Author: Laura Bien

Recent Posts

In the Archives: Criminal Girls |

On the morning of Sept. 26, 1883 Ypsilanti resident and Normal School graduate Emma Hall faced a distinguished audience. “The reformation of criminal girls,” she began, “is no longer a doubtful experiment.” Local history columnist Laura Bien traces Hall’s start in the field of women’s prison reform to her talk given at National Conference of Charities and Corrections. [Full Story]

In the Archives: When The Press Fed Us |

In this month’s “In the Archives” column Laura Bien compares the loss of the Ypsilanti Courier as a stand-alone local paper for Ypsilanti to “homeopathic dilution.” She then goes on to describe how the full-strength Ypsilanti Press in 1931 helped organize an effort to feed hungry Ypsilantians. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Soap a Sign of Spring |

In this month’s In the Archives column, local history columnist Laura Bien writes about soap making in days gone by. No fancified folderol was needed for the resourceful local ladies, whose determination transformed moldy bacon and a handful of ashes into a squeaky-clean home, wardrobe, and family. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Dynamite Baseball Catcher |

In her monthly local history column Laura Bien records the legacy of Moses Fleetwood Walker, an African American law student at the University of Michigan who played baseball for the university starting in 1882. Walker went on to play professional baseball. Later in life he also received patents for dynamite artillery shells and improvements to movie projectors. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Woodlawn Cemetery |

In this month’s “In the Archives” column Laura Bien profiles a now-abandoned cemetery where several African American soldiers are interred. The column includes a history of the land as well as a memorial for each of the men who are buried there. [Full Story]

In the Archives: The Friendless Dead |

In her local history column this month Laura Bien started with the ledger kept by the University of Michigan medical school professor who was in charge of procuring cadavers for study. He was required by law to document where they’d come from. Bien offers readers a vignette about one of his entries – Willie Brown, who “ended his days among strangers.” [Full Story]

In the Archives: Last Train to Carp-ville |

In this month’s “In the Archives” column local history writer Laura Bien provides a kind of companion piece for an earlier column she wrote on the sturgeon. This one traces the history from the late 1800s of the carp – which was introduced from Germany. One of the characters in the story is a 1901 graduate of the University of Michigan who lived at 703 Church St. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Michigan Merinos |

In this month’s local history column, Laura Bien traces the Washtenaw County history of a special kind of sheep – the merino. It begins in Spain and involves Napoleon Bonaparte and well a sheep named “Greasy Bill.” As always, the column includes a mystery object to guess. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Lightning Rod for Swindles |

In this month’s “In the Archives” column, local history writer Laura Bien lays out the mechanics of 19th century scams involving lightning rods. “The swindlers were unable to cash the note in the vicinity, and one farmer got rid of the slick chaps by threatening to use a shotgun.” [Full Story]

In the Archives: Sowing Bogus Oats |

In this edition of her “In the Archives” column, Laura Bien re-tells the story of the great Bohemian oats scam that victimized Michigan farmers over a hundred years ago. Not all farmers were victims: “Farmer Graves meandered to the house, came out loaded with a shotgun and other implements of war, …” [Full Story]