Local History and Genealogy

News, comments, resources, and more.

What's on top of the cabinets?

Ever wonder what those very large bound volumes are on top of the cabinets in the Local History Room? They are collectively known as the Historical Newspapers. These were special editions of various local newspapers, all laminated and indexed. They were published for such special occasions as the centennial of Kalamazoo County in 1937, the opening of the new Kalamazoo Gazette building in 1925 or our nation’s Bicentennial in 1976. Each edition is filled with articles and photographs on our community’s institutions, organizations, businesses and individuals. Make sure you don’t overlook the advertisements which are fascinating in among themselves. What makes these issues useful is that they are indexed and a physical copy can be found right next to them. So the next time you are in the Local History Room, pick one of these up, leaf through it and see what new bit of information you can find out about Kalamazoo.


Historical Newspapers
Lynn H

The Michigan What?

When you visit the Local History Room, walk over to the shelf that has the 328s. There you will find a series of dark red, unassuming volumes that appear to be filled with useless information. How untrue that is! These books are known as the Michigan Manual and are published every two years by the State of Michigan pursuant to section 24.24 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, meaning it’s required by law. They are filled with a voluminous amount of information on such subjects as Michigan’s history and its government. It has information on all the statewide elected officials including the Representatives and State Senators and each of Michigan’s Departments listing all the members of various boards and commissions. You can get population numbers for each of our 83 counties, the voting results for the previous primary, special and general elections, the members of the constitution convention of 1961-62 and the names of the Michigan Asparagus Commission. For someone like me who teaches Michigan History, these books are amazing. The Local History Room has manuals on the shelves going back to 1925 and in storage ones dating back to 1861. So the next time you are in the Local History Room and don’t know what to do, pick up one of these books. Who knows what you might find.


Michigan Manual
Lynn H

Secrets Revealed in Old Photos

Like many people interested in history and genealogy, I love collecting old photographs. There is nothing better than receiving a group portrait of my family members from past generations with everyone carefully identified and the date dutifully recorded. Unfortunately, many historic photos find their way to collectors without any identification at all. But that doesn’t mean their secrets are locked away forever. Careful examination of historic photos often reveals a great deal about their time period, location, and subjects. The history room has several wonderful books to help you do just that. One of my favorites is Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. This book breaks down by decade and clearly identifies the clothing and hairstyles popular for each. Styles for men, women, and children are all included as well as clues to society and popular culture of the time. With 272 photographs, Dressed for the Photographer is enjoyable to browse but is also an incredibly useful tool.


Dressed for the Photographer
Beth T

Kalamazoo and Automobiles

By now we have heard so much about the auto industry in Michigan. Much emphasis has been geared to the southeastern part of the State. For a more local perspective on what this industry meant to Kalamazoo, go to The Kalamazoo Automobilist by David Lyon (H 629.2 L991).  A long-time aficionado, Lyon examines the auto industry in Kalamazoo, focusing on the Michigan Buggy Company scandal. Each chapter has a bibliography and the book has a great deal of illustrations, including thirty-two pages of color photographs from the Locomobile, the first car that ran on our streets, to Western Michigan University’s Sunseeker.


The Kalamazoo Automobilist
Lynn H