Albert E. Sleeper

Albert E Sleeper – Governor for 20th Century Michigan

The following is an extracted application from the National Register for Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form for the Albert E. Sleeper House. Issued in February 1972. Unless you’re specifically looking for information in the archives much of its content is never found by searching the Web. Other than correcting for some minor errors from the typewritten application, the text is taken verbatim.


The Life of Albert E Sleeper

Albert E. Sleeper was governor of the state of Michigan during 1917-1921. At a convention of United States governors, held during World War I, Sleeper was saluted as the greatest war-time governor in the United States. This New Englander, whose strict adherence to his early training made his life credit to himself and his community, was a successful businessman who in his later years turned to politics.

Albert E. Sleeper As a State Senator

Sleeper was born in Bradford, Vermont, in 1862. In the fall of 1884, he came to Michigan, locating in Lexington. In 1904 he became a resident of the city of Bad Axe in Huron County, where he had large banking and real estate interests. He began his political career in the state legislature. At the turn of the century, he was a compromise candidate of his party for the state senate from the Huron-Sanilac district. He served as a senator in 1901-1902 and then was re-elected for another two years. He represented the Twentieth Senatorial District in the legislature of 1901-1902 and 1903-1904.

Four years after his retirement from the Senate in 1908, Sleeper was nominated and elected as state treasurer, continuing in the office until 1912. He introduced a number of reforms to the management of the office. Mr. Sleeper’s activities and general popularity as state treasurer made him a prominent candidate for governor in 1916. He was nominated for governor at the August primary of 1916 and elected in November. He was re-elected on November 5, 1918. Prior to his election as governor, Sleeper had served as a banker in Bad Axe. His administration was only a few months old when America’s entry in the war monopolized the legislative attention to the exclusion of other things. Governor Sleeper plunged into the active preparations that were imposed on the state by the federal government.

Lansing Michigan 1909
Lansing in 1909 Courtesy Library of Congress

During World War I, Sleeper sent Michigan State Troops, later renamed Michigan State Police, to the Upper Penninsula in 1917 to quash mining agitators who might disrupt the supply of iron ore needed for the war effort.

Albert Sleeper’s Influence in Michigan

In the midst of his governorship, he established the first “United Service Organization” in New York for the benefit of the Michigan soldiers en route for oversea duty. In fact, Michigan troops were among the best provided or during the war.

WWI American Marines from Michigan
The photograph shows American Marines from Michigan after their return to the United States after World War I. One soldier wears a German Pickelhaube helmet. Courtesy Library of Congress George Grantham Bain Collection.

In 1919 Sleeper helped establish the State Police of Michigan. He was also responsible for the Public Utilities Commission of the state and for Michigan’s state park system. Two other measures that came as a result of his forcefulness were the budget system with its accompanying reorganization and plans to develop good roads. His farsightedness in urging the extension of roads and parks long before there was an apparent need for them prepared Michigan for a goodly share of the tourist trade.

Michigan State Troopers  1917
Michigan State Troopers 1917 – Courtesy Library of Congress

Under his leadership, Michigan also became the first state to pass aircraft regulation laws. Sleeper had taken such an active part in the business life of the community that at one time the city of Bad Axe was referred to as “Sleeper’s Town.” He was also a former president of the Huron County Pioneer and Historical Society. He was mentioned repeatedly as a candidate for the United States Senate but did not choose to run.

Sleeper Approves Women’s Suffrage

In 1917, after years of activism, Governor Sleeper signed a bill granting Michigan women the right to vote in presidential elections. In 1918, Michigan approved a state constitutional amendment to pass women’s suffrage.

The next year, Congress finally passed the 19th Amendment in 1919. After Congress approved the Amendment, 36 states needed to ratify the amendment to become part of the U.S. Constitution. Michigan became one of the first states to ratify the amendment on June 10, 1919. It passed unanimously. In August of 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified nationwide under President Wilson.

Sleeper Returns to the Thumb

After serving as governor, Sleeper returned to banking and real estate. He became a Detroit bank director and head of a successful chain of private banks throughout the Thumb district. By 1924 he was president of the First National Bank of Yale, State Savings Bank of Bad Axe, Commercial State Bank of Marlette, Citizens Bank of Ubly, and the Calrk and McCaren Wholesale Grocery Co. of Bad Axe.

Ill health beginning early in 1932 caused Sleeper to take a less active part in his political and business affairs and finally to give them up entirely during his last months. His death occurred on May 13, 1934. He is buried near his childhood home in the Lexington Municipal Cemetery.

The Albert E. Sleeper House

Albert E. Sleeper House Bad Axe Michigan

The Albert E Sleeper House is a single structure of slightly modified Greek Revival design. Doric columns support a two-story portico in front of the two-and-a-half-story building. The house is square in plan with both a one and a two-story wing attached to the back. This mansion located on West Huron Avenue in Bad Axe was built by ex-Governor Albert E. Sleeper. The house was commenced in 1916 and finished in 1917.

Exterior sheathing on the entire building is a common bond ashlar brick. All windows in the building are double-hung two-sash windows –The main door in the front of the house has an elliptical fanlight. ·The medium gable room has plain boxed cornices and modified bricks that depart somewhat from the dominating classical mood of the house. Gabled dormers on the roof are another modification of the Greek Revival style.

The house, now used as a funeral home, still contains the elaborate furnishings installed by the Sleepers. Mahogany furniture, gold tapestries, and Persian rugs fill the living room where the focal point is a huge carved marble fireplace and mantel.

A tiled fireplace dominates the intimate library: overstuffed chairs invite readers to linger and relax. Silk tapestries cover the walls in most of the first level, and green silk drapes and deep green carpeting are used throughout the second level.

Related Reading on Michigan History

Albert Sleeper was instrumental in the establishment of the Michigan State Park System. The Albert E Sleeper State Park was named to honor the Sleeper and is work in early 1900s Michigan development. Huron County is also home to Port Crescent State Park.

If you grew up or spend summers in Caseville during the 1960s you may remember the old Caseville IGA. We look back at the time before Caseville became a festival town.

Remember when there used to be snow? I mean a lot of snow. It was only a couple of years ago that the Bay and Lake Huron almost completely froze over. What amazing it was after one of the warmed record summers ever. We remember the last winter blast of 2014.

The lake levels are near historic record highs in 2020. Yet it was less than ten years ago that folks were barely able to get their boats in the marina due to low water levels. We take a look at the summer of 2012’s amazing low water levels.

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