History

picture of Great Lakes steamship
Wikimedia Commons/University of Maryland Digital Collections)

The Great Lakes might not be your first choice for a cruise vacation. But the passenger ships in the region used to be some of the most luxurious in the entire world. We learn more about these “floating palaces” from Detroit Historical Society Joel Stone, whose recent book profiles the history of the Great Lakes steamship industry.

If you wanted to travel in style around the Great Lakes during the 19th and early 20th centuries, you took a steamship. The boats' massive ballrooms and ornate furnishings earned them the nickname “palace steamers.” 

Dick Thelen photo
Kevin Lavery / WKAR

In the waning days of World War Two, a Japanese submarine sank the USS Indianapolis. Hundreds of sailors who survived the sinking spent four days in the water, facing sharks, dehydration and exposure. Current State’s Kevin Lavery brings us the incredible story of survivor Dick Thelen of Lansing.


There used to be a pair of Civil War era cannons on the grounds on the State Capitol building. On Saturday, there will be a ceremony to mark the installation of two replica cannons. State Senators Mike Kowall and Steve Bieda worked across the aisle to raise private money for the project. Current State talks with them about the project.


Current State talks with Frederick Stonehouse. His book "The Last Laker: Finding a Wreck Lost in the Great Lakes’ Deadliest Storm" tells the story of the search for the SS Henry B. Smith, which sank in 1913.


Fort Mackinac photo
Kevin Lavery / WKAR

At the end of the War of 1812, the British fort on Mackinac Island was returned to the United States. This weekend, the Mackinac State Historic Parks system is celebrating Fort Mackinac’s bicentennial.


Larry Inman photo
Michigan House Republicans

Michigan State Representative Larry Inman recently returned from a trip to the South Pacific. looking for clues to the disappearance of famed pilot Amelia Earhart.


First Michigan Colored Regiment marker photo
Scott Pohl / WKAR

Detroit was home to the first unit of African-American men trained to fight in the Civil War. Current State's Scott Pohl talks with historian Jack Dempsey about the First Michigan Colored Regiment.


MSU archeological dig photo
Kevin Lavery / WKAR

MSU students are finding interesting artifacts in an archeological dig along the Red Cedar River.


Norm Knappman photo
Scott Pohl / WKAR

Current State talks with Norm Knappman of Howell about the long-term effects he has suffered after his exposure to mustard gas during World War II.


Grace Lee Boggs photo
Flickr - Kyle McDonald

Civil Rights icon Grace Lee Boggs will celebrate her 100th birthday on Saturday. Celebrations will be held in Detroit to honor her work.


Brad Schwartz was 23 years when he co-wrote a PBS American Experience documentary on the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ radio sci-fi thriller, “The War of the Worlds.” He was the same age as Welles when the production aired in 1938. Now, Schwartz has published a book on the classic hoax. Current State’s Kevin Lavery talks with the Okemos native about his work.


Kevin Lavery/WKAR

One of the most popular tourist sites in Michigan is Colonial Michilimackinac. It’s well within walking distance of the Mackinac Bridge, just to the west along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The old French trading post that later became a British fort turns 300 years old in 2015, and parts of its original past lie just below the surface.

Courtesy - facebook.com/pages/Eva-Mozes-Kor/

In 1944, Romania was occupied by the Hungarian army, which was aligned with Nazi Germany. Eva Kor was 10 years old the day she, her parents and three sisters were forced into a cattle car that was ultimately destined for Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp in Poland. Eva Kor was a child of war who as an adult came to find her own profound moment of peace. She’ll speak tonight at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

Current State has taken you to some historic sites in Detroit, including a stop last week at the house where former President Ulysses S. Grant once lived. Now, we turn to Lansing for some history that’s closer to home. Scott Pohl recently met up with historian Tom Truscott at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

If you were in Michigan in the 1960’s, your memories probably include the Palm Sunday tornadoes, Governor and Presidential candidate George Romney and the Vietnam War. A Lansing-born journalist with roots in that memorable decade has written a memoir that includes those three and more.

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