The Michigan State Fairgrounds were selected as the new home for the stove. The stove, together with the flatbed truck used for the move to this new site, required 27 feet of clearance. An 18-mile route was drawn up for the truck to avoid overpasses and other low-hanging obstructions. Detroit Edison and Michigan Bell workers were included in the stove’s procession to raise and—if necessary—cut low-hanging power and utility lines. The stove left its long-time home at 4:16 a.m. on Sunday, April 11, 1965 to avoid as much traffic as possible. The rather convoluted route took the stove, crawling at about five miles per hour, east on Jefferson to St. Jean Street, then north to Mack Avenue. From there it headed east to Conner Street, on which it stayed until veering west along McNichols Road to Van Dyke Avenue. From Van Dyke it proceeded north to 8 Mile Road. The direct path along 8 Mile to Woodward Avenue was blocked by a railroad overpass, so the route called for the stove to snake around to the Fairgrounds by taking Oakland Street (where I-75 presently runs) south back to McNichols. From there the stove had a clear path west to Woodward, then north to the bus terminal turnaround at the Fairgrounds. After just over nine hours, the stove arrived at the fairgrounds, where it was installed opposite the bus stop.
Despite the giant stove’s long trek, it was still not out of harm’s way. By 1974, the then 80-year old wooden monument had fallen into disrepair. It was dismantled and moved away from the elements into storage. Although it was out of view for the next 24 years, the stove never vanished from the hearts of Detroiters. In time for the 150th anniversary of the Michigan State Fair in 1998, a fund raising campaign provided the Detroit Historical Museum the means to restore and reassemble the stove at the fairgrounds. Tragically, after another 13 years of display, the World’s Largest Stove was severely burned after being struck by lightning on August 14, 2011. Pieces of the charred remains were recently displayed in the Detroit Historical Museum. –B.R.
Much like the Kern Block, Kennedy Square was a mid-century development on the site of a razed historic Downtown Detroit building. Old City Hall stood from 1871 to 1961 on the west side of Campus Martius. Although its demolition was bitterly contested, arguments against the building’s unfashionable color and style, lack of fire safety, and outdated elevators and plumbing eventually won out. The seat of government had already moved to the City-County Building in 1954, making the Old City Hall obsolete.
In its place appeared Old City Hall Park, a placeholder until the site could be redeveloped. This spartan park lasted until 1965 when it was torn up to construct a parking garage capped by a concrete plaza named Kennedy Square. A large fountain dominated the new park but it was plagued with problems. Leaks, maintenance costs, and safety concerns lead to the water being turned off for the final time in the late 1970s. The barren plaza then stood without improvement until construction began on One Kennedy Square in 2005.
Many more images of Kennedy Square can be found in our online digital collection. – D.S.
The Kern Block is one of Downtown’s quickly forgotten landmarks from the recent past. Today you will find the modern Compuware Building sitting on its site, but from 1966 to 1999 it was a large and mostly empty city park. Unlike most Downtown parks, the pentagon shaped greenspace lacked shade trees, monuments or fountains. At the heart of the Campus Martius area, it perennially failed to attract development.
The park got its name from Kern’s department store which expanded on the block from 1900 until its closing in 1959 and demolition in 1966. This foreshadowed the closing and eventual demolition of the Hudsons department store across Gratiot Avenue. The widely recognized clock on the exterior of Kern’s was saved and rededicated on the site where it can still be seen today. – D.S.
When you picture the anniversaries of major automobile companies, what do you imagine? Do you think of big sales or elaborate displays or advertisements about the company’s history? Packard has had some interesting anniversary promotions. For example in 1949, which was the 50th anniversary, Packard had 2000 automobiles painted a custom gold color. There were also golden coins to celebrate the 50th anniversary. However those are for the big anniversary dates, for small yearly ones companies might just have advertisements releasing information about the new automobiles being released that year. For example there is a picture in the collection of a 1930’s Packard advertisement showing a birthday cake with the message “Packard cuts itself a piece of cake.” The advertisement was made to look like a birthday card and had information about the new Packard automobiles inside.
- Sarah Marsack, Wayne State University Graduate Student
In an effort to stave off the bankruptcy that had doomed- or was soon to doom- other luxury car makers such as Cord, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow and Auburn, Packard President Alvan Macauley introduced the Packard 120 in 1935. This car, a far cry from the company’s previous commitment to luxury, was designed to appeal to the masses and appeal to them it did. 10,000 orders were placed, each with a down payment, before the first 120 rolled off of the assembly line.
The company’s slogan, “ask the man who owns one”, once a statement connected to elegance and stature, shifted to being a more inclusive message. Even Santa Claus helped to promote the company in a 1939 holiday parade in Hartford, Connecticut, a banner affixed to his Packard Eight stating “Now I’m the Man Who Owns One- Ask Me”, an important variation on the classic slogan. The average Hartford resident may not have been able to afford such a posh model but a Packard was still within their reach.The company would advertise “senior” and “junior” line models to their respective demographics for a few years thereafter but with Macauley’s departure and Max Gilman’s installation as company president, the lines blurred and the previous luxury automobiles built by hand were moved onto the assembly line with the “junior” line models. It would be only a matter of time before the company would be overtaken in terms of prestige.
- Robert Kett, Wayne State University Graduate Student
The rise and fall of the Packard Motor Car Company is a fascinating story. Promotional photographs from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s show their advertising campaigns and how they mirrored the company and the automobiles it produced.
In 1902 J.W. Packard wrote the first hit car slogan “Ask the man who owns one,” which was used until the company’s demise in 1958. This slogan, and its ubiquity in Packard promotional materials, has been considered an early version of reference selling, or as it’s known today “buzz marketing.” This slogan, rather than seeking consumer approval, or spurring consumers to action, encourages recommendation. Let the cars and the satisfaction of its owners speak for themselves, it says.
This slogan was as much a part of Packard’s identity as a company as was its trademark front grille. Many of the photographs from this collection highlight the grille in a way that may seem a little strange out of context, but when understood through the lens of the Packard brand identity make more sense.
Packard’s advertising was handled by the ad agency Young & Rubicam from 1932 to 1951. Young & Rubicam created ads that highlighted the quality of Packard cars. Well-built, long-lasting and well-designed cars were the hallmark of the automaker, and what made it stand out from lower-priced, high-production cars made by other automakers during the same time period. Packard initially prided itself on building quality cars, rather than building to a price point. Packard had an exhaustive testing program and built a large proving ground in Shelby Township, to test its cars, which was another distinctive aspect of the company played up in the ads created by Young & Rubicam.
In the end, Packard failed for a complex set of reasons under a complex set of circumstances. There is no consensus, or single cause for the failure of the automaker that was once at the top of the luxury car market. Even after its zenith in the roaring 20s, when Packard introduced the 120, a mid-range automobile, its sales were high. Yet through a series of missteps and a dried-up luxury car market in its later years, Packard was unable to compete in the new era of low and mid-range vehicles. The evolution of the company from a prestige automaker to mass-market car company relying primarily on its past reputation is reflected in its advertisements. According to Arthur Einstein, author of “Ask the Man Who Owns One,” the ads mirrored the machine itself, they “never promised anything it couldn’t deliver” until the 1950s as both met their demise.
The contributions made by the Packard Motor Car Co. during World War II are well known. Less is known, however, about the small role that a single Packard automobile played in the Mexican Revolution. This image is part of a series which depicts a Packard automobile, driven by an American driver, surrounded by armed Mexican revolutionaries. Two letters accompanying the photographs shed some light on the circumstances surrounding the images, and the reception of the photographs by a Packard executive.
The first letter, from Herbert M. Dawley to the Sales Manager at the Detroit Packard office, states that “These pictures were taken at the time of the overthrow of Diaz and this old Packard” was used “for reconnaisance [sic] and swift raids.” A reply from H.F. Olmsted, the Publicity Director at Packard, indicates a possibility that Packard “will be able to use” the photographs “to good advantage in a publicity way.” It is difficult to envision these images emblazoned with the iconic Packard slogan, “Ask the Man Who Owns One.” It is interesting, nevertheless, to consider the possibilities, and to be thankful that Mr. Olmsted did not choose to follow one of the suggestions made by Mr. Dawley to “consign [the photographs] to oblivion” and prevent these unique artifacts of the early international exploits of Packard automobiles from entering the Detroit Historical Society’s collection.
The full set of photographs documenting the Packard’s role in the Mexican Revolution can be viewed here as part of the Detroit Historical Society’s growing Packard Motor Car Co. digital collection.
-Dallas Pillen, Wayne State University Graduate Student