A History of Explorers, Entrepreneurs, and Everyday People
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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This manuscript is the product of my “lifetime” with Michigan history, which began unexpectedly, even somewhat accidentally. I had just finished the examination portion of my doctoral degree at Michigan State University when my good undergraduate friend gail Dehudy (nee Kageff) told me about a state...
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Few U.S. states can boast a past as rich and varied as Michigan. Evidence of the earliest settlers (Native Americans, also called Indians) living in what we call Michigan occurred about 11,000 years ago; the last glacier retreated about 2,500 years ago. During the early 17th century, French explorers, fur...
1. First Residents
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Shortly after the last glacier retreated and created the familiar face of the future state of Michigan, the first inhabitants arrived. The earliest evidence of human life in Michigan occurred more than 11,000 years ago, although the archaeological evidence is “pitifully meager—a few broken stone tools, a...
2. The French Presence
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the French arrived in the Great Lakes during the early seventeenth century looking for the elusive Northwest Passage—a shortcut to China. Instead, they found furbearing animals and Indians to Christianize. Until the eve of the American Revolution, the French explored and occupied the western Great Lakes. In the process, they trapped the area’s animals, disrupted the...
3. The British Take Control
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As the French and Indian War ended in North America, the British moved quickly to consolidate their gains in Canada. During the late summer of 1760, Major Robert Rogers received orders to take possession of Detroit. In the recent war, the 29-year-old New Hampshire native, who commanded...
4. Michigan Becomes American
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On July 13, 1796, Lt. Colonel John Hamtramck arrived in Detroit with more American troops, increasing the U.S. presence to 400 soldiers. Born in Canada to Luxembourgian parents, Hamtramck joined the American army during the revolution where he earned accolades from...
5. Settling the “Land of ills”
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In July 1836, John M. Gordon, a Baltimore banker, arrived in Michigan. On the verge of becoming the nation’s 26th state, the Michigan territory was at the height of a land rush that witnessed the sale of more than four million acres of public land in that year alone. as he toured the southern Lower Peninsula buying land, Gordon kept a diary as “a convenient mode” of informing...
6. Quest for Statehood
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On January 12, 1835, acting Territorial Governor Stevens T. Mason told the legislative council that Michigan faced a crisis. He explained that Michigan’s request to Congress to call a convention to write a state constitution had been denied. Mason declared that the Michigan territory had a “right” to be admitted to the Union as a state; so he asked the council to call...
7. Building a State
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With the trials of statehood behind them, Michiganians eagerly prepared to conquer the wilderness and build a state. The nation buzzed over changes—everything from new forms of transportation to reform movements to improve American society—and Michiganians vowed not to be left behind. In the same month that Michigan joined the Union, a legislative committee...
8. The Fight Against Slavery
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By the time the patriot War faded from the news, Michigan was home to a growing and determined anti-slavery movement that left the state “a beacon of liberty in the Great Lakes.” Anti-slavery sentiment began as early as 1807 when Justice Augustus Woodward’s “sharp indictment against slavery . . . helped to solidify public opinion in Michigan against the institution of slavery.”...
9. The Civil War
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On the evening of April 12, 1861, Sara and Carry Nelson had just finished their first musical piece at the Detroit Theatre. Suddenly, the theater manager rushed onstage with a telegram. It said that Confederate forces had opened fire on Fort Sumter, a fortress the U.S. government controlled in the...
10. Logging the Forests
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When the pioneers settled Michigan during the 1830s, they discovered such an abundance of trees that it was said that “a squirrel could travel on tree branches across the state without ever touching the ground.” As loggers depleted the eastern forests, they discovered Michigan’s virgin forests, and within a few years, logging exceeded all expectations. Early estimates...
11. Mining Michigan
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On February 21, 1836, Michigan Senator Lucius Lyon acknowledged the possibility that Congress would offer Michigan the western Upper Peninsula when granting the contested Toledo Strip to Ohio. Besides the Lake Superior fisheries, Lyon predicted “the copper mines supposed to exist” in the western U.p. promised future wealth. “Within twenty years,” he predicted,...
12. Turn of the Century
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In September 1889, thousands of Michiganians visited the Detroit International Exposition & Fair. Hailed as a “grand combination” boasting the state’s agricultural and industrial successes, hundreds of companies—both small and large, producing everything from cigars to railroad boxcars—offered exhibits for the two-week extravaganza. Constructed on 72 acres of unincorporated...
13. Birth of the Automobile
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At 11:00 pm on March 6, 1896, Charles King, a 32-year-old mechanical engineer, seated himself in an open carriage. The carriage looked like most other vehicles on Detroit’s streets, except there were no horses pulling it. King’s “horseless carriage” moved down Woodward avenue to the surprise of the few pedestrians on the street that evening. The next day, a...
14. World War I
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As the progressive era rumbled on, Europe erupted into war in August 1914. Most Americans felt fortunate that the Atlantic Ocean separated them from the worsening death and destruction, but hundreds of young Michigan men joined Canadian military units—part of the British Commonwealth forces fighting the Germans. However, most Americans...
15. The Raucous Twenties
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Besides an effort to “make the world safe for democracy,” World War I also promoted two Progressive Era reforms—Prohibition and women’s suffrage— that left a noticeable imprint on Michigan. Although efforts to regulate alcohol in Michigan began before the Civil War, they enjoyed little success until the founding of the Anti-Saloon League...
16. The Great Depression and Growth of Labor
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“We were desperate, just desperate,” one Detroiter remembered. “We saw people’s lives fall apart because they didn’t have any money.” The early 1930s was a time of enormous suffering and turmoil as thousands of Americans lost their jobs, life savings vanished as banks suddenly closed, families went hungry and lost their homes because mortgages could not be...
17. World War II
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On the fateful Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Fireman First Class Peter Stork of Hamtramack joined a group of fellow sailors who left the USS Vestal to attend mass on the mainland. Soon, Japanese planes streaked across the water dropping bombs and torpedoes on the unsuspecting American fleet tied up at Pearl Harbor. as he came under fire, Stock remembered...
18. Postwar Michigan and the Turbulent 1960s
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Michiganians experienced a period of instability as World War II came to an end. Money was plentiful, but products, especially new automobiles, were scarce. The federal government allowed auto manufacturers to resume civilian car production following the surrender of Germany in May 1945. this advance planning helped speed conversion from tanks and Jeeps to cars and...
19. 1970s and Beyond
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Moments after taking the oath of office as President of the United States on August 9, 1974, Gerald R. Ford told Americans, “Our long national nightmare is over.” he conceded, “I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances . . . . This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.” Although he had “not sought this enormous responsibility,”...
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Michigan in the twenty-first century continues to experience its ups and downs. Politically, especially in presidential elections, Michigan remained largely a “blue state”; the last time a Republican presidential candidate (George H. W. Bush) won Michigan was in 1988. In 2002, voters elected Jennifer Granholm the state’s first female governor. A Canadian raised in California and a...
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Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2014