1855 : Sault Ste. Marie Locks Opens
Jun 22 all-day

The passage of the steamer Illinois through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie marks the opening of unobstructed shipping between Lakes Superior and Huron. Ships were no longer forced to stop at Sault Ste. Marie and portage their cargoes around the rapids of the St. Mary’s River, which drops 12 feet from Lake Superior to Lake Huron. The canal was the result of a long-sought 1852 grant by Congress to Michigan of 750,000 acres of public land. Construction, begun in mid-1853, had progressed despite cost overruns, food shortages, a hostile climate and a cholera epidemic. The mile-long canal and two 350-foot locks arranged in tandem were completed in two years. The Sault locks provided new impetus to Michigan’s fledgling mining industry. Copper mining on the Keweenaw Peninsula began in the early 1840s, and Michigan led the nation in copper production for many years. In 1844, surveyor William A. Burt discovered iron ore deposits near Negaunee. Iron ore mining expanded gradually, but by the late 19th century, Michigan produced more iron ore than any other state. Michigan also produced significant amounts of salt, gypsum, oil and natural gas.

Source : June 22, 1855 : Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Photo : Michigan Historical Review Facebook Page photo : June 22, 2017

Note : some sources prefer June 18 as the date that the Steamer Illinois first passed through he locks.

1863 : Circus Hippopotamus Jumps Off Boat Into Detroit River
Jun 22 all-day

A circus hippopotamus, being shipped from Buffalo to Detroit aboard the steamber SD Caldwell, broke out of his cage and dived into the Detroit River about 6 miles south of town. Ali, the Egyptian, the hippopatumus’s keeper, unleashed a large black mastiff, the hippopotamus’s companion, who dived into the river after him, and eventually led him to shore. Ali followed in a boat and was able to secure the hippopotamus on the American shore so they could proceed to Detroit. The unknown reporter states the hippopotamus was in fine condition after his frolic!

“A Novel Scene”, Detroit Free Press, June 23, 1863, column two.

1922 : New Detroit Institute of Arts Building Groundbreaking
Jun 22 all-day

Ground was broken on the new building on June 22, 1922. Ralph Booth turned the first spade full of dirt. The cornerstone was laid April 29, 1924.

“Our city has achieved first place in industry and an enviable place in wealth,” Booth said during the cornerstone ceremony. “We are here today to crown these accomplishments by laying the cornerstone of this building which shall testify that our true ambition is not mechanical production only. This but supplies the opportunity with which we shall gather around us the finer things to which we aspire, and give tangible evidence to the world that Detroit is a city of enlightenment and progress. Where we claim the best that civilization offers in order that our lives may be fuller, and richer, and contribute to the true betterment of future generations.”

The museum was not only growing but was evolving drastically from a collection of oddities to a renowned, internationally respected institute. Leading the changes was William Valentiner, known as the ‘father of the DIA,’ who joined the museum as an adviser in 1921 and would serve as the director of the DIA from 1924 to 1945. Cret and Valentiner installed some of the newest acquisitions in the Jefferson building as a way to show Detroiters what was to come in the new building. It was Valentiner who oversaw the move to the new DIA — and the abandonment of the 39-year-old Museum of Art. The castle on Jefferson served as the city’s art museum until it closed in July 1927, when all of its treasures were moved to the Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward. The DIA opened at 8 p.m. Oct. 7, 1927.

Dan Austin, Detroit Museum of Art,

Mark Stryker, “DIA in peril: A look at the museum’s long, tangled relationship with Detroit politics and finance”, Detroit Free Press, September 8, 2013.

1929 : MSU Beaumont Tower Dedicated
Jun 22 all-day

Beaumont Tower via wikipeida

Beaumont Tower has not been a part of campus since MSU’s conception. Rather, it serves as a monument to commemorate the former location of one of the most significant buildings for the university.

Shortly after the university was established in 1855, College Hall, the nation’s first building for the study of scientific agriculture, was built to serve as the academic hub of the campus.

Lynne Goldstein, MSU professor of anthropology, said the foundation of College Hall was so terribly built that the building was constantly undergoing renovation. In 1918, College Hall finally collapsed.

It was during this time Americans were in the thick of World War I, and the university had many military ties. The remains of MSU’s first academic building were replaced by an artillery shed.

“One of (MSU’s alumni) came back to visit and was appalled,” Goldstein said. “He was appalled that College Hall was gone, (but) he was more appalled by the fact that the artillery shed was there instead.”

That student was John Beaumont, from the class of 1882. Beaumont and his wife, Alice, provided the funds to build something to commemorate the very beginning of the university.

Construction for the tower began in 1927, and took almost a year to complete.

The brick and limestone tower was finished in 1928 and was dedicated on June 22, 1929, according to the MSU Archives.

For the full article, see Anya Rath, “A towering legacy; Storied history, legacy surround one of MSU’s most iconic structures”, State News, October 17, 2013.

1937 : Detroit’s Joe Louis Becomes World’s Heavyweight Champion
Jun 22 all-day

Eighty years ago Detroit’s own Joe Louis defeated Jimmy Braddock to become world heavyweight champion. The June 22, 1937 historic bout at Chicago’s Comiskey Park was a career-establishing win for the handsome 23-year-old. Moreover, it was a win for marginalized black America, in general, and Louis’ neighborhood, in particular. After all, humble Catherine Street in Black Bottom is where he was raised; bustling St. Antoine Street in Paradise Valley is where his business office was located.

It was perhaps the neighboring communities’ finest hour. An estimated 10,000 euphoric Joe Louis Booster Club members made the sojourn by train from Detroit to Second City. A variety of notables traveled in a VIP section of the train, including Roy Lightfoot, owner of the all-the-rage B&C Beer Garden and mayor of Paradise Valley; and Andrew “Jap” Sneed, owner of Club 666 or “Three Sixes,” as it was sometimes called. Those communities were the epicenter of black life in Detroit during the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. They don’t exist anymore.

Detroit is where blues great, John Lee Hooker performed at Henry’s Swing Bar on Madison Street in Black Bottom strumming his guitar and voicing in his signature style spoken-word Mississippi drawl. Here, he recorded one of his popular hits, “Boogie Chillen.”

The city’s black population skyrocketed from 5,700 in 1910 to 120,000 by 1930. By estimates, about 350 black-owned businesses were located in the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley area. Black Bottom was largely a residential area, south of Gratiot and bounded by Brush Street on the west and the Grand Trunk Railroad tracks on the east.


Some say the rich black soil of the original area gave rise to the name Black Bottom. Yet, others have raised questions about the possible racial origins of the name stemming from the segregation era Black Bottom dance — considered to be invented in black areas of the South, traveling its way north together with the black migrants in the 1920s.

Paradise Valley was essentially a commercial area just north of Gratiot Avenue along Brush, Beaubien, St. Antoine, Hastings, and East Adams streets. It was home to a bowling alley, several boutique hotels, lively bars, a couple of swank supper clubs, and a few greasy spoons.

It’s where big band legends Duke Ellington and Count Basie performed as well as songstresses Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughn, and be-boppers Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis.

Source : Ken Coleman, “Black Bottom and Paradise Valley“, Detroit Is It, October 5, 2017.

1938 : 5 Kroger Stores Bombed in Detroit
Jun 22 all-day
On June 22, 1938, five Kroger grocery stores were bombed on the west side of Detroit within 15 minutes of each other in the middle of the night, blowing holes in the roofs of the stores or neighboring buildings.
Kroger employees had been on strike for more than a week, closing many of the stores. The strike was called by three unions, the Bakers Local 136, the Teamsters and Trucksters Union and the United Bakery and Food Handlers Local 136.

At the time of the bombing, Kroger had 350 stores in Detroit.  Today, there are zero, the closest one being in Dearborn.


Detroit Free Press
MIRS, June 22, 2018
1938: Joe Louis Defeats Max Schmeling, Becomes National Hero
Jun 22 all-day

One of Detroit’s favorite sons, Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis, knocked out German boxer Max Schmeling and became a national hero on June 22, 1938.

When Joe Louis was only ten years old, he and his family moved to Detroit in 1924. In his teens, Joe’s passion became boxing. After school and work, he trained in a local gym; working to distinguish himself among the city’s other young fighters.

Joe turned pro in 1934 after winning the National Amateur Union light heavyweight title. Before long, he established an excellent record. Reporters gave him a series of nicknames including: the Detroit Destroyer, the Michigan Mauler, the Sepia Socker, and finally the Brown Bomber, an epithet that marked the remainder of his career.

In 1936, Joe suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of German boxer Max Schmeling. But Lewis continued his climb to the top and the following year knocked out James Braddock to become the heavyweight champion in 1937.

Two years later, Louis fought Schmeling again. But this time, as the world was about to launch into war, their fight became much more than a boxing match.

In the spring of 1938, not long before the rematch, Joe visited the White house at President Roosevelt’s invitation. As he would later recall in his autobiography, “Mr. Roosevelt asked me about my plans for the fight, and then said seriously: “You know, Joe, America is never supposed to lose.” Then he felt my muscles and smiled.

“I know, Mr. President,” I answered. “And I’ll take care of that this time!”

True to his word, Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round.

After the large German was defeated, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy came up, shook Louis’ hand, and said, “Michigan is proud of you Joe.” That night, all across the nation, people rejoiced. Louis was no longer simply the heavyweight champion; he had become an American hero.

For more information see Richard Bak, Joe Louis: the Great Black Hope, Dallas, Tex., Taylor Pub., 1996 (available at the Library of Michigan and 25 other Michigan libraries according to MelCat); Chris Mead, Champion–Joe Louis, Black Hero in White America, New York, Scribner, 1985.

Sources :

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

Joe Louis bio from

Also check out “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink” by David Margolick (Alfred A. Knopf) – Set against the politically charged 1930s and the rise of Nazi Germany, this book explores the two historic boxing matches between Detroiter Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. Louis’ crushing victory in the 1938 rematch, only after his stunning defeat in 1936, shattered the myth of Aryan racial supremacy, reverberated throughout the world and provided an impetus for the nascent U.S. civil rights movement.

Nigel Collins, “Louis-Schmeling: More than a fight“, ESPN, June 19, 2013.

Louis Destroys Schmeling in Rematch. International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling wikipedia entry

1963 : Malcolm X Speaks At Michigan State University
Jun 22 all-day

Malcolm X speaks at Erickson Kiva on January 23, 1963, on the MSU campus, to students and faculty about race problems and the Black Muslim religion and its ideas. The speech is followed by answers to questions from the audience. A recording available in the MSU Library Vincent Voice Library.

The MSU Vincent Voice Library also has a June 22, 1963 recording of Malcolm X speaking at a Michigan State University press conference about the race problem, aims of Black Muslims, the Meredith case and Mississippi followed by various takes of the interview for an MSU film.

Malcolm X was one of the most influential and most polarizing figures of the civil rights era.

Beginning in the late 1950s, Malcolm became the public face of the Nation of Islam, fluently articulating the rage many blacks felt toward the unjust system in which they lived, preaching racial separation where others sought integration, self-defense where others advocated nonviolence.

But Malcolm broke with the Nation of Islam in 1964, and, after a trip to the Muslim holy city of Mecca later that year, began to believe that racial divisions could be overcome. He was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965.

During his childhood, Malcolm X, aka Malcolm Little, also lived in Lansing and Mason, Michigan. Not that Lansing was particularly good to the young Malcolm Little.

It was here, in 1929 when Malcolm was 4 years old, that the home his family had purchased in a whites-only subdivision northwest of the city was burned to the ground.

His father was run over by a streetcar two years later, and Malcolm would grow up with rumors that his father had been murdered by a local white supremacist group called the Black Legion.

By the time he was 13, Malcolm’s mother had been sent to the State Mental Hospital in Kalamazoo, and he and his brothers and sisters parceled out to foster homes.

Later in his life he returned for a short time at the end of World War II, making mattresses at Capital Bedding, sweeping floors at the Reo Motor Car Co., and working as a waiter at Coral Gables.

He also married his wife Betty X before a Justice of the Peace in Lansing on January 14, 1958.

Today there is one public marker of Malcolm’s presence here, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Vincent Court, the site of one of his childhood homes. And there is also an unofficial marker, the El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz Academy uses his Muslim name as its own name.

Source : “Malcolm X: What is his Lansing legacy?”, Lansing State Journal, February 7, 2012.

Visit the Vincent Voice Library for additional recordings of Malcolm X.

Malcolm X Official Website

Malcolm X History Channel

2018 : Lucile A. Watts Dies, Michigan’s First Black Female Circuit Court Judge
Jun 22 all-day

Lucile A. Watts, the first black woman to be elected a circuit court judge in Michigan, has died at the age of 97.

Watts graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1962 and started her own law firm because no one would hire a woman, she told the Free Press last year.

“At that time, being a woman was worse than being black,” she said in the interview.

She was representing Great Lakes Mutual Insurance Co. when violence gripped Detroit in the summer of 1967, and she learned one of the agents had been picked up by police and was being detained.

Her client had been arrested for being black and walking the streets, she said.

Watts, a former model, then joined other African-American lawyers in the community to get men out of custody. A real estate and divorce lawyer, Watts helped organize and coordinate the work of the other lawyers who were involved in defending the men and seeking their release.

“If you were black and a man, you were subject to be picked up,” she said last year. “They arrested so many people they had to corral them on Belle Isle like cattle.”

After practicing law for nearly 20 years, Watts was elected a Wayne County Circuit Court judge in 1980, the first black, female judge to join that bench. The Free Press reported last year that Watts was the first African-American woman elected as a circuit court judge in Michigan.

For the full article, see Jennifer Dixon, “Lucile Watts, Wayne County’s first black, female judge, has died at age 97“, Detroit Free Press, June 24, 2018.

2021 : Governor Lifts COVID-19 Pandemic Restrictions
Jun 22 all-day

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” said Governor Whitmer. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the medical experts and health professionals who stood on the front lines to keep us all safe. And we are incredibly thankful to all of the essential workers who kept our state moving. Thanks to the millions of Michiganders who rolled up their sleeves to get the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, we have been able to make these changes ahead of schedule. Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”

Nearly five million Michiganders ages 16 and older have received their first vaccine dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. According to data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, half of Michigan residents have completed their vaccination and over 60% have gotten their first shots.

Source : Governor News Release, June 17, 2021.