Between the Lines: Exploring Michigan History

Jan 19, 2015

Larry Massie in his library
Credit Zinta Aistars

Larry Massie has earned himself the title of Michigan’s historian, earning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Historical Society of Michigan. His 21 collections of stories about the ship captains, lumberjacks, poets, politicians, cereal makers, outlaws, and anyone who has had an impact on the state’s history culminate with his newest book, published in August 2014. Blue Water, Red Metal and Green Gold: The Color of Michigan’s Past includes 27 stories, illustrated with photos and drawings. It is the 12th in a series called "Voyages into Michigan’s Past."  

Massie’s interest in old books began in his boyhood and has grown over a lifetime. He has amassed a personal library of more than 45,000 books, including many first editions. As the library outgrew his home, he moved it to an old government building in Allegan, Michigan.

Credit Priscilla Press

“I do much of my research and writing there,” Massie says, but he also travels across the state and digs into the archives of other libraries and private collections and memories. Massie worked as an archivist at Western Michigan University for eight years. When he left that job in 1983, his aim was to become an independent historian.

“I was told that was impossible to do,” Massie smiles. With his books filling an entire library bookshelf and a busy schedule of guest speaking at libraries, universities, schools and festivals, Massie proved the naysayers wrong.

Blue Water, Red Metal and Green Gold includes stories about the copper rush in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; Robert Frost’s reluctant years at University of Michigan; the shady real estate agents who created fake puddles of water in sandy soil to sell ruined land to unsuspecting buyers; writer Stuart Edward White strangling a leopard with his bare hands in between writing several dozens of books; the capture of a criminal because of a particular flourish he had in writing the letter “s”; and many more.

Listen to Between the Lines on WMUK every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.