Laundry day at the university-hanging out the wash


Ever wonder how much laundry a family of four can go through in a year? To dramatize how many clothes and linens the average family of four must wash and dry, Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. used the University of Detroit Stadium, three miles of clothesline and 7,000 articles of clothing provided by Goodwill Industries. According to the September 9,1960 Free Press article: “…the hard work was done by 10 unhappy husbands. They toiled for nine hours, using 14,000 clothespins, three miles of clothesline and 100 yards of football field to hang out the clothes.”


The idea was conceived by a UD alumnus, Jerry Seitz, superintendent of sales training and promotion for Michigan Consolidated. He wanted to demonstrate how much labor the average housewife saves by buying a gas clothes dryer. The 7,000 articles, weighing 4,000 pounds represent the amount of washing done annually for a family of four.




I don’t know-in the interest of conserving energy, maybe we should think about going back using the sun in its natural form to dry our clothes.

“Light up the land” an update

lightup1A while ago I had posted on this blog about a UD musical “Light up the Land”. At the time we did not have a link to the video, but now you can see it for yourself in our listing of Special Collections. So as the cold winter nights start to creep in, you can curl up to your computer and see what all the hoopla was about back in 1952. It quite literally had a cast of thousands! It may not measure up to today’s cinema extravaganza, just keep in mind this was produced back in the early 1950′s.

Bet you didn’t know UD had a Polo team!


In the previous blog, while I was researching the boxing program, I came across some articles about the UD Polo team. It was also a very short lived program that lasted about two years from 1933 to about 1935. Unlike the boxing program, they actually played a few games with other polo teams. In the initial call to see if anyone had an interest in becoming a team member, twenty-two students responded. The first game was played as part of the activities for the 1933 Homecoming celebrations. They played Michigan State and won with a score of 12 to 4 1/2 (I guess in polo you can score half points). The new UD team consisted on one student, one alumnus and one outsider. The game was played at the Detroit Riding and Hunt Club (located at Nine Mile and Southfield) and some five hundred fans came to see the game.

polo2Some of the other teams the UD polo team played against: Detroit Rangers (lost with a score of 20 1/2 – 19 ) Cass Tech Alumni Club, University of Chicago (lost 10 – 7 1/2; third defeat so they must have lost to the Cass Tech Alumni Club (?), no news reports on the game), and Wayne (State) University (won 6 – 2). Wayne University is the last game reported on in the Varsity News. Some of the other teams that were on tap to play such as Illinois and Ohio as well as some local area polo clubs (Flint Woodcraft and Riding Hunt Club!) were never reported and maybe never played for whatever reason.

By the time the 1934 polo team was assembled, the entire team now consisted of freshmen and sophomore students. According to the polo intercollegiate rules, Detroit could have a non-student coach member play on the team. The Illinois team, however, could only play against teams that were composed of full-fledged students of the school. There might also have been travel issues which is why one game against Michigan State had to be cancelled. If you think about it, transporting people isn’t a problem-what do you do about transporting horses? From what I have been able to pick up on the internet, they don’t use the same horse for the entire game, horses need frequent resting time. The UD polo team was fortunate in that the Detroit Riding and Hunt Club helped to minimize some of the cost of supporting the school team.

I suspect the expense of supporting the polo team and the lack of student attendance at the games probably meant that a university polo team would not survive for very long.





A Technical Knockout: University of Detroit Boxing Program

Technical Knockout: When a fighter is taking too much punishment and the referee stops the bout without completing a ten-count.

1931 Boxing Team

1931 Boxing Squad

Once upon a time, the University of Detroit tried to start a program for boxing. They had a number of students express an interest, but it does not appear that it ever got off the ground except on an informal basis. Outside of the 1931 Tower yearbook, only a couple of articles about the boxing program can be found in 1931 issues of Varsity news. There were about thirty students who would work out in the Gesu gymnasium under the watchful eye of “Dad” Butler. Any afternoon between one and three, several students would be paired off at intervals across the floor. A few of the students would be classed as heavyweight or light-heavyweight, but most would be in the welterweight class.boxing2

The only other article I can find about boxing at the University of Detroit is in Varsity News, March 16, 1932 and it does not appear that it had any relationship to the university boxing program. A UD student a freshman, Jack Gibbons, son of a famous boxer Mike Gibbons, who was also his trainer and manager, had entered into a local tournament. It appears that the fledgling UD boxing program never got off the ground after the 1931 reports.

Boxing did not completely disappear-at least not in the library. There is one book I have in the archives, “Dempsey: By the Man Himself” that has been autographed by Jack Dempsey.








And of course, what would a library in Detroit be without something from the Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis!


boxing4I don’t follow boxing at all, but it seems to me it does not get much attention anymore like it once did.











The UDMercy Library (R)evolution: A look at the past and how it has changed

Whenever a UDMercy alumni comes back for a visit, they are amazed at how much the library has changed since they were students. Take a look at what they would remember back around 1960 and compare how things look now.


Circulation Desk 1960′s


Circulation Desk 2014

More than just the physical appearances have changed. Up until 1964, the library books were classified in the Dewey Decimal system. When it was decided to convert all the books to the LC or Library of Congress system of classification, it meant changing the call numbers of some 225,000 books. All the new books would get the new call numbers, but it was estimated that it would take four to five years to change the numbers on all the old books already in the library. This was not a big problem for students to retrieve the books because during that period of time the stacks were closed. If a students needed a book, someone on the library staff would have to get it for them. So if you ever wondered why there are these narrow steps leading to the other floors-only staff needed to access the other floors. It was not until 1977 that the stacks were opened up for students to find the book for themselves. Now there are a whole lot more books to check out, more than 600,000 and an additional 140,000 ebooks as well.


Searching for books also changed, from paper cards in a card catalog to an electronic system to identify print books and DVD’s and access ebooks and on-line journals.

Dudley Randall Reference Librarian

Dudley Randall, Reference Librarian

newlib1You no longer have to wait for the library to open , the library is available 24/7. However, with all the information sources available, the reference librarian can be the best resource to help make the most efficient use a student’s research time-just don’t wait until the last minute before that paper or project is due.

Boblo Island Memories


There was a recent article in the Detroit Free Press about one of the Boblo boats shipping out to be restored. It would then be sent to New York state and returned to service in the Hudson River Valley, probably never to be seen on by Detroiters on the Detroit River again. The SS Columbia spent most of its 112 years carrying metro Detroiters back and forth from Boblo Island. Its sister ship, the SS. Ste. Claire, is still here, tied up in Ecorse and could still use some help for its renovation (see for more information). The Boblo boats made their last trip to Boblo Island in 1991, but just about any person who lived in Detroit before that probably at some point spent time on the Boblo boats to go to the island for fun and games.

boblo4Back in the 1920′s, students at the University of Detroit had an annual field day at Boblo Island, usually the day before graduation ceremonies. Back in those days, commencement ceremonies were held in June.  They had events such as: baseball games (Lits vs. Engineers, Laws vs. Business), shot putting, discuss throwing, relay races, tennis, golf, all frat tug-of-war, pie-eating contest, and even a Fat Men’s Race, all fraternities-170 lbs. minimum. However by 1929, the number of students that attended dropped so much that there was some discussion in the Varsity News if the annual event should continue. The last mention of any kind of trip to Boblo Island for a day before graduation is in 1931.

Harry Houdini at UDMercy?-Maybe or just his brother and only as an autograph

houdiniThere was an article about a recent auction of Harry Houdini’s items in the local paper. One of the items that was talked about caught my eye: “Houdini’s Society of American Magicians membership card signed by him sold for $7,000…” (Detroit News, September 6, 2014). I knew in our autograph file we had a file on Houdini, but I did not know what was in the file. First chance I got, I had to check. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that one was a letter dated 1930-Harry Houdini died in 1926 at a Detroit hospital. So who was this Houdini? A Wikipedia search turned up a younger brother, Theodore, who went by the name Hardeen. He was also a successful magician and escape artist in his own right and would perform many of his brother’s acts after Harry died.

























There is a second note in the file dated April 24, 1925–could this be a real autograph of Harry Houdini? Looks authentic and a check of various images of his autograph on the internet, it seems to have many of the same characteristics. I do not claim any expertise on the subject of autographs, but looks real to me. What do you think!


Early football teams at University of Detroit


Now that football season is upon us, a time take a look back at the early teams of the University of Detroit. Football was such a big part of the university that one of the first buildings that was constructed on the McNichols campus was a football stadium. But the move to the McNichols campus did not take place until 1922 and there was no space on Jefferson Avenue where the school was located to play home games. They sometimes used Navin Field (the location of the old Tiger stadium) or in one report in the Varsity News, in an auditorium called the Princess Rink, where the city held horse shows and staged prize fights. It was not always possible to have enough college students for the team, so sometimes on the early teams even senior UD high school students were enlisted for the football team. The football team even had to buy their own uniforms. You do have to realize that things like helmets, shin guards and shoulder pads were not part of a football uniform back in those days. As one team member reported he “emerged from every game with a black eye.”


As popular as football might have been, it was not until 1917 that the school would provide the equipment and secure a regular practice field. The red and white stripped turtle neck sweaters, modeled after Princeton’s, and purchased by Doctor W.E. Keane, served to identify the “Red and White Tigers.” The team name did not get changed to “Titans” until 1924.

All the members of the first team of 1896-97, went on to successful careers as physicians, lawyers, business men, an internal revenue collector and one clergyman. Even the first coach, William F. Robison, S.J. became President of St. Louis University (1920-1924).

Varsity football eventually died at the University of Detroit, but that story will have to wait for a future blog.

Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian


UDMercy Freshmen-Some rules and regulations for Freshmen in past years


Typical faces of the class of ’42

Freshmen today don’t know how lucky they are that they don’t have to put up with some of the restrictions that past UD freshmen had to follow. The most noticeable was the rule that they had to wear these caps (tams for girls) or “pots” as they were sometimes called, whenever they were on campus. This tradition was around from the early 1900′s until about 1960.


The rules may have changed over the years, for example the 1930 freshman could “NOT smoke cigarettes, cigars or regular pipes on campus. Smoke only corn-cob pipes.” From a 1942 list, “A girl freshman can’t wear rouge or lipstick on campus.”


Violators of the freshman code were given tickets by sophomores. The freshman could then plead his case before a kangaroo court where some kind of punishment was meted out. Hazing was not allowed, but the punishment was usually something humorous like wearing all clothing backward during class or wearing a head bandage and a sign: “I Talked Back to a Sophomore.”

If there were any freshman rules today, there is probably at least one that still is in effect today as it was back in the early college days: “STUDY their lessons.” A warm welcome to ALL new students!

Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian


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