Category Archives: Manuscript Collections

Women in the Copper Country: The Hancock Home Study Club

IMG_0879
Photograph from the Hancock Home Study Club centennial celebration, 1983.

 

In honor of Women’s History Month we’re featuring the oldest organized women’s club in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Hancock Home Study Club.

Established in 1883, the club held its initial meeting on May 16 to form a club for the study of art in connection with the Society for the Encouragement of Study at Home, a national organization based in Boston. The Society was initially founded in 1873 by Anna Eliot Ticknor as a means of encouraging women to pursue study and enlightenment beyond their traditional domestic duties.

Hancock Home Study Club meeting minutes ledger, 1889.
Hancock Home Study Club meeting minutes ledger, 1889.

The Hancock Home Study Club (HHSC) held its first official meeting in September 1883 as the Home Study Club with six founding members, all women from the Hancock community. Membership in the Club grew to fifteen by 1886 and extended to thirty members. While most early members lived in Hancock, the group eventually opened membership to those living in Ripley, Houghton, and other areas. It wasn’t until March 12, 1935 that the Club constitutionally changed the name to the Hancock Home Study Club.

The Club’s studies were carried out as correspondent courses on topics ranging from art and literature, to economics and world studies. While early coursework focused on international topics and regions, more recent studies have been geared towards topics relevant to Michigan and Copper Country history. Because reference material was hard to come by in this remote region in the late 1800’s, the bulk of the group’s study material were purchased outside of the region. As a result the group amassed a considerable reference library that was later donated to various public libraries and schools.

Resource request card to the Society to Encourage Studies at Home, 1884.
Resource request card to the Society to Encourage Studies at Home, 1884.

The Club met in homes until January 1898 when it rented a room in the Y.M.C.A. building for meetings. Poor heating at the Y.M.C.A. forced the group to relocate to City shortly thereafter, but they found the new location noisy and resorted to moving their meetings to various locations until 1959 when they returned to the home-based meetings.

While not a service club, the club has been active in many forms of social support over its long history, assisting with Red Cross Relief in 1914, as well as state scholarship funds, various wartime commissions, and local social agencies including the YMCA, Elks, Goodwill, Salvation Army and the Houghton Club.

Today, the Hancock Home Study Club continues to be an active organization in the community, meeting at least semi-regularly as it has since its founding in 1883. The Club has celebrated major milestones, like its centennial celebration in 1983, complete with a historical pageant that the ladies put on for the occasion.

The Hancock Home Study Club Records are a fascinating look into women’s social organizations in the late 19th Century, particularly in the early decades of an isolated, rural area. The records serve as evidence of the importance of social bonds between women in a growing community and interest in academic pursuits beyond the home. The records of the Hancock Home Study Club (MS-056) can be viewed onsite at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections and include the club’s constitution and bylaws, meeting minutes, financial records and annual reports, as well as photographs, programs, and anniversary celebration memorabilia. You can also view the finding aid for this collection online by visiting the Archive’s collections page.

Christmas on Isle Royale, Diary entries of a frontier woman

The ever-white winters of the Keweenaw are beautiful, but the intense snowfall can also leave residents feeling isolated. Both of these sentiments become even more true on Isle Royale.

The following set of diary entries were written by Lydia Smith Douglass in 1848 during the first year of her marriage to Columbus C. Douglass. During the winter of this year, the couple lived on Isle Royale while Columbus worked for the Ohio and Isle Royale Mining Company.

These entries were written around the time of Christmas.

 

Isle Royale in Winter. (Photo courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives.)
Isle Royale in Winter. (Photo courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives).

 

 

December 23, 1848

It was eleven o’clock before I retired last night. I said some time before night that I would finish the piece of work I was engaged with before I slept. Consequently, I had to sit up later than usual. Mr. Douglass returned home a little after six this evening, having walked from Epidote to Datholite and from thence home today on snow shoes. He was so fatigued as to be hardly able to stand up, when he came in, and so completely drenched with perspirations, one might have thought he had been in the water. Such overexertion must certainly be very injurious to one’s health.

December 25, 1848

Christmas has come with pleasant weather, and snow sufficient for good sleighing, but unfortunately for us we have neither roads nor teams. The contrast in the manner of our spending the day is quite different from last Christmas Day, then among our friends at Ann Arbor. Now, on a remote and lonely island, but I forbear to repine. We are happy here, even in this solitude, but would still be happier if we could communicate with our friends. We have as many of comforts of life here, as we should enjoy in almost any place. Many more than one would suppose that had no experience in this new country. We have as yet a plenty of fresh meats such as, beef, fish, fowls, rabbits, etc. etc., together with as good vegetables as one would wish to find in any place, also a sufficiency of nick-nacks. In short, everything for our health and comfort.

December 26, 1848

The morning was rather snowy, but cleared away about noon and remained pleasant during the rest of the day. The day passed off in the usual routine of sewing, reading, writing, eating, etc., etc., etc. We brought with us a choice library, with which to employ our leisure moments, and it is a source of amusement and profit to us. We are now reading the Life and Voyages of Columbus, written by Washington Irving, which is very interesting. It seems strange to us of the present day that a civilized people should have thrown so many obstacles in the way of this great discoverer.

 

These diary entries are held by the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections as a part of the Lydia Smith Douglass Diary Collection.

Baraga Resident Donates World War I Era Collection

Ellen Raymond, center, donated her father-in-law’s materials to the University Archives after a suggestion from her friend, Sharon Eklund, left. Archivist Beth Russell, right, formally accepted the donation.  (Photo courtesy of Tech Today)

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections was pleased to welcome a new collection this week thanks to a local resident. Ellen Raymond, a 94 year old from Baraga, visited the archives on Tuesday, July 8 and donated a family collection of World War I era documents and ephemera.

After finding a stash of documents and photos in her closet, Raymond wasn’t quite sure what to do, but her friend Sharon Eklund, a volunteer for Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly who looks in on Raymond, had a pretty good idea. Eklund suggested donating the materials to the Michigan Tech Archives and that is exactly what they did. After coordinating the donation with Archivist Beth Russell, Raymond and Eklund arrived earlier this week to present the material and formally pass ownership to the archives. The donation ceremony was attended by library staff, Little Brothers representatives, and various journalists.

The collection is a file that had been preserved by Raymond’s father-in-law, Harvey William Raymond. It includes his diploma from Baraga High School, a certificate of mine safety from what was then the Michigan College of Mines, correspondence between H.W. Raymond and his fiancée, and several photos, one of particular importance to Michigan Tech as it showcases a class photo taken in 1918 of new recruits at Michigan Tech’s military training facility.

The Michigan Tech Archives does not have many documents or photos from the World War I era so this donation is an important one to broaden our holdings. Archivist Beth Russell called this a “wonderful collection” and it is a perfect example how community donations can enhance the materials we have to offer researchers. The collection will be arranged and cataloged to make it available to researchers in the archives and there are possible plans to have some of the photos scanned and placed in the Keweenaw Digital Archives, where they can be widely accessible even to those unable to visit the archives in person. Overall, Raymond is delighted that her father-in-law’s papers have found their way to a historical collection where the documents and photos will be preserved for future generations. “I think it’s great, and I think he would be proud,” she said, to know that his papers have found their way to a place such as this. Please monitor our blog and Facebook page for news on when this collection is available for use.

Thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of local donors the archives is able to collect, preserve, and make available resources of historical importance.  If you have a collection you think may be suitable to donate to the archives, please contact Lindsay Hiltunen at lehalkol@mtu.edu or by calling (906) 487-3209 or (906) 487-2505.  Inquiries about donations can also be directed to Ellen Marks, University Librarian and Library Director, at ebmarks@mtu.edu or by calling (906) 487-2500.

Travel Grants Awarded to Five Scholars

The Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has selected five recipients for the 2014 Research Travel Award. This year’s grant recipients take a fresh approach to the rich array of material housed in the Archives.

”]Cameron Burd, a graduate student at Central Michigan University will explore environmental activism in the Lake Superior region during the modern environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s and document those who attempted to control the natural fate of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Philip Hartmeyer is a graduate student pursuing maritime studies at East Carolina University.  Hartmeyer will focus his research on the vessel “Pewabic” and the crucial role shipping played in the lives of the Keweenaw’s population, its copper mines, and its civil development in the 1860s.

”]

Shannon Kirkwood is a doctoral student at Central Michigan University and a recent presenter at “Retrospection and Respect: the 1913-1914 Mining/Labor Strike Symposium of 2014.   She will continue her research in the participation of miners’ wives in the 1913-1914 Copper Strike and the indirect relationship these women had with the mining companies, their relationships with their men, and their relationships with each other.

Paul Lubotina, visiting assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University and also a participant in the symposium will examine the role Croatian immigrants played in the 1913-1914 Copper Strike.  He will examine the Seeberville murders and try to shed light on whether mining officials had a more compelling reason other than trespassing for the death of two immigrant laborers.

Mark Worrall is an independent researcher working on the history of the Mineral Range Railroad’s South Range Branch.  He will examine the geographical and anthropological setting of the line, its history, its operations, notable events on the line, and the eventual abandonment of the line.

Since its inception over ten years ago, the grant has enabled more than twenty researchers to travel to Houghton from the United States, Canada, and Europe, to examine the unique social and cultural resources in the Archives collections. Past grant recipients have studied a wide variety of topics, such as the use of images and models by mining engineers to manage complex work sites above and below ground; the role that fraternal orders have played in Lake Superior mining communities; and the adoption of the English language by European transplants to Michigan’s Copper Country. This year’s awards continue a tradition of supported research using the manuscript collections curated by the Michigan Tech Archives.

”]The grant program is financially supported by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library. This year’s award committee included Larry Lankton and Susan Martin, retired professors from the Michigan Tech Department of  Social Sciences, Don Durfee, also from the Department of Social Sciences and the Friends of the Van Pelt Library, and Beth Russell, representing the Michigan Tech Archives.  For further information about the awards program or about the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives, call 487-2505.

The Risks of Radicalism

The following letter, discovered in MS-080, Copper Range Company Records, shows the close connection between the copper mining companies and local government.

Unfortunately, the I. W. W. book was not included with the letter. The context for this letter (given below), derived from various sources in the Michigan Tech Archives, demonstrates the value of having an array of different sources at the same research facility.

  • D. L. Robinson: Member of the prominent law firm Rees, Robinson, and Petermann.
  • I. W. W.: The Industrial Workers of the World were a radical left labor union that was, at the time of this letter, growing in strength across the United States.
  • Mr. Slagg: Milo J. Slagg was the principal of the agricultural school from 1915 to 1919.
  • Agricultural School: The Otter Lake Agricultural School in Tapiola (renamed the John A. Doelle Agricultural School in 1922).
  • Alex Pohja: Probably the same person as the Alex Ponja listed by the 1916-1917 Polk directory as a resident of Trimountain and laborer in the Trimountain Mine.
  • John A. Doelle: Longtime superintendent of the Houghton and Portage Lake public schools.
  • Bill: William H. Schacht, the new general manager of the Copper Range Company and Alex Pohja’s boss.

We don’t know if Schacht took any action on this matter, but it is easy to see the potential risks of expressing radical opinions if your job could be threatened by the actions of your child.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.

NHPRC

A Retro Copper Country Halloween

NHPRCResearchers can find a trove of ghoulish retro Halloween photographs in the Daily Mining Gazette Photograph Collection. The Daily Mining Gazette photograph collection contains photographs documenting people and events in the Copper Country. Most of the photographs were taken between 1952 and 1979. This collection was able to be fully processed during the NHPRC grant funded Detailed Processing Project.

Young trick-or-treaters inspect their loot on the sidewalk
Halloween in the Copper Country, original image from an October 1954 issue of the Daily Mining Gazette
Another group of trick-or-treaters
More trick-or-treaters from a November 1954 issue of the Daily Mining Gazette

And Now for Something (not) Completely Different

For the first NHPRC project blog posting after the October fire, I felt it would be appropriate to take a look at a much more unfortunate case.

In 1917, the resident agent of the St. Mary’s Canal Mineral Land Company, F. W. Nichols, was trying to find some early land records.  He wrote to Richard S. Harvey, who was the son of Charles T. Harvey, the land agent for the company’s predecessor.

The following image is the second page of a response from Harvey.  Take a look at the second paragraph.

And his fourth office burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp.

Look for more about the (surviving) records of the St. Mary’s Canal Mineral Land Company (part of the Copper Range Company Records) in a future blog post.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.

Help from Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company

Telephone directories from Calumet and Hecla

The telephone has become so ubiquitous in our lives that we often forget it’s a relatively new technology.  In 1952, Calumet and Hecla  provided some help using the telephone in their telephone directory.  In case you need some help yourselves:

“Before attempting to dial a call, lift the receiver and listen for the ‘dial tone’, a steady humming sound … Secure from this directory the number of the person or department wanted.  Dial each digit carefully, making sure the dial is pulled until the ‘stop’ is reached.  Allow the dial to return to its normal position after each pull; any attempt to force the dial may result in a wrong number.  If, during the process of dialing, you discover you have made an error, hang up for a few seconds and then dial over.  If the telephone you have dialed is busy, you will hear a short rapid ‘buzz-buzz’ sound.  If you hear this sound, hang up and wait a moment before attempting to dial again.  A ‘burr-burr-burring’ sound indicates that the telephone you have called is ringing.”

Okay, a little different from today – who remembers rotary phones?

National Park Helps With Preservation

Keweenaw National Historical Park is assisting the Michigan Tech Archives in preserving records of the Copper Range Company.  During our current processing and cataloging project (funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission), some documents of the former mining company and its common carrier railroad were discovered to be a bit moldy. This isn’t an unusual discovery for records of former industrial enterprises, as documents were often stored in damp and dirty mining structures. Although the Michigan Tech Archives storage facilities have reasonable temperature and humidity control, there is always a danger of a mold outbreak.

Through a collaborative effort, some of the most valuable of these records were physically delivered to the Calumet facilities of Keweenaw National Historical Park for treatment. The materials were cycled through the Park’s Wei T’o freeze drying machine, a process that kills a variety of pests, including mold. Upon return to the Archives, additional work will be undertake to physically remove the dead mold spores from the material before they become a permanent part of our collections.

Many thanks to Brian Hoduski, Museum Curator and Chief of Museum and Archival Services Division, and Jeremiah Mason, Archivist, for their welcoming and professional assistance with this important preservation work.

Jeremiah Mason, archivist for Keweenaw National Historical Park, adjusts controls on the Park's Wei T'o freeze dry machine. The Park is assisting with mold decontamination on records from the Copper Range Company.

This preservation work is undertaken with the generous support of the National Park Service and its staff, equipment and facilities.  Processing of the Copper Range Company archival records is supported through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Vandals!

What are footprints doing on this Copper Range Company document?

A note from Florence E. Gregorich documents that certain records from the Copper Range Company’s old Boston headquarters were sent to Houghton for the use of Dr. J. Robert Van Pelt (former president of Michigan Tech and the library’s namesake) in writing a history of the Copper Range Company.

In September 1976, vandals broke into the warehouse and scattered many of the records.  Due to a lack of time and manpower, there was no attempt to reassemble the records before they were moved into storage at White Pine Mine, from where the material was later donated to the Michigan Tech Archives.

Most likely the vandals were frustrated to have gone to the trouble of breaking into a warehouse only to discover boxes of records, rather than electronics.  However, I like to think that they did this specifically to make trouble for future archivists.  I imagine them shouting “archive this!” as they fling the papers across the room.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.