As a kid growing up in Detroit I often attended the Alger Theater on Warren Avenue at Outer Drive. I think the last movie I saw there was Patton in 1970. I remember it as a well-kept theater. I gave no thought to why it was named Alger. Today I realize it was probably named after Russell A. Alger. Who was Russell A. Alger? I’m glad you asked!
Like so many persons who were prominent and/or important enough to have places and/or streets named after them, Russell A. Alger was no exception. In our day, those persons-including Alger-are largely forgotten.
Russell A. Alger was born in Ohio but made Michigan his home. He was an attorney and lumber baron. More importantly, for this Lincoln blog, Mr. Alger served under President Lincoln during the Civil War as a Union soldier. His war military record is amazing. His service was in the Michigan Cavalry-the 2nd, 6th, and 5th (in that order). He was involved in 66 battles and skirmishes, including Gettysburg. In all, he was wounded four times! No wonder he was eventually promoted to Major General.
As a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, I note particularly that Alger also was a Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Department of Michigan Commander-followed by election to Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R. in 1889. As such, he was very involved in improve the pensions of his fellow Civil War Union veterans.
After the Civil War, Alger returned to Detroit and was an active force in Republican politics. He went on to serve as Governor of Michigan in 1884, Secretary of War under President McKinley, and United States Senator. He died in Washington, D.C., in 1907.
Today I am at Alger’s grave site in Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery. I give thanks for his life and service to the country. As a Son of Union Veterans, I salute him! I think the Alger Theater probably was named for him. I’m glad I lived long enough to know that.
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