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Ford’s Model T

This article was published in Michigan History Magazine in 2005 and shared by the Archives of Michigan. This Tuesday, July 30th, is the 150th birthday of Michigan’s most influential figure, Henry Ford. The photo with the article seems to have vanished, but we have replaced it with an incredible shot by Lou Peeples. Be sure to click the photo to see it bigger!

title=“I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” Henry Ford announced. “It will be so low in price,” he added, “that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.” With these words Henry Ford introduced the world to the Model T. It was October 1908 and, when the Ford Motor Company quit making the Model T nineteen years later, it had become one of the world’s most popular cars.

The Model T (there were models A through S) carried a 4-cylinder motor, and traveled up to 45 miles per hour. It came in one color, black.

The Model T also introduced drivers to new mechanical improvements. In a Model T, the driver controlled the car with three floor pedals: a brake and a pedal for forward and one for reverse. This left the driver’s hands free to steer the car. Unlike most cars of the time, the steering wheel was on the left side of the car.

The Model T was popular because it was cheap (eventually less than $300) and easy to fix. All a driver needed were pliers and a screwdriver to keep it running. Spare parts were easily available, and the Model T never seemed to wear out.

Americans loved the Model T. A woman from Georgia wrote Henry Ford, “Your car … brought joy into our lives.” The Model T even developed international fame. As one newspaper noted, “The Ford Motor Company has beaten out both the [U.S.] flag and the Constitution in carrying civilization into the wild places of the world.”

In 1927 the Ford Motor Company stopped making Model Ts; it had produced 15,007,033 cars. In the 1970s, Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle finally surpassed the Model T in numbers made.

As the Ford Motor Company likes to say to this day, the Model T “put America on wheels.” How true.

PHOTO: Model T circa 1922 by Lou Peeples

The impact of record low Great Lakes levels

This post originally appeared on Michigan in Pictures.

Low water levels, West Arm Grand Traverse BayOn Michigan in Pictures I usually blog beautiful things, but today I’m featuring an ugly thing that we in Michigan should all be concerned about. Traverse City based Circle of Blue has an in-depth feature on the record-low level of Lake Michigan-Huron:

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on February 5 show that both lakes Michigan and Huron — which are two connected lakes — are experiencing their lowest point since records began in 1918. Water levels were an average of 175.57 meters (576.02 feet) for the month of January, approximately 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) lower than the previous record set in 1964.

“Not only have water levels on Michigan-Huron broken records the past two months, but they have been very near record lows for the last several months before then,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office at the Corps, in a press release. “Lake Michigan-Huron’s water levels have also been below average for the past 14 years, which is the longest period of sustained below-average levels since 1918 for that lake.”

The low water levels, which the Corps attributes to: below-average snowfall during the winter of 2011-2012, last summer’s drought, and above-average evaporation during the summer and fall of 2012, have the potential to hurt the Great Lakes’ shipping industry.

…For the water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron to reach even near-average water levels again, the Corps said it will take many seasons with above average precipitation and below-average evaporation.

Read on at Circle of Blue for much more including the struggles that wildlife are having with the changing climate. You can also view the release from the Army Corps of Engineers and see historic Great Lakes levels back to 1918. From the Army Corps, I learned that at 1 1/2 ft below normal, ships are losing 8-10% of their carrying capacity.

Beyond harm to the multi-billion dollar shipping industry which feeds countless industrial endeavors, the low lake levels are making many of our recreational harbors inaccessible. These feed our multi-billion dollar sport fishing industry and  this has prompted Gov. Snyder to endorse a $21 million emergency dredging plan, $11 million of which would come from Michigan’s general fund. With over a half a million jobs in Michigan alone tied to the health of the Great Lakes, getting a handle on the threats that impact them are likely to be at the center of our policy and spending for a long time.

In a curious bit of synchronicity, you can see just how vital the Great Lakes are to Michigan in Michigan Sea Grant’s reports on Economic Vitality and the Great Lakes. View this photo bigger and see more in their Grand Traverse Bay Low Water slideshow.

Lots more Lake Huron and Lake Michigan on Michigan in Pictures.

Seeking Michigan: From Signage to Santa

Seeking MichiganBy Mary Zimmeth, Archives of Michigan and courtesy Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. The goal of Seeking Michigan is simple: to connect you to the stories of this great state. Visit them regularly for a dynamic & evolving look at Michigan’s cultural heritage and see more stories from Seeking Michigan at Absolute Michigan.

25 Christmas Lane on a winter’s eve, circa 2010 (Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland)

My favorite holiday movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). Clark Griswold, (Chevy Chase), our hero, has a plan for the traditional Griswold family Christmas that includes fifty thousand twinkling outdoor lights on the roof. When Clark drags his entire family out to see his masterpiece, the lights don’t work. The frustrating, yet entertaining, effort to fix the problem resonates with me (This includes Clark on the roof checking each individual bulb.). My favorite part comes when Clark prevails, the family is impressed, and he thanks his father for teaching him about exterior illumination.

Beginnings

Wallace Bronner (1927-2008) knew that exterior illumination is essential for the holidays. We are all familiar with his enormous enterprise: Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, located on 25 Christmas Lane in Frankenmuth. Initially, this behemoth of holiday cheer started as a signage business. During the early forties, Wally worked as a sign painter and a clerk at the Hubinger Grocery Store, which was owned by his maternal relatives. Part of his job included designing window displays. In 1945, as Frankenmuth celebrated its centennial year, Bronner Display and Sign Advertising was in demand for painting signs and decorating store windows and parade floats. That year Wallace Bronner met Irene Ruth Pretzer, the woman he would marry on June 23, 1951 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hemlock, Michigan.

Signs designed by Wally Bronner for the city of Clare, 1951 (Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.).

Irene was instrumental in helping Wally land a monthly window display contract with the Jennison Hardware Company of Bay City (c. 1947) (Irene had attended Bay City Junior College and boarded at the home of G.W. Cooke, president of the hardware company.). Bronner’s work for the hardware company resulted in a referral to the town of Clare, Michigan (1951). This first municipal holiday commission was to design decorative lamppost panels. After that job, Wally hired his friend Fred Bernthal to look for new clients in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario.

Bronner also entered into contracts with General Plastics Corporation (Marion, Indiana) and Mold-Craft Corporation (Port Washington, Wisconsin). These companies provided street trims and ornaments, latex Santas, reindeers and nativity scenes. In 1952, Bronner staged two shows exhibiting outdoor Christmas decorations, one in the Frankenmuth Township Hall, the other at the St. Lorenz School gymnasium. Both were successful. However, both venues were temporary. Bronner decided to rent a more permanent building, a vacated one-room schoolhouse (formerly Frankenmuth School District Number 1). Thus, year round exhibit of Christmas decorations became possible! “At first the people of the community thought the idea to be rather unusual, but accepted it fully when Frankenmuth became known as the Christmas Town.” (Bronner’s 2005 Corporate History, page 35.)

“Thinking Big”

Wally Bronner with employees. (Photo taken in the 1960s. Photo is courtesy Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland)

Herman Bronner (Wally’s father) was a building contractor and stone mason. He convinced his son to “think big” by changing the plans for the first Bronner-owned building from two, L-shaped, rectangular buildings to one large, square building. The Bronner’s store at 121 East Tuscola (a lot adjoining Aunt Hattie’s grocery store) opened in 1954. It was divided into two sections, one space for the sign painting business, the other for Christmas decorations.

Wally was grateful for his dad’s vision and business acumen. The municipal clientele grew to include shopping centers and commercial interiors. As buyers selected decorations for their stores and churches, their wives requested home decorations. From 1954 to 1963, Bronner exhibited at the Saginaw County Fair, which, at the time, boasted numbers of three hundred thousand people. By 1960, the company was officially incorporated, and home decorations were added to the product line. In 1964, the first billboard advertising Bronners appeared on I-75, ten miles south of Exit 136 (Frankenmuth). Many travelling up North are familiar with that sign. Subsequent ones (more than sixty located in seven states) continue to extol the importance of holiday cheer and illumination.

Source material

Picturesque Story of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, as related by Wally Bronner. Published by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, 2005.

The History of Bronner’s Christmas Decorations by Doris A Paul. Published by the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, 1981.

Brad Redford, a native of Frankenmuth visited Bronner’s last year and has a pretty funny video in his show Redford’s Rundown. However, we’re going to have to go with this awesome music video of Wally Bronner (Christmas Always) by Michigan rockers The Hard Lessons. A little tip: click that link and subscribe to their email list to download their entire new album Arms Forest AND stay tuned at the end of the video for the B-side of this song, O Holy Night!

Roundup: Opening Day of Michigan deer hunting season


Buck on the run by oakwood

Opening day of deer season probably ranks pretty high in the list of Michigan holidays. The Michigan DNR has all the details on deer hunting in Michigan, including a reminder that much public land is open to hunting – be aware!

Michigan saw just 650,000 hunters last season, but that number is expected to climb to about 700,000 for the November 15-30 firearm deer season. As in 2011, some of these will be 10 and 11 year-olds due to Michigan’s Hunter Heritage Act. The Michigan DNR is your best source for information and their MI-Hunt program allows you to locate public lands open to hunting.  There’s also a lot more info from the White-tail Deer Portal from the DNR and MSU.

The Battle Creek Enquirer says that while “up north” was the place to be in years past, that trend has slowly changed to the point where southern Michigan is seen to offer the best hunting and has produced the highest number of deer killed. They also say that:

This year, however, there is a wild card: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

EHD is an often-fatal disease transmitted to deer by midges. Late this summer, an EHD outbreak was confirmed in Ionia County. It eventually spread throughout most of southern Michigan. In late October, the disease had been confirmed in 30 counties and accounted for a minimum of 12,000 dead deer – a number that accounts for only those deer reported to the DNR. The actual number of deer lost is anyone’s guess.

The DNR is asking for your help in reporting dead deer from EHD. One bright spot is that EHD does not affect humans, so edibility of the venison is not impacted by this disease.

An excellent, in-depth report from Bridge Magazine last year titled Deer have Michigan on the run is still relevant. It explains that:

The number of hunters in Michigan has been shrinking since the 1960s, according to state data. Hunting license sales have decreased 15 percent over the past 15 years, from 934,430 in 1995 to 786,880 last year.

The ranks of hunters are shrinking nationwide. But the effects of that trend are especially prevalent in Michigan, where deer dominate vast areas of the landscape, hunters are the primary method for keeping the herd in check and revenue from the sale of hunting licenses funds many of the state’s wildlife management programs.

Fewer hunters mean: Less money for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to manage wildlife; less money to maintain forests, marshes and other areas where birds and mammals reside; less money for conservation officers who keep poachers in check; and less money for small businesses that count hunters among their best customers.

It also means more deer – read on to learn about the impacts of our 1.7 million deer.

In another great article from last year, AnnArbor.com noted that Opening Day is Michigan’s other Black Friday, as deer hunters spend an average of $800 each, making deer hunting a half a billion dollar industry in Michigan. The Freep adds a feature on hunting gear that’s made in Michigan. If you are gearing up, be sure to look in on our Sporting Goods section.

Happy hunting!

Pure Michigan Statewide Sing-along premiers

Rob Bliss & Jeff Barrett, creators of the fantastic Grand Rapids lip dub video premiered their Pure Michigan Statewide Sing-along at halftime of the Lions game on Sunday. It was filmed in 50 Michigan cities in 7 days. It’s a pretty cool travelogue of the Great Lakes State in under 4 minutes.

Check out the finished video below and also don’t miss the behind the scenes blog from PureMichigan.org.

Michigan’s Economy Hits 10 Year High

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) reports that Michigan’s economy has reached a 10-year high, according to Comerica Bank’s Michigan Economic Activity Index. The June index jumped 2.0 points in June, spiking to a level of 105.9 – its highest level since 2002. The index has averaged 102 points over the first half of 2012, 11 points above the index average for all of 2011.

“The Michigan economy pushed further ahead in June, with our Michigan Economic Activity Index up strongly for the second month,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “The rate of job creation has slowed over the first two quarters of the year as U.S. auto sales have plateaued around a 14 million unit annual sales rate in 2012. But outside of durable goods manufacturing, we are seeing ongoing gains. Housing markets statewide are improving as sales and prices increase. New home construction remains low, but is expected to increase to meet pent up demand.”

The Michigan Economic Activity Index consists of seven variables: nonfarm payrolls, exports, sales tax revenues, hotel occupancy rates, continuing claims for unemployment insurance, building permits, and motor vehicle production. All data are seasonally adjusted, as necessary, and indexed to a base year of 2004.

According to the Michigan Association of Realtors, the number of single family homes sold in Michigan rose 14 percent in July compared to one year earlier. The July 2012 average sales price was $116,116, a 6.55 percent increase over the 2011.

Overall, Michigan is leading the country in economic recovery, according to the Detroit News. The dropping unemployment rate, upswing in home sales and increase in consumer spending are all evidence of a positive outlook for the Great Lakes state.

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    Tour the Lake Winds Energy Park at the 2012 Michigan Energy Fair

Tour the Lake Winds Energy Park at the 2012 Michigan Energy Fair

Every year the  Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) holds their annual Michigan Energy Fair (MEF). The Energy Fair takes place June 22-24, 2012 and it’s at a new location, the Mason County Fairgrounds in Ludington.

The location will allow the MEF to feature tours of Consumers Energy’s Lake Winds Energy Park that is currently under construction. This 100-megawatt installation will hold over 50 wind turbines, and the tour will give you a unique opportunity to see wind turbines as they are being constructed.

This is exactly the kind of opportunity to get up close and personal with the technology and people who are creating Michigan’s new energy economy that MEF offers. With a focus on Michigan’s energy future options and how Michigan’s businesses and families can save energy and money, the Energy Fair will feature over 50 workshops and 40 exhibitors of energy technologies and sustainable products for homes and businesses, including how to finance renewable energy projects.

For more information, please contact Samantha Keeney at Samantha.keeney@glrea.org or 517-646-6269 and get details at www.glrea.org. Also don’t miss this interview with John Sarver, Executive Director of the GLREA about the Michigan Energy Fair.

M-22 & M-119 Road Sign Trademark Denied by Michigan

Note: We have received some commentary from the attorney for M-22 which we have posted below!

M-22 Euphoria by Chris Cerk
M-22 Euphoria by Chris Cerk

The Detroit Free Press reports that M-22 and M-119 cannot be trademarked by private companies. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has ruled that the highway sign logos are public property and as such cannot be “commandeered” for private use.

“Because the State of Michigan, the creator of the design, placed the Michigan highway route marker design in the public domain, no entity can lawfully obtain intellectual property protection of the design under trademark or copyright law,” Schuette concluded.

“…The fact that they have appropriated the design from the public domain and affixed it to merchandise does not create a legitimate basis for trademark protection.”

That’s probably not the best news at M-22, the clothing business that has made the sign an iconic symbol of active life in northwest lower Michigan, but it doesn’t look like the ruling precludes them selling clothing and other products with the road sign on it.

Speaking of M-22, they  are holding their annual M-22 Challenge this weekend at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The annual bike/run/kayak triathalon is a pretty cool spectator event if you’re in the area!

Here’s M-22 and M-119 (aka the Tunnel of Trees) on Wikipedia.

Commentary from Enrico Schaefer, Founding Partner at Traverse Legal, PLC

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette must know that trademarks, copyrights and other IP are matters of federal law. The State has no say in the matter. His opinion has no force under law at all. More importantly, his “opinion” is severely misguided and uninformed. Taken to its conclusion, no artist or photographer can have intellectual property rights in their artwork or photographs of state parks, buildings, landscapes, roads, etc. Public universities, funded with public dollars, could not hold IP either in their logos, trademarks or patents. Neither could the state of Michigan protect, for instance, its Pure Michigan campaign which has tens of millions of dollars invested in its campaign. It is also important to note that trademarking these road signs has literally no impact on the public domain rights. Assuming that these companies who have invested time and money creating IP rights around road signs to create valuable brands (no easy tasks for sure), the only impact is to keep someone from copying that use as a trademark. All other non-trademark uses, for instance to identify location, as always permitted. By limiting the trademark use to a single business who (a) was first in the market and (b) invested substantial money and risk in creating the market), companies are created which generate tax revenue and jobs. Without trademark protection, consumers are left with cheap knock-offs and imitations. Consumers can not identify source and the market is destroyed. What Schuette fails to comprehend is that without trademark protection, there can be no Nike or Microsoft or Google. Consumers would not buy products based on brand because consumers could never gauge quality based on a trustworthy source.

Thank goodness his overreaching is without effect, since the adverse impact to the Michigan intellectual property economy could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars or more. This appears to be just another example of overzealous government bureaucrats trying to expand their reach and control over Michigan businesses. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette proves once again he knows nothing about commerce and business. He has certainly proven he knows little about intellectual property.

Earth Day 2012 in Michigan

Untitled by Brooke Pennington
Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Sunday (April 22) is the 42nd Earth Day. Here’s some highlights from this morning’s Earth Day post on Michigan in Pictures - don’t miss the CBS News segment on Albion featuring Walter Kronkite from Earth Day 1970 below!

The Daily Michigan: an Absolute Michigan Sponsorship!


Today on The Daily Michigan we’re going to give away a full year’s sponsorship on Absolute Michigan.

The winner will receive our “Category Supporter” sponsorship for their business, nonprofit organization or other website OR the business, nonprofit organization or other website of their choosing. The sponsorship is a $500 value and includes 2 banners that show up in rotation on your chosen category page and on our website, blog and in our emails as well!

Just as with all our sponsorships, the winning business or organization must be located in Michigan or sell Michigan products and you must be registered for The Daily Michigan (use the link below if you’re not already!).

We recognize that this prize may not work for everyone, and for that reason we ask you to take a special step for entry. Between now and midnight on Tuesday, April 24th, please send an email to sponsors@absolutemichigan.com with your name and a note about the business or organization you want the sponsorship for. We will select at random from all received by next Wednesday!!

Click here to sign up