

3_Gathering

Over the course of three days, from June 19 to 21—Monday through Wednesday—forty-one members of the Aero Club and the Country Club [today the Country Club of Detroit] went for rides with “Birdman” Coffyn. Flights were scheduled in the early morning and late afternoon when the wind was lightest at the lakeside site. Generally, the plane motored up the coast for a mile or so, turned back over the Links for a couple of miles, and then around to the starting point. Curiously, while passengers wished to fly over Lake St. Clair, Coffyn demurred, perhaps thinking—in the worst case—that a crashed plane could be most easily salvaged on land.

All of the flights went flawlessly. Frank Coffyn had a reputation for sober and calculated piloting; this was no barnstorming daredevil (surviving until 1960). He performed a few “trick” maneuvers for spectators while testing the plane alone, but airshow stunts were out of the question for his paying guests because there were no seatbelts. Much like early automobiles, it was considered safer to get thrown clear of wreckage in the event of a crash.

Similar to the first Wright Flier, this craft was built of wood, fabric and cable, with some fancier touches like nickel plated pedal covers. The 4 cylinder engine produced 30 horsepower, propelling the plane at up to 60 miles per hour. Landings were often performed at a slow glide with the engine turned off. Passenger flights generally took about ten minutes, climbed to 400-500 feet and cost $25 [about $650 today].

4_Seated

By the end of the Meet, several new records had been set and a few bets won. While there had been previous meets for spectators, this event was the first time that a private organization had sponsored such ride-alongs. On Monday morning, Coffyn took nine flights in 110 minutes; the previous record was eight in a full day. Wednesday, he took thirteen flights in two hours.

Two of his passengers— Marion Alger (Russell’s wife) and Mary Alger (Fred’s wife)—became the first American women to fly on US soil. In all, ten of the 41 passengers were women. Unfortunately for Josephine Alger who flew on Monday, Wednesday morning’s schedule included twelve-year-old Horace Wadsworth, who snatched her record as the youngest aviator after just two days. Following the flights each passenger was interviewed by the newspapers, and two thoughts were enthusiastically repeated: the ride was very comfortable and exciting; and they were never scared. Never.

5_HoraceWadsworth

It should be noted that press access was limited. The public was afforded pretty good viewing along Fisher Road, adjacent to club grounds, and each morning a couple of hundred onlookers gathered to watch. Entrepreneurial youth began selling breakfast foods and snacks from impromptu stands and fared well over the three-day event.

At least two reporters commented on local interest in the flights. On Monday morning, life in Grosse Pointe came to a halt while the plane was aloft, with everyone scanning the sky, following the sound of the engine. Two days later, residents no longer even looked up.

By Wednesday the syndicate that brought the plane to Detroit had purchased it in order to further promote local aviation. They announced a open-to-the-public meet at the Fair Grounds to take place June 29 to July 4. Frank Coffyn taught Fred and Russell Alger to fly, and the three of them converted their biplane into a “Hydro-Aeroplane,” with pontoons to facilitate a water landing.

Source:

Detroit Historical Society Blog, July 13, 2018.

1920 : Giant Beaver Skull Found in Niles
Jun 19 all-day

On June 19, 1920, workers on the Michigan Central Railroad yards nears Niles unearthed the skull of a giant beaver. The giant beaver was a prehistoric beast that roamed North America along with mammoths and mastodons. It could grow to approximately eight feet in length and weigh nearly a quarter of a ton. The giant beaver became extinct during the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago.

Source: Michigan Every Day

For more information, see Castoroides wikipedia entry

1979 : World Sauntering Day
Jun 19 all-day

“World Sauntering Day” is celebrated on the 19th day of June every year. The purpose is to remind us to take it easy, smell the roses, to slow down and enjoy life as opposed to rushing through it. It is also sometimes referred to as International Sauntering Day

The exact year of its origin is 1979, and it is believed to have begun at Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island) in Michigan. The Grand Hotel has the world’s longest porch at 660 feet in length. The holiday was created by W.T. (Bill) Rabe, Public Relations Officer for Lake Superior State University, in response to the growing popularity of jogging. The idea behind the day was to encourage people to slow down and appreciate the world around them. And generate a little humor and interest in Lake Superior State University.

Sources:

World Sauntering Day entry from Wikipedia.

World Sauntering Day podcast from NPR, June 19, 2002.