2001 Essay Theme
(23 essays, 9 winners, $28,000)
Your essay or research paper should concern some aspect of the History of Plymouth's "Old Village" area. Topic examples would be: the examination of the history of a particular building in the "Old Village" area, the research of the history of a particular family from the "Old Village" area, or the relationship of the "Old Village" area to the entire City of Plymouth. It is in the selection of a topic for your essay/research paper that your special creativity and originality of thought may shine.
2002 Essay Theme
(25 essays, 17 winners, $40,000)
The essay or research paper should concern the history of one of Plymouth's long- time businesses. It should focus on a family run business that operates, or has operated, essentially in the City of Plymouth and which has played a part in the history of the City of
Plymouth. A branch business which is, or was, part of a large business enterprise which has several branches in other communities is not to be considered. Examples to consider would be Beyer Drugs, Eckles Oil Company, or the Mayflower Hotel. Examples not to consider would be the railroads, the phone company, or the large banks. Additionally, the
essay could focus on the historical development of a particular business district in, or directly adjacent to, the City of Plymouth.
2003 Essay Theme
(30 essays, 17 winners, $38,000)
Your essay/research paper should be based on a program of personal interviews with a Plymouth Area resident who is at least 80 years old and has lived in the Plymouth Area for over 40 years. From this interview, you will write an essay based on the historical information that you obtain from this person that you consider to be important and
interesting. You will also be expected to expand on a particular item or concept brought forth in the interview, and doing original research at the Plymouth Historical Museum, Plymouth Library, or any other source you deem worthwhile, focus at least 40% of your research paper on this topic.
2004 Essay Theme
(8 essays, 8 winners, $19,000)
Your essay or research paper should concern some aspect of Plymouth's involvement in World War II. An essential component of this project is information gathered from a personal interview with a World War II veteran who was from Plymouth; the spouse of a
veteran who was living in Plymouth during the War; or the child of a Plymouth veteran who was old enough to remember the effects that having an absent parent had on the rest of the family. The primary aim is not to recount military battle stories, but to see how the residents
of Plymouth responded to the War experience. War Bonds, victory gardens, Red Cross blood drives, and war victims' relief drives are examples of topics that may provide a focus for your essay. Local women who worked in plants to help the war effort (similar to Rosie
the Riveter) might also be good interview subjects. The Plymouth Historical Museum and Plymouth District Library, especially the Plymouth Mail microfilm collection, would be good places to conduct background research.
2005 Essay Theme
(16 essays, 15 winners, $33,000)
Your essay or research paper should focus on how improvements in technology in transportation affected the people and businesses of Plymouth. Some possible topics could be the horse and buggy, the Inter-Urban trolley, the paving of Plymouth Roal and/or Main Street, the Alter automobile, or even the establishment of the local airport.
After original research at the Plymouth Historical Museum, Plymouth District Library or other research source, you should deonstrate/iscuss how one of these areas in transportation improved the quality of life and work for the local residents. For those changes that took place in the 20th Century, special emphasis should be given to personal interviews with residents or children of residents who can comment on the impact of technology on the Plymouth Community.
2006 Essay Theme
(36 essays, 25 winners, $ 48,000)
Charles G Draper (5/19/1865 - 1/26/1941) spent 47 years in the jewelry business in Plymouth. As a hobby, he was an amateur photographer. Through his images, he chronicled life in Plymouth at the turn of the Nineteenth Century and into the early decade of the Twentieth Century. Included in this collection are images of street scenes, various
private homes and individuals, businesses, churches, the Interurban, railroad accidents and local civic events. A collection of his glass plate negatives now resides at the Plymouith Historical Museum.
This year's essay topic requires you to choose one or more photographs from this collection and write a paper on one, some, or any of the subject(s) of the photograph(s) using original research.
2007 Essay Theme
(21 essays, 19 winners, $26,500)
Pick a day, any day, from 1850 through 1900. Then imagine yourself visiting Plymouth. Describe what you would see on the streets. Write about the businesses present; the modes of transportation, prominent citizens you might meet on the streets, kinds of dwelling places, schools, churches and municipal buildings. What are people doing for recreation or sports? Then, place this day in the context of international events. For example, if there is a war going on, how is it affecting the residents of Plymouth? If a new president has been elected, how did the residents of Plymouth vote in the election? Through original research in primary sources and newspapers, a time capsule of Plymouth on a particular day in history will emerge in your essay.
2008 Essay Theme
(21 essays, 18 winners, $27,000)
The years between the end of World War II and the end of the Korean Conflict were exciting ones for the residents of Plymouth. Soldiers coming home from overseas were anxious to return to their jobs or find new ones. Couples looked for new housing as they started families. (Their children are now known as the Baby Boomers.) Technology
that had been developed for the military during the war made its way into the public sector. Citizens of Plymouth shopped at new stores and organized cultural societies that still exist today. The government underwent some growing pains during this period, including the
Recall of 1949 and establishment of a paid fire department.
The Topic of your essay should focus on the changes (both good and bad) that took place in Plymouth during this time frame. Using original research, present a picture of the growth experienced in the community as both a business and residential area; new opportunities for cultural, educational and leisure activities; changes in city government;
and any other area of life in Plymouth you feel is pertinent to presenting an accurate portrait of this period. You are required to interview one or more people who were living in Plymouth during these years and use their recollections as a part of the essay. Other suggested research tools include "The Plymouth Mail Newspaper" (at the Plymouth District
Library), Plymouth City Directories, period photographs, and other materials at the Plymouth Historical Museum or Library. Sam Hudson's "The Story of Plymouth Michigan" may be used for background information, but must not be quoted or cited as a resource.
2009 Essay Theme
(18 essays, 18 winners, $25,500)
The Plymouth area was settled primarily by people from the eastern part of the United States. As well, immigrants from other countries were also among the founding/original members of the community. Who were these early residents of Plymouth and why did they come to Michigan from other states or other countries? How did they travel to this area? What work did they do when they got here? Did they bring any special traditions with them?
The topic of your essay should focus on either an individual or a family that settled in Plymouth between the years 1820 and 1880. Doing original research, discuss the geographic and cultural origins of your subject(s). If possible, find out where they set up their home and/or
business. What kind of hardships did they face in settling the area? How
did their lives benefit others in the community? Were there any lasting contributions made by the individual or family to life in Plymouth? While these are pertinent areas you need to address in your essay, please feel free to explore other aspects you feel appropriate in
presenting a full portrait of the individual or family.
There are a number of early Plymouth residents and families that have had a great deal written about them (for example the Starkweathers and the Pennimans.) Since the Foundation is trying to encourage document research and the use of various historical resources so that participants will get a first hand experience discovering these tools and the information available, it is suggested, but not required, that students use other and lesser known persons and families as the subject of their essays.
2010 Essay Theme
(16 essays, 14 winners, $26,000)
Margaret Dunning has been a gifted civic leader and generous philanthropist in Plymouth for more years than can be counted. Her 100th birthday will take place in June, 2010. What a better way to honor Margaret than to have students target some aspect of life in
Plymouth, Michigan as it was in June, 1910 (the month and year she was born) and then compare it to today. (While June, 1910 is a target date used to pinpoint a topic, certainly this time frame could be expanded to more fully provide historical background and the changes which have occurred throughout the following years.)
Subjects of this essay might include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
-Education in Plymouth -Social/cultural life -Family life and leisure -Politics in the city
-The urbanization of the Plymouth Community (neighborhoods, Old Village, etc.)
-How Plymouth residents earned their livelihood in 1910 as compared to today
-Transportation in Plymouth in 1910 as compared to today.
2011 Essay Theme
(9 essays, 9 winners, $17,000)
The Sesquicentennial Celebration of the American Civil War will begin in 2011. This year's topic of Plymouth Area Response during the Civil War Eraencourages original research not only on the greater Plymouth area's military role in battle, but also related topics
including local attitudes on abolition (Michigan Anti Slavery Society), possible sites of the Underground Railroad in the community, the Plymouth Ladies Aid Society, County Aid for Families, and Plymouth families on the home front, 1861-1865.
2012 Essay Theme
December 7, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a direct result of this attack, the United States declared war on Japan and thus entered World War II. Your essay should focus on how this historic day, and the events that followed, affected the lives and businesses in Plymouth.
The primary aim of your research paper should not be about battle stories, but rather how the residents of Plymouth responded to the war experience or the impact of the war on local families or businesses. War Bonds, Red Cross blood drives, war victims’ relief drives, victory gardens and product rationing are examples of topics that may provide ideas for your essay.
Personal interviews with local women who worked in plants to help the war effort, family members of those who were lost in the war or surviving World War II veterans would be especially helpful in developing your essay.
The Plymouth Historical Museum and Plymouth District Library, especially the Plymouth Mail microfilm collection, would be good places to conduct initial background research.
2013 Essay Theme
Plymouth in the Twenty-First Century is a thriving community thanks,
in large part, to the men and women of the Nineteenth and early
Twentieth Centuries who put their dreams and hard work into laying
the foundations of industry, government, education, religion, and
public works into a small settlement in Western Wayne County.
Those founding fathers and founding mothers, as well as first families
of Plymouth, are the topic of this year's Wilcox Foundation Annual
Essay Contest. Your research paper is not meant to be a mere
biography of a famous person or family, but rather an essay that
focuses on the impact that individual or group of relatives made on the
growth and development of Plymouth. What changed in Plymouth
because of a particular person's life in the community? Are there
lasting effects that still can be seen today as a result of this person or
family either in Plymouth or in the State of Michigan?
Many papers and books have already been written about the history of
the Daisy Air Rifle company, so this topic is not appropriate for this
Sam Hudson's THE STORY OF PLYMOUTH may be used for
background information, but must not be quoted or cited as a resource.
2014 Essay Theme
Starting with the first school erected in 1827 up to our current Plymouth-Canton Community School system, education has been a vital part of the history of Plymouth.
Your essay or research paper should focus on some aspect of educational life in the development of the community. Possible topics may include the rise of the one-room schoolhouses in early Plymouth township; how the post-World War II baby boom affected the school system in Plymouth; pivotal figures in the education field in Plymouth and why they are considered important, or any other topic relating to the history of education in the community that requires original research.
Dr. Samuel Hudson’s book, Michigan’s Tenth Largest: Plymouth-Canton Community School District 1830-1986, may be consulted for essay ideas, but must not be quoted or cited as a resource.
2015 Essay Theme
Plymouth and the Great War
Worldwide, we are commemorating the centennial of World War I, which started in 1914 and ended in 1918. Although the United States did not enter this war until April 6, 1917, the local newspapers covered the “European Confl ict” in great detail, including photographs from the battlefi eld and of the civilian refugees. Having been exposed to this information, how did the residents of the Plymouth area react once the declaration
of war was announced?
This year’s essay should focus on a particular aspect of Plymouth’s response to World War I. Possible areas of research might include the stories of those who volunteered to serve in the military… where did they train, where did they serve and what happened to them. Other topics might cover the home front in Plymouth. What sort of support was given to the war effort by those who did not serve? Were local businesses and government offi cials in favor of the war? Did the women of Plymouth contribute in any manner? Since radio and television coverage did not yet exist, what was the role of the local paper in forming people’s view of the war?
2016 Essay Theme
(11 essays, 11 winners, $18,500.00)
2016 is a national election year and campaign rhetoric is already heating up in the newspapers, television and online. Some of the issues being discussed include the rights and duties of the citizens of the United States and their role in participating in the election process. But being a good citizen involves more than just voting. It includes stepping up and contributing time and
effort into making a community a better place to live and work. How did the residents of Plymouth participate as good citizens of their community or country in past years? (Your topic must have roots in the 1940’s or earlier.) Would Plymouth have been considered a Civic-
2017 Essay Theme
(15 Essays, 14 Winners, $23,000.00)
The area in Plymouth called Old Village has always had a distinctive character, starting with the coming of the railroads in 1871 and then the establishment of its commercial area along Liberty Street. Today it is a unique mix of individual homes, small industrial buildings, restaurants and
shops, churches and a historic cemetery. The Wilcox Foundation Annual Essay Contest will focus on Old Village as the central topic for 2017. Areas of research might include:
• How did this village within the larger Village of Plymouth develop and who were the key individuals responsible for its growth?
• Were there any ethnic groups who chose Old Village as a settlement place? Did these groups have notable leaders and what did they accomplish?
• Which industries decided to locate their facilities in Old Village and why?
• How was Henry Ford associated with Old Village?
• Are there currently, or were there, institutions unique to Old Village that may be of historic or cultural significance?
2018 Essay Theme
(8 essays, 8 winners, $16,200.00)
With respect to the fact that the City of Plymouth celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017, let’s look back in time and examine what prompted earlier men and women to move to Plymouth and what made them stay to be part of the emerging community.
- Create a fictional person who decides to settle in Plymouth. Then write about their life after the move.
- The time focus for your essay will be from the earliest settlement of Plymouth around 1830 up to 1930.
These details must be included in your research narrative:
1. State specific reasons for moving to Plymouth. If it is a job, please note which occupation and /or name of company or person employed your character.
2. Where did your fictional person come from? What mode of transportation was used to get to Plymouth? How long did the journey take?
3. What was Plymouth like when your person arrived? What was the size of the population? What were the primary industries? Was there a thriving business area? Were there established churches? What was social life like?
4. Where did your character settle - Old Village, downtown Plymouth or out in the surrounding farming areas? What living accommodations were available?
5. What was it that made your character stay in Plymouth and establish roots in the community? Give some examples of organizations joined .
2019 Essay Theme
According to Vocabulary.com, an industry is a group of manufacturers or businesses that produce a particular kind of goods or services. This year’s Wilcox Foundation Essay Contest will focus on the many industries that became vital to the Plymouth community and aided in its growth from a small village into a thriving city. Listed below are some examples of the
wide variety of topics that would be appropriate for this paper.
• The hospitality industry includes inns, hotels and restaurants.
• The entertainment industry contributes to the social life of a town. Early
entertainment might include the opera, and dance hall while certainly both movie theaters were later forms of popular entertainment.
• Farming-related Industries sprang up in Old Village and the surrounding areas that supported the agricultural products locally produced. There were dairies as well as a number of grain mills that flourished in Plymouth.
• Retail industry - Downtown Main Street area and Liberty Street in Old Village were home to a number of grocery stores, butchers and dry goods stores.
• Various manufacturing industries excluding the production of air rifles or Daisy BB guns.
• Financial industry highlights banks and credit unions.
Your essay should focus on one of these suggestions or choose another broad industry appropriate for this project. Research the evolution of the industry using tools such as primary sources materials, research databases, interviews or newspapers. At least two specific examples of businesses spanning a minimum of fifty years must be included in your paper.
2020 Essay Theme
The decade of the 1950’s was an exciting time in Plymouth, especially for growing families. Baby boomers were of school age and life was rapidly changing due to new neighborhood development and the construction of additional schools. Between the years 1951 and 1958, the school-age population increased over 105%, from 2284 to 4691 students.
What was life like for these children growing up in post-World War II
How was their life different from those growing up in Plymouth today?
This year’s Wilcox Foundation Essay Contest will focus on the lives of typical school age children living in the Plymouth community between 1950 and 1960. Essay participants must conduct an interview with someone who was living in Plymouth and attending school during these ten years. (If you don’t know who to interview, ask at the Plymouth Historical Museum. The Museum Archives will have a list.) Then, compare their experiences to yours in Plymouth today. While responses to these exact questions are not required, here are some examples of the types of interview topics to discuss. Please be creative and choose additional ones of your own.
• What was a typical day like for you when you were going to school? What did you do after school?
• Did your home have a television, and if so, what kinds of tv programs did you watch?
• How did you contact your friends? Did you use a rotary phone – and what was that like?
• What kinds of community activities were available in Plymouth? (Hint – 4th of July & Halloween parades)
• Where did your family do its shopping? Be specific as to which local stores were around during that time.
• What did you do for fun – and where did you hang out in town? Did you go to movies?
• Did you ever hear of bomb shelters? What did you think when the first time an air raid siren went off on Saturdays?
• What did you like the best about growing up in Plymouth in the ’50’s?
• Did your family play games together? If so, what type?
• How often did your family go out to dinner as a family?
2021 Essay Theme
The Covid 19 Pandemic of 2020 has brought about profound changes in the lives of people everywhere. In the United States, residents were asked to stay at home except for essential workers. Schools, businesses, places of worship and eating establishments either closed, or opened with limited capacity. In Plymouth, students are attending classes virtually from home and are missing traditional school activities. Social distancing and face masks are the new “normal” for everyone.
There are 2 parts to the essay this year. You should write about both.
Part 1 The 2021 Wilcox Foundation Essay Contest will focus on comparing changes in everyday life resulting from the 1918 Inﬂuenza Pandemic (also called the Spanish Inﬂuenza) with the 2020 Covid 19 Pandemic. What measures did the national government put into place in 1918 that aﬀected local residents? Did the Michigan governor put emergency orders in place for those in the state? With no Internet or social media to disseminate information, how did the population in
1918 keep up with news? Did the Spanish Inﬂuenza create a panic? Compare and contrast the response of the government and local residents to the two pandemics. Has daily life changed more in 2020 than it did in 1918?
Part 2 Your Personal Connection. Regarding the impact on families and individuals who were told to "Stay Home, Stay Safe" in 2020, there were many community- based movements that aimed to inspire hope, recognize essential workers, promote healthy choices. Which of these, if any, did you participate in and what impact, positive or negative, did they have on you? Were there equivalent movements during the 1918 Inﬂuenza Pandemic? What conclusions may be
drawn from your research?
2022 Essay Theme
(8 submitted essays, 7 winners - $19,000)
The past eighteen months have brought enormous changes in the social lives of friends and families. Due to the CoVid pandemic, large indoor gatherings have been discouraged and crowds at outdoor venues have been restricted. Friends and relatives were unable to gather in large groups to socialize as they had in the past. This new reality serves as the backdrop for this year’s Wilcox Foundation Essay Contest.
Where did families and groups of friends gather to socialize in mid-20th Century Plymouth? By socialize, it can mean an after-school hangout for burgers and shakes, or a more formal gathering at a local restaurant, social club. Were there popular movie theatres in Plymouth, skating rinks, bowling alleys, social/sporting clubs, or outdoor parks that residents frequented?
Your task for this year’s essay is to interview someone who grew up in Plymouth in the 1950s or 1960’s. Ask them where they went in the community to socialize with school friends in an informal setting as well as if they dined out with relatives at any local restaurants, especially for holidays. Were there special venues in Plymouth they would attend for recreational time with friends? Where did they congregate to celebrate high school sports’ victories or before homecoming?
The answers from this interview must be incorporated into your essay, with details given regarding specific places in and around Plymouth.
The second part of the essay is to write a brief history of one of the restaurants or entertainment venues the person mentioned in the interview. Does this place still exist in the community? If not, when and why did it close? The more details you can provide, the better.
The Plymouth Mail newspaper (later, the Plymouth Observer) is online through the Plymouth District Library’s website. This is a great resource for advertisements and news articles on businesses, as well as notable social events. The Plymouth Historical Museum’s archives contains information on local Plymouth businesses and their owners. In addition, there is a list of volunteers who you may contact for interviews. This list will be available through the Plymouth District Library and the Historical Museum. Of course you may already know someone, friend, family, neighbor, who would be a good resource for your essay interview.
2023 Essay Theme - A Day in The Life of Plymouth
(16 submitted essays, 14 winners -$27,500)
The greater Plymouth area has a rich history filled with it's own exciting events and notable people. Additionally, residents of our town were affected personally by state-wide, national and worldwide events, running the gamut from celebratory and heroic, to devastating and catastrophic. These opportunities for research-based storytelling are the inspiration for the Wilcox Foundation Essay Contest for 2023.
Pick a significant day in Plymouth history 1850-1945 and write a first person (I, we) narrative/descriptive essay from the point of view of a fictitious or real person that lived and actively experienced your chosen day. Your essay should introduce the person (you, as the first person writer) and the day in the first paragraph. Even though the essay is primarily about this one day, you may expand the scope of your remembrance to include contextual "yesterday, last week, last year" perspectives and details.
The essay should describe the significance/event of the day, your role and actions/reactions, with references to social, cultural, and historical events that provide context. You may include accurate references to other Plymouth residents or visitors, modes of transportation, communication, technology, education, medicine, geography, and commerce of the time.
Bonus points will be given for essays that include a personal interview with someone who has additional perspective or an informative contribution to the person or events described in the essay. The interview should be included on your works sited page with name(s), date, time, place and mode of communication.