A Trip Back in Time | Who's on First? | Capt. Bogardus

Aim for the Stars | Addie Cushman

Addie Cushman

Addie Cushman image

I look at this photo and wonder what happened to Miss Addie Cushman who, at age 13, had her 15 minutes of fame and then ...

Meet Detroit's Shooting Star

You've all heard of little Addie Cushman, haven't you? Motown's answer to Annie Oakley? You haven't? Um, have you heard of Aretha Franklin?

(This story was first written in 2003.)

OK, OK, so maybe Addie never became a big star. Maybe a hundred obstacles got in her way. Maybe she had a bad day the time the wild west show agent came to town to check out her skills, or maybe she was struck down by one of the many illnesses that often ravaged children back them. Or maybe she chose school and family over that wicked show biz. Or, maybe, one day she just lost interest in shooting. When you are only 13, things like that can happen.

Whatever the case, I have gone through the "morgue" here at the Detroit newspaper (where I worked when this story was written) and can't find any other reference to little Addie Cushman, a girl whose photograph I had purchased at a local antique arms show one dreary Sunday morning. At first glance the card was interesting: A female with a BIG bustle shooting a rifle sideways, taken by "Chas R. Baker, 59 Monroe Ave., Detroit, Mich." But when I turned it over, someone long ago had written what looked like "115 Miami, Detroit, Mich." on the reverse. Even more helpful to future historians, someone had glued a now-yellowed newspaper clipping to the reverse. The one paragraph read:

Miss Addie Cushman, a pretty, black-haired little Detroit girl only 13 years old, has been making a great hit this week at the Detroit museum in a rifle shooting exhibition. Her coolness and self-possession are remarkable for a child of her age, and the ease with which the most difficult shots are made excite the wonder of those who had not suspected her before of possessing any talent in this direction. Nearly all the difficult and "nervy" shots used by the best experts are included in her list. Addie has taken to the stage in dead earnest, and a very successful career is evidently in store for her.

But was it?

I continued my detective work. I remembered a Miami Bar in the city, but not a Miami street. I checked the Detroit map, but zip. I got luckier when I went through the city directories from 1880 to 1892. In 1880 there was no Cushman and no Baker (or Johnson) listed. But in 1884 I found a home address for Sarah Cushman, widow of Charles S., at 113 Miami Ave. Addie's mother and late father? A photo studio, that of Baker & Johnson, is at 59 Monroe. Right address, almost right name.

In 1885 there is a listing for C.R. Baker, photographer, at 59 Monroe (no Johnson) with Sarah having moved to 115 Miami. Shazam! Right names and addresses for both. A vintage city street map tells me that Miami is two or three blocks east of Woodward (our main dividing street), in an area replaced a few decades later by the giant J.L. Hudson's building (which was reduced to a pile of rubble on Oct. 24, 1998). Monroe Street, a few blocks further east, still exists as the center of Detroit's Greektown entertainment district (and Greektown Casino).

By 1888 Sarah Cushman has moved to 93 East Montcalm, and Charles Baker is at 39 Monroe. Sarah's name ceases to appear in the directory after 1892.

So, based on the years where all the dates matched up, Addie Cushman likely was photographed during the years 1885 to 1888. And I will keep trying to find out what happened to Detroit's shooting star – one who seemed to have burned out very quickly.

It is 2010 as I update this story, and the Internet has expanded umpteen thousand percent since 2003. I search again for "Addie Cushman." There are 112 hits, but ...

Detroit's shooting star remains a mystery.