Scrapbook History: Forest Akers

21 05 2012

Any student attending Michigan State University today is aware of the Akers name.  We see it on one of our largest dormitories, one of our gyms, and multiple golf courses, but how much does the average attendee actually know about this namesake?

Forest Akers stand with Howerd Harris and Mr. Vogler

Forest Akers stands with fellow Reo Motor Car Co. representatives Howard Harris and Mr. Vogler.

As it turns out, Forest H. Akers was an incredibly prominent member of Michigan society for many decades during the first half of the 20thcentury.  He spent almost 20 years on the State Board of Agriculture, set up endowments for future MSU students, worked among the highest echelon of the Chrysler Corporation, and in his scrapbook left to the MSU Archives he gives his own record of his numerous personal endeavors during these years.  Interestingly enough, the book begins not with Akers’ own experiences at M.A.C. from 1905-1908 (which could possibly have to do with the fact that he was kicked out), but with his marriage to Alice Rockwell a number of years later.  One of the interesting aspects of his scrapbook is that the pages are filled not with his own descriptions of events, but with dozens of news paper clippings from which you can gleam an understanding of Akers’ position in the world of early 1900s Michigan.  Some of these articles are plain bizarre—including one report where his jacket was stolen from a signpost while taking an evening stroll—however, the compilation of the first ten pages worth of newspaper bits and pieces creates a picture of the early stages of his sometimes-rocky business career.

In one clipping it is stated, “Mr. Ackers [sic] openly admits that it is the news space given the automobile by the newspapers which has brought the business to the important place it now occupies.”  No one would know this better than Akers, in the pages of his scrapbook he has preserved his portion of Michigan’s auto history, showing his movements among the corporations of Reo Motor Car Company, the Dodge Brothers Corporation, and finally to being VP of the Chrysler Corporation.  Akers even includes the frayed remains of his Michigan driver’s license among his articles and photographs.  He was rising in the automobile industry at the best of times, and this reflects in the remaining 30 or so pages of his scrapbook.  Judging from the pictures of his travels and trips, Akers seems to have skirted by the devastation and depression of the 1930s.

The Akers car sits outside a house in Panama

The Akers car sits outside a small village home during their trip to Panama in 1935.

Akers’ travels and family life make up some of the most fascinating portions of his scrapbook, revealing a side to the name that may not normally be associated with Akers Hall.  The remainder of Forrest Akers’ scrapbook includes pictures from his travels all across the North American continent and the globe, including Washington D.C., Boulder Dam, Niagara Falls, Montreal, the West Indies, and Panama.  His photos show native huts in the Indies, the grave of Buffalo Bill alongside enormous mountain views in the west, and countless images of young family members he undoubtedly holds dear. He also includes personal photos of his family and cottage in northern Michigan, showing his affinity for golf, the memory of which remains today in the courses and buildings we have been left through his generous donations.

Akers playing golf at his cottage in northern Michignan.

Akers plays golf on his property in northern Michigan during August of 1924.

For more information and photographs of Forest Akers visit our online exhibit.

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