Construction of the McNichols Library 1949-1950


Groundbreaking June 11, 1949, Fr. Millor and Elmer Smith with shovel, Fr. Poetker, at right

Construction on the million-dollar McNichols Library began with the June 11, 1949 ground breaking ceremony. Aside from the outdoor patio added by the Class of 2010, not a lot has changed on the exterior of the library building. See my previous post to see some of the changes made in the interior of the building. Here are some of the pictures as it was being built.

First excavation June 27, 1949


Foundation & footings in place July 18, 1949


Up to second floor September 19, 1949


3rd floor being poured, October 13, 1949


November 8, 1949


December 8, 1949


February 25, 1950

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National Shrine of the Little Flower named a Minor Basilica

shrinef1Pope Francis has bestowed the title of “basilica” upon the National Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic Church, its inaugural mass as a basilica will be celebrated April 22, 2015. The designation of basilica is in recognition of its robust parish life, which includes eight weekend masses, and its stature as a destination site with relics from various Catholic figures, including its namesake St. Therese of Lisieux (Detroit Free Press Feb 1, 2015).


The church’s first pastor was the Rev. Charles Coughlin in 1926. That year he also began his radio broadcast to raise money to build the parish complex. His radio speeches were very popular, but they gradually became very political to the point that his radical viewpoints and anti-Semitic themes were too controversial for church leaders and under pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters his radio broadcasts ended. You can listen to more than 60 broadcasts from 1938-40 posted on the library Special Collections page on “An Historical Exploration of Father Charles E. Coughlin’s Influence“.

Also on the page you will find digital images of Social Justice, the newspaper published by Father Coughlin from 1936-1942. Social Justice also came under fire for its pro-Axis propaganda and eventually had to shut down as well.


“On the improvement of the mind”, Elizabeth Jennings, 1837, Address to African American Women Abolitionist


The University of Detroit Mercy has a large collection of documents in the Black Abolitionist Archive that can be searched on the library web page. You can find the text of over a thousand speeches and editorials from the 1820′s to the Civil War on the site, some of which you can also listen to on an audio file.

It is not possible to list everything in the collection, so periodically there is a request to find something in the collection that is not posted. A research request came in looking for a speech by Elizabeth Jennings made at a meeting on the anniversary of the Ladies of the Literary Society, an African American women abolitionist organization, in New York City in September 1837. In honor of Black History Month, I am posting the article I found from Colored American, September 23, 1837. The microfilm copy will be hard to read, so I have transcribed the text for easier reading. It is a speech that is just as relevant now as it was back then.


“…It is now a momentous time that calls us to exert all our powers and among the many of them, the mind is the greatest, and great care should be taken to improve it with diligence. We should cultivate those powers and dispositions of the mind which may prove advantageous to us. It is impossible to attain to that sphere for which we were created, without persevering. It is certain we were formed for society..and it is our duty and interest to cultivate social qualities and dispositions-to endeavor to make ourselves useful and pleasingĀ  to others-to promote and encourage their happiness-to cherish the friendly affections, that we may find in them the source of the greatest blessings the world can afford.

But alas, society too often exhibits a far different scene, and this is in consequence of neglect of cultivation, which certainly is much more fatal than we can imagine. Neglect will plunge us into deeper degradation, and keep us groveling in the dust, while our enemies will rejoice and say, we do not believe they (colored people) have any minds; if they have, they are unsuceptible of improvement. My sisters, allow me to ask the question, shall we bring this reproach on ourselves! ..Doubtless you answer NO, we will strive to avoid it. But hark! methinks I hear the well known voice of Abigail A. Matthews saying you can avoid it. Why sleep thus? Awake and slumber no more–rise, put on your armor, ye daughters of America, and stand forth in the field of improvement. You can all do some good, and if you do but a little it will increase in time. The mind is powerful, and by its efforts your influence may be as near perfection as that of those which have extended over kingdoms, and is applauded by thousands.

Let us accord with that voice which we may hear urging us and resolve to adorn our minds with a moreĀ  abundant supply of those gems for which we have united ourselves-nor let us ever think any occasion, too trifling for our best endeavors. It is by constant aiming at perfection in every thing, that we may at length attain it.”

A well traveled road to civil rights

parksThe Library of Congress display of Rosa Park‘s personal documents, photographs and keepsakes became available recently to the public. Park’s refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955 was a key event in the civil rights movement.

Do a search through the Black Abolitionist Archive and you will find documents of similar treatments almost a hundred years earlier. Here are a couple of news reports from Black Abolitionist newspapers:


Sad to think it took so long and an act of Congress, to treat a fellow human being as an equal. Race relations have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go.

1926 Merry-Ann: A UD Light Opera

merry1“Merry-Ann” was the first musical production by the UD Student Union. The book and lyrics were by Seniors James Pooler Silas and P. Ralph Miller. The story, told in two scenes and ten acts, is a love triangle with Merry-Ann the center of attention between an old childhood friend and the son of a wealthy philanthropist who decided to give the girl a higher education. Of course, complications arise (as well as a secondary romance about another couple), but who Merry-Ann ends up with is not disclosed in any of the articles that I have read. (My guess is that the childhood friend wins in the end.)

There were 371 applicants for a part in the stage production (more than 30 for the title role of Merry-Ann), and all the roles were played by male students. There were some women students attending the university, but the plan must have been for all the female roles to be played by male students.


All the actors and musicians involved with the play were students of the university. The only professionals involved were the director, John Harwood, and the choreographer Max Scheck, both of whom had extensive experience on Broadway productions.

The production was staged at the Shubert-Detroit Theatre at a cost of either $15,000 (two reports) or $25,000 (one report), but in any case, while there were huge crowds in attendance and it was critically acclaimed, it was not a financial success. A few more musicals were produced (including Aces Wild), but the financial strain was too much, so Fr. McNichols, then President of UD, decided the opera should be temporarily abandoned. I guess that’s “Show Biz”


Documentary on pantomime-on the radio?

mime1I happen to be browsing through the Varsity News, April 25, 1958 and saw a short article about “The Sound of Silence”, a special documentary program with Marcel Marceau, famous French mime, that was to be presented on U-D radio. It just struck me as very odd-to do a radio show about something that you need to see, but would not necessarily hear. OK, so they can interview with Marcel and talk about the art of pantomime and they can hear the audience reaction, but isn’t there a fundamental piece missing?

Just asking-not an obvious subject for a radio program.


Past Homecoming Pics




Past homecoming activities usually took place during football season, but now UDMercy celebrates homecoming during the basketball season. As part of the homecoming celebrations there were parades down Livernois Ave. with as many as thirty floats and the UD marching band, huge bonfires, and a homecoming queen elected. Homecoming still gets a lot of attention, it just changed with the times with different activities and as much enthusiasm as it generated more than fifty years ago.


Homecoming bonfire 1927


Homecoming queen 1949 Mary Alice Miriani


Homecoming 1940


Homecoming 1948

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UD vs WSU in Cigar Bowl 1965

cigar2You have heard of the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Super Bowl-but did you know there was a Cigar Bowl? Yep, there was the first (and only?) Cigar Bowl between the University of Detroit and Wayne State University held March 18 & 19, 1965 (Thursday at WSU and Friday at UD). It was sponsored by the R.G. Dun Cigar Co. with a $200 prize awarded to the winning university’s student loan or scholarship fund. Co-sponsors were the UD and WSU chapters of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE).

One of the judges of the contest was film star and cigar smoker Pat O’Brien. The events included: Longest Ash-One cigar, Most Smoke Rings from One Cigar, Shortest Time to Consume One Cigar-Relay, Greatest Pile of Ashes-Team, Most Smoke in Flask-Two man teams. (The Most Smoke in Flask was later called off. The Chemistry Department said it was scientifically impossible to determine the winner.) There were also rules for the spectators: “Bands, cheer leaders and spectators must not interfere with the players in any manner and are particularly admonished to avoid excessive cheering, hand clapping or other actions which disturb the air during smoke ring blowing activities by the teams.”cigar1

Wayne State eventually out smoked the U of D team in five out of the eight events. Some of the more notable results: the longest ash was 3.875 inches, record number of smoke rings for an individual was 167 and for the “Shortest Time to Consume One Cigar Event”-the team finished a five-inch cigar in 1.51 minutes.

Maybe U of D team had a good excuse for not being in top shape for the contest. Several U of D team members also spent a great deal of time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the night before and were reported to be in bad shape in the morning after their 7 a.m., 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. cigar workouts. Their coach reported,”All in all they didn’t look good this morning, in fact they looked green.”










U of D Football Scoreboards

I just happen to be filing away some football pictures and just realized that there must have been a change in the scoreboards that were used back when UD had a football team.

Don’t know when the change was made, but this first one has written on the back: “new electrical scoreboard donated by Chevrolet” and has a date stamp “Sept 26 1934″


The second scoreboard just has the date stamp” Oct 18, 1953″


The second one would have been much easier to update. Putting up all the players numbers must have been a pain to keep track of if someone had to leave or exchange for another team member during the game.

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