On July 23, 1872, Elijah J. McCoy patented the first automatic lubricator cup.
The son of former slaves, McCoy was born in Canada in 1843. After studying in Scotland, he returned to Canada as a mechanical engineer. In 1870, he took a job with the Michigan Central Railroad. There, he invented an automatic lubricator cup that eliminated the need for trains to make time-consuming stops to oil the locomotive bearings.
McCoy's device revolutionized the railroad business and brought the term "the real McCoy" into common usage.
Source: Michigan History magazine'
Three Michigan Historical Markers commemorate Mr. McCoy: at Registered Site S 642, erected 1994, at the Ypsilanti District Library, 229 W. Michigan in Ypsilanti; at Registered Site L 362, erected 1975, at Elijah McCoy Drive at Lincoln in Detroit; and at Registered Site L 392, erected 1976, at 4280 East 13 Mile Road in Warren (the Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery).
His move to Michigan retraced the route of the Underground Railroad that served escaping bondspeople like his parents and was a main factor leading to secession and then the Civil War.
PBS's American Experience -- a favorite show -- reminds us that "On July 23, 1885 Ulysses S. Grant died of throat cancer. At his funeral procession, a column of mourners seven miles long accompanied the late president's casket, and approximately 90,000 people from around the world donated over $600,000 to build Grant's Tomb." We are still in the midst of the Sesquicentennial, but taking a moment in silent commemoration of the death of this American hero is certainly timely and appropriate.
Grant died 129 years ago, age 63. But for a certain habit obtained during the war, he likely would have lived to see the new century. His departure from this life was met by an outpouring of mourning in Michigan. Its governor, Russell Alger, was a Civil War veteran. In Detroit, the house he and Julia had lived in was draped in funeral crepe and flowers.
The New York Times Opinionator blog Disunion had a column recently about Lincoln's pocket veto of the Wade-Davis bill on Reconstruction, and it recounted Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler's frustration over the action. Coincidentally, the Detroit Tigers were in Kansas City and faced a pitcher for the Royals named ... Wade Davis. So, what other possible major league pitchers might the Tigers face during the Civil War Sesquicentennial? Instead of Bull Durham, how about Bull Run? How about Wil Proviso?
An amazing article in The Vault, the history component to Slate magazine, contains a photo of a thank-you letter to John Q. Adams, who served as counsel for the Africans before the Supreme Court in the case of US v Amistad in 1841. The occasion for the piece is the 175th anniversary of the kidnapping of the Africans in July 1839. Here's the article: Rebecca Onion The actual document, along with the transcript, is very moving. Thank you, Ms. Onion, for reporting on this. Here is the Court's decision: Amistad case
It is rather amazing that the Van Buren Administration took the position that the Africans were not free men and should be turned over to their "masters." Martin Van Buren was the 8th President of the United States, the first born to have been born a U.S. citizen and leader of the national Democratic party. Can you imagine the way the press would report on this story today, as the attorney for the United States tried to convince the highest court in the land that these Africans should be held as slaves?
The Court was composed of these members: Joseph Story of Massachusetts, appointed by Madison; Smith Thompson of New York, appointed by Monroe; John McLean of Ohio, appointed by Jackson; Henry Baldwin of Pennsylvania, appointed by Jackson; James Moore Wayne of Georgia, appointed by Jackson; Roger Taney of Maryland, appointed by Jackson, chief justice by Jackson; John Catron of Tennessee, appointed by Jackson; and John McKinley of Alabama, appointed by Van Buren. One justice, Philip Pendleton Barbour, died on February 25, 1841, before the decision was decided on March 9, 1841. Its composition, then, included 4 Northerners, 3 Southerners, and 1 Border Stater, and only one had been appointed by a Northerner. Just twenty years before the Civil War ensued, the Court rendered a unanimous verdict and ordered the men set free. And Taney of future Dred Scott fame/infamy was part and parcel of the decision. Story, the senior member of the Court, delivered the decision.
Van Buren later went over to the Free Soil party, helping produce a defeat of the 1848 Democratic candidate Lewis Cass of Michigan, with Whig Zachary Taylor being elected. Cass and Van Buren had fallen out. History is curious.
Nice story on WKAR-FM out of East Lansing about a little known property in Detroit. O.B. Curtis, chronicler of the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, sums it up: 'The Detroit Riding Park, or old State Fair Ground, was designated as the place of rendezvous and called "Camp Barns," after Henry Barns, editor of the Advertiser and Tribune. The field extended from Woodward to Cass avenue, and from Alexandrine avenue on the south to a point a few rods north of Canfield avenue.' (p. 38)
The story about the muster point for this immortal regiment from Michigan, part of the famed Iron Brigade, is here: Pohl interview
It would indeed be great if some civic minded resource stepped forward and sponsored a State Historical Marker ...
Rich Janney's To The Boys On The Other Side, a semi-fictional story of the 18th Michigan Infantry, in narrated version is now available for purchase to download in iTunes and also through Amazon and Audible. iTunes has a sample available for listening. The book is very good, and the narration is just as good, with a reader who clearly knows how to engage the listener.
I received an email from a friend forwarding the NYTimes piece on "The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Salmon P. Chase." This was a fateful year for the erstwhile presidential candidate.
Our ties in Michigan to Salmon Chase, she says: "an infant born in Indiana was named for him; the baby was Chase Salmon Osborn. In 1911, he became governor of Michigan after a career in mineral hunting and newspapers in the UP. His granddaughter, Ann (Osborn) Pratt, was married to Stanley R. Pratt, publisher of the Soo Evening News and a friend/confidante of Gov. William G. Milliken.
Interesting to think that a frontier family named a baby for one of the premier abolitionists of the day, especially considering that southern Indiana was so sympathetic to the South."
Indeed. Also interesting that yours truly did not make the connection between SPC and CSO before this email. Chase is a rather 'cool' man's name, so shame on the blogger for assuming it had nothing to do with the great Ohioan! Thanks to his friend for enlightening him.
American Civil War Years: The Michigan Experience (The Reenactors' Telling) has just been released! Haven't seen it yet but excited about the prospect. Blurbs say this: "This beautiful photo book features the reenactors of the American Civil War era as their actions tell the stories of the going off to war, camp life, battles and surrender. It also covers the politics and the society of the time." It "focuses on Michigan's role in the Civil War and its many contributions to the war effort. It highlights the roles of women both in battle and in society at the time. It also highlights African-Americans and Native Americans who fought for the Union cause along with the rest of Michigan's 90,000 soldiers. In addition, the book offers a bounty of resources about Michigan's Civil War history to encourage a variety of learning activities and day trips for families and classrooms alike."
The authors, editors, and contributors are folks devoted to the Michigan Civil War story. It's available on Amazon, and hopefully in many outlets. Congrats to those involved!
The New York Times "Disunion" series continues to run, and a recent blog post tells the story, poignantly so, of Michigander Payson Wolf, private in Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters regiment, and his ordeal after capture in front of Petersburg. Wolf was an Odawa, son of a chief. The blog is here: American Indians in the Confederacy
It is exciting also to read in the sources listed at the end of the article this: 'Chris Czopek, author of “Who Was Who in Company K.” I am indebted and grateful to Mr. Czopek for generously sharing his knowledge and vast collection of resources. He is at work on a definitive history of Company K.' That is worth waiting for!
P.S. It's been almost a month since the last post here. To our vast complement of loyal readers an explanation is due. There's been an attempt since Remembrance Day weekend to upload some photos from recent events, unsuccessfully (obviously), but the effort will continue so that original and fresh content will resume here. Soon, it is hoped.