1820 : Michigan Territorial Legislature Imposes Property Tax
May 8 all-day

On May 8, 1820, the Michigan Territorial legislature imposed the first Michigan tax on personal property and land. The sheriff could arrest anyone who did not pay.

Source : Historical Society of Michigan Calendar

1901 : Norman Thomas “Turkey” Stearnes Born, Best African-American Baseball Player in Detroit’s History
May 8 all-day
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Norman Thomas “Turkey” Stearnes (May 8, 1901 – September 4, 1979) was an African American outfielder in the Negro leagues, who played most of his prime with the Detroit Stars. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Stearnes acquired his nickname at an early age from his unusual running style. He began his career in professional baseball in 1920 with the Nashville Giants, then played for the Detroit Stars, beginning in 1923. In 1931, the Stars failed to pay Stearnes his salary because of the Great Depression, so he moved from team to team for the remainder of his career, retiring in 1942 as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs.

Stearnes is considered by some as one of the great all-around players in the history of baseball, but because of his race and his quiet personality, he never received the recognition that many believe he deserved. He batted over .400 three times and led the Negro leagues in home runs seven times. He is credited with 176 home runs in his Negro league career, the all-time Negro league record, and 50 more than second-place Mule Suttles. Since Negro league seasons were very short, sometimes lasting fewer than 30 games, it is unclear how many home runs Stearnes might have hit in a 154-game major league season. The 175-pound Stearnes was a fast baserunner despite his awkward-looking running form, and was one of the best outfielders of his generation. In 2001, writer Bill James ranked Stearnes as the 25th greatest baseball player of all-time and the best left fielder in the Negro leagues.

Stearnes’ known career statistics include a .344 batting average, 176 home runs, 750 games, and a .621 slugging percentage.

Other work and later life

Despite his accomplishments, Stearnes had to work winters in Detroit’s auto plants to survive, primarily in a factory owned by Walter Briggs, who was the owner of the Detroit Tigers, a team he couldn’t play for because of his skin color.

Stearnes was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, 21 years after his death in Detroit. His wife, Nettie Mae, a schoolteacher, who was instrumental in her husband’s posthumous induction, died in 2014.

A plaque in Stearnes’ honor is on display outside the centerfield gate at the Tigers’ home field, Comerica Park.

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Photo of Stearnes shortly before his death.


Norman Thomas “Turkey” Stearnes wikipedia entry.

Baseball Hall of Fame entry.

Negro Leagues Basebal eMuseum Turkey Stearnes entry

James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.

Dave Mesrey, “New photos of Negro Leagues legend Turkey Stearnes discovered nearly 40 years after his death“, The Official Blog of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, May 8, 2018.


Christine Ferretti, “Historic Hamtramck Stadium’s off-season may finally end“, Detroit News, December 30, 2016. Besides profiling one of the few remaining baseball parks where Negro League Baseball played, it ncludes link to “Remembering Negro Leagues Baseball”.

1913 : Michigan Historical Commission Born
May 8 all-day

On a pleasant spring day in Lansing, on May 8, 1913, then-Governor Woodbridge Ferris struck a blow for history. He signed a bill creating the Michigan Historical Commission.

The commission was originally autonomous. It was later under the Secretary of State, the now-defunct History Arts and Libraries department and is now housed under the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Today, the current commissioners are celebrating the commission’s 100th anniversary. Governor Ferris is long forgotten and the original commissioners are all long dead.

But the commission is still hanging in there, trying to make us conscious of our state’s fascinating past. They are the folks, by the way, behind the Michigan History magazine and the Michigan Historical Marker Program. Nearly everyone has seen some of the more than 1,700 green and gold markers in front of buildings from the old Model T plant in Highland Park to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

In addition to placing historical markers throughout the state, the MHC is also focused on some larger projects, as well. In Detroit, the MHC is planning a relocation and renovation of the former home of Ulysses S. Grant, who was stationed in Detroit during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Grant would become a President of the United States. Other acitivities include helping revitalize the Detroit Capitol Park, a tiny urban space where the state’s first capitol was, and where today rest the often-moved bones of Stevens T. Mason, our state’s first governor, and helping the state celebrate it’s sesquicentennial.

For more information, see Jim Lessenberry, Commentary: Celebrating a century”, Michigan Radio, May 8, 2013.

“Historical Commission Turns 100”, Inside MIRS Today, May 8, 2013.

A Centennial Review Commemorative Booklet, May 2013

1917 : Governor Alpert Sleeper Signs Bill Allowing Michigan Women to Vote for Presidential Electors
May 8 all-day

Governor Albert Sleeper Signs Bill

On May 8, 1917, Governor Albert Sleeper signed a bill allowing Michigan women to vote for presidential electors. A year later, male voters approved an amendment to the state constitution granting women the right to vote in all state and national elections. This photo shows Sleeper and suffrage supporters at the bill signing in the governor’s state capitol office.

Source : Michigan State Capitol Blog, May 8, 2018.

1921 : World’s First Riding Mower Introduced by Ideal Power Mower Company of Lansing
May 8 all-day

The first gasoline-powered lawn mower, 1902.

On this day, May 8th, 1921 the world’s first riding lawn mower, manufactured by the Ideal Power Mower Co. of Lansing, was first introduced  in Fort Wayne (and other locations)  for promotional purposes. The mower company was in business until 1945 when it was sold to the Indian Motorcycle Co.

Source : Detroit History Tours and Detroit History Club Facebook Page, May 8, 2016.

1942 : Kalamazoo Plant Turns Out First WWII Amphibious Cargo Carrier
May 8 all-day

On May 8, 1942, the first World War II amphibious cargo carrier to be constructed under navy contract was completed at the Ingersoll plant in Kalamazoo, MI.

Source: Mich-Again’s Day.

1959: First Little Caesars Opens in Garden City, Michigan
May 8 all-day

Mike and Marian Ilitch opened their first Little Caesars restaurant in Garden City, Michigan on May 8, 1959.

Mike Ilitch had been on another career path as a talented shortstop with the Detroit Tigers farm team. While his teammates were looking for the local ballpark, Mike was eyeing the local pizza joint. Pizza was clearly in his blood. An injury prompted Mike to trade in his baseball glove for hot pads.

It started with a little-known snack food called “pizza” brought home by World War II soldiers returning from Italy. Mike and Marian saw promise in this new food and were passionate about starting their own pizza business. They invested their $10,000 life savings toward opening a single Little Caesars shop in 1959.  To grow the chain, Mike and Marian franchised their stores, ultimately giving thousands of individuals the opportunity to own their own business. Mike and Marian took personal pride in helping franchisees grow their businesses and providing employment opportunities for young crew members.

More than 50 years later, Little Caesars is the largest carry out pizza chain in the world and an internationally known brand. The success of Little Caesars allowed Mike and Marian to own other businesses in the food, sports and entertainment industries, including the Detroit Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment, among others.

Innovation has given Little Caesars its unique place in the pizza industry, even from day one. When they opened their doors in 1959, people thought a carry out restaurant without tables and chairs would fail, but Mike and Marian’s innovative idea paid off.

Little Caesars has a history of industry firsts: Mike pioneered the two-for-one pizza deal later known as Pizza!Pizza!®, and then created a conveyor oven specially designed to bake pizza quickly and consistently to keep up with customer demand. The chain built stores where pizza was never served before, such as in sports arenas, college dormitories, and military bases.  Little Caesars introduced Crazy Bread®, which became a standard accompaniment to pizza and was mimicked by other pizza chains. Little Caesars also broke the status quo by making pizzas ready when customers walk in, with no need to call ahead or wait in line, with the launch of its HOT-N-READY pizza offer.

Source : How It All Began

1973 : Carolyn King of Ypsilanti, First Girl to Play in Little League
May 8 all-day


On May 8, 1973, Carolyn King of Ypsilanti became the first girl to play in the Little League. Little League officials then took away the local charter, and the city of Ypsilanti filed a sex-discrimination suit in response. The U.S. Division of Civil Rights ordered the Little League to drop its boys-only policy. Since 1973, more than 5 million girls have played Little League.

For more information, see Carolyn King wikipedia entry

The Girl in Centerfield Film Clip

The Girl in Centerfield

The Girl in Centerfield available from the MSU Library.

1973 CBS National News

2009 Ceremonial First Pitch

1815 : Eliza Seaman Leggett Born
May 9 all-day

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Eliza Seaman Leggett (Born May 9, 1915; Died February 8, 1900) dedicated her life to securing the rights of others, improving the human condition, and enlightening the minds of her family, friends, and neighbors. Although born in New York City, Eliza Seaman Leggett made her home is southeast Michigan.

The abolition of slavery was one of Eliza’s greatest concerns, and she was an active participant in the Underground Railroad. In fact, her Waterford Township home in Oakland County was a stop on the legendary Underground Railroad. When Leggett moved to Detroit, she opened her home to fellow abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth and lecturer Wendell Phillips. She also worked with other noted abolitionists including Mrs. Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Theodore Parker, Lyman Beecher, Laura Smith Haviland, and Elizabeth Comstock.

Upon the end of slavery, Leggett turned her attention towards the suffrage movement and to helping women in need. She wrote frequent articles and gave many lectures on women’s suffrage. During the 1870s she devised, co-founded, and implemented the Young Woman’s Home Association for the young working women of Detroit.

Eliza Leggett was also very civic minded. She was instrumental in making Belle Isle a public park for the people of Detroit; she worked to see that all public places, including schools, flew the American flag, and she helped to create a holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus. She also ensured that public drinking fountains and horse watering troughs were placed throughout the city of Detroit.

Leggett had a great love for literature, and was a frequent correspondent with such literary figures a Louisa May Alcott, Bronson Alcott, Walt Whitman, and William Cullen Bryant. Her enthusiasm for literature led to her hosting literary meetings which led to the idea of a literary club which later became the Detroit Women’s Club.

Eliza Seaman Leggett passed on to her eleven children her enthusiasm for the arts and humanities as well as her great belief in helping those in need and fighting for virtuous causes. Eliza’s memory and her contributions to society were recognized when a Waterford Township elementary school was named in her honor. She was made the Historic Citizen of the Month by the Detroit Historical Society Guild in May 1955, and she is further honored with her induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.


Eliza Seaman Leggett – Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame

Eliza Seaman Leggett wikipedia entry

1864 : Company K Faces Action at Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
May 9 all-day

Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, made up of Michigan Indians, faced its first baptism of fire in the Battle of the Wilderness, as part of Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomoc. Here is a graphic account of some of the action:

The Federal line, advancing with a cheer met the charging enemy in a dense thicket of pines, and in the hand to hand struggle that followed, the Union forces were slowly driven back. On a little rise of ground the Fourteenth New York battery supported by the Second and Twenty-Seventh Michigan Infantry and the First Michigan Sharpshooters, was doing its best to hold the ground. Every now and then the Confederates would fight their way up to the battery and lay hold of the cannon to turn them upon the Union forces. But to touch one of those guns meant instant death at the hands of the sharpshooters. In this desperate encounter, the little band of Indians was commanded by Lieutenant Graveraet…. Under a perfect storm of lead their number seemed to melt away, but there was no sign of faltering. Sheltering behind trees, they poured volley after volley at the zealous foe, and above the din of battle their war-whoop rang out with every volley. At dusk the ammunition gave out, but with the others the Indians ran forward at the shout of “Give them steel boys!” from the twice wounded but still plucky Colonel Deland. When darkness came to end the bloody day, Lieutenant Graverat was among the one hundred and seventeen wounded sharpshooters, and a few months later he died of his wounds.

Source: Historical Collections Vol. XXVIII– Annual Meeting 1898 By Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Michigan State Historical Society, Michigan Historical Commission Published 1900 Starting page 446

For more information about Company K, see January 12, 1863, mustered into the army, and July 30, 1864, Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia. Source: Twice Told Tales of Michigan and Her Soldiers in the Civil War, Michigan Civil War Centennial Observance Commission, 1966, p.46-47.

A beaded headband made by the Native American soldiers of Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters as a gift for their commanding officer, part of the Michigan Historical Museum Civil War collections in Lansing, Michigan.

Many of the Native Americans who formed Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters had tried to enlist at the beginning of the war, but they were rejected, along with black volunteers. When the United States began allowing Indians to serve in 1863, they joined Company K, and served honorably to the conclusion of the war.

“Company K made important contributions to the war effort, especially in the fighting around Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center. “We appreciate the loan of this significant artifact, which gives visitors a tangible connection to these soldiers who saw their service as part of their commitment to defend their homeland.”

The men of Company K came from Michigan tribal communities that had just spent 30 years fighting against removal to western lands in Kansas and Oklahoma. Individual Anishnaabek communities had negotiated a series of treaties to keep their lands and rights in Michigan. Their commanding officer was Colonel Charles V. Deland. Editor of the Jackson Citizen newspaper before the war, Deland formed the 1st Sharpshooters in 1862, after serving with the 9th Michigan Infantry. The loan to the museum also includes the telegram Deland sent home after he was injured at Petersburg.

When the fighting in the trenches surrounding Petersburg reached a stalemate, Union engineers exploded a large mine under Confederate lines on July 20, 1864. Union troops attacked across the crater left by the explosion and were decimated by fire from above. Private Antoine Scott of Company K was cited for a Medal of Honor for his actions that day and later during the attack on General Robert E. Lee’s retreat from Petersburg. He never was officially recognized for his repeated acts of bravery. He died at the age of 37.

When Petersburg finally fell to northern forces, the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters were among the men who first raised the Union flag at the Petersburg Courthouse. It is not known if men from Company K helped hoist the flag.

Source : Gladwin County Record and Beaverton Clarion, January 20, 2015.