1900-1919

Population and Economic Growth

In 1901 the editor of the Ann Arbor Argus Democrat concluded that "the century to come is undoubtedly destined to be the richest and best that man has experienced." Ann Arbor citizens faced the twentieth century with calm optimism which would stand them in good stead. During the first decade of the twentieth century local residents witnessed portents of dramatic change to come. But during the second decade the pace of change accelerated, propelling Ann Arborites into a new world.

At the turn of the century, Ann Arbor was a small city with 14,500 permanentDonovan School, 1911 residents. Of the white population in 1900, half was either foreign born or had parents who were foreign born. The foreign born came overwhelmingly from Germany, and to a lesser extent from Canada, England, and Ireland. Ethnic ties were strong, particularly among the large German population. Churches and schools helped maintain ethnic identities, not only for the Germans, but also for the Catholic Irish residents as well as the 359 members of Ann Arbor's African-American community.

Between 1900 and 1910, the town's population remained stable, increasing by only 300 persons. Ten years later, however, the size of the community had grown to 19,516 souls. Immigrants from Greece, Italy, Russia, and Poland settled in town. In 1920 about 13 per cent of Ann Arbor's population was foreign born, compared to 20 per cent for the state. But Ann Arbor attracted many more African Americans than the state as a whole. In 1920, there were 580 African-American residents, about 3.0 per cent of the city population, while statewide, African Americans made up only 1.6 per cent of the population.

Economic and industrial developments underlying these population changesAnn Arbor Milling Company followed a similar pattern: slow growth in the first decade of the century followed by a boom after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In 1899, the value of products manufactured in Ann Arbor was $1,377,000. By 1914, it had climbed to $2,603,000. Wartime demands sent the figure up to $9,794,000 in 1919. The average number of wage earners in manufacturing climbed from 623 in 1899 to 1,612 in 1919. Ann Arbor led all Michigan cities of its size in the growth of industries between 1914 and 1919.

In 1900 Ann Arbor's industrial Central Flouring Mill strength lay in light manufacturing, milling, furniture making, piano building, brewing, gas fixtures, and rug making. Ann Arbor's largest manufacturing interest in 1900 was milling. The Michigan Milling Company was a conglomerate composed of the Argo Flour Mill, the Ann Arbor City Mills, Delhi Mills, the Ann Arbor Central Mills, and the Osborne Mill. The company also owned power sites and cooperage plants. By 1913 its estimated output was one million dollars a year.

Long essential to the milling industry, the importance of the Huron River was enhanced by its development as a source of electric power. InHoover Steel Ball Company 1905 the Detroit Edison Company and its subsidiary, Eastern Michigan Edison Company, bought power sites along the river and began to install generators in the Argo, Superior, Barton, and Geddes dams. Readily available electricity stimulated industrial growth. Between 1910 and 1920 heavy industry came to Ann Arbor with the establishment of Economy Baler, Hoover Steel Ball, Machine Specialty, Parker Manufacturing, American Broach and Machine, and the Forge Products companies. Hoover Steel Ball Company, one of the most important industries to come to town, was organized in 1913. It profited by the outbreak of war and the British blockade which eliminated German steel ball bearings from the American market. By 1917 the plant used 500 tons of steel a month and produced 25 to 30 million ball bearings a day.

Automotive production, however, never succeeded in Ann Arbor. The ill-fated Huron River Manufacturing Company, later the Star Motor Company, produced a light delivery wagon-passenger car combination. It did not survive the fierce competition of the burgeoning auto industry. The high cost of living in Ann Arbor meant higher wages and the distance from Detroit increased the cost of materials to a point where profit disappeared.

Contributing materially to Ann Arbor's expansion was The University of Michigan, which had long provided a substantial economic base for the community. Enrollment surged from 3,441 in 1899-1900 to 5,381 in 1909-10 and 9,041 in 1919-20. Student spending stimulated commerce and the University building program employed local contractors. As faculty and students sought housing, residential development boomed and the landladies prospered. Ann Arbor, furnishing the labor and materials for University expansion, fueled its own growth.

In the person of President James B. Angell, the nineteenth century relinquishedFuneral of President Angell its hold on Ann Arbor. Respected and beloved, he retired in 1909 after a presidency of thirty-eight years. His funeral cortege in 1916 passed thousands of saddened students and townspeople, leaving them all to the fortunes of the "golden years of growth."

Under Angell's successor, Harry B. Hutchins, new buildings radically altered the nineteenth-century facade as the University pushed outward from its original forty-acre plot. The West Medical Building, the West Engineering Building, the Dental Building, Alumni Memorial Hall, the Chemistry Building, Hill Auditorium, the Power Plant, Martha Cook Building, Helen Newberry Hall, the University Library, and the Michigan Union were completed between 1901 and 1920. Click here for an historical tour of the University of Michigan campus in 1907.

Improving the Quality of Life

Demands for reform swept the nation in the new century as the country attempted to ameliorate social strains caused by industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. Although Ann Arbor did not face the extensive problems of larger cities, it nonetheless was caught up in the ferment. As in many other places, the competition for street railway franchises in the city brought conflict. From 1900 to 1902 the Hawks-Angus and the Boland companies fought for the right-of-way through, the city. Hawks-Angus won, but not before violence between the two construction crews was narrowly averted and not before the Ann Arbor Railroad, fearing that interurban crews would tear up its tracks where they crossed Huron Street, placed its #7 engine across the street, blocking the electric tracks as well as the sidewalk. "No one can now say that West Huron Street is not one of the liveliest streets in the city," reported the Argus Democrat on September 13, 1901.

Under pressure from private citizens, the city required grade separations asInterurban crew a prerequisite for the granting of franchises. Ann Arborites had long demanded that the Ann Arbor Railroad elevate its tracks above west-side streets. As the interurban would have to cross the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks at some point, grade separation would be imperative. While the council declared in 1902 that the Ann Arbor Railroad was to be elevated on steel viaducts over Felch, Miller, Ann, Huron, Washington, and Liberty streets, only the Washington, Huron, and Miller separations were actually completed.

The service of the privately owned Ann Arbor Water Company continued to be a source of tension. The company offered to sell its holdings to the city for $450,000, but council and Mayor Royal S. Copeland felt the price was too high. Council then passed legislation requiring the company to lower its rates to levels comparable to those in other cities of Ann Arbor's size. Denying the city had the right to regulate rates, the franchise nonetheless "voluntarily" lowered them in 1902. The city, however, claimed to have established the principle of regulation.

In October, 1913, after another 11 years of inadequate and unsafe water, voters Barton Dam authorized the city to buy out the company. A new municipal Water Works Commission drew its water from the Huron River above the newly constructed Barton Dam and from artesian wells on West Washington near Eighth Street. The commission introduced water purification by chlorination. With the use of liquid chlorine in 1915,Boil the Drinking Water broadside Ann Arbor was assured of a supply of pure water.

In the second decade of the century, reform movements took on a new urgency and vitality. In 1912, for example, Ann Arbor had two Socialist newspapers and the Socialist Party made a creditable showing in the municipal elections of 1913. Yet most citizens chose less radical ideology and more conventional agencies to effect change.

In 1913 the Ann Arbor Civic Association, an extension of the older Board of Commerce, incorporated most of the reform groups into one organization that pursued a conservative yet determined approach to reform. The organization was still interested in attracting industry and promoting commerce, but in recruiting new members from University professors, professional men, and women's organizations, it acquired additional goals. The group now sought to improve water, food, sanitation, housing, and labor conditions. It urged honest and efficient administration of public affairs, and attempted to promote community feeling among all the citizens of the city.

The association instituted an elaborate committee system. The City Beautiful Committee directed its efforts toward the care of trees and shrubs and the establishment of better methods of garbage and rubbish collection. The Agricultural Committee sought to improve relations between the neighboring farmers and the city. The association supported an active Good Roads Committee. Under the prodding of another association committee, a program of milk and meat inspection was begun. Lists of the dairymen and meat suppliers meeting standards of quality and safety were published.

alleyThe Sanitation Committee resolved to make Ann Arbor the first dustless, smokeless, and flyless city. In 1913 and 1914 the committee declared war on the fly. Manure bins, still common in Ann Arbor alleys, were singled out for removal, especially the bins behind the fire engine station near Tappan School on East University Avenue. The school children of Ann Arbor were enlisted in the anti-fly campaign. Each child was given a pamphlet, "Catechism on the Fly." Five thousand flyswatters were distributed and bounties paid. The committee resolved in 1914 to "be so united in our struggle for the ideal human environment that we may be a 'City with a Conscience'."

Moral Reform, Temperance and Women's Rights

This strong moral tone pervaded many of the activities of Ann Arbor's concerned citizens. In 1911 Agnes Inglis, a social worker with the YWCA, shocked the LadiesWomen at the YWCA Union and the city with her report on moral conditions prevailing in the city, especially the rapid spread of "vile" diseases. In response to her indictment, twelve women's organizations, led by the YWCA, formed the Social Purity Club. The club called for suppression of "objectionable places and public characters," enforcement of laws prohibiting sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors, enforcement of curfew laws, organization of the schools as neighborhood social centers, and the introduction of sex hygiene classes in the schools.

Men were also caught up in the crusade for better social and moral conditions. The Men and Religion Forward Movement reached its peak about 1911-1912. This wholly male organization stressed "male Christianity." Twenty members headed a six-month investigation into life in Ann Arbor in 1911. They condemned the water company and its disregard for public safety, violations of antitrust codes by druggists and grocers, child labor, auto accidents, and saloons which pandered to students.

A broad spectrum of businessmen, churches, and women's groups agitated vigorously for prohibition. In 1909, Washtenaw County voted against the establishment of prohibition in the county, 6,212 to 5,328. But after an emotional campaign Ann Arbor voted solidly in November 1916 for the bone-dry, statewide amendment to prohibit "forever...the manufacture, sale, keeping for sale, giving away, catering or furnishing of any vinous, malt, brewed, fermented, spiritous or intoxicating liquors..." The state and city went dry on May 1, 1918, well before the inauguration of national prohibition. "John Barleycorn 'passed away' more easily and quietly than was generally expected," reported the Times News.

flier, National American Woman Suffrage Assoc. The emergence of women from the confines of the home and from the restrictions of traditional roles accelerated, culminating in the drive for suffrage. Women had been active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Ann Arbor since 1874 and organized the Ann Arbor Women's Federation Club in 1906 to educate themselves on contemporary issues. As they became involved with social issues, women insisted on their right to vote. The Ann Arbor Political Equality Club was organized in 1894 and began a long, determined battle to gain the ballot.

In November 1912 a statewide referendum on female suffrage was presented to male voters. The men of Ann Arbor narrowly approved the amendment. Statewide, men were not so inclined and the amendment was defeated. Six months later, a second attempt also failed and Ann Arbor males reversed their earlier decision and voted decisively against the amendment. One local woman spoke for most of her co-workers: "I have been working for suffrage for thirty-nine years and I shall keep on working for it just as long as I live." On November 5, 1918, voters approved a state amendment granting women the right to vote.

The Arrival of Automobiles

The first performance of the automobile in Ann Arbor was hardly indicative of its ultimate impact. Hoping to obtain a franchise, Staebler and Son, well established bicycle dealers, received a demonstrator Trimoto on October 9, 1900. It had three wheels, a gasoline engine, and weighed about 500 pounds. It carried two people and reached a top speed of twelve miles per hour. On December 20 Edward Staebler wrote despondently to the manufacturers: "I cannot use the Trimoto to go between my residence and the store for there is a hill to climb which the machine has climbed but twice out of many trials and we do not care to try any more because of the jeers from the onlookers."

In 1901 the Staeblers traded the Trimoto for a Toledo Steam Carriage.Toledo Steamer The Steamer was more successful at climbing Ann Arbor's hills but broke down nearly as often as the Trimoto. At the end of 1901, the Staeblers were still the only automobile dealers in town and had only the Toledo Steamer to demonstrate. Three other cars appeared in 1901. One, a steam car, was built by Ann Arbor resident Howard Coffin, a student in the Engineering College. Coffin's steamer, which participated in the Labor Day parade of 1901, was assembled in the Staebler bicycle shop.

Automobiles were slow to catch local fancy. Edward Staebler noted in 1906 that, "This is a peculiar town. Our population is 18,000 and we haveHuron Street at Main Street not over a dozen machines here. Half of those are used but very little." Eventually, however, the flexibility and mobility of the automobile won converts. In 1908 there were forty cars in Ann Arbor and in 1910, Mayor William Walz issued the first rules for driving and parking. Service industries related to the automobile grew as older trades declined. In 1901 the city boasted nine blacksmiths, nine bicycle shops, and nine liveries. By 1919 there were four blacksmiths, one bicycle shop and no liveries. In 1912 Walker's Livery was the city's largest livery with more than thirty horses. The livery was famous for two teams of pure white Arabians which were rented for funeral processions. The horses and equipment were auctioned off in 1914 and the livery became the Ann Arbor Taxicab and Transfer Company. In 1919 fifteen establishments called themselves automobile garages, nine firms advertised automobile repairs, and four advertised automobiles for hire.

Sports and Recreation

Active outdoor recreation became more popular as the city became more Northeast Ann Arbor from Cedar Bend urbanized and as more workers were found indoors in factories, shops, and offices. Improvement of scenic boulevards was coupled with the creation of the city park system. In 1900 the city held only Felch Park and Hanover Square. The City Park Commission, formed in 1905, acquired nearly 145 acresIsland Park of land in the following fourteen years. The nucleus of the park and boulevard system was formed with the establishment of Riverside Park, Island Park, West Park, Burns Park, Glen Drive, Long Shore Drive, and Allmendinger Park. A notable instance of city-university cooperation was the creation of a large park on the east side of town--now called the Arboretum--through the joint development of land given to the University by Dr. and Mrs. Walter Nichols and adjoining land bought by the city.

The Huron River, the focal point of many scenic drives, also provided Huron River boat launch more active recreation. Relaxed and romantic, boating and canoeing had long been popular. But swimming was appealing, especially to the children during Ann Arbor's hot and humid summers. In 1914 the first municipal swimming beach was built by the city, and in 1917 the Huron Farm Company improved the beach and built a bath house. Golfing became the rage. In 1900, the first local golf club was organized. The Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club played on a course southeast of Ferry Field and Ann Arborites took the interurban to the Washtenaw Country Club between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

The impetus toward organized sports and athletics was hastened by the success of University teams. Fielding Yost came to Michigan in 1901 and built the nationally famous "point-a-minute" teams of 1901-1905--teams which won 55 games, lost one, and tied one. His first team at Michigan was undefeated and held the opponents scoreless. Amid national excitement, it went on to the first Rose Bowl game in January 1902 and defeated Stanford 49 to 0. Football became the fall mania for both University and city fans.Ferry Field Over 17,000 fans jammed into the last game held in old Regents Field in 1905. New athletic facilities on Ferry Field were necessary to accommodate the crowds which were running close to 20,000 persons by 1915.

Music, both popular and classical, was frequently heard in Ann Arbor. Townfolk hummed the song hits of the day, "Sweet Adeline," "Shine on Harvest Moon," and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and whistled "Alexander's Rag Time Band." The University Musical Society offered concerts which were supplemented by recitals of the St. Thomas Conservatory, the Kempf Studios, and church choirs. Hill Auditorium, replacing cramped and uncomfortable University Hall, opened in 1913, and offered comfortable listening to 4,000.

Theater, like music, had a long tradition in Ann Arbor. Audiences, accustomed to the best in professional stage entertainment, were momentarily disconcerted when the Athens Theatre closed between 1904 and 1908. In the interim, vaudeville became a staple entertainment. By 1907, the new Bijou Theatre was showing three performances a day including five vaudeville acts, two polyscope numbers, and an illustrated song. The Majestic Theatre, a converted roller skating rink, also presented vaudeville.

The vitality of vaudeville was threatened by the flickering lights of Thomas Edison's kinetoscope. Motion pictures, short and silent, were at first regarded as novelties but proved to have enormous popular appeal. "Movies" were used initially as features between vaudeville acts at the Star, Bijou, and Majestic theaters. In 1906 and 1907, promoters built the Theatorium, the Casino, and the People's Popular Family Theatre to show movies exclusively. Popular taste rapidly turned to Pearl White in "The Perils of Pauline," to slapstick comedians like the Keystone Cops, and to westerns starring Tom Mix and William S. Hart. The Orpheum, the Temple, the Arcade, the Columbia, the Rae, and the Wuerth Arcade theaters rushed into business to satisfy public demand.

The Impact of World War I

World War I created ethnic tensions that had been virtually non-existent in a community that had easily accommodated Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic traditions. Residents of Germanic descent retained strong ties with the old country. The University, modeled on the German university, admired and respected Teutonic educational and cultural traditions. Over a quarter of the students in the University were enrolled in classes in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature. Yet the ties of blood and affection with England and common traditions of law, democratic institutions, language, and literature sustained a strong feeling for England.

At first most Ann Arborites agreed with President Wilson's plea to bePropaganda broadside "impartial in thought as well as action." However, the German conquest of neutral Belgium and submarine warfare made many agree with Professor Claude Van Tyne in condemning "Prussian militarism and German arrogance." In December 1914 the National Security League was founded to support universal military training, military preparedness, patriotism, and the extermination of values which were "un-American." The Ann Arbor branch under Van Tyne and William Hobbs was energetic and vigilant.

America entered the Great War to make the world "safe for democracy" in April 1917. In the first Draft Registration notice, 1917 total war in history, nations mobilized the energies of whole societies, civilians and soldiers alike. Ann Arbor's military unit, Company I of the Thirty-first Michigan Volunteer Infantry, was mobilized into the Army of the United States on August 5, 1917. To the disappointment of many who cherished the independent traditions of the local company, the Army reorganized the Michigan National Guard into Company E of the 126th Infantry under the command of Captain Arthur G. Volland of Ann Arbor. They mobilized at Grayling, Michigan; trained in Waco, Texas; embarked from Hoboken, New Jersey; and arrived in France on March 4, 1918. Ann Arbor's "doughboys" tested their mettle in severe fighting in Alsace, at Château-Thierry, and in the Meuse-Argonne. Company E left Europe in April 1919 after serving in the army of occupation. Other Ann Arbor men volunteered or were drafted into regular army units.

The war also mobilized civilians, particularly women. Ann Arbor women led the work of the Red Cross and Washtenaw County Women's Committee, part of the Council of National Defense. Every woman in the city was urged to register with the committee and to volunteer time and skills to fill the places of men away at the front. Housewives observed "meatless days," "wheatless days," and "sweetless days" to conserve food. Five Liberty Loan drives were promoted by patriotic appeals. Gardening became popular as a way to aid "Uncle Sam" and as a means to beat the war-related inflation.

The war thoroughly disrupted University life. Two student naval militia Yost buying war bonds units which had been organized in 1916 were quickly mobilized in 1917. Over 1,800 students joined the ROTC in the fall of 1917. Students volunteered for the armed forces as well; enrollment declined by about 1,500 from that of the previous spring and some 400 men left school during the fall term. Red Cross activities and bond drives occupied the remaining students.

In April 1918 the University acceded to a War Department request toSATC temporary mess hall train non-college draftees as gunsmiths, machinists, blacksmiths, carpenters, and mechanics. By November, over 2,000 men had had two months of training in Ann Arbor. Early the same year the Students Army Training Corps was initiated by the War Department. At one point that year, 3,750 men on campus were involved in military programs, placing intense strain on housing facilities. The unfinished Michigan Union was used as a barracks for 400 men and a mess hall for 4,000. A temporary mess hall for 1,900 was set up next to the Union. Waterman Gym was used as a barracks as were 35 fraternity houses.

The energy displayed by war advocates was often misdirected against anyone suspected of unpatriotic actions, words, or even thoughts. Intense anti-German feeling swept the state and nation. It became unpopular, if not unpatriotic, to play German music, to speak or read German. Enrollment in German courses in the University dropped from 1,300 to 150. In the name of the National Security League, Van Tyne attacked University employees suspected of pacifism, disloyalty, or "subversive" thought. Many citizens of German descent suffered from suspicion and anti-German propaganda. The Washtenaw Post , a local German language newspaper, was barred from the United States mail. Editor Eugene Heller advised his readers, "The day is not far distant when we loyal citizens must make ourselves ready to prove our loyalty before the court. In the meantime, endure, keep your mouth shut and hold out.

In the fall of 1918 the dread Spanish influenza pandemic struck down hundreds. The University was especially hard hit because of overcrowded, jerry-rigged housing and sanitary facilities. The first death occurred on October 6. With over 200 cases of flu in the city and many more on the campus, the city health officer, on October 16, ordered all auditoriums, churches, theatres, dance halls, and other places of public assembly closed indefinitely. Public schools were closed the next day. All members of the faculty and students were ordered to wear face masks, and local citizens were urged to do the same. The Daily Times News reported on October 18 that "The campus looks like a Turkish harem this morning with all the students and faculty members wearing their gauze masks, with President Hutchins leading the procession with a mask that looks like an Oriental rug."

The epidemic abated during November and the ban on public assembly was lifted on November 9, all theatres and movie houses having been thoroughly fumigated. The death toll was heavy; 115 persons died during October alone. About half the deaths were among local citizens, including five nurses, a prominent physician, and a hospital janitor.

Sacrifices, anxiety, and contention were forgotten on November 11, 1918, when the Armistice was announced. "Joy has been unconfined in Ann Arbor today," reported the Times News , "Practically all business in the city is suspended." Receiving the news at 3 a.m., Mayor Ernst Wurster called out the fire truck while Judge George Sample rushed to the courthouse to ring the bell. By 4 a.m. an enormous bonfire was blazing at the corner of Main and Huron. Regent Junius Beal ordered the sounding of the big whistle at the University Power Plant.

In spite of the sleepless night, Van's Marine Band the city quickly organized a gigantic parade. The city bands, student soldiers, state troops, the Colored Soldiers, the Welfare League, the Salvation Army, the Boy Scouts, city officials, and school children paraded through the city, ending on the steps of Hill Auditorium for a songfest. Armistice parade

Reform agitation and mobilization for all-out war had strained but not broken Ann Arbor's sense of community. Conversion to peacetime was to take more than a songfest, however. Postwar prosperity and inflation, the contraction of wartime industry, and the expansion of the University and resulting construction boom were to exert subtle yet powerful pressures. The hyperactive rhythms of ragtime were to be an apt symbol for Ann Arbor in the 1920's.