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Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 1:00pm


Forty-four years ago, on November 10, 1968, Neil Young (whose critically-acclaimed autobiography, [b:1415106|Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippy Dream] is currently a New York Times bestseller) recorded the song "Sugar Mountain" here in Ann Arbor at the now-legendary Canterbury House, then located at the end of [|this alley] at 330 Maynard.

Recorded between the time of Young's membership with [a:Buffalo Springfield] and [a:Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young], this [|ode to lost youth] written four years earlier was acknowledged by fellow Canadian [a:Mitchell, Joni|Joni Mitchell] (who also played the Canterbury House) as the inspiration for her similarly-themed, [b:1103641|The Circle Game]. It's one of Young's earliest and more traditional folk songs, and the sincerity evident in this live recording is underscored by its remarkable intimacy.

Check out [b:1326115|Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House] in our CD collection and some of our [|Oldnews articles about Ann Arbor's Canterbury House], at the time a coffee house music venue and center for outreach programs associated with St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Local writer Alan Glenn wrote [|a great article about the Canterbury House] in a recent issue of Michigan Today.

The Story of Argus Camera

The story of the Argus Cameras, Inc. is one of ideas, perseverance and adaptability.

Founded in the Depression years by businessmen who were as tough as the times, it employed, at its height, 1300 workers and occupied 2 city blocks on 4th Street.

In 1929, local inventor Charles A. Verschoor and Mayor William E. Brown Jr. started a radio manufacturing business with support from local bankers called the International Radio Company. In 1932 they produced the Kadette, the first radio that used tubes instead of a large transformer. Verschoor then traveled to Europe researching the idea of producing a camera (like the Leica) but made and sold for $10. With the first camera rolling off the assembly line in 1936, the name of the company was changed to Argus, after the Greek mythological god of 1,000 eyes. The Model A camera was so popular, it sold 30,000 units by Montgomery Ward in the first week.

In the 1940s, with stiff competition from cheaper Japanese cameras available on the market, Argus diversified its product lines with projectors, optical and specialty equipment for several United States Department of Defense contracts during WWII, and the Korean War, thus saving many local jobs.

Local historians like to point out that Argus Cameras, as one of Ann Arbor’s early industries, was 100% Ann Arbor: 100% Ann Arbor capital, 100% Ann Arbor brains, and 100% Ann Arbor people. The Old News staff have gathered decades of news articles, photos and videos that trace the rise and decline of this very important manufacturer in local history.

While the business no longer exists, Argus cameras remain much sought-after collectibles. (See them at the Argus Museum Exhibits and photos taken by AADL photographer Tom Smith). The original Argus buildings still stand, now used by various departments of the University of Michigan, and inspired local author Steve Amick’s second novel Nothing but a Smile (2009).

AADL has partnered with the Argus Museum to digitize a wide variety of images and documents that build a fuller picture of what it was like to work at Argus Camera, its products, people, and impact.

Ann Arbor News Articles

AADL has digitized hundreds of articles from the Ann Arbor News documenting the history of Argus Camera as it happened. These articles include announcements of new products, changes in the company, and the company's impact on the Ann Arbor Community. Argus Camera's role as an industry leader and a major employer in the area assured that coverage by the Ann Arbor News was in-depth.

Argus Eyes

AADL has digitized the Argus Eyes, the employee newsletter of Argus Camera. This publication includes details about the company and its workers, from descriptions of new product lines and facilities to birth announcements and company picnics. And of course, given its source, it is also full of spectacular photos, many of them from the Ann Arbor area.


AADL has conducted the following interviews regarding the history of Argus Camera:
-Cheryl Chedister, Argus Museum Curator
-Milt Campbell, Art Dersham, and Elwyn Dersham, long-time Argus Camera employees
-Art Parker, long-time Argus Camera employee

Argus Camera Publications

In addition to the Argus Eyes, the Argus Museum and AADL have made available digitized copies of many of the publications created by the Argus Camera organization over the years. These include instruction manuals for many of Argus's products, parts lists for the same, and educational booklets on how to take better photographs using Argus cameras.


The Argus Museum and AADL have also made available a collection of photographs of Argus products and the museum itself. These include high-resolution photos of some of Argus Camera's most iconic creations, from the Kadette Radio to the Argoflex camera.

Argus Videos

We've also digitized two historic films about Argus cameras, Argus Eyes for Victory, from 1945 and Fine Cameras and How They Are Made, from 1953.

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AADL Talks to Argus Employees and Museum Curator

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 10:57am


Do you ever wonder what it was like to work for one of the largest employers in Ann Arbor and one of the most prestigious and well-known camera manufacturers in the world?

AADL [|talked to Art Parker], an avowed “Townie” who spent nearly 20 years with Argus Camera. Art talked about his family’s long history with Argus and the company’s social life that included Christmas parties, teen dances, summer camp, scholarships and profit-sharing.

We also [|talked with Milt Campbell, Art Dersham and Elwyn Dersham] about their years at Argus during its heyday in the 1940s and 50s and the challenging years of the 1960s and 70s as the company’s fortunes declined and Argus left Ann Arbor forever.

[|Cheryl Chidester], the Argus Museum curator shared the history of the company, its products and innovations, and its role in United States’ victory in World War II. We also learned about the founding of the Argus Museum, its missions in preserving the history and material culture of this early Ann Arbor industry significant to generations in the community.

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Blog Post

50th Anniversary of the Port Huron Statement

Mon, 10/08/2012 - 8:17am

[img_assist|nid=218658|title=Tom Hayden at Ann Arbor fundraiser, 1985|desc=|link=url|url=|align=left|width=100|height=140]

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the now-legendary [|Port Huron Statement], a manifesto written by “Students for a Democratic Society” (SDS) at a retreat on Lake Huron in 1962. From October 31 - November 2, the University of Michigan is hosting [|A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in Its Time and Ours], a free 3-day public conference exploring the significance of the Port Huron Statement and its social, political and cultural consequences for the New Left of the 1960s - from anti-war movements to civil rights and women’s liberation movements. We’ve pulled together articles from our Oldnews archive about the [|Students for a Democratic Society], featuring SDS co-founders [|Tom Hayden] and [|Alan Haber] and reflections from other [|New Left] activists over the intervening years.

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Blog Post

Signal of Liberty

Thu, 09/27/2012 - 9:52am


The [|Signal of Liberty] was Ann Arbor's prominent abolitionist newspaper, running from 1841-1847. The paper has been digitized and made available online. This wonderful resource can be browsed by either articles or images. The [|Signal of Liberty] had a primary goal of spreading facts on the issue of slavery to readers in the Midwest and remains an excellent primary source for research.

This resource can be accessed by visiting [|] or through the AADL website by going to the [|Research] page, clicking [|Local History], and then selecting [|Signal of Liberty].

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Blog Post

The Beer Depot sign, 1967

Sat, 09/15/2012 - 9:30am

[img_assist|nid=218203|title=Beer Depot sign|desc=|link=url|url=|align=left|width=100|height=132]

An [|article] in posted yesterday reports that the [|historic Beer Depot drive-thru sign] will finally be repaired and restored at the East William street business after a storm blew it down last year and owners had to work through city ordinance restrictions.

For this and other signs from 1960s and 1970s-era Ann Arbor, check out our [|great collection of historic signs].

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Images from the Past: The Making of Ann Arbor

Tue, 07/17/2012 - 3:56pm


Several years ago, when a patron needed an image of the old entrance to the U-M hospital, we suggested he look in [|The Making of Ann Arbor]. Eureka! He found a colorful postcard image and printed it.

Other researchers in [|The Making of Ann Arbor] website find similar success as they search or browse through several image collections and full-text of books. Nicknamed "MoAA," this website was created through a collaboration among AADL, the Bentley Historical Library, and the U-M Digital Library Production Services. You can use it for research or just to enjoy browsing through a collection of postcards, historic buildings, advertisements, and maps of early Ann Arbor.

Access to this and any of our other reference databases and resources is available at every branch of the AADL, as well as from outside the library with a valid AADL library card. For access from an outside location, please sign in to your library account, visit our reference database page, and navigate to the desired resource. To access [|The Making of Ann Arbor] database, go to the research page and select [|The Making of Ann Arbor] from the Ann Arbor category.

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Blog Post

Tracking down a sketch artist

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 1:11pm


Here's a cool story we wanted to share! So a woman in Georgia knows her dad was a sketch artist whose work appeared in the Ann Arbor News in the late 1960s and she'd really like to see some of his work. Her friend contacts [|The Ann Arbor Chronicle] whose editor happens to know we're undergoing a massive digitization effort, and he forwards the query to us. Well, it turns out we've already scanned [|some of those very sketches] at ridiculous high quality and color as part of our [|feature on the John Normans Collins murder and trial] during the late 1960s!

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Blog Post

AADL Talks To Commander Cody

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 10:03am

George Frayne, aka Commander Cody, formed Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in 1967 while attending the University of Michigan. We had the opportunity to chat with George backstage at the Ark before the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally (Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen performed at the original Rally in 1971). George spoke about the formation of the band, his memories of some of Ann Arbor's musical hot spots, as well as his introduction to boogie-woogie piano, to pot, and to John Sinclair and the White Panther Party.

For more information on Commander Cody, visit and

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AADL_Talks_To-Commander_Cody.mp3 22.86 MB

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Blog Post

The Blind Pig

Sun, 04/22/2012 - 6:46pm

The Blind Pig is Ann Arbor’s legendary live music venue. It is best known for being the local venue where Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Nirvana performed. Established over thirty years ago, the Blind Pig, or the Pig as referred to by locals, continues to be a premiere live music venue for indie, rock, hip hop, and electronic bands. Originally the venue functioned as both a bar and café, but now functions solely has bar/club with frequent live band performances. In addition, the [| 8 Ball Lounge] located below the Blind Pig is now a well-known dive bar with a cult following all its own.

[| Click here] for more articles about the Blind Pig