One giant leap for ... Charlevoix: this week on The Green Room

May 26, 2016

When Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon in 1969, a little bit of Charlevoix was with him. 

Charlevoix made it to the moon in the form of a very tiny, lightweight chrome and nickel thread. The thread was manufactured by a Charlevoix company named Hoskins, and was used in the Apollo Space Program space suits.

That's the kind of historical link that might not be well known, but something that a new exhibit at the Charlevoix Historical Society seeks to make known.

Visitors to the Charlevoix Historical Society, can get a magnified view of the metal thread that was used in the Apollo Space Program space suits. The thread was manufactured in Charlevoix.
Credit Dan Wanschura

"Whenever an astronaut held a moon rock in his glove, it was resting on threads that were made it Charlevoix," says Dave Miles, a curator at the Charlevoix Historical Society. “If you put two-thousand of these little tiny threads side-by-side, they would spread across the space of one inch."

One hundred of those strands twisted together made up a thread. According to Miles, Hoskins Manufacturing Co was the only place in the world that manufactured wire of such a small diameter.

The Working World: Business and Industry in Charlevoix is a brand new exhibit that highlights many different aspects of Charlevoix's history through the years. That history includes cement factories, a nuclear power plant, boat builders and fishing and lumber industries. 

Miles says fishing is what brought people to Charlevoix in the first place. When the Booth Packing Company consolidated it's Petoskey branch with it's Charlevoix location in 1908, they had freezing capacity of one million pounds of fish.

"That statistic alone made Charlevoix the largest fish exporting port on the Great Lakes," Miles says.

Near the end of World War II, the War Department contracted Fosters Boat Works to produce small,  lightweight boats. These boats were sent to Allied forces crossing the rivers of Europe on their way to Berlin. 

A model of a boat built by Foster Boat Works. The company was contracted by the War Department to produce lightweight boats to help Allied forces cross European rivers on their way to Berlin.
Credit Dan Wanschura

Dave Miles says in that sense, Charlevoix helped win World War II.

Despite it’s relative small size and penchant for being simply known as a destination for vacationers, Charlevoix played important economic roles not only in the area and state, but also the country. 

Miles says that’s a heritage that should be remembered. 

“What went out of Charlevoix, what was made in Charlevoix — it helped build a nation," Miles says. "I think in anybody’s book, that is about as good a track record as you’re going to get.”

 

The Working World: Business and Industry in Charlevoix opened at the Charlevoix Historical Society Museum earlier this month. It's expected to be on display for a couple of years.