Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Allen Park's Uniroyal Giant Tire--Fifty-Nine Years Old--Heralds Entrance into The Motor City

The original U.S. Royal Tire exhibit was a Ferris wheel attraction at the New York World's Fair of 1964/1965, held in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens. The fair was open for two six-month seasons. In 1964, it was open from April 22th until October 18th, and in 1965, the dates were April 21st until October 17th.

The history of the U.S. Royal Giant Tire is pretty straightforward. Originally rigged as a Ferris wheel and powered by a 100 HP engine, it was over eighty feet high. It carried close to 2,000,000 people at the World's Fair, many of them famous world figures. There were twenty-four barrel shaped gondolas, each carrying up to four people for a total of ninety-six passengers paying a quarter apiece. 

At the fair's end, the tire was disassembled and shipped in twenty-one truck loads to Detroit and reassembled as a static display outside the Uniroyal sales offices in Allen Park, Michigan. It is one of the world's largest roadside attractions. The Uniroyal office has since moved, but the Giant Tire still stands.

The tire is not made of rubber, but sightseers don't notice the difference whizzing past the landmark at seventy miles an hour on Interstate 94. The tire weighs just under twelve tons and is anchored in twenty-four feet of concrete and structural steel. It is rated to withstand hurricane force winds.

When the Michelin Tire Company bought out Uniroyal and Goodrich in 1990, they renovated the landmark in 1994 with a fresh coat of paint, a modern looking hubcap, and neon lights for the Uniroyal lettering. Four years later in 1998, the Giant Tire was modified again to resemble a "Nail Guard" tire. An eleven foot long, 250 pound nail (world's largest) was sticking out from the tire to promote their new puncture proof product. The nail was put up for auction on eBay in 2003 and sold for $3,000, with proceeds donated to the Allen Park Historical Museum.

In 2003, the Giant Tire was once again renovated as part of the I-94 corridor revitalization. The neon lettering was replaced with reflective lettering and spotlighting. It has remained a Detroit landmark and an Allen Park roadside attraction for fifty-three-years heralding the entrance into the Motor City from Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Michigan.

It has been noted that the one thing the Beatles wanted to see on their American tour was the Giant Tire. Whether they stopped along the freeway to take a good look at it on their way into Detroit from Metro Airport isn't known, but when Paul McCartney and Wings were touring in 1976, the moment was commemorated.

For more detailed information on the Detroit's Big Wheel, consult The Giant Tire by Steve J. Frey: http://www.gianttire.info/?fbclid=IwAR2HT6p9Cva5dHSNZl-Ff0dRj053V6Eu--R5FuZtyauH3alhNuDMtladjkM

Friday, February 7, 2020

When White Pine was Green Gold in Michigan

"Brag Load" of Logs and Ten Man Crew with a Team of Horses

The Michigan forest landscape was bountiful for early settlers. Rivers and lakes provided plenty of fish and wildlife while the forests and open glades provided game and fowl for hunters. Clearing the land was a slow process with timber cut with axes. The first order of business was throwing up some hasty shelter. Log cabins were built and railings cut for fences to pen livestock. What scrap wood was left became firewood. These small pioneer farms had minimal impact on the environment.

Rapid development of the American East in the first half of the nineteenth century depleted much of the lumber forests east of the Appalachians. By mid-century, New York lumber speculators discovered the vast virgin hardwood forests of Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas--especially the stands of old-growth white and red pine for building materials. Many of these trees were over 200 years old, 200 feet high, and over 5 feet in diameter.

With the invention of the steam-powered circular saw in the 1850s, the lumber business ramped up production. Fortunes were made by enterprising men who had vision and deep pockets. They bought large tracts of private and government land and were quickly dubbed Lumber Barons. They owned the saw mills and set up the system of lumber camps that made more than a few men rich. The "shanty boys" as the owners called the lumberjacks did the heavy lifting. After a harsh winter, they could walk out of the forest with several hundreds of dollars--big money in those days--only to be targets of robbery or worse. The lumber business attracted a tough crowd in and out of the forest like any boom town industry would.

The first great lumber area in the state was Saginaw Bay which fed into Lake Huron. What made this location ideal for the lumber business were the six rivers that converged to form the Saginaw River: the Chippewa, Tittabawassee, Cass, Bad, Shiawassee, and Flint. From 1860 until 1890, most of the trees from the heart of the state were felled and floated down these rivers on their way to the saw mills.

Logging was a cold weather job. The logs were too big and heavy to drag through the woods. The loggers cleared timber roads first. When the roads iced over in winter, huge sleds were loaded with timber and dragged by horses or oxen to the river's edge where they were stacked awaiting the spring thaw; then, the logs were pushed into the swollen rivers and floated down to the lumber mills. Once at the saw mill, the logs were cut into boards, kiln-dried to reduce weight and warping, and loaded onto ships.

Lumber camps were rustic, quickly built, and meant to be temporary. When the land was exhausted of timber, the operation moved on. The camps consisted of a bunk house, a cook shanty with dining room and kitchen, a camp store, a blacksmith's shop, and a barn for the horses. Each camp had about seventy men and two foremen, twenty teams of horses, and seven yoke of oxen. A ten man crew could produce about 100 logs a day with a two-handled, cross-cut saw and double-edged axes.

Lumberjacks worked from sunrise until sunset, six days a week out in the wilderness with little to occupy them. Their pastimes were telling tall tales and playing cards on Sundays, as well as any mischief they could get away with in town if they were near one.

Lumber camps competed with each other to see which outfit could stack the highest load--called a brag load--and pull it twenty feet over the ice with a team of horses. My guess is the winning camp won a wager and a keg of beer along with bragging rights. I hope the horses got a little something extra for their efforts.

Stump Prairie
When the logging industry was finished raping the land, lumber camps were abandoned because owners didn't want to pay taxes on the land they owned, so they simply defaulted and the land went to the state. In all, over nineteen million acres were clear cut with no reforestation strategy, leaving behind barren "stump prairies" contributing to soil erosion, river and lake pollution, more atmospheric carbon dioxide, and degraded wildlife habitat.

One of the few forest animals that benefited from the clear cutting was the whitetail deer. With new open ground for grazing and more abundant and accessible plant food, populations grew. Little good it did them though. By 1876, professional hunters were killing 70,000 deer each year to supply the booming lumber camps and ship the surplus to Chicago and Detroit--two cities that had a taste for venison.

In a report on Michigan Forest History compiled by the Michigan Department of Resources, researchers found that: "Land clearing for agriculture, logging, and settlement altered local stream flow patterns and volumes, eliminated some waters, and introduced pollutants into others. Huge quantities of sediment from log drives and sawdust from sawmills were dumped into rivers. In one instance, the mouth of the Manistee River accumulated sawdust to the extent that it formed a delta of several square miles. At sawmill locations throughout the state, wherever sawdust was dispensed into the river, toxic and oxygen-deprived conditions were created for fish. These detriments, combined with land clearing efforts, exacerbated soil erosion into rivers, significantly reducing the quality of fish habitat in rivers."

The Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling has the only remaining stand of Michigan old growth forest. The park consists of fifteen square miles featuring forty-nine acres of old growth white pine saved from the teeth of the loggers' saw. The land was gifted to Michigan's Department of Natural Resources in 1927 by Karen Michelson Hartwick as a memorial to the logging industry in the name of her husband Edward E. Hartwick--a lumberman killed in World War I.

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a logging museum adjacent to the old growth forest in the park to educate visitors about the logging industry. The CCC also hired unemployed men to plant millions of seedlings to reforest Michigan's barren areas, but even after one hundred years, some of the "stump prairies" still exist. On a brighter note, over half of the state is covered by new growth forests.

Michigan Logging History (5 minute video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShqFL9vWXmY

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Elusive Purple Gang Wins Book Cover of the Month Award for February 2020

San Diego Library Local Author Showcase--January 31th, 2020.

We have all heard the advice "Don't judge a book by its cover," but an engaging book cover can capture a reader's attention and act as a calling card to pick up the book and read the back cover. Of course, if the contents of the book are shoddy, the author loses a reader for life.

I was surprised to win a Book Cover of the Month Award for February 2020. Although the cover of The Elusive Purple Gang: Detroit's Kosher Nostra doesn't depict known Purple Gang members, it does quickly establish the time and place of the book. What is not so apparent is a subtle design feature that creates a sense of depth which draws the eye in.

Kudos go to Wheatmark Inc. cover designer Micah Edel. After I provided the cover photo and a rough idea of what I was looking for, Micah did the rest. Our most difficult decision was choosing the right shade of purple for the title. The shade was either too bright and festive or too dark and oppressive. Finally, I hit on it--make the title Crayola purple. It worked!

Contest organizer Pam Rice critiqued the cover this way, "The black and white photo is dramatic and makes a statement. The title is also telling the story. The font is simple with just enough of a serif to make it interesting. The background has a great texture but doesn't overpower the font or the image." 

I appreciate this honor and acknowledgement, but I have only one problem. I like the cover so much that I don't want to hide it behind a medallion. Bragging rights will have to do.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Samuel Zug - The Man Behind the Island

Samuel Zug
At the end of June 2013, I was asked by Canadian filmmaker, Mark Dal Bianco, to write a brief biography of Samuel Zug, the man who Zug Island is named after. 

The filmmaker is producing a documentary on the environmental impact of the island on the surrounding areas of Detroit and Windsor.

Mr. Zug is thought by some people to have been an industrialist, but that couldn't be further from the truth. He was a devout Presbyterian who took an interest in politics and human rights.

In 1836 at the tender age of twenty years old, Samuel Zug came to Detroit, Michigan from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Using money he saved as a bookkeeper in the Pittsburgh area, he went into the furniture making business with Marcus Stevenson, a Detroit investor.  

The prospect of endless stands of pine, oak and maple trees as raw material, and convenient access to Eastern markets by way of the Detroit River for their finished products, made Detroit an ideal place for a young man to make his fortune. 

But in 1859 after twenty-three years in the furniture business, his partnership with Stevenson was dissolved leaving Samuel Zug a wealthy man to pursue real estate and political ambitions.

In 1859 (or 1876 depending on which source you choose), Samuel Zug purchased 325 acres of land along the Detroit River from Michigan's second Territorial governor, General Lewis B. Cass. Over 250 acres of the parcel was marshland with a sulfur spring bubbling up 1,200 barrels of mineral water a day.

The marshy peninsula of land was a part of Ecorse Township before it became the city of River Rouge. In unrecorded time, the land was rumored to have been an ancient burial site for a number of native American tribes who were known to inhabit the area.

Samuel Zug and his wife Anna hoped to build a mansion on the island, but after ten years they decided that the marshland and natural sulfur spring on the site proved too much for them to endure. The Zugs surrendered the land to the red fox, water fowl, muskrats, and mosquitoes. The croaking frogs and singing insects were left to serenade the damp night air because the island was virtually uninhabitable.

In 1888, Samuel Zug authorized the River Rouge River Improvement Company to cut a small canal at the south end of his land. Known by locals as Mud Run, it was dredged out sixty feet wide and eight feet deep. 

Short Cut Canal at bottom of map was Mud Run.

The Zug family peninsula became a man-made island overnight separating it from the north end of Ecorse Township. The channel improved the flow of the Rouge River into the Detroit River, but it did little to circulate water around the newly formed island, leaving a slow-moving backwater.

On December 26, 1889, Samuel Zug died leaving his holdings to his wife, Anne, who died on June 10th,1891. It has been reported wrongly that Mr. Zug died in 1896. My source for the correct date of Zug's death comes from his huge tombstone in Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery.

The Zug heirs sold the island for $300,000 to George Brady and Charles Noble, who wanted to use the site for an industrial dumping ground. The island was diked with interlocking steel panels and back-filled with construction rubble and dredging waste to raise the ground above the water table and reclaim the land from its natural state.

Heavy industry was about to move onto the island but Mr. Zug never lived to see it. The island's namesake was "Waiting for the Coming of Our Lord" as the inscription on his grave marker proclaims.

In addition to being a bookkeeper and the owner of a successful furniture manufacturing company, Samuel Zug is also credited with being one of the founding members of the Republican Party, which was considered to be the progressive party of the day. Their first official meeting took place on July 6, 1854, in Jackson, Michigan.

The Republicans were an abolitionist party that came to national attention when they won 33% of the presidential vote from the Democrats and the Whigs in 1856. Four years later in 1860, they broke through the two-party system and elected Abraham Lincoln to the White House.

Samuel Zug was an anti-slavery advocate long before Lincoln was elected and The Civil War began. He bought and set aside a parcel of land for refugee slaves in the city of Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, a destination of the Underground Railroad. What other support he gave to the Abolitionist Movement is shrouded in the dim history of time and whispers of the unrecorded past.

At the time of his death, Samuel Zug was unaware of the mighty industrial complex his soggy marshland would become. He would never know the history Zug Island would help make possible or the long term environmental impact the rust belt industry would have on the area and its people.

In Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Fornology Blog 2020--Closing in on a Million Hits

After almost ten years of blogging, my Fornology.com site will register a million hits this year. Writing blog posts has become my favorite type of writing because of the instant gratification and immediacy of reader response. What also appeals to me is a post can be endlessly revised to correct any content or grammar errors, which is not the case with published longer works where your words are imprisoned on the page.

When I began to blog at the urging of my first publicist in 2011, I was less than thrilled. I knew nothing of blogging, so I did what any self-respecting Baby Boomer would do, I bought a hard copy of Blogging for Dummies. There is no shortage of books about monetizing your blog, but I needed advice on how to build a blog.

Once I understood the nature of the beast, I began to recognize the value of building an audience by drawing readers to my site. Blogging has become my primary marketing vehicle because of its long reach and its cost--blogging is essentially free. All of my posts are offered for free, but my longer works can be purchased in my blog's sidebar. I prefer the soft rather than the hard sell.

At first, my post topics were random, but soon I focused on topics related to my longer works creating interest in my books' subjects. Not only did my blog become a research tool, it helped me develop my author's voice and writing style, all the while growing my audience.

My fornology blog provides free, nonfiction content. What is remarkable to me is that I've written 445 posts over the last nine years. My present goal is to reach 500 posts before I pull the plug and call it a career. Help me reach one-million hits by reading some of my posts you haven't seen before Check out the archive index on my blogs left sidebar. Thanks!

Top Ten Fornology Posts 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

S&H Green Stamps--Emblem of a Bygone Age

Sperry and Hutchinson Company were the originators of S&H Green Stamps--as much an American cultural icon as anything. The company began offering redemption stamps to American retailers in 1896. Stores bought the stamps and offered them as bonuses based on the dollar amount of the purchase. S&H Green Stamps was the earliest retail customer loyalty program selling and distributing stamps and books to merchants. With a unidirectional cash flow, this shoppers' incentive made its originators multi-millionaires.

Stamps were issued in denominations of 1, 10, and 50 points. Stamp pages were perforated with glue on the reverse side to mount in twenty-four page collector booklets. Each booklet contained 1,200 points. Reward gifts were based on the number of filled books required to obtain the object. Green Stamps had no real cash value.

S&H Green Stamps could be obtained at supermarkets, department stores, and gas stations. Completed booklets were redeemed at one of 800 distribution centers located around the country. Most popular in the early 1960s, S&H boasted that its reward catalog was the largest publication in the United States. They issued three times more stamps than did the United States Postal Service.

Economic recessions in the 1970s reduced sales and decreased the value of the rewards. Shoppers began to see the stamps as not worth the trouble, and stores started to drop the program. In 1981, the founders' successors sold the business.

Green Stamps entered the realm of pop art iconography when Andy Warhol used a three step silkscreen process to print a 23"x22.75" canvas in 1962. Three years later, he used offset lithography to print the classic green stamp images on forty-nine 7'x7' panels to act as wallpaper within a gallery exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Philadelphia. A single panel recently sold at auction for $6,250.

S&H Green Stamp founder https://fornology.blogspot.com/2016/12/ypsilantis-hutchinson-house-built-with.html

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Purple Gangster Marries Shiksa

Edward Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Burnstein.
Most Purple Gang members made their mothers proud by marrying Jewish women and following the precepts of their Hebrew faith--on the surface anyway. One notable exception was twenty-eight-year-old Joseph Burnstein who married a nineteen-year-old Catholic show girl from Kenosha, Wisconsin named Marguerite Ball.

After graduating from dance school, Marguerite began her show business career in vaudeville with the Paul Ash Revue performing live musical skits on-stage in Chicago movie houses before the evening's silent film was shown. These small productions were broadcast over local radio from 7:15 pm to 8:00 pm.

Marguerite (Ball) Burnstein
Marguerite performed in short musical pieces named "May Time Jazz Carnival," "Oh, Teacher," "Shanghai Dreams," and "Paul's Hot Ashes." She was talented enough to capture the notice of George White, a show business impresario of variety shows called the George White Scandals--along the line of the more famous and elegant Ziegfeld Follies. Marguerite performed on Broadway in "Manhattan Mary" and "Helen, In the Scandals" as an uncredited cast member.

The details of Joe and Marguerite's courtship are unknown, but it can be safely said that theirs was a whirlwind romance culminating in marriage on March 23, 1929 in Detroit. Their newspaper wedding notice described Joe as the vice-president of a Detroit motor company--a lie designed for the benefit of the Ball family who surely had reservations about Marguerite's hasty Justice of the Peace marriage to a man they knew little about. The newlyweds moved into a custom Tudor-style home said to be valued at $100,000 in the exclusive Detroit neighborhood of Palmer Woods.

Joe was the most business-minded of the Burnstein brothers and owned a number of legitimate businesses used to launder gang money and provide fronts for other gang activities. He owned an auto parts business, a men's fine clothing store, a three-chair barber shop (on the site of the current Fox Theater), and oil wells in Mt. Pleasant and Clare, Michigan. Outwardly, Joe had all the trappings of a prosperous and legitimate businessman--including a trophy wife.

Joseph Burnstein's mansion--notice the B emblem on the awnings.
A scant year passed before Marguerite gave birth to a healthy daughter. Her married life with Joe seemed idyllic until fate reared its ugly head. One week after Marguerite gave birth to their child, Joe was fighting for his life in the same hospital. One of his business partners--while on an opium binge--shot Joe in the midriff hitting his spleen.

Joe almost bled out, but Purple Gang members lined up at Detroit Receiving Hospital donating blood to help save his life. True to the gangster code, Joe refused to testify against his assailant Harry Kirschenbaum. They were friends and Joe said all he remembered was bumping his head and passing out. Kirschenbaum was acquitted in Detroit Recorder's Court but was convicted later on a federal narcotics charge for possession of opium.

When Joe recovered sufficiently from his stomach wound and returned home from the hospital, Marguerite gave him an ultimatum, "Either quit the gang or say goodbye to me and your daughter."

Leaving the day-to-day gang life behind, Joe cast his eyes west and eventually settled in El Dorado, California where he became a consultant to Reno and West Coast gambling concerns. After his brother Ray was convicted of first-degree murder and sent to Marquette Prison for life, youngest brother Isadore moved to California also, leaving oldest brother Abe to run the gang's gambling rackets.

Joe and Marguerite remained married for fifty-five years until he died of heart failure at the age of eighty-four on February 28, 1984. Marguerite died on January 9, 1992 in El Dorado, California at the age of eighty-one. Of the four Burnstein brothers, Joe was the only one with a lasting marriage and two daughters to show for it.

Mobsters' Women