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1876 : Grand Rapids Celebrates
Jul 4 all-day

Grand Memorial Arch at Campau Place, designed by Col. Joseph Penney and erected by Mr. C. H. Gifford, just in time for July 4, 1876 Centennial Celebration

July 4, 1876 was doubly auspicious for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not only did residents have the nation’s centennial to look forward to but, coincidentally, 1876 also marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the city. Grand Rapids, like many cities around the country, went out of its way to provide a spectacular celebration to commemorate the historic occasion as well as celebrate its own accomplishments. Monumental arches, a fabulous parade, a circus, and fabulous fireworks marked the occasion.

Businesses in Grand Rapids also did not hesitate to take advantage of the occasion to offer special promotions, sales, and gimmicks. Ruggles Boot and Shoe Store promised to give one lucky customer that bought a pair of shoes a free ticket to the Centennial in Philadelphia. Ayling Bros. and Company gave away all kinds of jewelry presents to everyone who purchased 25 cents worth of fruits, candles, nuts, cigars, fireworks, and ice-cream. Every business it seemed claimed to be the cheapest or sole supplier of Fourth of July goods. The Cooper Brothers on Canal Street claimed to be the only manufacture of Centennial candy. And what would a Fourth of July be without fireworks and other novelties? Tusch and Loetigerty each claimed to have the best assortment of fireworks, flags, and pistols for people to usher in the Fourth. Just days before the festivities began the Putman Brothers ran an ad promising to supply all celebrators with lemons at low rates. Grand Rapids it seemed was full of the Centennial spirit and just waiting to celebrate.

The city received national and international attention as a result of the products it sent to Philadelphia’s World’s Fair, especially the furniture displays. Berkey & Gay, the Phoenix Company, and Nelson & Matter, prominent furniture manufactures, each sent unique displays and samples to the Philadelphia’s World’s Fair. In the years to come the industry would continue to expand giving Grand Rapids the nickname Furniture Capital of the World.

For more information, visit April B. Chernoby, “Grand Rapids Celebrates the Centennial in 1876”, Grand Rapids History, October 2, 2008.

Note : The picture above – Grand Memorial Arch at Campau Place, designed by Col. Joseph Penney and erected by Mr. C. H. Gifford, just in time for July 4, 1876 Centennial Celebration. It was said to be “without doubt one of the finest ever erected on the continent and unrivaled by any other city on this centennial day.” Source : Casey Gamble and John Fierst, “A Tale of Two Michigan Cities on the Fourth”, Clarke Historical Library News and Notes, July 3, 2014

1876 : Muskegon Celebrates July 4th In a Different Fashion
Jul 4 all-day

On July 4, 1876, as part of an Independence Day centennial celebration, “Big Delia” a 6-foot, two-inch, 225 pound tobacco-chewing madam, and her employees built a pavilion near Muskegon, hired two bands, invited their “sisters” from Chicago and Milwaukee, provided free beer, and threw a free party for more than 1,000 lumberjacks.

1891 : Marquette Celebrates Independence Day
Jul 4 all-day

Panoramic views from the wooden breakwater in Marquette’s harbor about 1887; photographs taken by James Pendill.

July 4-5, 1891

Marquette’s celebrations in 1891 were extensive and began at sunrise with a 44-gun salute. People had been streaming into Marquette for several days in preparation for the festivities. On the Fourth, the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway (DSS&A) used every available passenger car and ran 14 special trains into Marquette in addition to those regularly scheduled.

The festivities continued with a baseball game, an exhibition practice with the life boat by the crew from the newly opened life-saving station, a “military parade and skirmish drill,” wrestling contests, bicycle races and lots of speeches.

The day concluded with a fireworks display off the breakwater at 8 that evening. There was some concern for firework safety. An announcement was made “Parents are requested to notify their children not to throw firecrackers in the street during the grand parade Saturday as there will be some pretty spirited horses in line and carelessness with fire crackers might cause an accident.”

But one article from The Mining Journal’s special Fourth of July Supplement prophetically noted the day “will continue until the last piece (of fireworks) has scattered its sparks over the breakwater where the fireworks will be given at night.”

Unfortunately, while today’s breakwater is made of concrete and stone, in those days the breakwater was still made of wood. At about 1 a.m., the lookout from the recently opened U.S. Life-Saving Station noticed that the end of the breakwater was on fire near the light. It is believed that sparks from the fireworks had ignited the structure.

The Life-Saving crew along with the city firemen, bailed water directly from the lake onto the fire until the firemen were satisfied that the flames had been extinguished.

Twenty minutes after the Life-Saving crew returned to the station, the lookout reported that the flames had flared up again. By the time they reached the fire had spread and was burning around the fuel tank for the light tower at the end of the breakwater.

The crew quickly cut away the burning timbers using their fire axes, preventing an explosion. After completely dousing the fire, the crew returned to the station for a second time at 3:40 a.m.

Source: Beth Gruber, “Fire on the Fourth” : A Superior History Feature,  Mining Journal, July 5, 2018.

1915 : Potter Park Zoo Dedicated
Jul 4 all-day

Independence Day won’t be the only thing that we’re celebrating this 4th of July. We’ll also be celebrating the day that J.W. and Sarah Potter donated 58 acres of land to the City of Lansing. Of course, that land became known as Potter Park. The official dedication ceremony of the land was held on the 4th of July way back in 1915. The park became such a big hit that the Potter’s ended up donating more land–an additional 27 acres–two years later and then Potter Park Zoo officially opened in 1920.

What was the first animal to arrive at Potter Park Zoo? Well, that would be the Elk. It was actually transferred from Moore’s Park in 1920. Later that year, several other animals were brought to the Potter Park Zoo including a bear, a pair of raccoons, and several deer. The popular Bird and Reptile House was completed in 1929 and the Lion House was finished in 1930.

B-I-N-G-O was not only the popular name for the farmer’s dog, it was also that name of the first elephant that came to Potter Park Zoo. Bingo the Elephant was purchased back in 1972 by the Friends of the Zoo Society for $4,453. The society was a group of local residents that formed in the late 60s that helped to raise money for the Potter Park Zoo that was facing some serious financial issues at the time.

In June 2011, two eastern black rhinoceros, Jello and Doppsee, were brought to Potter Park Zoo and history was made in 2019 at Potter Park Zoo when Doppsee, the black rhino, gave birth to the first black rhino calf to be born at the zoo in its 100-year history. To make it even more special, the baby rhino was born on Christmas Eve. The baby rhino ended up being named Jaali.

Potter Park Zoo is celebrating 100 years this year. Well, at least they were trying to before they had to shut down due to COVID-19. As part of the 100 year celebration, Potter Park Zoo has added over 20 new signs throughout the zoo that give guests an in depth look at what Potter Park Zoo has looked like over the past 100 years. As mentioned above, the Potter Park Zoo reopened to the public on June 18th and is open every day from 9 am until 5 pm through Labor Day.

Source : 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo

1919 : Polar Bears March on Belle Isle
Jul 4 all-day

The Polar Bears, or American North Russian Expeditionary Force, are the only American troops ever to fight in Russia, the decades-long enemy of the U.S. during the Cold War that followed World War II.

The U.S. 339th Infantry Regiment and support units who shipped out in the summer of 1918 were told they were to stop Germany from gaining a foothold in Russia. But when they arrived near the Arctic Circle that fall, they wound up part of Britain’s effort to beat the Bolsheviks who had overthrown the czar — “strangle Bolshevism in its cradle,” in Winston Churchill’s words.

The soldiers, also called Detroit’s Own — 90% were from Michigan, and 70% of those from Detroit — continued fighting through the winter, months after the armistice with Germany was signed. Their families lobbied Washington until President Woodrow Wilson finally withdrew the troops and the Detroiters returned home that summer.

On July 4, 1919, surviving members of the Michigan unit paraded on Bell Isle.

For more information, read Michigan’s Polar Bears; the American expedition to north Russia, 1918-1919 [by] Richard M. Doolen. The MSU Libraries also has a diary from a participant.

For a film, see Voices of a never ending dawn / a Pamela Peak production. [Detroit, Mich.] : Pamela Peak Productions : Detroit Public TV, c2009. 1 DVD videodisc (ca. 117 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 4 3/4 in. MSU Digital and Multimedia Collecton D570.33 339th .V65 2009 VideoDVD

For the full article see Zlati Meyer, “State’s polar bears descend on Belle Isle”, Detroit Free Press, July 3, 2011.

1924 : Jackson Hosts One of the Largest KKK Rallies in Michigan History
Jul 4 all-day

It was a Fourth of July festival few at the time likely would ever forget.

Under a cloudless sky on a warm day in a field along Seymour Street, vendors sold food, drinks, confections, tobacco and souvenirs; a national leader spoke on important issues of the day; bands played and an aerial acrobat performed stunts on the wing of a plane before parachuting to the ground to the amazement of all.

Fireworks lit up the sky and a parade two miles long filed through downtown, and most of its participants wore distinctive costumes – flowing white robes and hoods with pointed tops.

Called the Klonvocation of the first Klonklave of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the rally that brought 100,000 people to Jackson was one of the largest the KKK ever hosted in Michigan. And it was in Jackson on July 4, 1924.

Source : Leanne Smith, “Peek Through Time: KKK Stages Huge Statewide Fourth of July Rally in Jackson, Michigan in 1924”, MLive, July 5, 2012.

Photos

For more information, see Craig Fox, Everyday Klansfolk: White Protestant Life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan, Michigan State University Press, 2011. Although the picture of the Ku Klux Klan as a small, fanatical organization bent on racial violence and based primarily in the American South is certainly accurate in terms of the organization’s history during the 1860s and the 1960s, according to Fox (PhD, history, U. of York), there was another Klan that existed all over the United States in the 1920s which relied more upon “wide-ranging popular appeals to Protestant morality, prohibition, and law enforcement, rather than overt reliance upon vigilantism.” This “second” Klan achieved a membership of millions by the middle of the decade and spread all across the United States, including to rural Newaygo County, Michigan, where a previously unknown cache of organizational documents and paraphernalia of the 1920s Klan was discovered in 1992, providing an unprecedented opportunity for a case study of the organizational life of “Newaygo County Klan No. 29” from its inception in the summer of 1923, through its 1925 peak, official chartering, and subsequent decline, presented here and placed in its regional context.

1925 : Ku Klux Klan Parade in Grand Rapids
Jul 4 all-day

Independence Day 1925 saw a 3,000-person march of the KKK, starting along Bridge Street on Grand Rapids’ Northwest Side. Hoping to bolster Michigan’s struggling Klan, the marchers donned their uniforms but went hoodless to show their identity and pride in membership. The group had only limited ties to the Reconstruction-era South.

For more information, see Garret Ellison, “Retrospectives: Ku Klux Klan visits Grand Rapids in a big way on Independence Day 1925 (photos)”, MLive, February 22, 2012.

For more information, see Craig Fox, Everyday Klansfolk: White Protestant Life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan, Michigan State University Press, 2011. Although the picture of the Ku Klux Klan as a small, fanatical organization bent on racial violence and based primarily in the American South is certainly accurate in terms of the organization’s history during the 1860s and the 1960s, according to Fox (PhD, history, U. of York), there was another Klan that existed all over the United States in the 1920s which relied more upon “wide-ranging popular appeals to Protestant morality, prohibition, and law enforcement, rather than overt reliance upon vigilantism.” This “second” Klan achieved a membership of millions by the middle of the decade and spread all across the United States, including to rural Newaygo County, Michigan, where a previously unknown cache of organizational documents and paraphernalia of the 1920s Klan was discovered in 1992, providing an unprecedented opportunity for a case study of the organizational life of “Newaygo County Klan No. 29” from its inception in the summer of 1923, through its 1925 peak, official chartering, and subsequent decline, presented here and placed in its regional context.

For more information, search the MSU Libraries’ Special Collections and/or the Main Library Catalog.

1929 : Seiche or Tsunami Strikes Grand Haven, Killing 10
Jul 4 all-day

On July 4, 1929, a 20-foot wave that scientists now believe was caused by a meteotsunami crashed over holiday beach-goers on a pier in Grand Haven. Ten people were pulled out into Lake Michigan and drowned.

Sources:

Mark Torregrossa, “Researchers find tsunamis on the Great Lakes“, MLive, April 27, 2016.

Keith Matheny, “Tsunamis? On the Great Lakes? They happen — sometimes with deadly results“, Detroit Free Press, June 19, 2017.

1930 : W. D. Fard Founds Nation of Islam in Detroit
Jul 4 all-day

W. D. Fard, also known as W. D. Fard Muhammad, announces the founding of the Temple of Islam, later to become Temple Number 1 of the Nation of Islam, in Detroit, Michigan. The religious sect incorporates Koranic teachings, Christianity, black nationalism and Fard’s own beliefs. Fard later left Michigan following a series of arrests for “cult activities.”

During the summer of 1930 street vendor Wallace D. Fard appeared in Detroit, Michigan’s Paradise Valley community, proclaiming himself to be the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and proselytizing among his customers according to his Islamic beliefs. Fard’s doctrine revolved around the claim that Islam was the true religion for blacks and Christianity only the faith of the “white devils” who were inferior to blacks. His preaching of freedom, justice and equality for people of African descent rapidly gained him followers and within three years Fard developed a cohesive organization, renting a Detroit meeting hall as the NOI’S first Temple.

Sources :

History Makers

Nation of Islam wikipedia entry

Nation of Islam entry from BlackPast.org

1969 : Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Contest Begins
Jul 4 all-day
Image result for biodegradable skipping stones mackinac island

W. T. (Bill) Rabe founded the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Club (MISS&GC) with the inaugural Mackinac Island 4th of July Stone Skipping Contest in 1969. He continued to be the tournament director and for the next 23 years, until his death. Bill endlessly promoted Mackinac Island, Grand Hotel and Stone Skipping nationally and internationally through broadcast and print media. Bill published The Boulder, the avant guard journal of stone skipping. He also established and presided over the MISS&GC Winter Rules Committee Meeting.

The actual competition, men tossing stones on shore

Commander Tellefson was known as the “The grand old man of stone skipping” and was a legendary ambassador of the sport. His 17-skip stone at Mackinac Island’s Point Aux Pins in 1932 stood unchallenged for 25 years and was the inspiration for the founding of the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Club. The Commander opened the Mackinac Island 4th of July Stone Skipping Tournament annually with his traditional and now famous cry: “Let he who is without Frisbee cast the first stone.”

The Little David Trophy
Stone Skipping Fans - Mackinac Island

Formed in 1969, the Mackinac Island Stones Skipping and Gerplunking Club has hosted the annual stone skipping contest on Mackinac Island for over fifty years. The Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing competitors, officials, and others who have made a significant contribution to the sport of Stone Skipping. Visit the Hall of Fame online at http://www.misshof.com .

The Mackinac Island Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Club has even designed a dissolvable skipping stone to statisfy environmental requirements!

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the event.

Source : W. T. “Bill” Rabe and Commander E. M. Tellefson, Ret. Inducted Into the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Hall of Fame, MISS&GC Hall of Fame Inductees 2011, February 5, 2011.

The Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Tournament, July 6, 2014.

Shane Cashman, “Invaders on Holiday (or, The Consequences of Time Travel at the International Stone Skipping Competition)“, Hippocampus Magazine, March 1, 2018.

Also see Skip Stones for Fudge (2016)