The capsized Erie Sand Steamship Company freighter SIDNEY E. SMITH JR. was the focus of an early high profile operation by Marine Pollution Control. On June 5, 1972, the SMITH collided with another freighter, the PARKER EVANS, along the St. Clair River near Port Huron. While the EVANS was left afloat with a damaged bow, the SMITH rolled onto its starboard side, sinking in thirty feet of water. With this new impediment lying across the bed of the St. Clair River, the river’s currents began sweeping the river bottom from beneath the hull. As the bow began to sink deeper, the hull began to break apart exposing vulnerable fuel tanks which held 49,000 gallons of oil. Marine Pollution Control was among an international team of organizations tasked with mitigating this impending disaster.
In order to contain the fuel spilled and within the wreck’s tanks, Marine Pollution Control and the U.S. Coast Guard National Strike Force deployed oil containment booms—barriers that float on the surface of the water. With these precautions in place, the team cut through the exposed portion of the ship’s hull to access its tanks. Marine Pollution Control employed their vacuum barge, the BUDA II, to help pump oil from the wreck. The instability of the still-crumbling wreck, and the cold water temperatures which caused the oil to congeal, created stumbling blocks for the operation. Despite these issues the oil-removal portion of the effort was successfully concluded on June 14, leaving the task of removal of the wreck itself to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Marine Pollution Control is one of many groups who help negotiate the uneasy dual nature of our waterways as both a fragile ecosystem yet also as an important vein of industry and commerce. This duality is further explored in the exhibit, “Troubled Waters: Healing Our Freshwater Habitats,” currently open at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum until June 2015. –B.R.
We all know “New York, New York” and “Sweet Home Chicago”, but does Detroit have its own quintessential anthem? Browsing through the many hundreds of sheet music titles in our online digital collection, you will come across dozens of pieces that have been written about the city through the years. Most were probably published with the hopes of becoming that one song to endure as the city’s calling card. It seems that each generation takes a stab at composing a memorable melody about Detroit, but none have yet to stick. Which of these do you think we should revive?
Our earliest examples are instrumentals, played to accompany dances in the 1850s. The first to have lyrics was “Detroit”, composed in 1899. Several songs were written for events: “Hang Your Hat in Detroit” welcomed the 1910 Elks Grand Lodge Reunion, “A Real, Live, Regular Town” promoted Cadillaqua, and “It’s Detroit” and “Detroit” went along with the city’s 250th birthday.
Here’s a look at some of the contenders. To see images of all the pages, find each one in the digital collection. Which gets your vote? – D.S.
One of Detroit’s historic landmarks currently at risk of demolition is the Brodhead Armory, also known as the Detroit Naval Armory. This limestone Art Deco building was constructed in 1930 and designed by William B. Stratton, husband of Mary Chase Stratton who founded Pewabic Pottery. It can be found on the south side of East Jefferson Avenue, nestled between Gabriel Richard Park and River Terrace Apartments.
Although disused since 2004, Brodhead Armory was a significant military training center, with a large gymnasium also used for trade shows and sporting events. Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke here on his campaign trail. Hollywood leading lady Jean Harlow attended its dedication ceremony. It is the last remaining site in Detroit where Joe Louis fought, where in 1934 he defeated Canadian Al Delaney. Brodhead Armory was later highlighted as one of the main venues to be used during Detroit’s series of failed Olympic bids in the 1960s.
The building itself features WPA murals by David Fredenthal, though they have been damaged over the years of abandonment. There are also wood carvings by Gustave Hildebrand, and Pewabic plaques on the exterior. Unfortunately, the premises is unsecured and has been looted of most of its distinctive architectural details, but there is still a chance for an influx of new ideas and funding sources to help it recover.
In addition to aircraft, Stout Engineering Laboratories also designed several automobiles during the 1930s-1940s, the most notable of which is the Stout Scarab. The Scarab featured many innovative designs, including a spacious interior, a configurable seating arrangement, and a small card table, making the Scarab a predecessor of the modern minivan. An experimental version of the Scarab, produced in 1946, featured the first automotive fiberglass body. Ultimately, the modern design and high cost of the Scarab made the cars undesirable to buyers at the time, especially when compared with other contemporary automobiles like the bestselling Fords and Chevrolets. Today, however, the Scarab is considered an ahead-of-its-time design and one of the best examples of Art Deco design applied to automobiles. The 1946 fiberglass Scarab and 1935 Scarab, previously owned by the Wrigley family, are in the Detroit Historical Society’s automobile collection.
Stout also applied the design principles of the Scarab to the design of a bus for Gar Wood Industries, which was put into service by the Dearborn Coach Co. Many more images from the Society’s William Bushnell Stout collection can be found in our online digital collection, and you can learn more about the man in the Museum’s Gallery of Innovation.
William Bushnell Stout worked for Ford as a designer until 1930 when he left to pursue designing aircraft and automobiles at his Stout Engineering Laboratory. The most notable aircraft designed by Stout during this time was the Stout Skycar, which was a lightweight personal aircraft intended to be as simple and affordable as a personal automobile. Four variations of the Skycar were built between 1931 and 1944. Stout also drew up conceptual renderings of numerous other types of aircraft with similar designs to the Skycar, including the Stout Safety Car and an airplane with an attached trailer, and applied the design concepts of his streamlined aircraft fuselage’s to the design of the Pullman Railplane. – D.P.
After the failure of his military aircraft designs, William Bushnell Stout began a private fundraising campaign and ultimately raised enough money to establish the Stout Metal Airplane Company, which was soon purchased by Ford Motor Company, becoming the Stout Metal Airplane Division of the Ford Motor Company. He developed the Stout 2-AT Pullman, which was a single engine aircraft that was used in early passenger airline travel and as transport planes. The three engine follow-up, the Stout 3-AT, did not perform well, but led to the design of the Stout 4-AT, better known as the Ford Tri-Motor airplane.
The Ford Tri-Motor was one of the most successful airplanes of the 1920s. Stout used the Tri-Motor to establish Stout Air Services, which was the first regularly scheduled passenger airline in America. The airline was operated out of Ford Airport in Dearborn, and flew passengers between Dearborn, Chicago, and Cleveland. The airline continued under the Stout name until it was acquired by National Air Transport in 1930.
While still with Packard, Stout was appointed as an advisor to the Aircraft Production Board which awarded him a contract to build the Stout Batwing. The aircraft, funded by the Motor Products Corporation, was designed as a blended wing body aircraft, which is a type of aircraft with no distinct fuselage. One prototype was built and flown, but the project was abandoned due to poor visibility.
Several years later, Stout built another military prototype, the metal Stout ST-1 twin-engine torpedo bomber. The prototype was first flown by pilot Eddie Stinson. The prototype crashed in 1922, which led to the US Navy canceling all orders of the aircraft. – D.P.