michigan history

Before Europeans arrived in Michigan, “moose were pretty much all over” the state, said Rachel Clark of the Michigan History Center.

After that arrival, the moose population declined as settlers began over-hunting the animal and damaging its habitat.

When we think of Michigan’s contribution to the war effort during the Second World War, most think of the Arsenal of Democracy, of Rosie the Riveters helping build thousands and thousands of B-24 Liberator bombers at Willow Run.

But the U.S. war effort also depended mightily on the Soo Locks, to the point where it feared a Nazi attack on the locks.

Hiding people in barns, or stowing people in secret rooms while keeping the watchful eyes of law enforcement and bounty hunters away from their clandestine activities. That's our image of Michiganders who helped thousands of escaping slaves through the Underground Railroad.

But there are many more dimensions to the Underground Railroad in Michigan.

Historian Michelle S. Johnson has made it her mission to help us more fully understand Michigan's role in the Underground Railroad.

"Ancient relics from the Mediterranean found across Michigan!"

That headline turned heads at the turn of the last century.

Eric Perkins from the Michigan History Center joined Stateside to talk about the story of these ancient "relics" and how they ended up being "discovered" in Michigan.

Major General George Owen Squier. The name may not be familiar, but his work in the fields of aeronautics and radio communications rivaled that of better-known contemporaries like Alexander Bell and the Wright Brothers.

Squier, a native of Dryden, Michigan, was the first military officer to fly, in a plane piloted by Orville Wright. Today, his hometown hopes to build a statue in his honor.

Eighty years ago, a few years before Bruce Wayne made his comic book debut, our nation experienced its first wave of “bat-mania.”

In the 1930s, the country’s imagination was captured by winged daredevils like Michigander Clem Sohn.

Big outdoor stadiums hosting hockey is a trend that’s been on the rise over the past decade. The 2014 NHL Winter Classic, held in Michigan Stadium, drew more than 100,000 fans to watch the Red Wings play the Toronto Maple Leafs, the largest crowd ever to watch a professional hockey game.

But the Wings' very first outdoor game wasn’t at a stadium or even in a big city. It took place in 1954, at the self-proclaimed “Alcatraz of the North.” The opponent: the Marquette Prison Pirates.

100 years ago this week, the United States officially entered what was then called "The Great War." We know it today as World War I.

When you step off the dock onto Mackinac Island, you’re setting foot on a land with a long, and sometimes troubled, history for Michigan’s first people.

There are new efforts underway to get visitors to look past the fudge shops and the quaint homes, to appreciate the Native American history on this island they call “Great Turtle.”

 


“All she wanted to do was leave.”

 

That’s how Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse Center in Ann Arbor, described the case of Francine Hughes of Dansville, Michigan.

Get a group of Michiganders together, add a deck of cards, and chances are pretty good you'll wind up with a game of euchre.

It was once dubbed "the queen of all card-games" and was wildly popular in the late 1800s. But its popularity waned through the 20th century. That is, except in Michigan and a handful of Midwestern states, nicknamed the “Euchre Belt.”

Two young people kept their love alive throughout World War II with letters – hundreds of them.

Happy birthday, Michigan!

On Jan. 26, 1837, 180 years ago today, Michigan became the 26th state to join the union.

Before that could happen, there was some housekeeping to do, namely: to settle the fight between Michigan and Ohio over a narrow strip of land known as the Toledo Strip. The conflict is otherwise known as the "Toledo War."

State Archivist Mark Harvey from the Michigan History Center joined Stateside to look back at how the state of Michigan got started.

Harbor Springs Area Historical Society

If you live Up North and you want to see big-name musicians live, you often have to drive to Grand Rapids or Detroit. That’s because it’s difficult – and expensive – to get popular artists to travel so far out of their way.

But 50 years ago, a small teen nightclub in Harbor Springs was drawing acts like the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison. Club Ponytail was a major hot spot for young people all over northern Michigan until it burned down in 1969.

A view of Fishtown
Amanda Holmes

When most people walk through Fishtown in Leland, Michigan, they see bustling shops selling fish, sandwiches, jewelry and tee shirts within the cluster of fish shanties along the Leland River. But Amanda Holmes sees the history behind the place that isn’t visible to the average tourist. 

 


Dave Miles, a curator at the Charlevoix Historical Society, stands by a new fishing industry display. It's part of a new exhibit focusing on the history of business and industry in Charlevoix.
Dan Wanschura

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.

It’s not hard to see why Michigan is often referred to as “the Mitten State,” but it is a little more difficult to figure out when folks actually started calling it that.

Stateside production assistant Cass Adair tells us he became curious about Michigan’s nickname over a Thanksgiving trip to Tennessee.

Illustrated for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1860

On the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, we got to thinking about how much the media has covered this particular event. With 8,000 known wrecks on the Great Lakes alone, why would this wreck be so popular? And why does it seem like our collective knowledge of maritime history starts and ends with the Edmund Fitzgerald? 

The best explanation seems to be Gordon Lightfoot and his chart-topping song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” 

 


Many from the region may not know it, but Detroit once was home to a thriving financial district with its very own Detroit Stock Exchange.

Founder of HistoricDetroit.org Dan Austin recently wrote about this part of the city's history for the Detroit Free Press.


Just what is the Lost Peninsula?

The Next Idea

In 2009, the headline of a Time magazine cover story read “The Tragedy of Detroit” with a shadowy photo of a blighted factory in the background. The national press was brutal.

The name “Fruehauf” is an iconic one in American transportation history. 

It was 1914 when a Detroit blacksmith named August Fruehauf came up with a creative way to help lumber barons haul even more lumber and make even more money.

Today in 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered

May 8, 2015
michiganrailroads.com-Alan Loftis Collection

It’s VE Day today, Victory in Europe.  Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies on this day 70 years ago. Europe is far from northern Michigan but for many families, the Traverse City train depot was where the action took place.

The old Pere Marquette train station in Traverse City sits near the corner of Eight and Woodmere. It’s a part of town that has seen a recent revival of activity and bustle since the library opened in 1998. 

The last passenger train pulled out of the station in 1966.

The "Question Mark Building" in Honor, is coming down.
Daniel Wanschura

If you’ve ever driven through the town of Honor on U.S. 31, you’ve likely seen the “Question Mark Building.” 

It’s a dilapidated old structure that had a bright pink facade with a large question mark painted on the front. 

Well, the building is finally coming down. 

Talk to the locals in the town of Honor, and you’ll realize that there is a bit of a love - hate relationship with the building on the corner of Henry and Main Street. 

 

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

In one of many concessions to the budget crisis of the 1990s, the state Capitol in Lansing was closed to the public on weekends. Now, almost 20 years later, finances have improved, and the historic building will re-open to visitors on Saturdays.

The decision was made by the Michigan Capitol Commission, which governs operations of the Victorian-era structure listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The decision to close the Capitol on weekends came as the state was in a deep recession and short on money.

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