Summary

Birth:
01 May 1883 1
July 1851 2
Death:
27 Aug 1980 2
Aug 1980 3
Albion, Calhoun, MI 2
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Pictures & Records (241)

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Starr boys at play as fall comes to the Albion campus.
Starr boys at play as fall comes to the Albion campus.
Floyd Starr poses outside Candler Hall, 1957.
Floyd Starr poses outside Candler Hall, 1957.
Floyd Starr at Candler Hall
Floyd Starr at Candler Hall
Floyd Starr shows a group of boys through his new home on the campus of Starr Commonwealth, 1957.
Floyd & President Nixon.jpg
Floyd & President Nixon.jpg
Presidential Commendation from President Nixon honoring Floyd Starr.
Floyd & Roy.jpg
Floyd & Roy.jpg
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were guests of Starr in the 1970's.
Floyd & Joan Crawford.jpg
Floyd & Joan Crawford.jpg
Joan Crawford was one of many celebrities who visited Starr during Uncle Floyd's lifetime.
Harold Bellaire.jpg
Harold Bellaire.jpg
Harold Bellaire,left, one of the first two boys to enter Starr Commonwealth in 1913.
Entrance gate to original campus, Starr Commonwealth
Entrance gate to original campus, Starr Commonwealth
Emily Jewell Clark Building circa 1937
Emily Jewell Clark Building circa 1937
Emily Jewell Clark Building (original)
Emily Jewell Clark Building (original)
Work Bee at Chapel-in-the-woods
Work Bee at Chapel-in-the-woods
Brueckner Museum
Brueckner Museum
Floyd Starr's use of art as a way of reaching troubled boys was groundbreaking. This museum, a gift to the Commonwealth in 1956, is filled with many famous paintings collected by Starr as well as artifacts and memorabilia of interest to children. For many years Dwight Starr, Floyd Starr's nephew, was the museum curator in the 1960's.
Starr Milk
Starr Milk
Milk from the Starr dairies was a staple in the early days of the Commonwealth. These bottles are now extremely rare.
Detail from The Thanksgiving Windoe by Wilbur Herbert Burnham
Detail from The Thanksgiving Windoe by Wilbur Herbert Burnham
The lower panel of this window commemorates the coming of the Starr family to America from Kent, England aboard The Hercules of Sandwich and settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The names at lower right are those of Floyd Starr's parents. The Starr family crest is lower left.
Michigan Historical Marker 2
Michigan Historical Marker 2
Michigan Historical Marker 1
Michigan Historical Marker 1
Bronze medallion
Bronze medallion
A gift to donors for helping to complete the Knights Templar Gymnasium at Starr Commonwealth.
Faith Made Visible
Faith Made Visible
Written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of Starr Commonwealth.
Uncle Floyd Starr
Uncle Floyd Starr
Floyd Starr at his desk, Emily Jewell Clark Building, Starr Commonwealth for Boys, Albion, MI. Photo dated June 4, 1943.
Starr Commonwealth Christmas seals
Starr Commonwealth Christmas seals
The Old Barn
The Old Barn
Original to the 40 acre farm Floyd Starr purchased as the nucleus of Starr Commonwealth. He and his first two boys slept in the hayloft until Gladsome Cottage was completed October 3, 1913.
1954 Christmas seal
1954 Christmas seal
Dr. Floyd Starr.jpg
Dr. Floyd Starr.jpg
One of many Humanitarian Awards.
Gladsome Cottage circa 1913
Gladsome Cottage circa 1913
Gladsome Cottage was erected in 1913 and served as Floyd Starr's home until 1956. His daughter and two sons were raised here and the house served as the early office, schoolroom, dormitory and dining hall of the nascent Starr Commonwealth. The house is believed to be a "kit" house purchased from a major department store.
Floyd E. Starr
Floyd E. Starr
Circa 1950's, he would have been in his early 70's.
Carl Sandburg at Gladsome Cottage
Carl Sandburg at Gladsome Cottage
Carl Sandburg at Uncle Floyd's desk. On the wall behind is a cartoon from LOOK magazine about Starr Commonwealth.
Godspeed, my boy!
Godspeed, my boy!
Uncle Floyd and boys in surplices
Uncle Floyd and boys in surplices
Here;s to Uncle Floyd!
Here;s to Uncle Floyd!
Drs. Floyd Starr and Jesse Stuart
Drs. Floyd Starr and Jesse Stuart

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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Floyd Elliott Starr 3
Full Name:
Floyd Starr 4
Also known as:
"Uncle Floyd" 3
Birth:
01 May 1883 1
July 1851 2
Birth:
01 May 1883 4
Decatur, Michigan 3
Male 3
Death:
27 Aug 1980 3
Aug 1980 4
Albion, Calhoun, MI 3
Residence:
Last Residence: Candler Hall, Starr Commonwealth, Albion, MI 3
Last Residence: Albion, MI 4
Edit
Birth:
Mother: Mary Diana Root 3
Father: Marshall Horace Starr 3
Marriage:
Harriet Armstrong 3
24 Dec 1910 3
To: 1918 3
Edit
Quote:
Love is the universal solvent that destroys everything unlike itself. 3
Quote:
Beauty is a silent teacher. 3
Quote:
"There is no such thing as a bad boy" 3
Occupation:
American social work pioneer 3
Religion:
Episcopalian 3
Race or Ethnicity:
English/Dutch 3
Employment:
Employer: Starr Commonwealth 3
Position: Founder, President, President Emeritus 3
Place: Albion, Michigan 3
Start Date: Founded 1913 3
End Date: Retired 1967 3
Education:
Institution: Albion College 3
Place: Albion, Michigan 3
From: 1906 3
To: 1910 3
Social Security:
Card Issued: Michigan 4
Last Payment: Dexter, MI 4
Social Security Number: ***-**-5603 4

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Stories

Floyd Starr : Starr Commonwealth

Albion, Michigan

Floyd Elliott Starr was born May 1, 1883 to Marshall and Mary Root Starr in Decatur, Michigan. By the time young Floyd was enrolled in elementary school his family had inherited his grandmother Root’s farm near Marshall, Michigan where young Floyd completed his schooling. Once, when family friends Dr. and Mrs. John Harvey Kellogg were visiting,  nine year old Floyd overhead the mention of adoption. Later, quizzing his mother as to what “adoption” meant, Floyd announced that when he was grown-up he was going to buy a farm and adopt 50 boys.  Excelling in high school forensics and debate, Floyd was hired by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union following graduation to travel across the United States making impassioned speeches on the evils of alcohol and smoking. He later took a job with the physical culturist Bernarr MacFadden as his secretary. The position entailed traveling, arranging exhibitions, advertising and in general, managing the career of MacFadden. The skills honed during these years would serve him well in his future undertakings.

Returning to Marshall in 1906 he matriculated at nearby Albion College where, in a sociology class, he made the brash assertion that “there is no such thing as a bad boy.”  A member and later national president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Floyd Starr graduated with an A.B. degree in 1910. Shortly after graduation he married his college sweetheart Harriet Armstrong. The newlyweds took a position at a settlement house in St. Louis and later an Assistant Director position lured Floyd to the Beulah Home for Boys in Boyne City, Michigan. After taking the position the Director was involved in a  scandal and Floyd became the de facto Director. Beulah soon closed and 50 boys were left needing a home. Starr would make a decision that day that would change the face of American social work forever.

In 1913, with the help of his father and the aid of a legacy left by an Aunt, Floyd Starr purchased a 40 acre farm on the shores  of Montcalm Lake just west of Albion, Michigan. The house had burned leaving a bare foundation, so Floyd and his first two homeless boys slept in the old barn while a cottage was constructed. The cottage was called “Gladsome” because that was how Starr felt about the beginning of his life’s work. Around the kitchen table in that cottage Starr would  pen the famous Starr Commonwealth Creed, a statement of his beliefs about the fundamental nature of boys and a revolutionary approach to the treatment of so-called “badness.”

The crackpot idea of Starr Commonwealth, a character rebuilding institution built on love not bars,  began to take shape and earn the respect of judges and juvenile authorities across the State of Michigan. Starr himself was a tireless advocate for boys and would spend the next 54 years at the helm of an ever-burgeoning institution. As news of the success of Starr Commonwealth spread it began to attract many famous celebrities. Among the famous guests at Starr were Sir Rabindranath Tagore, Madame Pandit, George Washington Carver, Carl Sandburg, Admiral Byrd, Jesse Owens, Helen Keller, Roy Rogers, Maya Angelou, Alex Haley, Muhhamed Ali, Joan Crawford, Diego Rivera, Art Linkletter, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Ruth Bryan Rhode, Joy Adamson, Dorothy Maynor, Henry Winkler, Marlee Matlin and many, many other famous and talented personalities.

In the 1950's Floyd Starr recognized that a significant number of his new charges were coming from Ohio. In response, and with the help of one of his field secretaries, arrangements were made to purchase a property west of Van Wert, Ohio known as "Auglaise Gardens." The property belonged to Mr. Harry Beckmann the "Peony King of the Midwest." The estate featured a handsome gatehouse and a magnificent Old English house later partially converted to a chapel. As the realization of a long-held dream, Floyd Starr named a former Starr boy Gordon Langley as the first director of the Ohio branch of Starr Commonwealth. 

Due to advancing age and near-total deafness, Floyd Starr retired as President Emeritus of Starr Commonwealth in 1967 at the age of 84. He continued to live on at his home, Candler Hall, on the Albion Campus where he engaged with young people and offered advice to his successor and Board of Directors. He died in 1980 at the age of 97 and is buried above the Great Cross on a hill behind the Chapel-in-the-Woods at Starr Commonwealth, Albion, Michigan. The campus at Albion that he conceived with the help of talented landscape architects and building designers and the thousands of trees, bulbs and grasses that he and his early boys planted have culminated in a spot of rare beauty in America. So striking is the setting and the scope of Starr's work at Albion that the campus has been named a Michigan State historic site. His dictum "beauty is a silent teacher" pervades the 350 acres. In addition to the Albion campus, Starr operates campuses in Battle Creek, Detroit, Van Wert and Columbus, Ohio.

Floyd Starr is remembered  today as the man who insisted that “there is no such thing as a bad boy.” His treatment philosophy based upon love, respect and the inherent goodness of mankind is still studied today and his crackpot school, Starr Commonwealth,  now over 99 years old, is flourishing and expanding, providing help and healing to over 6,000 children and families each year.

 

Original Starr Commonwealth Creed

Albion, Michigan

                                 Starr Commonwealth Creed

 

WE BELIEVE       that there is no such thing as a bad boy.

WE BELIEVE      that badness is not a normal condition but  is 

                          the result of misdirected energy. 

WE BELIEVE      that every normal boy will be good if given an opportunity in an

                          environment of love and activity. 

WE BELIEVE      in the dignity of labor. We believe that each child should be

                          given some work  suitable to childhood and that he should be

                          taught that the value of labor is to  be found, not alone in the

                          completed task, but in the training of the mind and the hand,

                          and in the joy of accomplishment.

WE BELIEVE      also in play. Play is the child’s normal means of self-expression.

WE BELIEVE      that to attain the full stature of man, spiritual development

                         should go hand-in-hand with physical, mental and moral

                         development.

WE BELIEVE      that boys should be treated, not as a class, but as individuals,

                          and that each boy  in order that he may reach his highest

                          development, must be understood. We hold that his ambition

                          must be stimulated and developed, and that he must be

                          encouraged and loved toward perfection.

WE BELIEVE      that boys merit confidence and trust, and that the secret of the

                          development  of honor in a boy lies in appealing to his inherent

                           goodness.  In order that he may attain perfect manhood, we

                           believe in placing a boy on his honor at  all times giving him the

                           sympathy and encouragement necessary to enable him to

                           maintain his integrity.

 

                                                                            Written by Floyd Starr in 1913

 

 

This I Believe, by Floyd Starr

Nationwide

From Edward R. Murrow’s “This I Believe: Essays on Belief” a radio program of essays by prominent persons

This I Believe by Floyd Starr, Founder of Starr Commonwealth for Boys         

Broadcast in the 1950’s

Examining my beliefs set me to scrutinizing my heritage. My parents made God real to me as the creator who saw everything He had made and called it good. So when I wrote the creed of Starr Commonwealth in 1913, it began, “There is no such thing as a bad boy.”
Today, I believe in the inherent goodness of all people. I am convinced that the eventual coming of universal brotherhood is a natural corollary.

My mother taught me to find beauty in the endless colors and patterns of creation. She read aloud the Sermon on the Mount. Even before I understood its meaning, its majesty and music made me happy and certain. I had a powerful friend who left me the rules of the road, so I needn’t be afraid. If love is the greatest thing in the world, it can conquer all lesser forces, I reasoned.

How often since, I have seen the healing these assurances have brought to lonely, disturbed boys with whom I’ve worked for four decades. I was told that an American boy could accomplish whatever he desired if he worked hard, stuck to it, and did some contriving, especially if he kept the good of others in mind.

My mother was Dutch—loving but uncompromising. “It is good to do hard things,” she said. “Overcoming builds strength and brings satisfaction. Next time, the job is easier. Play is important, too. But if you love the doing, the line between is thin.” I’m a firm believer that conviction translated into performance is convincing proof of one’s premise. I believe the place to begin is the nearest need; the time, now; the motive, service; the method, cooperation.

I believe that there is no limit to the appreciations one can cultivate, each making its contribution to the exciting business of living. Then suddenly—as if a great light played on something that had been there all the time—I recalled the words, the good of others. I believe implicitly in youth, in its infinite promise, its malleability, and its longing to be good if shown how. To such children, the love of God is just another step.

I believe much is learned from failure, for failure—though rough and delaying—is merely a detour that portends a safer and more direct highway. I believe that sorrow deepens understanding—I can better say, I know. I believe in happiness, a byproduct of that inner peace, which is won through faith, prayer, trial and error, and the single sighted compass of altruistic intent.

                                                                                              Floyd Starr

 

We Believe

Albion, Michigan

In 1968 Floyd Starr wrote a brief essay for each tenet of the Starr Commonwealth Creed for inclusion in the book "No Such Thing". The following essay accompanied the second tenet of the creed:

We Believe

that badness is not a normal condition but is the result of misdirected energy

There is a bit of free verse which I like to read to my boys: I wish I knew its author. The scene: an outlying border state, sometimes called the dark and bloody ground. The date: February 12, 1809.

"A squatted village set in wintry mud, a hub-deep oxcart slowly groans and creeps. A horseman hails and halts, he shifts his cud and speaks: Well, didya hear? Tom Lincoln's wife today-the devil's luck for folks as poor as they.

Poor Tom, poor Nance, poor youngun born without a chance.

A baby in that God-forsaken bin, that worse than cattle bin. Well, what are they but cattle? Cattle? Tush, a critter is beef, hides and tallow. But who'd swap one for the critters of that hut?

White trash, small fry, whose only instincts are to multiply. They're good at that, and so, today God wrought another brat. Another squawking, squalling good-for-naught spilled on the world Heaven only knows for what.

Good God, it makes me gag, this human spawn born for the world to wipe its feet upon a few years hence.

But now more helpless than the litter of a sow.

Oh, well, send the women folk to see Nance, poor little devil born without a chance."

Born without a chance?

Born into poverty, yes...poverty of the direst sort. Born into a heritage of "white trash" degree. Born into a war that was to split the nation to its core. Born into problems never seen before....

But......

Born into the love of a wise and a good Mother. There, as Abraham Lincoln so often said, lay the secret to his goodness...his success.

And there....in the mother, in the parents...lies the secret and the key to our problem of delinquency today.

It's all well and good to blame the slums, to blame the war, to blame our schools, our churches, or depression or inflation, or whatever condition is uppermost at the time. Surely, they all play a tremendous part in the growth and lives of children. But, greater than any of these is the responsibility of the parent to the child.

Poverty a boy can take. Poor school teachers he can survive. Streetgangs he can meet and let alone. Wars, diseases, stresses and strains of all kinds he can ride out IF he knows the security of the love of a good father or mother.

"Born without a chance? White trash. Small fry?"  Yet, one such was born to be president of our United States.

                                                                           FLOYD STARR

Here's How By Who's Who

Albion, Michigan

  Some years ago a number of prominent and successful leaders who were listed in Who’s Who in America were asked to give their counsel to youth for publication in a book entitled Here's How by Who's Who. Together with distinguished Americans such as General Douglas MacArthur, Senator Everett Dirksen, The Reverend Doctor Norman Vincent Peale and two former Presidents of the United States, Floyd Starr shared these thoughts:

 

DIG DEEP. Every boy given the right environment will grow.

Sometimes the rubble of wrong thinking and wrong doing

buries that good, but in digging deep you will find it.

In others. In yourself.

 

STAND TALL. You may go further than you think. You may feel

that a job is too big or too small; no matter – do it with a will,

for any job well done leads to a better one.

 

PICK YOURSELF UP. Most of us are afraid to fail, but the big

difference between failure and success is that failure quits. Success

never does. When it stumbles, success picks itself up and starts all

over again.

 

PICK A HERO. Everyone needs a hero to look up to, but pick

yours carefully whoever he is. Select the kind of person you wish to be

when you are grown, for most likely you will come to have some of the

qualities of those you admire.

 

NEVER KILL TIME. Knowledge is long time is short. Life is

made up of precious minutes, make those minutes count. When you

work, work with a will. When you study, study as if your life depends

upon it, for it may. And when you play, play with joy.

 

And, finally,

 

STAND PROUD. Honor your creator, honor your parents and

honor your country. Everything you are and everything you will be

you owe to them.

 

FLOYD STARR

    1883-1980

 

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