1710 : First Recorded Marriage in Detroit
May 5 all-day

Baptiste Turpin and Margaret Fafard marry at St. Anne’s Church, the oldest recorded marriage in Detroit. Fire destroyed records of the church in 1703 so it is possible that a marriage might have occured earlier, but there is no surviving record.

Source : The Detroit Almanac.

1769 : British Buy Belle Isle
May 5 all-day


The British government purchased what was then called Hog Island from Ojibwa, Chippewa, and Ottawa tribe leaders in 1769.  It  was obtained by Lt. George McDougall, an officer for what was then British Detroit, for his negotiations with and subsequent capture by Chief Pontiac during the violent siege of Detroit in 1763.

The deed, dated May 5, bears McDougall’s signature and the pictorial “totem” signatures of three chiefs.

Valued at about $950, the items used to solidify the ownership of the island included eight barrels of rum, three rolls of tobacco, 6 pounds of vermillion paint pigment, and a 37-inch-long wampum belt.

The belt, featuring white shell beads, tanned deer hide strips, fine cording, and linen threads, is believed to have taken a French woman nearly 150 hours to create. It is perhaps the most elaborate piece traded during the deal.

It wasn’t uncommon for Detroit’s early settlers to use beaded wampum belts in trades with Native American tribes and today, the piece is a physical reminder of how Native American, French, and British history is woven together.

Today, the island is known as Belle Isle.

Sources :

Isabella Hinojosa, “Weaving Detroit History Together:A beaded belt among goods used to seal the deal for Detroit’s Belle Isle”, Hour Detroit, June 9, 2017.

Burton Historical Collection 100th Anniversary (2015) Booklet.

1828 : Michigan’s Territorial Legislature Meets for 1st Time
May 5 all-day

On May 5, 1828, the territorial legislature met for the first time at Michigan’s first capitol building constructed in Detroit at a cost of $24,500. The 60 by 90 foot building served as the territorial state capitol until 1847 when the seat of Michigan government moved to Lansing.

—Source: Mich-Again’s Day.

1831 : Michigan’s Oldest Newspaper Hit the Streets
May 5 all-day

On May 5, 1831, Michigan’s oldest continuously published newspaper, the Detroit Free Press and Michigan Intelligencer, hit the streets. At the time, it was a weekly made up of four pages. The first edition announced the politics of the newspaper: Democratic.

“The Democratic citizens of this territory, having found the two newspapers already established here completely under the control of the city aristocracy, have been compelled to set up an independent press,” wrote Publisher Sheldon McKnight in the first editorial.

The name of the paper changed in 1835 when it became the state’s first daily, the Detroit Daily Free Press. In 1836, McKnight sold the paper, nine days after he was acquitted of a manslaughter charge stemming from a brawl in the Bull & Beard’s Saloon.

Source: Michigan Every Day

1903 : Civil Rights Pioneer Booker T. Washington Speaks In Detroit
May 5 all-day

On May 5, 1903, civil rights pioneer Booker T. Washington addressed an enthusiastic audience at Detroit’s since-demolished Light Guard Armory.

“Any race that yields to the temptation of hating another race because of its color weakens and narrows itself,” he said.

“Wherever I can I propose to teach my people to take high ground, to teach them if others would be little we must be great.

“If others must be mean, we must be good.

“If others should try to push us down, we must show a broader spirit and help push them up.”

Source : This Week In Michigan History, May 3, 2009, A.14.

1995 : President Clinton Speaks At MSU Commencement
May 5 all-day

The MSU Convocation on Friday, May 5, was one for Spartan history. It marked the appearance of President Bill Clinton, the first sitting president in 88 years to speak to an MSU graduating class. Spartan Stadium was filled by a sparkling sea of green caps and gowns worn by some 6,500 graduating students while some 50,000 parents and friends, along with federal agents and the media, filled the stands. It was a festive mood, with the sun breaking through during the processional march. Moments later, a thunderous cheer and ovation broke out when President Clinton emerged and made his way to the stage. The MSU Wind Symphony, led by John Whitwell, played Ruffles and Flourishes and Hail To The Chief. Clinton listened attentively to an inspiring speech by Ingrid Saunders Jones, a vice president with Coca-Cola Co. Wearing a blue robe with black stripes, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, one of five honorary doctorates presented by MSU this spring. ‘Maybe I will get more respect in Washington now,’ Clinton mused, adding to great applause, ‘Regardless, I now know who I’m supposed to root for in the Big 10.’ In his speech, televised nationally by C-SPAN, Clinton told graduates they face ‘a future of unlimited possibilities’ and challenged them to face the new challenges and problems. He noted, ‘You who graduate today will have the chance to live in the most exciting, the most prosperous, the most diverse and interesting world in the entire history of humanity.’ Clinton made a rousing defense of freedom of political speech and condemned the extremists who would subvert that process through violence. He also countered the negative publicity given to Michigan for having some links to an alleged conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing. ‘This is the real Michigan in this stadium today,’ he said. ‘The real Michigan is Michigan State. It’s the astonishing revival of the automobile industry . . . Real Michigan is Kellogg’s corn flakes and the best cherries in the world. The real Michigan is the Great Lakes and the U.P.’ An avid college basketball fan, Clinton congratulated retiring coach Jud Heathcote and also mentioned last year’s speaker, fellow Arkansan and MSU Distinguished Alumnus Ernest Green of the ‘Little Rock Nine.’ Following the festivities, which included several speeches by select students, Clinton stayed on to greet students, faculty and other guests attending the convocation. It was an exciting and historic moment in MSU’s Spring 1995 Commencement activities. Source : Bob Bao, “Clinton Addresses MSU’s 1995 Convocation Spring 1995”, MSU Alumni Association Magazine, Spring 1995.

President Clinton delivering the commencement address to graduates of Michigan State University on May 5, 1995.

2010 : Senator Levin Eulogizes Ernie Harwell on Senate Floor
May 5 all-day

Sen. Carl Levin delivered the following statement on the Senate floor on May 5, 2010:

“For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

Mr. President, spring after spring, for four decades, a man named Ernie Harwell would recite those words. He would recite them at the beginning of the first baseball broadcast of spring training. And those are the words that would tell the people of Michigan that the long, cold winter was over.

Ernie was the radio voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years, and in that time, there may have been no Michiganian more universally beloved. Our state mourns today at his passing, yesterday evening, after a battle with cancer. He fought that battle with the grace, the good humor, and the wisdom that Michigan had come to expect, and even depend on, from a man we came to know and love.

This gentlemanly Georgian adopted our team, and our state, as his own. And his career would have been worthy had he done nothing more than bring us the sound of summer over the radio, recounting the Tigers’ ups and downs with professionalism and wit, as he did.

But without making a show of it, Ernie Harwell taught us. In his work and his life, he taught us the value of kindness and respect. He taught us that, in a city and a world too often divided, we could be united in joy at a great Al Kaline catch, or a Lou Whitaker home run, or a Mark Fidrych strikeout. He taught us not to let life pass us by “like the house by the side of the road.”

In 1981, when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Ernie told the assembled fans what baseball meant to him. “In baseball democracy shines its clearest,” he said. “The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team’s uniform from another.” That was a lesson he taught us so well.

Mr. President, I will miss Ernie Harwell. All of Michigan will miss the sound of his voice telling us that the winter is past, that the Tigers had won a big game, or that they’d get another chance to win one tomorrow. We will miss his Georgia drawl, his humor, his humility, his quiet faith in God and in the goodness of the people he encountered. But we will carry in our hearts always our love for him, our appreciation for his work, and the lessons he gave us and left us and that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.

Carl Levin

Farewell to Ernie Harwell Speech Video from floor of Senate

2013 : For the 25
May 5 all-day

May 5, 2013 : For the 25 Documentary Released

“We took a lot of casualties,” said Logan Stark, 26, of East Lansing. “After that, you really had to come to grips with the fact that you might not be making it home.” Stark survived, but his haunting memories of what he experienced in Afghanistan stayed with him. They compelled him to make a 48-minute documentary as part of a class at Michigan State University, where he’s now a student on the GI Bill.

Stark explained to Michigan State University public affairs why he felt compelled to make his documetary:

““When you leave to go to Afghanistan, you have an idea of what it might be like, but there’s really no way to describe what actually happens. When people say war is hell, it is. The first time you get shot at, or the first time you see somebody get blown up, it just changes you forever.”

“For the 25” documents the journey to Sangin, Afghanistan and back for a group of Marines. The film was done as part of the Professional Writing program at Michigan State University with Dr. Bump Halbritter in the spring semester of 2013.

For more information, see Niraj Warikoo, “Afghan vet, now an MSU student, honors fallen Marines in documentary”, Detroit Free Press, May 25, 2013.

For another, see Katie Abdilla, “MSU student creates hit documentary”, State News, May 23, 2013.

“Student And Former Marine Sniper Create For The 25 War Documentary”, CBS Detroit, May 27, 2013.

Beth Ford Roth, “Marine Veteran Of Darkhorse Battalion Makes Documentary ‘For The 25’ (Video)”, KPBS Home Post : The Military Life, May 28, 2013.

1898 : Daniel Gerber Born, Manufacturer of Baby Food
May 6 all-day

Daniel Frank Gerber (May 6, 1898 – March 16, 1974) was an American manufacturer of baby food.

Gerber began urging his father to begin the production of strained baby foods at the family cannery in 1927. Daniel and his wife Dorothy had an ill baby named Sally. Dan’s wife suggested that he persuade his father to begin making and selling at their canning company strained baby foods. Gerber with his father did some extensive research on this new concept. They contacted nutritional experts, distributed many samples, and conducted market research interviews before launching their product. The idea of strained baby foods was not entirely new, but the long-held American tradition was that babies generally were given a liquid diet until they were about a year old. It was risky to introduce this new concept to the marketplace as they had no idea how mothers would react to this new idea. This enterprise became the Gerber Products Company.

In 1928 their canning company started an advertising campaign in Good Housekeeping, Parents Magazine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and other magazines. Their task was to convince parents to adopt new feeding concepts. The campaign worked and into the 1930s the canning company expanded its baby food lines.

At Gerber’s death in 1974 the company claimed it was the world’s largest baby-food manufacturer.

Some people think Dorothy Scott Gerber, Daniel’s wife, should get credit for developing the baby food operations.  Tired of straining foods for her own children, it occurred to her that if the Fremont Canning Company could puree tomatoes, it could also puree fruits and vegetables. Fremont was the predecessor to Gerber Products; the name was changed in 1941.

Mrs. Gerber, a native of Ithaca, Michigan, who married Daniel Gerber in 1923, liked the resulting strained fruits and vegetables and, more important, so did her 7-month-old daughter Sally. The new baby food was priced at 15 cents, which until then had been obtainable largely through drug stores at 40 to 60 cents each. Word quickly spread of the new baby food products, and grocery stories avidly stocked them. Initial offerings included  strained peas, carrots, spinich, prunes, and vegetable soup.

In 1928, Gerber sponsored a contest to find a baby picture to use in their ads.  The winning sketch was submitted by Dorothy Hope Smith.  Ann Turner, the adorable baby in the sketch, would become known as the Gerber baby.

In 1939, Gerber introduced the first baby food cereal.

In 1951, Gerber becomes the first baby food company to advertise on television..

In 1963, Gerber introduces the safety button cap to help mothers determine whether products had been tampered with and was one of the first companies to use the “Better if Used Before” date on their products.

In 2007, Nestle acquired Gerber, which was only appropriate since Henri Nestlé, a pharmacist, was asked to look in on a neighbor’s child who couldn’t breastfeed. The baby thrived on the special mixture Henri created. Soon, Nestlé’s innovation—the world’s first infant food—was being sold throughout Europe, and the first infant food company, Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé, was launched in 1867.


Daniel Frank Gerber wikipedia entry

Gerber History and Heritage website

1913 : Richard H. Austin Born, First African American to Hold Statewide Office in Michigan
May 6 all-day

Portrait of Richard H. Austin from Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor, 1996

Richard H. Austin was a man of firsts. Not only was he the first black Michigander elected to statewide office, other than the Michigan Supreme Court, he also was Michigan’s longest-serving secretary of state, holding the office from 1970 through 1994. He was also Michigan’s first black certified public accountant, earning his degree from the Detroit Institute of Technology, and he was the first black Wayne County auditor. We can thank him for vehicle registration tabs, which allow us to replace stickers every year instead of the whole license plate, and for mail-in registration renewals. He also helped make voter registration and plate renewal simultaneous.

Sources: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB), Michigan Department of Transportation, Senate Fiscal Agency.

Justin A. Hinkley, “Murray who? Meet state office buildings’ namesakes”, Lansing State Journal, October 27, 2015.