Category Archives: About the Archives

This category is used for posts that talk more about the people, services, and operation of the archives as a department.

A Calumet & Hecla Rosetta Stone: Reading a C&H Employment Card, Part 1

The following post is part one of a two-part series, which was researched and authored by Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist. 

Fall semester is always busy for our department, but October was an especially busy month of outreach for the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. Everyone on our staff had a part to play. It was my honor and privilege to speak at the monthly meeting of the Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society on some of our most popular documents: the employment records from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Companies Collection (MS-002).

The Michigan Tech Archives holds more than 57,000 of these records for workers–primarily male but, in some instances, female–hired by the company between 1865 and 1957. Astonishing though that number is, it still does not quite capture the vastness of the workforce under the Calumet & Hecla (C&H) umbrella. Records for an unknown number of employees who left the mines before the mid-1890s or stayed on with C&H until its bitter end in 1969 were lost or destroyed before the collection arrived at Michigan Tech. C&H’s habits when it acquired competitors also weighed negatively on documents from those companies: if a worker was employed by Tamarack Mining Company, for example, only before it ceased to be an independent organization in 1917, C&H apparently disposed of his employment information. If he stayed on when Tamarack officially came into the Calumet & Hecla family, the corporation’s clerks transferred his information to a new, C&H-specific document.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.
Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.

 

Rich with information about such topics as family backgrounds, occupations, rates of pay, and on-the-job injuries, the many cards that have survived are perennially in demand with genealogists, labor historians, and many other researchers. Yet the very wealth of information available often renders the cards challenging to read and decipher. Even more than its biggest competitors–Copper Range and Quincy–C&H created employment cards with a complex structure and devised a collection of information-storing abbreviations as expansive as the workforce it described. For researchers a hundred years later, understanding the C&H language and card structure can be a challenging proposition. In my presentation last October, I provided what I called a Cliffs Notes guide to what a person needs to know to read a C&H employment card, and I am pleased to be able to share a version of that with you. It would be a disservice to the records to abbreviate that discussion too dramatically, so this Cliffs Notes guide will be divided into two posts. The first entry will focus on the information that the cards provide on an employee’s background and personal traits.

When we speak of C&H employment cards at the Michigan Tech Archives, we are, in fact, referring to two distinct styles of record. A small, dense document that resembles a modern index card came into use for documenting C&H employees in the 1890s. A larger, yellow sheet with a more complex structure replaced it beginning in 1915. While the format might have changed, many of the company’s questions and abbreviations remained constant over the years. Understand the newer C&H employment record, and interpreting its predecessor will be simple. For that reason, both posts will examine the yellow document.

It’s easiest to understand yellow cards by looking at a sample record, so I selected the employment card for a relative of my own, Peter Gasperich. Peter was born in Slovenia and came to the United States in the late 1880s, settling near Calumet. He worked in the copper mines for more than thirty years and concluded his career at C&H, where he was employed at the time of his death.

On the front page of the yellow card, C&H employment clerks recorded the aforementioned information about Peter as an individual. The left side of the page began by asking for a substantial number of details of interest to genealogists; name, date and place of birth, current residence, and status with regard to marriage, citizenship, and parenthood lead the list. A genealogist may find that, if the individual’s name was unusual to American eyes or if the worker was an immigrant looking to blend in with his peers, the name given on the employment card varies from what is given elsewhere. Employees may also have misremembered or been motivated to obscure their years of birth, either to inflate or reduce their ages; this information is worth verifying with other sources whenever possible. It is worth noting, as well, that contemporary names were used for places of birth. Peter was born in Črnomelj, Slovenia, a town then part of the Austrian empire. He provided his hometown using its official German name (Tschernembl), which the C&H clerk attempted to transcribe phonetically–with little success. It took quite a bit of additional research to tie “Chernemble” back to Peter’s actual birthplace.

As they moved down the page, the clerks inquired about the name of Peter’s spouse and where she resided. Employees whose parents were still alive also provided information about them to C&H. Unfortunately, the company was not motivated to collect details about deceased relatives and simply recorded them as no longer living, rendering this section a–no pun intended–genealogical dead end. Names and dates of birth were noted for children, albeit with the same caveats as Peter’s name and age. The questions about Peter’s family also requested details about any relatives of his who were also working in Michigan’s copper mines. If the family member were employed at a different mine, both the person’s name and the name of their employer were listed, along with a succinct abbreviation of their relationship; if the person worked somewhere within the C&H empire, the employer’s name was replaced by the individual’s identification number. This portion of the front page concluded with information about Peter’s most recent employer prior to C&H and his reason for leaving that company.

The left side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which features a range of basic biographical data.
The left side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which features a range of basic biographical data.

Although the structure of the employment cards varied over the years, the right side of this front page here provided a space for C&H to expand on Peter’s work history. In this more detailed inquiry, the company asked about Peter’s employers in the twelve months prior to his hiring at C&H: the name and location of the firm, the dates that Peter worked there, and the position he held were all noted. At times, an employment card might show a smattering of jobs spread across multiple years: when workers returned to C&H after an absence, the company would simply update existing records rather than creating new ones. The genealogist who sees this apparent disarray on an employment card should see it as a clue that their ancestor moved from job to job with some frequency.

Perhaps more interesting to family history researchers, however, is the description of the employee’s appearance also provided. For genealogists who have only black-and-white photographs of their ancestors–or, in the case of Peter, no pictures at all–these details about hair and eye color, height, and weight are a particular treasure. Rest assured that C&H company physicians, who examined all prospective hires, spared no detail. I know more now about the scars and bodily oddities of long-dead family members than I ever desired to know. On the employment records produced in the years immediately following the 1913-1914 Western Federation of Miners copper strike, a paragraph authorizing a rudimentary background check and vowing no affiliation with the union was also included. By the time Peter’s card was created in 1921, this section had fallen by the wayside; its commitment was now implicit.

The new hire signed the card–or made his X mark–on this page, and a representative of the company added his own signature and the date. Updates here were made in much the same way as the employment history section. At the very bottom of the page, clerks wrote Peter’s name again and added one of the two numbers he was assigned within the C&H system.

The right side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which discusses his work history and physical appearance.
The right side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which discusses his work history and physical appearance.

The Calumet & Hecla employment cards offer extraordinary insight into the company’s workforce for a bevy of research interests. Hopefully, this primer will prove a useful orientation to the basic history and purpose of the cards, as well as the information available on their front side. A future blog post will turn to the back page, which shifts its attention away from personal details to focus more on a worker’s relationship to C&H. Watch this space for the second part of the guide. In the meantime, if your interest in learning more about your ancestors’ potential ties to C&H has been piqued, if you would like assistance in deciphering a record already located, or if you have any other research questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Michigan Tech Archives. We may be reached via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu or by telephone at (906) 487-2505, and we are always very happy to help.



Travel Grant Presentation – Documenting the Submerged: Digital Methods and Panoramic Imagery of Shipwrecks within the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Phil Hartmeyer2
Underwater imaging at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Please join us for visiting scholar Philip Hartmeyer at 4:00 pm on Friday, December 1 in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library on the Michigan Technological University campus. This event is free of charge and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

In this presentation, Hartmeyer will discuss the role, techniques, and applications of advanced digital documentation methods in surveying the shipwrecks within the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Learn about photogrammetry and panoramic imagery and their applications for research, education, and outreach as well as the stories of the submerged cultural resources that line the shores of Thunder Bay on Lake Huron. Hartmeyer has made several trips to the Michigan Tech Archives in order to help document the history of some of the submerged ships in the Thunder Bay region.

Phil Hartmeyer3
Phil about to go to work.

Philip Hartmeyer is a maritime archaeologist currently working at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, Michigan. Originally from San Francisco, California, Hartmeyer’s passion for maritime heritage has taken him all over the world to conduct surveys and excavations of shipwrecks. He received his masters in maritime archaeology from East Carolina University, where he wrote his thesis on the passenger/package propeller Pewabic, a middle 19th-century vessel that was instrumental to the copper industry and the settlement of the Keweenaw Peninsula. He received his bachelors in archaeology from Saint Mary’s College of California, and is also a Registered Professional Archaeologist.

Hartmeyer’s research visit and presentation are supported by a travel grant from the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library. Since 1988, the Michigan Technological University Archives Travel Grant program has helped scholars advance their research by supporting travel to the manuscript collections at the Archives.

For more information, feel free to call the Michigan Tech Archives at (906) 487-2505, email copper@mtu.edu, or visit on the web at http://www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives/. You can also find us on Facebook or @mtuarchives on Twitter.



Western Chapter of Michigan History Alliance to be Hosted by Michigan Tech Archives

MHAEach regional alliance meets at least twice a year to bring together representatives from HSM member historical organizations in several counties. The gatherings will feature a speaker to address a topic of interest and allow for conversations among each region’s historical organizations. Attendance at the Michigan History Alliance networking sessions is free of charge for current member organizations of HSM. Membership is required for participation.Michigan History Alliance Districts

 

 

Alliance meetings will also offer separate three-hour History Skills Workshops led by authorities in the field. Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist at Michigan Tech, will facilitate a workshop and brainstorming session on All-Ages Archives. The workshop will discuss collaboration with community partners in order to plan, develop, implement, and assess creative outreach and primary source research instruction to K-12 students and community groups. The session will utilize examples to show the power of teamwork and good planning and will showcase successes and address challenges that come up in the planning process. There is a fee to attend the History Skills Workshops.

For more information about the program, contact Assistant Director for Education Programs and Events Robert Myers at (517) 324-1828 or myers@hsmichigan.org.


Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Allison

Allison at the 41 North Film Festival, Houghton, November 2016.
Allison at the 41 North Film Festival, Houghton, November 2016.

First Name: Allison
Title: Archivist
Where are you from? Born and raised in the Twin Cities (Minnesota), but have spent the majority of my adult years in Madison, Wisconsin.

Where did you work before coming to Michigan Tech? I first cut my teeth in the archives field as an intern with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Prior to coming to the Michigan Tech Archives in July 2016, I worked as a cataloger at the Minnesota Historical Society, working primarily with audio-visual collections. I have to give credit to the Wisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison Oral History Program and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum for my early career experience in archival work, providing me with the practical experience and knowledge that I’m excited to bring to Tech.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives? My favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives is seeing our patrons leave the archive with a smile on their face. Whether it’s an academic researcher who found a crucial piece of information for their research or a genealogist who was able to find a tangible connection to their ancestors, the joy on our patron’s faces makes everything worthwhile.

At the Lakenenland Sculpture Park, Marquette, August 2017.
At the Lakenenland Sculpture Park, Marquette, August 2017.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here? I feel that I make a new discovery every week, which is why it is hard to narrow it down. I would have to say the most interesting thing I’ve recently learned is that the Atlas Powder Company powerhouse whistle resides on the top of the Central Heating Plant of the Michigan Tech campus. Not only that, but the whistle has been used to mark the beginning of K-Day (Keweenaw Day) on campus. The names of several employees that were working at Atlas when the plant closed in 1960s are engraved on the whistle. What an obscure, but fascinating story, full of local and campus history!

What is your favorite collection? Picking a favorite collection among so many great ones to choose from is hard, but I would have to say the John T. Reeder Photograph Collection (MS-042). It was the first collection at the Michigan Tech Archives that I became acquainted with even before I came to work here. I think I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the beautiful photographs Reeder took of the Copper Country and its people.

Allison2

What is your favorite photograph in CCHI? So many to choose from! I’m partial to a lot of the animal photos in CCHI, particularly the 1957 photo from the Daily Mining Gazette (DMG) of “Paddy” the deer and “Pudgy” the cat nuzzling each other. Just such a sweet photo!

Allison after a Zumba class at the SDC, May 2017.
Allison after a Zumba class at the SDC, May 2017.

What is one interesting fact about you? One interesting fact about me is that while I’m an archivist by day, by night I’m a certified Zumba instructor for the HuskiesFit program. Come check out my class at the Student Development Complex!

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you? For me, the archives represents a place where the past and present intersect. It’s a place where Copper Country residents can discover their personal family stories and learn how those stories have both been shaped by and have influenced the history of the region. While my story doesn’t have roots here, as a new community member it is an important place for me where I can learn about the history of the land and the community that I’m now a part of.


Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Georgeann

Georgeann snowshoeing at the shores of Lake Superior, McLain State Park.
Georgeann snowshoeing at the shores of Lake Superior, McLain State Park.

First Name: Georgeann
Title: Library Assistant (Resource Access and Discovery Services and Archives)
Where are you from? I grew up in Chassell, just down the road from Houghton, MI.

Where did you work before coming to Michigan Tech?
I worked for the Chassell Township School as the librarian.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives?
I learn something new everyday. It has given me a greater appreciation for how special this area is and why it is so important to remember the things that have happened here.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here?
I’ve always been drawn to lighthouses, so it was great to learn about the Stannard Rock lighthouse. It’s a tiny lighthouse out in the middle of nowhere on Lake Superior. It was named for Captain Charles C. Stannard who was the first to discover the highly dangerous rock reef. Stannard Rock has been called “The Loneliest Place in the World” because all you can see is water for miles around.

What is your favorite collection?GeorgeannFavPhoto
The Postcard Collection. It’s very interesting to see the wide range of postcards that were produced. Some of them even have original written messages on the back and it’s fascinating to read what people were writing about the area.

 

A zentangle ornament that Georgeann made.
A zentangle ornament that Georgeann made.

What is your favorite photograph in CCHI?
This adorable baby beaver taken by John T. Reeder. 

What is one interesting fact about you?
I enjoy drawing Zentagle Inspired Art to relax and unwind.

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you? There are records here relating to my family and the various businesses they have owned in the area and it’s great to know those histories will be preserved for the younger generations.


Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Lindsay

With my Weimaraner, Otto, on top of Brockway Mountain. July 4, 2017.
With my Weimaraner, Otto, on top of Brockway Mountain. July 4, 2017.

First Name: Lindsay
Title: University Archivist
Where are you from? Tamarack City, Michigan

Where did you work before coming to Michigan Tech? I started my career as a Librarian with the District of Columbia Public Library in 2007. My first job in academic libraries was as the Gifts Coordinator at George Mason University from 2010-2011. After leaving the DC metro area, I worked as a graduate specialist at the Western Illinois University Archives before coming to the Michigan Tech Archives in May 2014. I’ve held various archivist positions here before becoming the UA in May 2016.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives?
My favorite thing about working here is the opportunity to meet interesting people. You never know who will walk in the door, send an e-mail, or who you will meet at a conference. My colleagues in the library are also top notch! We assist patrons from all over the world.

Working here has also allowed me to travel to participate in professional development, so I’ve enjoyed networking with fellow archivists and public historians all over the place. In the past year I’ve chaired panels and presented papers at conferences in Calumet, Traverse City, Indianapolis, Omaha, and Helsinki, Finland. I wake up happy to come to work everyday because I love the people I work with and the places I can go.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here?dave
The history of my house, which was built in the late 1890s. We’ve learned some neat things, especially about the possible reason the house has a trap door and a secret room.

What is your favorite collection?
MS-134: Verna Grahek Mize – Save Lake Superior Campaign Collection, which was the first collection I processed here. May we always remember the First Lady of Lake Superior!

What is your favorite photograph in CCHI?
My grandpa, David T. Halkola, in his office at Michigan Tech. He was a history professor and also wrote the centennial history of the university, although I wish he would have used better citations!

A selfie at 12 Tonar, an awesome record store in Reykjavik, Iceland, November 2016.
A selfie at 12 Tonar, an awesome record store in Reykjavik, Iceland, November 2016.

What is one interesting fact about you?
It is perhaps no surprise and not all that interesting that I am a collector! I have collections of books, Bosch breweriana (a local brewery), Thomas W. Benton, Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo art, and vintage horror and sci-fi movie posters. However, the collection that brings me the most joy is my record collection. I lovingly maintain and build an eclectic collection of vinyl, with close to 4000 LPs and 500 45s. The bulk of my collection is punk, hardcore, classic rock, garage, surf, grunge, alternative, indie, rap and hip hop, funk, soul and old school blues. Some pop from the 1950s-today is mixed in. I also have an assortment of novelty records and soundtracks, from the (im)practical (Guy LaFleur’s Instructional Hockey Disco Record) to the bizarre (It’s Monster Surfing Time by the Deadly Ones).

Treating myself after presenting at the International Oral History symposium. Standing in front of Levykauppa Keltainen Jäänsärkijä, a record store in Helsinki, Finland.
Treating myself after presenting at the International Oral History Symposium, November 2016. Standing in front of Levykauppa Keltainen Jäänsärkijä, a record store in Helsinki, Finland.

I really enjoy traveling and I try to hit up a record store in every city I visit. I’ve been to record stores all over to build my collection, from Santa Cruz to New York City, from Toronto, Canada, to Cleremont-Ferrand France, from Reykjavik, Iceland to Helsinki, Finland. When record hunting on a vacation, I always try to pick up a few local bands to learn about the local music scene. Pretty much the first thing I do when I get home from work everyday is spin a record.

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you?
The Michigan Tech Archives are important to me because they help preserve and provide access to significant histories and memories. As a native of the local area and a Tech alum, I’m very grateful to preserve and share these amazing collections. I learn something new everyday!


Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Allyse

Allyse and her cat, Mr. Basil.
Allyse and her cat, Mr. Basil.

First Name: Allyse
Title: Archives Public Services Intern
Where are you from? I’m straight-up local.

What is your major:  Psychology, with a mix of everything else.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives? Besides the delightful crew we have here? We connect our patrons with their long-lost relatives. The excitement they feel when discovering information about their families is so heartfelt to me!

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here? There is always something new and neat to learn! Never a dull moment.

What is your favorite collection? The Vertical Files – we go way back! 😉

What is one interesting fact about you? I’ve been fortunate to be a member of the Michigan Tech Archives team since 2010. I give a shoutout to all my colleagues and supervisors who’ve put up with me over the years: “Thank you!”

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you? The fact that we aim to maintain Copper Country and Michigan Tech historical resources, and that we share these resources with the public, is very important! I’m happy to be a part of such a great and community-minded repository.


Archives Month Staff Spotlight 2017 – Jeremy

Jeremy Staff Spotlight PhotoJeremy is our next staff member to be featured in the Staff Spotlight for American Archives Month!

First Name: Jeremy
Title
: Student Assistant – Copper Range Railroad Exhibit
Where are you from? Cadillac, MI
What is your major? Mechanical Engineering

What is your favorite thing about working at the Michigan Tech Archives?
Regularly handling historical documents and artifacts from the Upper Peninsula.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while working here?
The Bill Nichols Snowmobile Trail follows the route of the former Copper Range Railroad Company

What is your favorite collection?
The Copper Range Company/Railroad Collection.

What is your favorite photograph in CCHI?
A photo of the Copper Range Roundhouse in action.

What is one interesting fact about you?
I am a big stock car racing fan, and attended over 35 races during 2017.

Why are the Michigan Tech Archives important to you?
They help preserve the history of the Copper Country, and allow residents to access these pieces of history of the region they live in.

Copper Range Roundhouse, date unknown.
Copper Range Roundhouse, date unknown.