My Dad, John Nick Pappas, Sculptor

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Catherine Pappas

When I was a kid, people would often ask me "What's it like to have a sculptor as a father?" It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized how unique it was that my dad is a sculptor. Don't get me wrong, as a kid I thought it was pretty great too, it's just that that's all I knew - I had nothing to compare it to. I always loved the smell of the clay and watching him model a lump of nothing into something spectacular.

I remember when he bought his studio, an historic building and Ypsilanti's first City Hall located in Depot Town, for the specific purpose of creating the massive statuary he was commissioned to produce for Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan Headquarters in Detroit. He needed a large space to create what would eventually become a seven ton bronze work. He had to completely gut the building, including removing the floor on one side, to create the larger than life-size figures.

In addition to being a sculptor, my dad also taught sculpture and drawing at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) for more than 40 years, before retiring in 2000. He still runs into former students, even though he's been retired for many years now. I've been with him on more than one occasion when this has happened and I can tell you, it is pretty special. It makes me beam with pride when I see and hear about the incredible role he has played in the lives of so many of his students. Back in the late 70’s, three of his graduate students; Ed Olson, Paul Mauren, Jeanne Flanagan and my oldest brother Nick, worked with him in his studio to help create the Blue Cross piece, which took four years to complete.

After my dad modeled the seven larger than life-size figures in clay, the pieces had to be cast in bronze in large separate sections, and then welded back together. The pieces then had to be lifted separately by a crane out of the building to be transported to the site in Detroit, where they were installed by a team. Although I was quite young at the time, I remember the excitement at the unveiling of the piece in the Blue Cross Blue Shield courtyard near Greektown. There were speeches and the mayor of Detroit was there along were several hundred others, including family and friends. Following the unveiling, there was a lovely dinner and then we stayed in the Renaissance Center, nearby. The whole evening was quite a wonderful celebration of my dad and the monumental Blue Cross sculpture, "The Procession." My dad said that the piece represented human emotions such as; sadness, joy, fear and love.

The son of Greek immigrants, my dad was born in Detroit. Greek was his first language and he was an altar boy in the Greek Church. He grew up cooking in his father's restaurant and was never that interested in the academic side of high school, he mostly enjoyed playing basketball and chasing girls. Until one day, when he went to the Detroit main library with a friend. He went into a number of different rooms before he walked into the room with a large art section. As he entered the room, he noticed that one of the tables had two big books on it. As he approached the table, his eyes opened wide and he felt an immediate connection to the images he saw. One of the books was open to Rodin's "Gates of Hell" and the other was open to Michelangelo's "Boboli Slaves." His experience in that moment made an impact that was life-changing for him. Not long after, he decided to take a class at Arts and Crafts (now College for Creative Studies.)

Although it was a good experience at Arts and Crafts, he decided he needed to further his education in other areas as well, and went on to attend Wayne State University. Mr. Andrews, his advisor, talked with him about his high school grades, which were less than stellar. It was decided to put him on academic probation and things began to fall into place for him after that. It was these events that changed the course of his life.

He told me that he always made sculpture when he was a child, but he just thought that's what everyone did. Another pivotal moment for him in his youth was in his eighth grade Latin class. Mrs. McClure, his teacher, asked the kids in the class if any of them could make two clay heads, one of Socrates and one of Caesar. My dad shot his hand up in the air and said that he could do it. After he turned the pieces in, the teacher praised him and his work so much that he has remembered it to this day.

Although that early experience was very important, he once told me that he felt like he wasn't really born until he was a student at Wayne. A whole new world opened up to him. He met many different types of people and started learning so much more about different points of view. He had the most amazing professors that made such a huge impact on him that he can still tell you all of their names. He became involved in all aspects of art. He was a teacher's assistant in Sculpture and Art History. On average, he spent 12 hours a day on campus. Everything was new and exciting and he loved all of it.

Years later, when he won the Arts Alumni Achievement Award from Wayne State, he thanked his professors who played a key role in his becoming a successful artist. As a young Art professor at EMU, my dad won the prestigious "Prix de Rome" fellowship to live and study in Rome for a year in the late 60s. He and my mom Mary, with their four children - myself, my older sister Anna and my two older brothers Nick and Andy, traveled overseas and I'm told, (though I was a baby and don't remember it, sadly) that we all had a wonderful experience living abroad. My dad studied and learned alongside other exceptional Prix de Rome winners in the Arts.

After returning to the States, and back to teaching at EMU, my dad would go on to receive many impressive commissions over the years. Also, he has had numerous shows all over Michigan, in Chicago, Minneapolis and New York. Many times over the years he has told me "how lucky" he has been. Perhaps luck played a small role, but from what I have observed, it began with talent, which was then combined with lots of hard work over the years.

I remember when he was invited to exhibit in an international sculpture show in Chelsea Harbour, England. He was one of a handful of sculptors who were selected to meet the Queen of England. My mom was thrilled by the whole experience. In my Dad's true style, he seemed quite low-key about meeting the Queen.

He continues to go to work at his studio five to six days a week. The only thing he misses about being at EMU is teaching the students. He doesn't miss going to meetings. When talking about going to the studio to work he talks about "luck" again. He tells me how lucky he has been to do what he loves. He simply loves making sculpture.

He is also interested in so many other things and is always active. His doctor recently told him that his test results reveal that he has the health of someone twenty years younger. It's really quite astounding, since he has survived three very serious health scares over the years; bacterial meningitis, a brain aneurysm and an aortic aneurysm. All of us in his family are the lucky ones that we still have him after those life-threatening illnesses. Each time he recovered, he got right back to work.

Along with the enjoyment of researching things on his iPad and Nook, building things and gardening, he really loves cooking. He cooks for my mom, his adult kids and daughter-in-law, Lexie, as well as his and my mom's grandkids; Ethan, Emma, Drew and Cristina. He has always said "family is everything" and has instilled that in each of us.

Last week, I ran into one of my dad's former students. I had recalled meeting her many years ago and re-introduced myself. Her face lit up when she spoke of my dad. She said "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about your dad! When I walk in to my studio each day, I think about what an incredible man he is and how much he helped me as a student. I am so grateful."

As I think about what she said to me that day and my dad's role in her life, as well as the stories he has shared with me about what his professors did for him, I am awestruck by the incredible role quality teachers play in the lives of their students. All of that said, my dad is so much more than a sculptor and teacher to me; he is the best father and friend I could have ever imagined. If you would like more information about John Nick Pappas, Sculptor, and to see more images of his work, please visit:

(Catherine Pappas has more than twenty years experience in the fundraising field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University. She has worked for Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor and Detroit Public Television. Currently, Catherine is the Major Gifts Officer for the Humane Society of Huron Valley.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The John Pappas 1978 sculpture at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The thirteen bronze figures statuary is located in a courtyard set in a reflecting pool and ranges over a sixty foot space. Pappas won an all Michigan competition for this commission.

Photo 1A: A huge crane and four flat bed trucks were needed to get the thirteen bronze figures moved from the Pappas Studio to the Blue Cross Blue Shield location in Detroit.

Photo 2: John Pappas was born in Detroit, the son of Greek immigrants. Growing up Greek was his first language and he served as an altar boy in the Greek Church.

Photo 3: The “Looking Forward” statue by John Pappas in 2000 is located in BASF Waterfront Park in the City of Wyandotte. Pappas won a competition for this commission.

Photo 4: Pappas was invited to exhibit in the international sculpture exhibition in Chelsea Harbour, England and was one of a handful of sculptors who were selected to meet the Queen of England.

Photo 5: “Mother and Child” sculpture by John Pappas in 1990 is in the Mother and Child Unit at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo 6: “The Garden” is a 1997 sculpture by John Pappas that is located in the Dr. Dan Fall Memorial Garden at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo 7: “Emergence I” is a John Pappas sculpture commissioned by Ford Motor Company in 1986.

Photo 8: “Healing Hand” is a 1983 John Pappas sculpture that is on display at the Detroit Osteopathic Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo 9: This 1994 bronze sculpture by John Pappas of “Hippocrates” is displayed on the University of Michigan Medical School Campus in the plaza between Medical Science II, Taubman Medical Library, and MSRB III.

Photo 10: John Pappas Family: (Standing L to R) Andy Pappas (son), Nick Pappas (son), Catherine Pappas (daughter), Lexie Pappas (daughter in law), Anna Geppert (daughter), Emma Geppert (granddaughter), (Sitting L to R) Drew Pappas (grandson), John Pappas, Mary Pappas, Cristina Pappas (granddaughter).

Photo 11: The bronze statue “Icarus” by John Pappas is located on the Eastern Michigan University campus in front of the Quirk Building. It was dedicated in the Fall of 2003. Pappas describes his feeling on the character as follows: “The mythical image of Icarus has always symbolized freedom, strength, imagination, science, hope, and man’s fallibility.”

Photo 12: John Pappas’s workshop in the old City Hall Building on Cross Street where his art work is created.

Photo 13: John Nick Pappas relief sculptures at the Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Care Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The plaque shown at the bottom was done in memory of Julie Van Haren.

Photo 14: The sculptured busts are all the work of John Pappas.

Photo 15: John Pappas in his studio in the Old City Hall on Cross Street.

Photo 16: John Pappas sculpture “Reading Together” at the Ypsilanti District Library on Whittaker Road.

Artist Lays Down His Brush

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

(Author’s Note: Information in this article was derived from articles in the following issues of the Ypsilanti Press and the Ypsilantian: 08/14/1885, 03/23/1929, 07/05/1929, 08/30/1951, 06/28/1963, 05/26/1965.)

The Ypsilanti Press announced the death of Ed Thompson opting to use the headline “Artist Lays Down His Brush.” Thompson was born in Ypsilanti on August 30, 1863. He was the son of Oliver and Elizabeth (Cooper) Thompson, the family that the “Thompson Block” in Ypsilanti is named after.

During a twenty-five year career in Business in Ypsilanti Ed Thompson engaged in the manufacture of farm implements with his father and two brothers. He was well regarded in the business community. According to his Ypsilanti Press Obituary he was engaged in civic work with the City of Ypsilanti Park Board and had a large part in developing Recreation, Prospect, and Quirk Parks. He was also a member of the Kiwanis Club and Phoenix Lodge F & AM.

The Ypsilantian described Ed Thompson in the August 14, 1885 edition as follows: “Ed Thompson is a blooming young bachelor of twenty-two and a talented and accomplished member of eastside society. Ed early manifested a tendency towards art, especially drawing and caricature. He is a commanding stature, has an air of easy don’t care about him. He is very much interested in young ladies and very much in love with Wallie Brooks. He has plenty of time to make up his mind and is in no hurry to change his relations.”

Well, he did not marry Wallie Brooks and instead married Ms. Henrietta (Maegle) in 1891. She preceded him in death in 1941. He, at his death, was survived by three nephews. Ed and Henrietta Thompson are buried in Highland Cemetery.

Upon retiring he took up his passion of painting. He became a noted, at least locally, artist of some skill. He had no formal training and was self taught. The Ypsilanti Press of March 23, 1929, described his work as follows: “….pirates, nature scenes, familiar nearby scenes. Sources included photographs, local “characters” for portraits, landscapes, plants, old taverns, and character studies.” Further: “…Though Mr. Thompson does not take his art too seriously he is careful of details…..He has NOT taken any art instruction, his work being the result of natural talent which until he retired from business, he had no opportunity to indulge. Versatile as Mr. Thompson has been in the short time in which he has been painting, he has noticeably omitted the use of women…..”

According to the Ypsilanti Press of June 28, 1963, Mr. Thompson painted two well known portraits of General Demitrius Ypsilanti. One was owned by Charles L. McKie and was loaned to William Anhut for hanging in the lobby of the Huron Hotel. Another was gifted to the City of Ypsilanti and for a number of years hung in the Council Chambers.

However, the Ypsilanti Press of May 26, 1965, reported a surprise. Another portrait had been found. The news report read: “…It’s existence comes as a surprise because it was supposed that Mr. Thompson had painted only (2) TWO PORTRAITS, ONE FOR City Hall and one which he gave to Charles L. McKie. Mr. McKie remembers only the two, his on loan to the Huron Motor Inn (aka Huron Hotel) and one for City Hall.” The Ypsilanti Historical Society has two of the three paintings. The one hanging in the archives is illustrated in his article. The other one hangs in the front hallway entrance to the Museum. The Ypsilanti Press of August 30, 1951 reports that “He has completed about 200 oils and at least 50 beautiful water colors.”

I hope this article will revive interest in Mr. Thompson and his hobby.

(George is a member of the YHS Archives Board, a volunteer in the YHS Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Ed Thompson sitting on the running board of a 1910 Reo automobile with Mrs. Ed (Henrietta) Thompson in the front seat and Mrs. Atherton (Blanche) Marrs with another unidentified person in the back seat.

Photo 2: Ed Thompson’s oil painting of Demetrius Ypsilanti that currently hangs in the YHS Archives.

Photo 3: An Ed Thompson oil painting of George Washington.

Photo 4: Drawing by Ed Thompson.

Photo 5: Drawing by Ed Thompson.

Photo 6: Drawing by Ed Thompson.

The Soldiers' Monument at Highland Cemetery

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Standing at the south end of Highland Cemetery, near the bluff that overlooks the city, is the monument dedicated to honor the memory of those who died in the American Civil War defending the Union. The monument is twenty-two feet three and a half inches tall, at the top of which is the figure of a Union solider holding a flag. The monument is made from blue Westerly Granite, and is carved from solid rock.

The idea of honoring the memory of those who had died in service during the Civil War first came to light in about 1891, and $50 was contributed. There was some talk of building a Memorial Hall, but nothing more came of the idea at that time. The suggestion was made to use the money for some other noble purpose.

Florence Babbitt was placed in the executive chair of the Woman’s Relief Corps in January of 1893, and she was very interested in the perpetuation of the memory of those who had fallen. Mrs. Babbitt consulted with Mrs. Mary Ann Starkweather, who asked, “Why don’t you build a monument?”

The work to secure the needed funds was started on March 19, 1893. The women of the Corps worked for several years to raise the funds for the monument. The members of the Corps canvassed the city to solicit contributions. After a good start, the effort slowed and seemed to come to an end. The nation had fallen into a depression, a tornado had swept a path of ruin through the city, and in May of 1894 the high school building was destroyed by a fire. By the time of the high school fire, the committee had raised only $350. All this had caused a sense of discouragement to set in. A prominent businessman sent a question to the committee: “This always going to erect a monument to the memory of some ones, and never doing it, is what might be called a monumental farce.”

Mary Ann Starkweather informed the committee overseeing the effort that she would give $1,000 if the Woman’s Relief Corps first raised the same amount in six months. Six months later, to the day, Mary Ann Starkweather made good on her promise, and gave $1,000 as the ladies of the Corps had fulfilled their end of the bargain.

None of the designs that would cost $2,000 were satisfactory to Mary Ann Starkweather or the committee. The decision was made to secure a monument at a cost of $3,000. Mary Ann Starkweather pledged she would assist in securing the needed funds.

The monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895, beginning with a procession from the city. Mrs. Babbitt read a history of the monument, then pulled a string and unveiled the figure. “Then the bands struck up a lively strain and a salute was fired right royally. The Woman’s Relief Corps marched around the base of the monument and covered it with flowers. The chosen flower of this Corps is the Michigan rose, and we fully agree with the ladies that they could not have chosen any flower more beautiful or fragrant,” reported The Washtenaw Evening Times of Friday, May 31, 1895.
Every year since then, on Memorial Day, a ceremony is held at the monument to honor those who died in defense of the nation.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The American Civil War monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895.

Ypsilanti Players From 1915 - 1957

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Eleanor Meston

(This article was originally published in the January 1976 issue of the Gleanings. We recently discovered some glass plate negatives from the early years of the Ypsilanti Players which prompted the new interest in this organization.)

Ypsilanti, April 12, 1915: “I have for a long time had in mind the organization of a Dramatic Club in Ypsilanti. With this view I have asked a few people to come to the Ladies' Literary Club rooms, Thursday evening, April fifteenth at seven-thirty o'clock. My ideas of the Club will be explained and some modern, short plays read by different persons. Hoping to see you, Sincerely, Daniel L. Quirk, Jr."

And so began many successful years for the Ypsilanti Players. That first meeting brought together a group of thirty-two theatre loving people. The group included home-makers, members of the various professions, and business men and women. There were, just to mention a few, C.V. Brown, former Mayor of Ypsilanti, (1916–1920); Arthur Erickson, for whom the Erickson school in Ypsilanti is named; Miss Bertha Goodison, artist and for whom a Womens' Dorm on the Eastern Michigan University Campus is named; and C. P. Steimle, the former registrar of the College. All were enthusiastic about the new venture into the field of Theatre Arts.

“…The Ypsilanti Players group was the third community theater in the United States, following Boston and Chicago.”

The aim of the Ypsilanti Players, as formulated at that first meeting was, "To study, read, and act new plays which must have artistic merit." Simply worded and to the point. For that meeting three plays had been prepared to be read as part of the program. In the scrapbook of that year those three plays are shown to be:

Program #1 April 15, 1915:

The Man on the Kerb by Alfred Sutro read by Mrs. H.B. Britton (daughter of Professor Florus Barbour, English Dept. the Normal College 1885–1926).

The Noble Lord by Percival Wilde read by Miss Luella Seeger.

The Fifth Commandment by Stanley Houghton read by Mrs. R. Clyde Ford (wife of Richard Clyde Ford, Head of Modern Language Dept, Normal, 1903–1938).

The Program #2 of May 15, 1915, found a group of readers taking the various parts instead of just one reader for a play. At each meeting a committee of three volunteered to arrange the program for the next meeting. Ypsilanti of 1915 was a community of 7,000 population and the Players filled a very definite need in the community and became a very important part of it.

The Players owed their success to the inspired directorship of Daniel Lace Quirk, Jr. It was his untiring effort, his high standards of showmanship and meticulous regard for artistry that gave joy and satisfaction to those working with and for him. He had acquired his taste and love of the theatre in his youth when he helped in shifting scenes and in other odd jobs about the Opera House. (Ypsilanti's Opera House was built in the late 1870's on the north side of Congress (Michigan) east of Adams and Dan Quirk's father was one of the original stockholders).

As evening after evening of play reading passed, the readers grew more and more dramatic; interpretation demanded action. As latent talent developed, an improvised stage in some members living room proved most inadequate and frustrating.

The meeting of January 16, 1916, when the club was just ten months old must have been a very exciting one. The meeting of that date recorded in its minutes the decision:

“To rent from the Ladies' Library Association the barn at the rear of their lot for five years at twenty dollars per year with the privilege of buying at any time during the five years the barn and the land on which it stands for two hundred dollars …”At the same meeting, “it was further decided that dues be paid to the club of five dollars per year.”In the last part of that same sentence came the re-cording of an action that had far reaching results dramatically speaking. It reads: “and that the Club proceed with the remodeling of the barn to make it ready for the Shrove Tuesday Masque on March 7, 1916.”

In this casual manner the group with apparently no board of directors or other administrative verbiage brought into being the Ypsilanti Playhouse which came to be known nationally in the field of dramatic art as the smallest theatre in the world.

There followed a hectic seven weeks of preparation for the opening of the Playhouse. One can visualize the activity of those weeks, every player at work wielding hammer and paint brush under the general supervision of D. L Quirk (Jr.). Bertha Goodison and Elinor Strafor, (Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the Normal, 1910–1942), were the artists who worked out color schemes and decorative design.

At last Shrove Tuesday, 1916, arrived. True to their promise the Players were ready with a Masque for the first production in their remodeled barn to an audience of invited guests.

The Masque called, Playing the Favorites, ran the gamut from Shakespeare through Sheridan's She Stoops to Conquer into the world of opera, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Faust’, then to Vanity Fair and Barrie's Little Minister to an up to the minute movie featuring Mary Pickford. Members of the Players, all thirty-two of them, represented noted actors and actresses.

It was a very auspicious opening for a little theatre. Wide publicity greeted the opening. The Press coverage, which was most generous, included The Detroit Free Press, Detroit Morning News, Detroit Evening News, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Detroit Journal. The Ypsilanti Press of March 8, 1916, gave a description with great accuracy of detail: “Last evening the Ypsilanti Players opened ‘The Players Playhouse’, a tiny theatre in which artistic simplicity and exceedingly ingenious arrangement and utilization of existing material have made probably the most complete and charming ‘Little Theatre’ west of New York. The Players have leased from the Ladies' Library Association the barn on the Starkweather place, and have fitted it up with amazing results considering the limited space and necessary simplicity into a charming little play house, with excellent lighting and simple and artistic furnishings.

The decorative scheme was the design of Miss Bertha Goodison and Miss Elinor Strafer, and the construction work was under the supervision of D. L. Quirk, Jr. The original rafters and wooden supports of the barn are utilized most effectively, being painted a soft olive with the highlights in Pompeian red. The sidewalls have a daring and effective decoration of Pompeian red and black half squares against a putty colored background, a heraldic device, featuring the cock, in dark blues and greens adorning the shield in the center panel. Over the front of the stage is a variant of the cock device, this time the cock's head in the form of a crest, and beneath on the shield are the initials Y.P., of the organization, the Ypsilanti Players. The audience room is only 18 by 24 feet, of which the stage takes half, yet so skillfully has the space been apportioned that there is quite an effect of spaciousness, and the room will seat fifty people. Of these however, eighteen are cared for in the little balcony at the back, whose railing is concealed by oriental curtains of bright hues. The quaint iron lanterns suspended from the ceiling are the work of Harry Shaefer, (b. Dundee, Mich 1886, d. Ypsilanti 1968).

The curtains are draw curtains, of the putty-colored monks' cloth, with wide vertical stripes of dark olive denim and narrower stripes of Pompeian red brocade and add dignity and effective-ness to the room. The scenery is yet in the making, so far only a set of tall screens, in which a wonderful effect is secured by the use of dark blue cheese cloth over light green cheese-cloth. The curtain bell is a set of silvery chimes. It is expected to add simple ‘sets’ and permanent costumes for certain parts in the future. There are no footlights, but rows of reflecting border lights above the stage are concealed by green draperies, and there are arrangements regulated by a switchboard and dimmers in the wings for lights at the side as well. The outside of the building is to be decorated similarly to the interior and the name will be painted in artistic lettering. A quaint iron lantern will be over the entrance. The little play house has all the fascination of a doll house and would tempt an anchorite to use it as a plaything. But it is to be the scene of really serious study and portrayal of genuine drama.”

The first evidence of conventional organization appears in the minutes of the meeting of the week following the opening of the Playhouse. Then Mr. A. G. Erickson was elected treasurer. A play committee and casting committee for the 1916 season was chosen and dates for five public performances decided upon. The price of the tickets was to be one dollar a performance. Invitations were sent out which reminded the recipient that since “the play house had a seating capacity limited to fifty, an early acceptance was requested.” The first commercially printed program bearing the crest of the Players appeared May 16, 1916.

Through the summer of 1916, much expense was incurred. An addition to the Playhouse provided for a stage entrance and storage space, painting had been done, and new dishes purchased. The Players viewed with delight the result of the summer's activity, but found themselves with a total indebtedness of eight hundred dollars.

Undaunted, the group went ahead with plans for their second season in the Playhouse. At the same time, plans to procure Stuart Walker's Portmanteau Theatre for an afternoon and evening performance had materialized. The Ypsilanti Players proudly advertised their coming by announcing that the Stuart Walker group “…were coming directly from the Art Museum of Detroit on their way to the Fine Arts Theatre of Chicago, that the University of Michigan had tried to get them in Ann Arbor but were unsuccessful.”

Season after season passed with the general public getting only occasional glimpses of the Player's production. Due to public demand, it was finally decided to have a “subscription season” in 1917–1918, tickets three dollars and fifty cents for seven performances, one to be given each month, the night after the regular member's performances. Again announcements were sent out and the Players passed another milestone.

The First World War burst upon the world. The Ypsilanti players played their part. Many who had taken an active part on our small stage went to take part in that great struggle overseas. Our beloved director went to France to serve in the French Red Cross. He had worked tirelessly at home, as had his wife, in all branches of war activity. Red Cross and Liberty Loan Drives knew his directive genius.

And what of the Player's themselves? It took some doing to carry on with their mainstay in France. But the play proved again to be the thing, and they carried out the plans for the season according to schedule. During D.L.'s absence, Dr. R. Clyde Ford, Head of the Modern Language Department at the college, was given the responsibility of leadership. Long a member of the Players and a fine actor in his right, he gave uninterrupted continuity to the program. It must have been with a sense of relief tempered with one of satisfaction for a task well done that he welcomed Mr. Quirk back. And it was with a widened horizon, a renewed vigor, and enthusiasm, that in 1920, Dan again assumed his place as Director.

Ypsilanti Players from 1920-1957

The fall of 1920 found the Ypsilanti Players hard at work preparing for the coming season. An attempt was made to keep the reading committee fluid by choosing members of varying tastes and backgrounds. To facilitate the work of those whose responsibility was to choose the plays to be given, Mr. D. L. Quirk, Jr, the director, maintained a drama library. Because of a standing order, Brentano's of New York City, added to that library whenever a dramatic work was published.

The Players were becoming familiar with the big names among playwrights. Many plays were given whose authors had a play currently on Broadway. Often plays in manuscript were given. The spirit of adventure was further shown in programs listing first performances and many players had the satisfaction of seeing their own creative endeavors presented before an audience.

Casting in those years seems not to have been a problem. The Players boast of having a “…five system indexed by build, voice, and other characteristics for just about everyone in town.” Mr. Quirk is credited with having said, “When we needed a Priest in a play, we didn't have someone act one; we got a Priest. After all, he knew the part and had the costume.” A player would be in-formed there was a part for him in the next play, and he took it. Perhaps the director or a member of the casting committee might see someone at a concert, in a restaurant or even on the street, who would seem to have possibilities.

THE DETROIT NEWS of Sunday, September 4, 1921, carried a story by Sterling Bowen, (son of Wilber P. Bowen, Head of the Department of Physical Education, Normal, 1894–1928), which gave further insight into the casting methods of the Ypsilanti Players. He tells of a young man who hopped from a passing freight train near the Peninsular Paper Mill one day, asked for and got a temporary job there. Director Quirk, at that time President of the Company, upon hearing the young man speak, said, “For some time we have wanted to put on a play, but we have needed a young mountaineer such as yourself. Will you take the part?” Young Kaufman, for such was his name, was either uninterested or else he hesitated to break into a group so completely alien. At any rate, he hopped a freight and was gone as suddenly as he had come. The play was shelved. A year passed, when one day Carl Kaufman re-appeared. A roughly-dressed and stubble-faced young man, he dropped gracefully from the side of a box-car as it rounded the bend of the Michigan Central Railroad beside the paper mill. Again he applied for a job, again he got one, and again Mr. Quirk asked, “Now are you ready to play with us on our stage”, With a grin, he said, “Sure.”

So the play, On Vengeance Height, a story of a mountain feud, was off to a good start with young Kaufman, who had spent his boyhood in the mountains of Tennessee, in the stellar role. He is credited with having been of great help to the cast with its interpretation, dialect, and diction. That was his only role in the Ypsilanti Players, for he left as quickly as he had come.

In the Ypsilanti Players, once a star didn't mean always star. Perhaps this play's lead might have a very menial role in the next play, or even assume the task of stoking the furnace or of cleaning up the grease paint on the make-up shelf. Perhaps he would be needed for make-up artist, to hold the book, or to shift scenes.

At times an un-announced player assumed a role gratuitously. An incident of that nature is recalled by one old-time player. It had to do with Dr. Britton's German Police dog. Always at the heels of his master or mistress, he was a familiar frequenter of the Playhouse, parked in the foyer or at the stage door. In this particularly realistic play, his master was to experience rough treatment by a thug. When the dog heard his master's cry of terror, he made a very effective entrance - the curtain closed to denote calming of dog and reviving of thug.

The Players were very fortunate to have as a member Mrs. Anne Thompson Hubbell, her husband was a member of Eastern Michigan’s History Department, who had done Shakespearean roles for several years with the English Company of the Ben Greet Players, to plan and direct the series of Shakespeare's plays presented. Scenes from five plays were given, interspersed with traditional music provided by Anthony J. Whitmire and his violin, Miss Matilda Holmes at the piano, and the voices of Carl Lindegren, Miss Lillian Ashby and Mrs. George Wortley.

A member of that cast relates, “I shall never forget that Shakespearean program; I was one of the mob in the Julius Caesar episode. We were stationed in the balcony waiting for our cues. We were to rush down the stairs, through the narrow aisle, and up onto the stage. In due time the cue came, we started down the steep little stairway. The first man, with an over-abundance of histrionic zeal, tripped and we all followed suit like so many dominoes. Almost wrecked the show, but our audience took it in its stride”.

There were times, when, had it not been for the watchful eye of their director with his business acumen, the players would have been in legal difficulties. Such an incident occurred in the giving of John Drinkwater's Bird in Hand. When Director Quirk returned from abroad, the play had been cast and was in rehearsal. D.L.'s first question had to do with business arrangements. “No, no one had made inquiry as to royalty.” Much correspondence brought no response from the agent. Opening night arrived and still no clearance or royalty quotation. A telegram was dispatched and just before curtain time, the following wire was received, “Sorry, Bird in Hand not available to amateurs.” What to do posed no question - the play must go on - and on it went. Needless to say royalty was determined and paid at a later date. Much credit for the excellent performance went to Wleamen, a member of the players, under whose direction the play was staged. A few months later, a short item appeared in the Chicago Tribune and caused the Players great elation. “A resident company in Ypsilanti (Mich.) recently gave the American premiere of John Drinkwater's play called A Bird in Hand, said to be a success in London.”

While the Players enjoyed lighter moments, program notes indicate that they took seriously their opportunity and responsibility to educate their audiences as well as themselves. Contributions made by this civic minded group to the community included a program given for the Stoic Society of Michigan State Normal College “…proceeds to go toward establishing a permanent scholarship fund.”

The Players gave the first radio play in this area, the publicity, dated 1927, reads: “Prize Radio Play on Air-W.S.S.K., (which was located in Ypsilanti at that time), called Danger. It is the first listening play known and was first broadcast by the London Broadcasting station.” The players of that production included G. C. Handy, publisher of the Ypsilanti Daily Press, and Marion Stowe, professor of speech at Eastern Michigan College.

Coping with the increasing pressures on time and energy became at last beyond the ability of the individual players. This was especially true with regard to D. L. Quirk, Jr., upon whom, as director, an increasing number of details of staging and directing had fallen. All of this led to an announcement made on a printed program which caused, to put it mildly, great consternation. There would be no subscription season the coming year. Only one program was planned. Then came the statement, “Just what will be done after that time is undecided”

Plainly the services of an assistant director were indicated, one who could give his entire time to what had become a public demand. The players' exchequer would not permit such expenditure.

There was immediate reaction on the part of the members of the Community to the Player's announcement. Letters to the editor appeared, telephone calls increased, and the grape-vine flourished. One particular letter is typical of audience thinking.

Editor of the Ypsilanti Press: “…There must be some way to keep the Ypsilanti Players active. Does anyone know how? We've been sitting back watching our neighbors entertain us. If there is anything we can do at last, I almost think we'll be found on the spot. But just how?

Another letter writer offered $100 and contributions came spontaneously from Players and Patrons alike toward the salary of an assistant director. After careful canvassing of the field, Mr. Paul Stevenson was engaged.

He arrived in the fall of 1924. Paul Stevenson had an unusual background for this new position. He had worked and studied with many of the greats of the theatre. He had been a member of Dr. Baker's famous 47 workshop at Harvard; he had played under the direction of Max Reinhardt in Europe. Only the reputation of the Ypsilanti Players for a high standard of experimentation and creativity interested him in coming to Ypsilanti. The tenth season began and the community relaxed - they had saved the day.

The children of the Players gave a pantomime based on Stuart Walker's THE SEVEN GIFTS. “The audience,” so says a member of that juvenile cast now an active business man, “was prepared to be amused, but instead it was inspired and amazed by the charming artlessness of the children.”

Events followed in comparatively rapid succession. A three-act play was attempted and its success led to more of the same type. A study class was formed, “its object will be to make the acquaintance of the modern successful plays.”

Paul Stevenson stayed only until greener fields and wider horizons claimed him and eventually the directing of the plays reverted to the members who had grown most adept at that task.

Again an assistant director was hired. He lent his talent to the staging of one of the Players' most outstanding ventures. Many members of those long ago audiences feel the Players had reached the acme of perfection in their dramatic arrangement of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem of the Ancient Mariner. “A fantastic illusion for those who abandon themselves to its spell, to feel its movements, to see its sights.” A repeat performance was given in the Wuerth Theatre of Ypsilanti under the auspices of the Committee for Student Welfare of the Michigan State Normal College. An invitational program for the Players of Detroit was given at their Playhouse.

In the same season, we find those versatile players giving a performance of Ten Nights in a Bar Room,…staged in strict adherence to the period and the mood pervading the original piece in the theatre of another generation.”

Again the Players found themselves without an assistant director and again the players assumed that task themselves. But the little playhouse was weary of well doing. It had reached a stage of decrepitude which was beyond repair. No longer could the much patched and leaky roof, nor the crumbling foundation be ignored. It was decided to give all future plays in the auditorium of the St. Luke's Church House and to use the old playhouse for storage.

Play after play was given with apparent success under the direction of what might be termed amateurs whom experience had made them professional. Such plays as Is Zat So by James Gleason and Richard Tabor, directed by Leo Whitmire; Hay Fever by Noel Coward, also directed by Leo; Saturday’s Children by Maxwell Anderson, directed by Eleanor Meston and Edith Shaefer.

All of these activities bring us to the sixteenth season, 1930–31, when The Romantic Young Lady, a comedy in three acts by G. Martinez Sierra, directed by Leo Whitmire, was given as the “only bill” of that season. Few of the players and none of the audience sensed that they were indeed attending the last performance of the Ypsilanti Players. And so without benefit of requiem the Ypsilanti Players drew the last curtains. The belongings of the organization were disbursed; the building demolished and the ground on which it stood became a part of Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.

However, a group of Ypsilantians met in the living-room of one of those long ago child players and the Ypsilanti Players experienced a rebirth. D. L. Quirk, Jr., was there to share his wisdom which he had garnered through a lifetime of living with the theatre and to give his blessing. In the last pages of his scrap book are to be found programs of the reactivated group. The first program was I Remember Mama and was dedicated to the man with vision, Mr. D. L. Quirk, Jr. The insignia of the original group is to be found on the programs of the current group and the unique bill board of old announces the plays of 1957.

(The above articles were written by Eleanor Meston, an early and active member of the Ypsilanti Players. Miss Meston was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and received both her B.A. and M.A. from Teachers' College of Columbia University, New York City, N.Y. She taught kindergarten at Roosevelt School from 1914 to 1956. In 1976 when this article was written she resided at the Gilbert Residence. She died at age 90 in 1978. Her obituary indicated that “…for many years, Miss Meston gathered Gilbert residents in a lounge and read them the daily newspaper.”)

(Editors Note: In 1982 the Ypsilanti Players honored eleven Ypsilanti women who played “leading roles” in the Ypsilanti community at a dinner party with musical tributes featuring songs appropriate to each woman and her contributions to the community. The women recognized were Ann Cleary Kettles, Mary Louise Foley, Nathalie Edmunds, Patsy Chandler, Thada Liskow, Jane Bird, Ethel Howard, Camilla Damoose, Libby Fuller, Joan Helkaa, and Beverly Shankwiler. The Ypsilanti Players theater group continued into the late 1990’s when their last productions were staged. Some members joined other groups that had already started to produce local plays at the Riverside Arts Center, including PTD Productions, Orpheus, Redbud, and Phoenix; but the Ypsilanti Players name has not re-appeared.

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Daniel L. Quirk Jr. started the “Ypsilanti Players” in 1915 and played many roles during the early years of the theatre.

Photo 2: In 1916 a barn behind the Ladies Library became the home of the “Ypsilanti Players.”

Photo 3: The stage in the original “Players Playhouse” took up about half the space but there was still room for a audience of 50 people.

Photo 4: Daniel Quirk convinced Carl Kaufman, a young man who had arrived in Ypsilanti via a boxcar, to take a part in the play “On Vengeance Height.”

Photo 5: This was the invitation sent out in 1916 for the first play open to the public in the Players Playhouse.

Photo 6: During the 1916-17 season, the Ypsilanti Players put on “Helena’s Husband.”

Photo 7: During the 1922-23 season, the Ypsilanti Players put on “Buying Culture.”

Photo 8: During the 1923-24 season, the Ypsilanti Players put on “The Little Man.”

Photo 9: During the 1924-25 season, the Ypsilanti Players put on “Calib Stone’s Death Watch.”

An Artist at the Bomber Plant

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Don Choate

The following article was contributed by Pam Shepherd DeLaittre, the author’s niece. Pam lived in Ypsilanti until 1956 when her family relocated to the Minneapolis area.

“Yes, I was lucky not to be in the war! At Willow Run I started out on the production floor testing and oiling the superchargers that went on the planes (B24s). I would sing while working and my boss who was a funny Italian guy wanted me to enter a talent show of the factory workers. So I went to a Detroit theater and sang to a record and came in first. He was always asking me to sing this and that song. I remember the center wing section where they did riveting. The roar of the riveting was enough to make you sick to your stomach when you walked through there. They used little people to be inside of the wing during the riveting process.

I had signed up to be in the engineering department but had to wait until they had an opening. Finally, I was transferred to the drafting department where they designed all of the decals that went on the plane. I worked under a guy who had worked in New York designing advertising lettering. He taught me a lot about the art of lettering. Ironically, I got a D in lettering in art school. But when I went to New York I made a living doing lettering that led to my job designing at Norcross. What was remarkable about the Willow Run plant is that it produced 14 B24 planes a day. Hard to believe that whole period. It’s like I have gone through three or four lives.”

(Don Choate was an artist and activist who worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II. He passed away in Columbia, Missouri on October 9, 2008. He was a native of Greenville, Michigan and came to this area to attend college. Don led a long and interesting life including attending art school in New York where he became familiar with the poets and writers of the Beat Generation. He was hired by Norcross Greetings but was later dismissed because of supposed connections with Communists. Don was interested in politics and different points of view and like many others during the McCarthy era was wrongly accused of Communist Party leanings. He continued his career in art, achieving recognition and success.)

Photo Captions:

1. Don worked in the Drafting Department at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II. Workers in this Department were responsible for the various markings on each plane which are visible in this photo of a B-24 on a mission.

2. Don Choate leans against the carved wooden door he made for the Tofle, Hajicek & Oxenhandler law offices in Columbia, MO.

3. Don stands between two of his drawings from his “In Your Face” series and behind a self-portrait (photo by Jenna Isaacson).

Named for President Lincoln

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

The Lincoln Consolidated Schools, south of Ypsilanti, was first given the name of Rural Agricultural School District Number 1. The next name associated with the school was that of the school founder, Marvin S. Pittman. However, in 1924, Dr. Pittman, who at that time was the Head of the Rural Education Department at the Normal College, asked the Board to consider another name. The School Board then named the school Lincoln in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

The memorial came about after a visit to the school by Sylvester Jerry and Samuel Cashwan early in the fall of 1935. Cashwan was then supervisor of the sculpture and ceramics program of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The two had come to inspect murals which had just been completed in the cafeteria of the school. “It was at that time that certain members of the student body and faculty suggested to Mr. Cashwan that he design for the grounds at Lincoln School a memorial to Abraham Lincoln for whom the school is named,” reported The Ypsilanti Daily Press April 29, 1938.

Samuel Cashwan was born in Russia in 1900. His family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York in 1906, and moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1916. He studied art at Detroit Central High School, the John Wicker School and at the Detroit City College. After the First World War he continued his studies at the Architectural League in New York and attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1923 to 1926. Cashwan was supervisor for the State of Michigan WPA Art Program from 1936 until 1942.

“During my first acquaintance with the project,” said Cashwan of the WPA, “I was deeply impressed with the many possibilities for development and the good that could be derived by the public from its activities…The greatest good a sculpture can perform is to create, not for a museum or a private collection, but for the common meeting places of men, to enhance and ennoble everyday life.”

Cashwan found his idea of Lincoln by reading “Abraham Lincoln - Prairie Years” and “Abe Lincoln Grows Up” by Carl Sandburg. The limestone statue of President Lincoln stands 13 feet tall, and weighs over a ton. “It portrays a Lincoln of mature years wearing the shawl so characteristic of his latter life. The figure of Lincoln stands against a base with hands reaching down toward small figures which represent different phases of his service to humanity,” noted The Ypsilanti Daily Press.

“Let us be firm in the right as God gives us to see the right” is inscribed on the base of the statue. This was taken from Lincoln’s second inaugural address which included the following: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The program concluded with the Normal College band playing “Scenes of the Civil War.”

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the Gleanings, and a researcher in the YHS Archives.)

Photo Captions:

1. Rather than facing the intersection of Whittaker and Willis Roads, the statue faces the children at the school from across the front yard.

2. The statue portrays a Lincoln of mature years wearing a shawl so characteristic of his later life.

Hebe fountain(s) found (but not in Ypsilanti)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Tom Dodd

Some Greek culture to accompany our Greek name

Readers of the GLEANINGS perseverate over the loss of a local landmark they have never seen. Stories abound of the elaborate fountain that stood near what is the front door of today’s Ypsilanti City Hall, but faded photos of the complex pile of vessels with the figure of Hebe atop are all they have seen. Still, the discovery of this community artifact would be a delight to those who recall its story. Help is on the way.

In 1889, Ypsilanti philanthropist and ben-efactor, Mary Ann (Newberry) Starkweather donated––among many other contributions to the she city loved––a fountain that stood on the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Huron Street. The elaborate baroque casting had watering sources for dogs, horses, and people. Birds, she must have figured, could sip at any level. At the top of all this was a statue of Hebe, the Greek mythological goddess of youth, the daughter of Zeus and Hera.

Who’s Hebe?
Hebe was the cupbearer for the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, serving their nectar and abrosia, until she married Heracles (the Roman equiv-alent of Hercules). Another of Hebe’s jobs was to draw the bath water for Ares, but she was known as Ganymeda in that role. She was also recognized as a female footman for helping Hera enter her chariot. Hebe had many helpful responsibilities; she was young and full of energy.

The name Hebe comes from the Greek word meaning “youth” or “prime of life” and how very appropriate it was for a city with a Greek name to have at least one example of Greek mythology in the form of a prominently-placed sculpture. (Juventas likewise means “youth”, as can be seen in such derivatives as juvenile. In earlier days, juvenile did not necessarily connote delinquency, nor did adult mean something dirty.)

In art, Hebe is usually depicted wearing a sleeveless dress. There are historians who posit that it may have been the image of Hebe emblazoned on the wall of the Hay & Todd Manufacturing Company to hype their Ypsilanti Health Underwear in 1865. After all, the five-story figure was female and posed in the classical tradition. It was the advertising policy of that company to juxtapose their product with classical art forms such as cupids and young Greek women to titillate the Victorian sensibilities of their clientele long before Maidenform bras were shown in American magazine ads under the headline “I dreamt I (whatever) in my Maidenform bra.”

Ypsilanti’s famous fountain has been absent for many years; some think it may be found at the bottom of the Huron River, but that’s just conjecture. Street talk has placed it in the DPW’s salt barn, and other speculators surmise it was turned into bomber parts in World War II. No viable discovery of the iconic fountain has been made to date.

Perhaps another place to look for Ypsilanti’s lost fountain is under the foundation of today’s police station since Hebe was also worshipped as a goddess of pardons or forgiveness; freed prisoners would hang their chains in the sacred grove of her sanctuary at Phlius.

Hebe depictions were popular in the 19th and early 20th century for garden fountains and temperance fountains, and were widely available in cast stone. Thoughtful and nostalgic Ypsilantians can still find the visage of Hebe and her bare arms in a variety of locations where an earlier ethic of historic preservation may have saved their Hebe-depictions from destruction:

• Taremtum, Penn-sylvania, displays two such cast stone statues of Hebe. The mold for these statues was donated to the borough by the Tarentum Book Club on 6 June 1912.

• In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Bloom Fountain was installed in 1927 near the municipal rose garden, thanks to a bequest of $6,500 in the will of Louis Bloom, featuring a Hebe of cast zinc.

• At Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Hebe fountain in Fountain Square follows Canova’s model, in patinated (in colors) cast iron example, purchased in 1881 from the J.L. Mott Iron Works of New York, at a cost of $1,500.

• Similar Hebe fountains, probably also from Mott, are located in Court Square, Memphis, Tennessee, and in Montgomery, Alabama.

• There is a bronze statue of Hebe, by Robert Thomas (1966), in Birmingham city centre, England.

• Antonio Conova also sculpted four different statues of Hebe: one of them is in the Museum of Forlî, Italy.

Which “classical”style is that?
Anyone wishing to separate Greek from Roman depictions of this popular mythological goddess need only to examine the placement of the feet. Greek sculptures usually have the feet placed parallel to each other with the legs straight; Romans would often bend one knee, placing one foot at a slight angle to the other. Art critics contend the Greek statuary was actually a carved column intended to help hold up a building (see the caryatides of the erechtheum at the Athenean Acropolis). Romans, by contrast, seem to be “moving into the picture.”

(Tom Dodd taught art history at Schoolcraft College and Ann Arbor Community High using Helen Gardner’s Art Through the Ages as a secondary source. He focused on 19th Century Architecture every spring semester, using Ann Arbor’s North Division Street and Ypsilanti’s North Huron Street as primary sources to contrast and compare.)

Photo captions:

1. Starkweather’s fountain at Huron & Congress (Michigan Avenue)

2. Hebe sculpture (no caption)

3. A mid-century Maidenform model dreamed of going to a “masquerade” in her bra

4. Hebe, in a typical water-carrying pose

5. Antonio Canova’s Hebe became the model for others to follow the Roman tradition

6. The girls on the porch (the caryatids of the erechtheum) seem to be moving toward the future: note how each has one knee beginning to move forward, denoting a drastic change in the Greek Order and a move toward Rome and, eventually, the Renaissance

Frederic H. Pease, A Man For All Seasons

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2012,
Spring 2012
Original Images:

Author: Jan Anscheutz

Most people in Ypsilanti know about Pease Auditorium, the center of musical performances at Eastern Michigan University. Fewer know the life story of the remarkable citizen this building is named for––Frederic Henry Pease. Pease was born in 1839 in a log cabin in the wilderness of Ohio, but obtained an excellent classical European education. He is known today not only for major contributions as an educator, author, composer, performer and teacher, but as a man who thought beyond the box and helped to further enrich an already vibrant Victorian Ypsilanti community with his gift for music and his imaginative outlook. He also laid the foundation for the teaching of music by publishing textbooks on the subject for college music students.

Pease fathered nine children and, following his death in 1909, was remembered by his friends and students and by ordinary citizens, as a kind man with a good sense of humor. During my research for this article, I discovered a five-page handwritten document in which Pease highlights some of the events of his productive life. It’s not often that a “ghost from the past” helps write an article for the GLEANINGS, but that document will serve as the basis for what you are about to read. I have enriched the narrative with materials from various books, publications, and university and family records, and also with the kind assistance of several Pease descendants.

Frederic Pease begins his narrative by tell ing us a little about his family. In about 1634, his family emigrated from England to Salem, Massachusetts as part of the Puritan migration. The Pease family was notable for its honesty, integrity and community involvement, virtues which were later reflected in Frederic Pease’s own character. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register records an example of the moral character of Frederic’s grandfather, Phineas Pease, who was a tanner and shoemaker, and had been a musician in the Revolutionary War. In purchasing land from an Indian, Phineas paid part of the agreed purchase price immediately, but still owed a large remainder. The Indian came to Phineas with the written agreement and asked him to keep it, since he would be gone for a time and wanted the document kept safe. Phineas tried to talk the Indian out of this arrangement, telling him that it was not a good way to do business, since he could easily be cheated out of his due. The Indian, however, insisted that he completely trusted and respected Phineas Pease and that the document would be safest in his possession. That trust was vindicated when the Indian returned. Phineas gave him back the paper and the money owed was eventually paid.

Peter Pindar Pease, Frederic’s father, was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1795, the eighth of 12 children of Betsey Lawrence and Phineas Pease. As a young man, Peter traveled west from Massachusetts and, on July 12, 1821, married Ruth H. Crocker, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, in the wilderness of Brownhelm, Ohio. Peter tells us in his own words of his early history as a pioneer: “In the fall of 1816, at the age of 21-and-a-half years, I left Stockbridge, my native place, to seek my fortune in the West and settled in what is now called Brownhelm, then an entire wilderness, and known as Town No. 6 in the nineteenth range of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Three young men of us built the first house in town, and wintered there in the employ of Col. Henry Brown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. From whence a colony was formed of about twenty families, who settled the town, enjoying the pleasures and suffering the privations of a pioneer life, common to all new settlements. I, with my family of five children, left Brownhelm in April, 1833, for the express purpose of commencing the Oberlin enterprise (in) dense forest, and thus took a second trial of pioneering, which was much shorter than the first, and I have been an eye-witness to what God hath wrought in and for this place, and for this great valley of the Mississippi, and do praise and magnify his name.”

There is an interesting family story, passed down through the generations, regarding the oxen-pulled wagon trip made from Brownhelm by Peter Pease and his family, which led to the founding of Oberlin College, the first co-ed college on the continent. It seems that Peter’s wife, Ruth Crocker Pease, had had a dream about founding the college, which she believed to be a message from God. After the wagon carrying the Pease family had traveled many miles through the woods, it came to a place Ruth had seen in her dream. There the wagon stopped, and the pioneers aboard disembarked to begin the project of building a college and a new community. Peter’s nephew, young Alonzo Pease, had accompanied the Pease family on its trip. He grew up to become a noted American artist, who, among many other works, painted portraits of several Pease family members, including the one shown here of Peter Pindar Pease, now on display at Oberlin College.

Time magazine credits Peter Pindar Pease with being the first settler on 500 acres of land claimed by Jean Frederick Oberlin, who envisioned building on the site an institution designed for “the diffusion of useful science, sound morality, and pure religion."

In an article about the “History of Oberlin College,” published November 2, 2007, we read that “In the spring of 1833, the first settler, Peter Pindar Pease, built his log house at the center of Oberlin. That December, 29 men and 15 women students began classes in the Oberlin Collegiate Institute.” Two years later circulars describing Oberlin noted that “youths are received as members irrespective of color.” As a result, by the turn of the century, one-third of all African-American graduates of predominately white institutions in the United States had graduated from Oberlin. Furthermore, in 1841, four women graduates from Oberlin were the first ever in America to receive AB degrees.

Peter helped to make his wife Ruth’s dream a reality by his physical labor. Patricia Murphy of Oberlin College, who is Director of the college’s Heritage Center, was interviewed by The Chronicle Telegram in 2010. Murphy offers additional details about Peter Pease’s role in establishing the college, a distinction later captured in the portrait painted in 1842 by his nephew Alonzo and donated to the college by a family member. Murphy states that during this time Peter was living in a log cabin. He had arrived by ox team with his wife and five children on April 19, 1833, There is an interesting family story and immediately started to clear the land, along with others who had joined the Pease family as pioneers of the Oberlin Colony. Pease helped to construct the buildings of the college, the town, and the church. It was during this time Frederic Henry Pease was born, on August 24, 1839. He was the seventh of 12 children of Peter and Ruth. He was five years old when the picture of his father was painted by his cousin, so we can assume that, like Abraham Lincoln, Frederic Henry Pease was born in the humble enclosure of a log cabin.

The Life of Frederic Pease

Frederic Pease gives us an account of his life as a child in the Oberlin wilderness in a narrative penned in his own hand, in the third person, on his own Normal State College stationary. Some of the material in the Pease account is the same as that included in a later article about Pease ascribed to Austin George, which appeared in a 1900 book, compiled by Daniel Putnam, entitled The History of the Michigan State Normal. It is my guess that Pease provided George his own account to serve as source material for the later article. In his own third-person narrative, Pease writes: “Music has always been a prominent feature in the curriculum of Oberlin and the young Frederic Pease received his education. He sang in the celebrated Oberlin choir before his voice changed and afterward played the violin in the same choir. Later, in his early manhood he studied with B. F. Baker, a well known musician at that time and also with B. J. Lang, both of the leading musicians of Boston. Mr. Pease (meaning himself) tells how, when he was a small boy, a singing school was started at his home and how he finally persuaded his father to give him the money to join. But there was a book to buy and the money for that he had to earn himself. He asked a farmer to let him ride on his horse while he was plowing. It was hard work. The farmer was particular about having the horse go very close to a certain tree standing in the field and every time the tree was passed the boy’s legs rubbed against the rough bark. It was painful, but in the end the dollar mastered and Pease took his first singing lessons.” Although Pease does not mention it in his autobiographical sketch, he also learned as a young man to play the piano forte.

More is written about Pease’s early exposure to music in an article entitled “Dedication of New Normal Auditorium Gives Life to Memory of Eminent Musician and Beloved Citizen,” published in the Ypsilantian newspaper on June 23, 1915. The reporter tells us: “The family environment in those early years did not include opportunity for hearing music nor encouragement in its study, but he (meaning Frederic) was even when a child precociously musical, and his brother Walter was called by the Indians the ‘wood dove’ because of his voice. When a mere lad he attempted the construction of a violin, and he once asserted that the first joy of his life was when permitted to turn the leaves of music for a violin player. Practicing on the organ at Oberlin, though a deeply coveted privilege, was one that did not fall to the aspiring lad. In after years he was greeted in his home town with an enthusiasm which must have been very consoling. Through determined application, availing himself of such opportunities as arose, he had attained some measure of ability when, at the age of eighteen Prof. E. M. Foote, a familiar name to Ypsilanti people, came into his life.”

In his own third-person account, Frederic writes: “Mr. Pease did his first teaching at Meadville, Pennsylvania at the age of sixteen. Later he taught pupils in music at Oberlin.” Additional details on Pease’s early life are found in an article in the Michigan Library Bulletin for March/ April, 1926. We read that “at the age of eighteen he left Oberlin and traveled with Professor E. M. Foote, holding musical conventions until 1859, when he settled in Ypsilanti as teacher of the piano.” The same year he married a beautiful young student at the Normal, Josephine A. Dolson. Josephine’s parents were Ann Eliza Stevens and Leviticus Euphrates Dolson. Levi’s father was a trader born in Canada. He was a tanner and fur trader and contemporary of Father Gabriel Richard, who was a friend, and very influential in the founding of Detroit and Michigan. It is said that he looked so much like Father Richard that he posed for a statue of that influential priest.”

In his article, Austin George tells us that “In December, 1863, he (Pease) was appointed Professor of Music in the Normal School, which position he has held with marked success, until the present time.” (“The present time” is probably 1900, when the George article about Pease appeared in the History of the Michigan State Normal.) “For the purpose of preparing himself more thoroughly for his work,” George continues, “he spent the year 1863 in Boston under the instruction of the best teachers that city afforded. When he returned to Ypsilanti in 1864 he was given the position of the chairman of the music department at the Michigan State Normal School. The harmonium (pump organ) was the only instrument in the school. Through the Musical Union, in connection with the Normal choir, a better class of music was presented to the people and musical interest spread throughout the state. Better music was demanded and better teachers … (were) made part of the regular course in the Normal.”

About 1874 Pease purchased a beautiful rosewood square grand piano for the Normal and selected an identical one for his friend, Frederick Swaine, a maltster and a prominent Ypsilanti citizen who had just built a fine home at North River and East Forest in Ypsilanti. Both men were participants in musical performances and conducted vocal music in Ypsilanti; they also later became founders of the Musical Union. Frederic Pease referred to his friend Frederick Swaine as “The Father of Classical Music in Michigan’, citing him for his influence in selecting music for performances. The square grand piano at the Normal is long gone and forgotten. However, I am glad to say, as writer of this piece and long-time occupant of the Swaine House, that I was able to purchase with the home itself in 1965 the very piano Frederic Pease selected for Frederick Swaine––which is identical to the one Pease himself purchased for the Normal in 1874. We had the piano restored to its original condition by dint of the love, determination, talent, and prayer of an 88- year-old blind man and his wife. It graces our parlor in the Swaine House to this day, and whenever I pass by it, I’m reminded of both Freds, Pease and Swaine, and their passion for music.

Educating Teachers on How Music Should Be Taught

Frederic Pease was chairman of the music department at the Michigan State Normal College, but he had another great interest. Because music was a required course for graduation, Pease wanted to make sure students were instructed in the art as effectively as possible. At the time no textbooks were available to assist teachers, so Pease took it upon himself to write one, along with several other books on music and his own compositions. Austin George writes this in his article on Pease in The History of the Michigan State Normal: “In the field of authorship, Professor Pease’s labors have been voluminous and successful. He is joint author of The Western Bell and sole author of The Musical Lyra, both published by Ditson & Co., of Boston. He is also author of The Crystal, published by S. Brainard of Cleveland, and joint author with Walter Hewitt of a Harmony Manual. His latest book (in about 1900), Pease’s Singing Book, published by Ginn & Co., Boston, is now the regular text-book in the Michigan Normal. He wrote the cantata, “The Old Clock on the Stairs,” published by Whitney of Detroit, which he had the honor of conducting in Italy with the pupils of Madame Filippi, and which the Italian critical musical journal, Artistico Mundo, spoke of in terms of high commendation. He has also written an operetta “Enoch Arden,” which has been performed several times and received with marked favor, but which has not yet been published.”

Other Musical Activities

All of this output, however, failed to exhaust Frederic’s creative energies. He performed as an organist for a church in Jackson, Michigan for seven years; for another church in Detroit for 15 years; and for a church in Ypsilanti for five years. In an article entitled “Michigan Musicians,” in the Michigan Library Bulletin for March/April, 1926, we learn these additional details about Pease’s career: “He was also president of the Michigan Music Teachers’ Association, three times. In addition to his teaching in the Normal and to the establishing of the Conservatory and raising it to a high rank among kindred institutions he taught voice culture and singing nine years in the Detroit Conservatory of Music; had charge of the work at Bay View for three years; and was educator at the National summer School of Chicago. Mr. Pease organized the Ypsilanti Musical Union in 1870 which was long a flourishing society and which was finally absorbed in the Normal choir, whose concerts were the musical event of the college and the town and which still rank very high under the direction of his successor, Prof. Frederick Alexander…” We also learn in the “Michigan Musicians” article that, while Pease was recognized as a king among conductors, he was also well known as a composer and a compiler of musical works. Among his compositions are the following: “Charge Them That are Rich,” “The Crystal,” “He is There,” “Life’s Story,” “The Old Clock on the Stairs,” “Pilgrim and Stranger,” “Psalm of Life,” “Reaper and Flowers,” “Remember Thy Creator,” “Te Deum Laudamus,” and “When the Heart is Young.”

The Impact on Ypsilanti

Frederic Pease did much to enrich the community of Ypsilanti. A major contribution was the Ypsilanti Musical Union, which Pease helped organize in 1870 with his friend Frederick Swaine. Austin George offers these details about the Musical Union: “Walter Hewitt was the pianist, and Professor Pease was the first conductor, and so continued during the fifteen years of life of the society. This was one of the finest organizations ever formed in the West, and did wonders for musical culture all over the State. A mere mention of some of the selections rendered will give an idea of the character of the work done: there were given the “Messiah”… , “The Creation,” and “Elijah” and “St. Paul”…, the operas “Martha,” “Bohemian Girl,” “Chimes of Normandy” and “Pinafore”; also Mozart’s “Twelfth Mass,” Mercadente’s “Four-Voiced Mass,” Haydn’s “Second,” and Gounod’s “St. Cecilia Mass.”

Professor Pease’s friend and co-founder of the Ypsilanti Musical Union, Frederick Swaine, who had had an excellent musical education in London before he emigrated to Ypsilanti, wrote a review of the opera “Martha,” conducted by Pease and performed the evenings of December 9 and 10, 1875. Swaine wrote: “It was a great undertaking being the first time that an opera on the same scale has been given by amateurs in this state. The performance from beginning to end ran smoothly and without a flaw reflecting credit on Professor Pease and others connected with the training. The chorus was exceptionally good and has been highly praised by visitors from other cities both for the singing and acting.”

The Ypsilanti Musical Union was so successful that by 1880 the Ypsilanti Opera House was built as a venue for its performances. In The Story of Ypsilanti, written in 1923 by Harvey C. Colburn, we read about the Opera House: “The building was of exceptional tastefulness and beauty for the period. The material was red brick with black brick facings, the structure being surmounted by a dome, and this by ornamental iron work. The interior was of considerable beauty. The ceiling decorations included the medallion portraits of Longfellow, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Byron, Scott, and very properly, in the company of these notables, Ypsilanti’s own Professor Frederic H. Pease.”

The photograph of the Ypsilanti Musical Union performing H.M.S. Pinafore at the Ypsilanti Opera House, while Pease was studying music in Europe in 1882, shows an honorary picture of the conductor placed on the podium in front. You will also see his friend, Frederick Swaine, who played the role of Sir Joseph Porter, at the far upper left.

Education in Europe

Professor Pease had never graduated from college and believed that he needed to further his education in Europe under the finest musicians of the time. In 1881 he was granted leave from his position at the Normal to pursue that education. Austin George writes the following about this episode of Pease’s life: “Entering upon his work at the Normal in 1864, the duties, responsibilities, and possibilities of the position soon convinced him that he needed a culture and training not to be found in this country; and so under ‘leave of absence’ he went abroad to study with the masters of Germany and Italy, and to make inspection of European schools and methods of teaching. In Germany he entered the Kings Conservatory, Dresden, and was a pupil of Herr Professor Gustav Scharfe, and of Herr Jannssen, on the piano and organ, and also of Herr Pohl in composition and counterpoint. In Italy, he studied at Milan, as a pupil of the celebrated San Giovanni and of Madame Fillippi. He visited the schools of Switzerland and of England, especially London, inspecting the methods of teaching, and he visited the principal cities of Italy, such as Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice, to hear operas and concerts.”

A Warm and Humorous Man

Despite all of his culture and education, Professor Pease was recognized by all who knew him as a warm and humorous man. Nora B. Harsh was one of his students and a graduate of the Normal in 1892. She remembered this about Pease when she was in her mid-80s: “Frederic H. Pease was a teacher’s teacher. He studied in Europe with every great voice…. He knew every method in the world, and brought these ideas to his pupils. He taught singing as a science before he did as an art, thus the voice lasted. Due to his teaching, two voice teachers with studios in the Fine Arts Building (both had studied in Europe) came to me for lessons. One said, ‘You have a gorgeous voice. I want to learn how it is done.’ (I was 83.) “I started piano with Mr. Pease (he didn’t want to be called professor) when I was eleven and was in his care until I graduated at both the conservatory and Normal in 1892, twelve years. Such a handsome man, and sarcastic. He would assemble pupils who were to give a recital and admonish them, ‘Look at the audience. Don’t watch me. I can play the accompaniments without your help. And you needn’t carry a handkerchief – it won’t hold you up, but if you have a pretty fan, I suppose you will carry it. Don’t pay any attention how you sing your song, except the first note, because all will be matching, and the last note, so to get applause.’ I could write a book about Frederic H. Pease, but all of the above, because I hope it will never be forgotten that he was great!”

I have a recording made by Frederick Swaine’s daughter, Jesse Swaine, when she was over 80 years old. In it, she reads a letter that Professor Pease had written to her father from Germany in 1881, telling him of his travels and study. The letter is filled with humor and warmth, and much teasing. Pease seems to be enjoying the atmosphere of the German beer houses as much as any high culture––perhaps partly in jest with Fred Swaine, who was a maltster by trade in Ypsilanti. In any case, Pease looked forward to returning to Ypsilanti, and it is apparent that he is very enthusiastic about his various projects there, including the choir and Musical Union.

Two Happy Marriages Frederic Pease seemed to be blessed with much harmony in his personal, as well as his professional, life. On November 7, 1859, the year that he settled in Ypsilanti, he married Josephine Antoinette Dolsen, who died on November 19, 1877, after giving birth to the couple’s eighth child. Upon her death, the newspaper The Ypsilantian commented that Josephine’s “loveliness of face and character” had become Ypsilanti “traditions.” An obituary in The Ypsilantian of November 24, 1877 states simply: “Died, [Josephine A. Pease, daughter of Levi E. Dolson of Detroit and beloved wife of Professor Frederick H. Pease, November 19, 1877, age 37 years. Mrs. Pease was married in 1859, having been a student at the Michigan State Normal School. She and her husband united with the Episcopal Church. She leaves five children, the oldest a daughter of 15.” The eldest daughter referenced in the obituary later became a noted musician in her own right. The Episcopal Church is St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on North Huron Street. When his wife died, Pease had a stained glass window – now (2012) in storage -- made for the church in her honor.

One of Frederic and Josephine’s sons, Marshall, remembered several incidents from his childhood, which were recorded in an undated Detroit newspaper story. He tells the reporter that as a child he often took the train into Detroit with his father, where Frederic went weekly in order to play the organ for the Unitarian Church. “Sometimes there would be a sumptuous dinner at the Antisdel House or the Michigan Exchange. An indulgent grandfather (Levi Dolsen, who was on the Detroit Public Schools school board and lived in the city) would generally endow him with a dollar on these expeditions. This money would be lavishly expended in excursions on the street cars and an occasional foray to the tower of the city hall.” Marshall tells of a funny incident that happened, when he was a young lad, in Ypsilanti. He was required to pump the organ at St. Luke’s Church while his father was giving an organ lesson to a woman student. It was a hot day for October and Marshall was wearing his red flannel, onepiece winter underwear. As he pumped the bellows full of air he became hotter and hotter and started to remove the layers of clothing he was wearing. He thought it would be a good idea to rid himself of the itchy and warm, long underwear and as he was removing them, his head somehow got stuck in the clothing. He couldn’t help a muffled scream. The Victorian lady pupil came running to his aid and pulled the stuck garment off of him and fled the church.

The writer of this article, George W. Stark, goes on to tell us that, as an adult, Marshall Pease was “made a life honorary member of the Guild of Former Pipe Organ Pumpers” and his written citation proclaimed that he was the “only nude organ-pumper in the entire organization.”

Frederic Pease married a second time ten years later in 1887, to an Abbie Hunter from Kalamazoo. As reported again in The Ypsilantian: “At Kalamazoo,” the notice reads, “occurred the marriage of Miss Abbie J. Hunter, a former Normal Conservatory student to Prof. F. H. Pease. After a trip to Detroit, they will take up residence in the Professor’s home on Congress Street (in Ypsilanti). A magnificent floral design consisting of a wish-bone and standard (the latest conceits for wedding offerings), has been received here from Detroit by the Normal choir. It will be forwarded to Kalamazoo to be presented with compliments and congratulations of the choir to Prof. Pease and his bride.”

The End of a Creative Life In 1901, Frederic and Abbie, with their daughter Helen, who had been born in Ypsilanti in 1889, moved into a 5000-squarefoot residence at 35 South Summit Street. It was in this home that Fred Pease died, on March 22, 1909. The newspaper headline was stark: “PROF. F. H. PEASE IS DEAD – WELL LOVED HEAD OF THE NORMAL CONSERVATORY PASSED AWAY MONDAY NIGHT – Had Been Ill Five Weeks – Heart Failure was Immediate Cause of Death” The story under the headline offers details on Pease’s demise: “Prof. Pease was taken ill about five weeks ago with jaundice. It was supposed that he was recovering but Saturday night his heart gave out. A consultation of doctors including Dr. Britton, his family physician, Dr. Vaughan, and Dr. Flinterman of Detroit, was held and it was decided to operate Tuesday but his condition changed suddenly and the end came unexpectedly Monday night.” The article also notes that Frederic, at the time of his death, was worried about his wife Abbie’s health and that she was in a sanitarium. His youngest daughter Helen was in school in New York.

The obituary offers information about Pease’s long career and accomplishments, and includes a statement from a colleague at the Normal College, a Professor Strong, which expresses the highest praise: “The sudden death of Professor Pease this morning will be received everywhere with the greatest surprise and grief. Few men in the state - almost none in his profession - were more widely known or more highly esteemed. During the forty-six years since he came to Ypsilanti as a young man to take charge of the music department of the Normal school he has sent out from this institution a host of young people full of enthusiasm for good music and grateful to him for the help and inspiration which he had given them. What mourning there will be today throughout the State, and far beyond its borders over the loss of the beloved teacher, and friend; and how many voices will be heard humming again the music that he taught them years ago and which they will never forget. In the college itself Professor Pease will be most deeply mourned. He was the senior member of the faculty and as greatly beloved for his personal qualities as he was honored for his devotion to his noble art.”

One of Pease’s students, Grace Madison, learned of Frederic’s death and the next day took his chipped and well-worn conductor’s baton from a music stand as a memento of her beloved teacher. She kept and “cherished” the baton as a keepsake, but her conscience ultimately got the better of her. In September, 1948, college authorities received the baton as a gift from the former student.

In a 1949 Ypsilanti newspaper article, headlined “Baton of Frederic H. Pease among Centennial Keepsakes,” Madison is quoted as saying, “I knew eventually, that [the baton] should be returned to the college.” The thrust of the article, however, was to promote a centennial pageant to be staged by the Normal College in commemoration of Professor Pease. We read that a Professor Haydn Morgan, then the conservatory director, “has the baton now and will use it (on May 19, 1949) to conduct a rendition of Prof. Pease’s arrangement of ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ as part of a historical pageant presentation. Prof. Morgan describes the instrument as short and heavy and chipped slightly on one end. Though noticeably aged, it is not too far fetched to conjecture that it might be the same baton that conducted renditions of ‘The Creation,’ an oratorio by Haydn, which Prof. Pease instituted as an annual campus tradition during his lifetime, and which will be especially presented in memoriam during the centennial under the baton of Prof. Morgan.”

Thirty-six years earlier, on June 22, 1909, at Normal Hall, three months after Pease’s death, the Normal College had honored his life with a presentation of music and tributes entitled “Exercises in Memory of the Late Professor Frederic H. Pease.” We read in the program for the event that “The selections composing the…program were taken from Professor Pease’s own compositions. They are the ones in which he was especially interested. The program is as follows: 1. “A Psalm of Life,” then a prayer; 2. “Remember Now Thy Creator,” followed by a Memorial Address by Rev. Reed Stuart of Detroit, a Pastor’s Tribute by Rev. Wm. Gardam, and a Faculty Tribute by Prof. E. A. Strong. 3. Performances of “Ships That Pass in the Night” and “Life’s Story,” finished by 4.“The Lord’s Prayer.” Frederic was survived by his wife Abbie, who moved to Kalamazoo, worked as a librarian and died in 1953 at the age of 88; their daughter Helen Helen Pease Crisp; and five of the eight children born to his first wife Josephine. The children included Jessie Pease, who became a noted musician and world traveler; Ruth Pease Johnson of Toronto; Max L. Pease, then living in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; Marshall J. Pease of Detroit, who was a music teacher in the Detroit Public Schools; and Frederick I. Pease of Chicago.

On June 22, 1915, the newly built Pease Auditorium was dedicated and named for this beloved member of the Normal College faculty who was so instrumental in forming the basis of a musical education for all. Among the many testimonials to Frederic Pease’s extraordinary qualities and accomplishments, one stands out that is perhaps the most germane of all. It is this moving tribute to his teaching abilities and warmth: “As a teacher he invested every subject with charm. So inspiring were his classes dealing with public school methods that a great impetus was given that teaching throughout the state. Seating himself at the piano he would illustrate and illuminate a point in his theory classes with clever improvisations.”

Pease Auditorium too was one of Frederic’s dreams. It was made a reality in 1915, and has been the showplace ever since for local and international talent that continues to make fine music available to the citizens of Ypsilanti. In providing that service, Pease Auditorium is a fitting testament to Frederic H. Pease, whose lifelong mission was to introduce the common people to good music that would enrich and inspire their lives.

(Jan Anscheutz is a regular contributor to the GLEANINGS.]

Panorama (bird’s eye) views of Ypsilanti show forgotten details

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2011,
Winter 2011
Original Images:

He painted our town
Albert Ruger (1829-1899)
was the first to achieve success as a panoramic artist. Two hundred and thirteen maps drawn or pub- lished by Ruger or Ruger & Stoner are on exhibit in the Library of Congress. Most came from Ruger’s personal collection. Born in Prussia, Ruger came to the U.S. and started work as a mason. While with the Ohio Volunteers during the Civil War, he drew views of Union campsites. Perhaps his best known print is a lithograph of Lincoln’s funeral car passing the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

By 1866, Ruger had settled in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he be- gan his prolific panoramic mapping career by sketching Michigan cities. In 1868 he added Ypsilanti to his list of municipal exploits. His perspective map of Ypsilanti was one of forty he completed in 1868, and one of thirty-three in Michigan during his career. He did a view of Ann Arbor in 1880. He went on to sketch towns in twen- ty-two states from New Hampshire to Minnesota and as far south as Georgia and Alabama. After moving to Chicago, Madison, and St. Louis, he partnered with J.J. Stoner of Wisconsin.

Twenty-two years later, we had it done again
C. J. Pauli,
of Milwaukee, Wisc., sketched Ypsilanti in 1890 fea- turing in-sets for Tubal Owen’s Atlantic Wells, Dr. Pratt’s Forest Avenue Sanitarium, The Cleary Business College, and 56 individu- al listings represented by tiny numbers placed around the drawing.

Photo caption: A detail from Albert Ruger’s 1860 panorama of Ypsilanti shows River Street, the depot, mills, freight yards, and the sluices that eventually helped to create Frog Island

General on Display

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2011,
Summer 2011
Original Images:

In the “Demetrius! Where are you?” story in the Spring Issue of the Gleanings, James Mann discussed various portraits of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Bill Anhut gave us a copy of the following article that appeared in the Ypsilanti Press in 1973.

“General on Display – Self-taught artist painted Ypsilanti: Ypsilanti has a self-tutored artist, the late Edward I. Thompson, to thank for the painting of Demetrius Ypsilanti which now hangs in the Huron Hotel on loan from its owner, Charles L. McKie.

Mr. Thompson never took art instruction but had an unusual talent both for portraiture and landscapes.

The picture of the Greek general for whom Ypsilanti was named was painted in the sign painting and decoration shop of Mr. McKie while he was still doing business in the depot business section. Mr. Thompson turned to drawing and painting when he retired and rented a portion of the McKie shop as a studio.

Both men were interested in the Ypsilanti portrait and collaborated in photographing the statue at the water tower. Step-ladders were used to obtain close ups of the features.

The first version was pleasing to the artist as it was to Miss Gertrude Woodward, who makes her home at the hotel. She had it artistically framed in hand rubbed black walnut and it was presented to the City of Ypsilanti. For a number of years it hung in the council chambers.

It disappeared, possibly about the time the chambers were moved from the first to the second floor. Searches of stored material in City Hall and through the city historical collection have failed to reveal it.

Luckily Mr. Thompson liked the picture. He never made duplicates unless he was pleased, and in this case he made the second one for Mr. McKie.

Mr. McKie has other pictures by Mr. Thompson. One, called “Scrooge,” never fails to bring comment at the Mackraft Shop, 172 N. Washington St., where it is displayed.

An interesting picture of the old toll gate on Michigan Ave., painted from memory, is another interesting Thompson picture. It was given to the American Legion Post 282.

Before 1900 Mr. Thompson was the leading decorator in Ypsilanti but gradually relinquished his business as the O. E. Thompson Manufacturing Co. took more and more of his time. He was always interested in art but did not devote much time to it until his later years.”

Photo Captions:

Photo: Ypsilanti’s portrait on display: This picture of Gen. Demetrius Ypsilanti is hung in the lobby of the Huron Hotel by the manager, William A. Anhut, in preparation for the formal presentation Tuesday of “Project 73,” the plans for the city’s sesquicentennial. The portrait is the work of the late Edward Thompson and was loaned by Charles L. McKie. Mr. Thompson, a leading decorator and industrialist in Ypsilanti, turned to art in his retirement. (Press Photo)

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