Celebrate with us our 150 years

Gary Miles
The Detroit News

On a warmer Monday some years back, a News reporter encountered a gentleman with big dreams for Campus Martius, Detroit's emerging downtown gathering place.

"As a business and social center, sir, the Campus Martius has immense possibilities," he said. "Amsterdam has her Kalvastraat ... Paris her boulevards ... New York her Broadway, Rome her Corso and Detroit — "

And Detroit has?

"And Detroit has a good deal to learn," he said. "Fancy, sir, an octagon of marble buildings surrounding our City Hall, each building fireproof. On the roofs, beautiful gardens and groves, the varied colors of the bright flowers and green leaves alternating with the silver spires of cooling fountains, street cars propelled by electricity over the roofs and conveying passengers to all parts of the city" resulting in a "thing of beauty and a joy forever."

Campus Martius, looking up Monroe Street, as it appeared in a Detroit News photo on April 16, 1923.

Fast forward 150 years and here we are. That conversation was recounted in August 1873, in just the second edition of this newspaper. Clearly, over that time, many things have changed. And some have not.

Join our 150-day-long 150th year celebration at detroitnews.com/detroit-news-150

One constant has been The Detroit News, which back then was The Evening News. And between those first editions and today spans much of the rich history of Detroit and Michigan, from gritty river town to engine of the nation's economy and builder of its middle class.

Today, and over the next 150 days, The News will publish daily content in print and online to reflect on the 150 years since James Scripps published his first newspaper on Aug. 23, 1873. His vision was to create an affordable, readable paper for the masses. We invite you to celebrate with us.

There is a lot to commemorate. Of course, there's the journalism: Pulitzer Prizes in 1942 (the nation's first in news photography), 1982 and 1994. Just this month, The News was named newspaper of the year by the Michigan Press Association.

Journalism is about more than awards, of course, and The News has made other contributions, direct and indirect, big and small:

  • The News editorial pages successfully campaigned for the purchase of Belle Isle to transform it into a city park in 1879.
  • On Belle Isle are two other notable connections. The 85-foot tall Nancy Brown Peace Carillon, built entirely with donations from News readers for the sunrise services that our columnist started there, drawing more than 50,000 for its dedication. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, built in 1904, was in 1955 renamed in honor of the daughter of James Scripps after her significant donation of rare orchids.
  • The News presented the first miniature railroad to the Detroit Zoo in 1931 and led a fundraising campaign in 1982-83 to renovate the locomotives and add new cars to what is now known as the Tauber Family Railroad.
  • The News gave birth to the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, representing the largest class of ice boats in the world, after opening its carpentry shop to the builders of the largest ice boats.
  • In media, both WWJ radio (950 AM) and WDIV-TV (Channel 4, formerly WWJ-TV) were founded and owned by The News, until federal pressure prompted divestiture.
  • And of course there's the Cranbrook Educational Community, founded by George and Ellen Scripps Booth. Ellen was James Scripps' daughter and George was president of the The News from 1906-1929 and Cranbrook remains an esteemed world leader in education.
Mini railroad: The News presented the first miniature railroad to the Detroit Zoo in 1931 and led a fundraising campaign in 1982-83 to renovate the locomotives.

So while The News has been your source of news, its founders, journalists and readers have done so much more.

It's that connection that we're celebrating over these 150 days, with daily facts and a brief bio on one of the top Michiganians in our history. We're planning celebrations with the staff, the community and local charities. We're publishing a book of historic front pages and photos available now for pre-order. We'll soon announce plans for a collector's item in conjunction with a local distillery.

And, of course, we will continue to deliver The News.

Nancy Brown Peace Carillon: The Detroit News’ contributions to the community stretch beyond delivering the news. This 85-foot tower was raised in recognition of a columnist’s sunrise services.

It's impossible in just a few paragraphs to distill all the ways this newspaper and region have grown together. But in reflecting on our history, we also see the possibilities still ahead, just as Detroit Alderman Philo Parsons laid out that grand vision for Campus Martius back in 1873.

One thing that hasn't changed is Scripps' vision, which he penned in that very first edition of The News and which embodies what we continue to strive to be today.

"Let it be understood that the paper is what its name imports, a plain but faithful picture of what is going on in the great world around us, and especially in our immediate vicinity. Opinion, as well as fact, will be faithfully portrayed and the reader will at least have the utmost light thrown on every subject and upon every side thereof. Conclusions each can draw for himself."

Gary Miles is Editor and Publisher of The Detroit News. Join us with a print or digital-only subscription at detroitnews.com/subscribe.

The 150th anniversary book "Iconic Images and Front Pages of Detroit's Past: The Detroit News Commemorates 150 Years of Service to Detroit" can be pre-ordered at detroitnews150.pictorialbook.com.

The book “Iconic Images and Front Pages of Detroit’s Past: The Detroit News Commemorates 150 Years of Service to Detroit” is now available for pre-order.