Each year huge crowds would attend the Spelling Bee finals. Here thousands have gathered at the State Fair Coliseum for the 1931 finals.
The Detroit News Spelling Bee got its start with an argument between Detroit Schools Superintendent Frank Cody and Malcolm Bingay, a Detroit News editor who said Detroit school children couldn’t spell. In the Fall of 1921, the contest began, with teams from public, private and parochial schools throughout Detroit.
Teams that first year included one from Goldberg School’s Deaf Division, a group of wounded World War I soldiers who attended Cass Tech’s night school, and perhaps the most multicultural group, Bishop School’s, whose team was composed of Italian, Russian, Black, Jewish and Greek children.
The final ‘Spelldown’ was held in February, 1922, at the Majestic Theatre on Woodward Avenue, and the first winner was Justine Pearsall, from Crossman School in Detroit.
In the Thirties, the crowds were so large that the finals were held at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum, where many thousands watched the contest.
When the News dropped the event in 1981, there was such an outcry that it was reinstated the next year, in partnership with Lawrence Institute of Technology, whose President, Richard Marburger, had won the finals in 1942.
Girls seem to have the edge: the first boy didn’t win until 1939, and female winners far outnumber the males.
Finalists go to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., sponsored by Scripps Howard.
1922 — Justine (Pearsall) Baker,Crossman School, Detroit
Mary McCarty, center, is being congratulated by other finalists after she won the 1929 Spelling Bee finals. Boy Scouts served as guards for the contestants, most of whom were girls.
1925 — Dorothy (Karrick) Kurth,Harms School, Detroit
1926 — Vivian (Bremer) Overholt,Grosse Ile Public Schools
1927 — Hulda (Farmell) Knowles,Foch Intermediate School, Detroit
1928 — Bessie (Doig) Holmes,Ruddiman School, Detroit
1929 — Mary Elaine (McCarty) Sherlock, Nolan Intermediate School, Detroit
1930 — Ruth (Des Jardins) Hearn,Ruddiman School, Detroit
1931 — Blanche (Krell) Berger,Hutchins Intermediate School, Detroit
1932 — Wilma (Pyle) Piercy,Ford School, Highland Park
1933 — Ruth (Tenebaum) Ritter,Hutchins Intermediate School, Detroit
1934 — Ann Mary (O’Reagan) Dosch,St. Charles Parochial School, Detroit
1935 — Helen (Gronas) Shingleton,Maple Grove School, Wayne County
1936 — Doris (Shinn) Smalley,Junior High School, Plymouth
1937 — Iris Fem (Jenkins) Crandall,Coolidge School, Ferndale
1938 — June (Gumerson) Rampinelli,Hampton School, Detroit
1939 — William Wiegand,Noble School, Detroit
1940 — Lee O’Connell,Woodworth School, Dearborn
1941 — Louis E. Sissman,Detroit Country Day School, Birmingham
1942 — Richard Marburger,Grace Lutheran School, Highland Park
1943 — Anthony Scipione,A.E. Smith School, Riverview
1944 — Dorothy (Simon) Lopatin,Crossman School, Detroit
1946 — Marcia Anne Loomis,Barnum School, Birmingham
1947 — Gary Neil Miller,Wallaceville School, Wayne County
1948 — Eugene Pattison,Walled Lake Consolidated School
1949 — Patricia Pearsall,Barber School, Highland Park
1950 — Kenneth Lambe,Van Dyke School, Detroit
1951 — Beverly Simon,Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit
1952 — Raymond Sokolov,Hampton School, Detroit
1953 — Raymond Sokolov,Hampton School, Detroit
1954 — Linnea Koljonen,Woodworth School, Dearborn
1955 — Linnea Koljonen,Woodworth School, Dearborn
1956 — Michael Swirsky,Schulze School, Detroit
1957 — William McLaren,Lakeview Jr. High School, St. Clair Shores
1958 — Lawrie MacMillan,Detroit Country Day School, Birmingham
1959 — Tracy Nabers,Emerson School, Detroit
1960 — Diane Saltz,Emerson School, Detroit
1961 — Carol Corbishdale,Chippewa Jr. High School, St. Clair Shores
1962 — Cynthia Cahn,Kingswood School, Bloomfield Hills
1963 — David Torby,Schulze Jr. High School, Detroit
1964 — Christopher Hunt,Detroit Country Day School, Birmingham
1965 — Michael McColl,Chippewa Jr. High School, St. Clair Shores
1966 — Stephan J. Kleen,Berkshire Jr. High School, Birmingham
1967 — Kathy Keller,Berkshire Jr. High School, Birmingham
1968 — Robert Vallade,Seitz Jr. High School, Riverview
1969 — Dennis Rosinski,Cambridge Jr. High School, Garden City
1970 — John Hudson,Adams Elementary School, Birmingham
1971 — Jennifer Heymoss,Goodale Elementary School, Detroit
1972 — Sharyl Gaiser,
St. Luke Lutheran School, Mt. Clemens
1973 — Dawn Millington,Trinity Lutheran School, Utica
1974 — Malia Eppings,Grosse Pointe Christian Day, Grosse Pointe
1975 — Timothy Sutherland,Clawson Jr. High School, Clawson
1976 — Pamela Yee,Hardin Middle School, Detroit
1977 — Robert Zeiger,Chippewa Jr. High School, St. Clair Shores
1978 — Mary Beth Teasdale,Fuhrman Jr. High School, Sterling Hts.
1980 — Louella P. Dizon,Detroit Country Day School, Birmingham
1982 — Tom Amrine,East Hills Jr. High, Bloomfield Hills
1983 — Lily Woo,St. Christopher School, Detroit
1984 — Roberta Smith,St. Scholastica, Detroit
1985 — Kris Gumper,Parchment Middle School, Parchment
1986 — Teli Tolbert,Whitney Young Middle School, Detroit
1987 — Sarah Trombley,Bates Academy, Detroit
1988 — Robin Covey,St. Peter School, Harper Woods
1989 — Robin Covey,St. Peter School, Harper Woods
1990 — Nathan Erb,Zemmer Jr. High, Lapeer
1991 — Michelle Perez,Avondale Middle School, Rochester Hills
1992 — Chandan Reddy,Detroit Country Day School, Birmingham
1993 — Daniel Kim,Bloomfield Hills Middle School, Bloomfield Hills
1994 — Stephanie Cleland,Guardian Angels School, Clawson
1995 — Christopher Mullins,North Pointe Elementary School, Southgate