Category Archives: Manuscript Collections

Archives Welcomes New Archivist (well, sort of)

Elizabeth Russell begins the position of full-time Archivist at the Michigan Tech Archives Tuesday, November 1, 2011. She was selected from a pool of candidates following a national search. Although new to this professional archivist position, Russell has been employed with Michigan Tech as project cataloging archivist on a two-year grant-funded initiative to complete collection-level descriptions of the department’s manuscript collections. The project, funded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, was completed on October 31.

“Beth has contributed significantly to the success of the NHPRC grant as well as being a highly regarded member of the service team in the Archives,” noted Ellen Marks, University Librarian and Library Director. “She has an interesting background in different types of archives, sailing and cooking that has led her to her new, permanent home in the Copper Country.”

Russell’s hire into this position continues efforts to improve description of the Archives’ manuscript collections. “Beth’s experience is perfect for the types of cataloging and collections work at hand,” indicates Erik Nordberg, University Archivist. “She has extensive direct experience with cataloging archival material and is closely familiar with software and standards such as MARC, OCLC, and LCHS.”  Her two years’ cataloging work in Houghton has also provided her with a detailed knowledge of local history and local cataloging rules which will be essential to the Archives’ future success.

Before moving to Michigan, Russell was collections cataloger for Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Art History from Providence College and a Master of Library and Information Studies with a concentration in special collections, manuscripts, and archives from the University of Rhode Island. She has completed training from the Society of American Archivists in Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS).

Russell fills the position of Archivist which became vacant when Julia Blair accepted the position of Strategic Initiatives Librarian for the J.Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library.

Archives Moves Toward New Technologies

Working on mark-up of an EAD file during Michael Fox's recent archival description workshop.

The Archives was closed Thursday-Friday, September 8-9, 2011, so that staff could be  trained in several new software tools.

Michael Fox, recently retired from the Minnesota Historical Society, spent three days with staff of the Michigan Tech Archives (as well as some other friends). Fox reviewed some basic elements of how manuscript collections differ from museum and library collections. It is important to realize that unlike other item-level collections, archives have complex inter-relations within their manuscript collections. Very few archives catalog material to the item level. Instead, they gather descriptive data at the collection level, as well as information about groupings of documents in folders or within collections as records series. The hierarchical relationship between individual documents, the folders they reside in, the series of which they were created, as well as the overall collections which hold them require complex systems of description.

Encoded archival description (EAD) is a standard which has emerged in recent years to help archivists create and hold this type of hierarchical descriptive information. It uses extensible mark-up language (xml)  to take previous types of written inventories and finding aids and turn them into a standardized data format (it also relies on a descriptive standard called “describing archives: a content standard,” or DACS, to ensure that the contents of individual fields is consistent across the board). With information about our collections held in EAD format, the Michigan Tech Archives will be able to export information to web sites and other places where potential researchers might discover our collections.

This work is not for the faint of heart, however, and will involve many changes in the way that we do our work at the Michigan Tech Archives. One of these changes will be the migration of collections information to a new open source archival collections management software tool called Archivists’ Toolkit. AT will allow us to gather a variety of information about our collections, including both descriptive information and internal administrative notes about preservation and processing. From AT, we’ll be able to output descriptive information compliant to the EAD standard. We’ll also be able to export catalog records compliant to the library world’s MARC standard.  In these formats, we’ll be able to update and share information through sites like OCLC’s Worldcat and ArchiveGrid.

Although this may sound like technical mumbo-jumbo to some of our non-archivist researchers, it will mean a dramatic improvement to the variety and level of information that researchers may discover about our holdings.

We were pleased to have Fox’s training workshop supported through grant monies from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission. Over the course of the last two years, NHPRC’s funding of our current ‘basic archives’ grant has provided the first steps in this move toward better and more standardized description. During this period, we have already created collection-level records for each of the manuscript collections held at the Michigan Tech Archives (you can read some of these on our blog over here). With NHPRC funding for Michael Fox’s visit, we made the first steps toward implementation of Archivists’ Toolkit, EAD, and the next steps in our program.

Look for additional updates here.

In honor of our summer intern

Annelise Doll, a recent graduate of the School of Information at the University of Michigan, has been interning at the Michigan Tech Archives this summer. A native of Hancock, she will be moving north to work with the Keweenaw National Historical Park. We will miss her greatly, and in her honor, here’s a selection from a 1966 edition of the “Wadsworth Washline,” a student newsletter. It highlights some of the differences between Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan:

Wadsworth Washline: U of M vs. Michigan Tech

Recent Graduate Projects Utilizing the Michigan Tech Archives

The railroad engine roundhouse at the Quincy Mine has been the topic of two recent graduate projects at Michigan Tech. Image No Neg 2010-01-01-01 (click image for full descriptive information)

One of the strengths of the program at the Michigan Tech Archives is the close collaboration with the University’s Social Sciences Department. In addition to support for coursework and the use of historical collections by the department’s faculty, significant research is completed by students in the Social Sciences graduate programs

The Social Sciences Department now offers four graduate degrees: master’s degrees in both Industrial Archaeology and Environmental Policy, and doctoral programs in Environmental and Energy Policy as well as Industrial Heritage in Archaeology. Across these 4 programs, the department supports more than 20 graduate students.

Many of these students undertake thesis or dissertation projects on local topics – and use the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives in their research.  Print copies of their graduate products are kept permanently in the Archives and most of these are also available as downloadable .pdf files through the online catalogof the J.R. Van Pelt and John and Ruann Opie Library (access to some of these document may be limited to on-campus researchers).

Here are a selection of some recent projects that have drawn from our collections. Links are given to the catalog records.

Preserving and interpreting the mining company office: landscape, space and technological change in the management of the copper industry / by Renee M. Blackburn. Thesis, 2011 . Click here for catalog record.

Quincy and Torch Lake Railroad engine house facility management and interpretive plan / by Dennis H. Leopold.  Thesis, 2011. Click here for catalog record.

Fish contaminants through the tribal perspective: an ethnography of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s tribal fish market / by Valoree Sherick Gagnon.  Thesis, 2011 . Click here for catalog record.

Lighthouses as an overlapping boundary between maritime and terrestrial landscapes: how lighthouses served to connect the growing industries of the Keweenaw Peninsula with the world market / by Lisa M. Gillis.  Thesis, 2011. Click here for catalog record.

From ruin to museum: preserving and interpreting the Quincy and Torch Lake railroad engine house / by Craig P. Wilson.  Thesis, 2010. Click here for catalog record.

More favorable combination of circumstances could hardly have been desired: a bottom to top examination of the Pittsburgh and Boston Mining Company’s Cliff Mine / by Sean M. Gohman. Thesis, 2010. Click here for catalog record.

Reflection, refraction, and rejection: copper smelting heritage and the execution of environmental policy / by Bode J. Morin.  Dissertation, 2009. Click here for catalog record.

Arctic network builders : the Arctic Coal Company’s operations on Spitsbergen and its relationship with the environment / by Cameron C. Hartnell  (used photographs from Michigan Tech mining engineering alumni who worked for Arctic Coal). Dissertation, 2009. Click here for catalog record.

Workshop: Introduction to Archival Research

Ever wonder how to start a historical research project? Not sure where to find the right documents to answer your question? Unclear how a research archives operates?  Join Michigan Tech archivists Julie Blair and Erik Nordberg at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1, for an introduction to archival research. The workshop will take place in Room 244 of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

This session will provide a general overview of research using historical records. The workshop will include an introduction to historical research methods and attendees will learn how to locate, integrate, and cite archival material in their research. Presenters will discuss what is meant by phrases like “manuscript collection” and “primary source,” how to describe different types of archival sources, and learn about the similarities and important differences between archives, libraries, and museums.

Attendees will also learn how to use the Keweenaw Digital Archives to easily find historic images online, how to create an account, make a digital album, and add their own comments and observations to the photos. The session will draw upon numerous examples from the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives, which collects historical material about Michigan Tech and the people, communities, and industries of the surrounding Copper Country.

This workshop will also be repeated at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, and is part of a weekly series of programs offered by the Van Pelt and Opie Library. For more information on the Library’s workshop series, visit their blog.

Online access to Calumet & Hecla Collection Finding Aid

Archives’ staff continue work on a project funded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission to create collection descriptions for each of our manuscript collections.  Although this will provide researchers with a better understanding of the breadth and coverage of our holdings, it won’t initially provide much detail about the contents of individual collections. It is our plan, over time, to continue to create detailed inventories and “finding aids” for each collection which will provide detailed information about the contents of the boxes and folders within each collection.  With a collection of more than 7,000 cubic feet of material, however, this will take a little time.

That said, we do have finding aids available for some of our collections. Researchers may visit our finding aids web page for links to a grouping of some of the more established inventories. During our cataloging project, we’ll also be posting announcements about newly cataloged collections to this blog site.

We’ve recently added a version of the finding aid to Collection MS-002, Calumet & Hecla Mining Companies Collection.  Many thanks to researcher and scholar Eric Nystrom for taking an awkward set of word processing files made years ago in WordPerfect and converting them into a usable web-readable document.

What’s cookin’ today in the reading room.

I worked with a researcher in the Archives today who was interested in any records or documentation of foodways. What are “foodways,” you may ask. Well, that’s academe-speak for what people eat, the social implications of what, how, and with whom they eat; basically, how people interact with food. Food is love, right?

The researcher, Casey Rudkin, an RTC doctoral student, was looking for things like cookbooks and any records that might contain recipes. She was particularly interested in the Brockway Diaries Collection (MS-010), thinking that perhaps Lucena Brockway had noted “receipts,” as recipes were sometimes referred to in the early 19th century and prior. Lucena kept a pretty terse journal, but there are plenty of details to be gleaned of early life on the Keweenaw by the dedicated researcher.

Casey did the hard work, but occasionally we puzzled together over the meaning of some of the text in the diaries; Lucena was not the most legible scribe. We struggled over an entry that recorded the canning of a bushel of cherries, and eventually learned that on one autumn afternoon she and two other women put up 13 cans of cherries by 7 o’clock! No mean feat even on a modern gas range. I can only imagine what that was like on a wood stove in a kitchen without electricity or running water.

Kitchen, circa 1913
This is the kitchen of the Putrich residence in Seeberville (Painesdale), Michigan. It dates to about 40 years later than Lucena Brockway's day of canning. The merchant family Brockway's kitchen may have been a bit larger than the working class Putriches, but the appliances and equipment were quite likely similar.

Lucena seemed to have been ill frequently. Many of her recipes deal with home remedies. One entry notes a “cure for small pox.”

Casey shared her notes with me from the final page of Lucena Brockway’s 1869 diary, written opposite the back cover page (Coll. #MS-010, The Brockway Diary Collection, Box 1, Folder 5). I’m posting it here with a disclaimer that the excerpt is intended for informational purposes only.

Cure for Small Pox

Sulphate of zinc one grain;
Foxglove (digitalis) one grain;
half a teaspoonful of sugar;
mix with two tablespoonfuls of water.

When thoroughly mixed add—
four ounces of water.
Take a spoonful every
hour. Either disease
will disappear in twelve
hours. For a child smaller
doses according to age.
If counties would com
pel Physicians to use
this there would be no
need of Pest houses.

Lucena notes that the remedy worked for Scarlet fever too.

As work continues on our NHPRC-funded project to create collection level descriptions for all of our manuscript collections, we are truly “revealing hidden collections.” Cataloging archivist Beth Russell was able to suggest another source that contained recipes or descriptions of food. In the collection of Perkins Burnham Correspondence (Acc. # 01-103A), a healthy young clerk in the Eagle Harbor general store describes meals at his boarding house with great gusto.

Mmmm, I’m getting hungry….

Collections Highlight: Store Ledgers

Henry Opal Store, Hubbell (MTU Neg 03596)
Henry Opal Store, Hubbell (MTU Neg 03596)

We’ve been working with a graduate student researcher seeking references to the Bammert Farm which was active 1880s-1920 between Phoenix and Gratiot Lake in Keweenaw County.  She is thinking that store records may indicate the Bammerts as customers — or maybe even selling farm products for sale through local stores.

We compiled the following list of some obvious collections which include records relating to stores. In some cases, these records are called “blotters” or “merchandise ledgers,” but researchers should to be careful because mining companies may also use these phrases to mean other things. Not all of these relate to opeations in Keweenaw County – many are for stores in Houghton, Ontonagon and Baraga counties as well.


“The Roy Drier Collection” (MS-020) includes two store ledgers from Keweenaw County:
Item 4065: Day book of the Foley and Smith store, Eagle, Harbor, 1886
Item 4066: Foley and Smith store ledger, Eagle Harbor, 1884-1890

The “Keweenaw Historical Society Collection” (MS-043) includes several good leads, too:
Box 32, Item 481: Houghton Ledger
Box 32, Item 482: Blotter of C. Kibbee
Oversize Box 45, Item 483: Caren and Shelden Day Book
Oversize Box 45, Item 484: Day Book  
Oversize Box 45, Item 485: Order Book 1873
Oversize Box 45, Item 486: Minnesota Mine Store Blotter
Oversize Box 45, Item 487: Merchandise Ledger
Oversize Box 46, Item 488: Day Book 1873
Oversize Box 46, Item 489: Blotter 1856
Oversize Box 46, Item 490: Blotter S. D. North 1861         

Seth North (“S.D. North”) also operated a well-known store on Quincy Hill.
Some relevant records in “The Quincy Mining Company Collection” (MS-001) include:
Item 434- Quincy Store — Merchandise Ledger, May 1865 – Apr 1866
Item 435 – Quincy Store — Merchandise Ledger, May 1866 – Aug 1866
Item 436 – S. B. Harris account book with S. D. North and Son, Jul 1898 – Jan 1899
Item 437 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Nov 1864 – May 1865
Item 885- Quincy Store — Day Book, Aug 1864 – Feb 1865
Item 438 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Feb 1865 – May 1865
Item 439 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1865 – Aug 1865
Item 440 – Quincy Store — Day Book, Sep 1865 and Christmas 1866 & 1867
Item 441 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1866 – Aug 1866
Item 442 – Quincy Store — Day Book, May 1866 – Aug 1866

“The Daniel Brockway Family Collection” (Collection MS – 016) includes records from several stores operated by the Brockway family. Upon his return to the Lake Superior district in 1872, Daniel Brockway entered a mercantile business with his son, Albert.  The partnership lasted for twenty-five years, with formal dissolution and division of assets occurring on December 24, 1896 when Daniel retired to Lake Linden.  It appears that the store moved locations with some regularity; the records indicate operations at Cliff Mine (Mar.-Jul. 1872), Eagle River (Feb. 1875), Phoenix (1877-1883), and again at Clifton (1883-1895).  Entries for the year 1896 are made for Lake Linden.  The collection includes half a dozen boxes of store records:
Box 13: Records of Brockway & Perry Store, 1865-1866
Boxes 7-9, 12, 13: Records of D.D. Brockway & Son Store, 1872-1901

Entry from November 1873 detailing sales from Brockway Store to the Cliff Mine.
Entry from November 1873 detailing beef sales from Brockway store to the Cliff Mine. (The Daniel Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 1)

The “Perkins Burnham Collection” (Collection 01-103A) includes store information from Eagle Harbor.

A collection titled “General Store Daybooks” (Collection 236) includes photocopies of two store daybooks with various types of entries.  Donor file says one appears to be from L’Anse area, and the other is unidentified.

The Archives also holds small collections entitled “Personal Store Account Books (Collection 01-015A and Collection 98-137A) which record the purchases and monthly settlements that individual customers had stores including the Harris Seeber store in Ripley, Graham Pope’s store in Houghton, and Hendrickson & Mantta Company in Hancock.  Several others stores are included in these smaller collections.

This is not intended to be a comprehesive listing of all store records at the Michigan Tech Archives, but does provide some starting points for such research. Please contact the Archives for additional assistance.

Oh, and although this isn’t a great photo, we did find reference to Jonas Bammert (spelled Bommert in this document) buying a plow from the Brockway store on June 20, 1881. He paid $20.00 cash for a #20 Dodge Plow Complete, with extra “points, wings, and bolts.”

The Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 9.
June 20, 1881, entry for Bammert's purchase of a plow from the Brockway store. (The Daniel Brockway Family Collection, MS-016, Box 9, Item 4)

Archival Instruction:The Working Man

Today I led an archival instruction session for Michigan Tech Instructor and doctoral student Gary Kaunonen’s Revisions class. Kaunonen encourages his students to incorporate primary sources into their research, and we’ve introduced several of his classes in the past to working with archival material. This semester the class research project emphasizes “the working man.”

When we conduct instruction sessions for undergraduates, along with the ins and outs of what to do when you come to the Archives, we select samples of archival material that demonstrate the inter-relatedness of different records. Being able to touch and read actual historical material often sparks interest in students that weren’t particularly interested in history before (hard to believe, I know!). It also gives us a chance to talk about inherent bias of manuscript records and critical evaluation of sources.

I approached this particular session with an eye toward revealing the lives of ordinary people, and I thought I’d share some of the resources I presented to Kaunonen’s Revisions class. I focused on four broad themes: Worker Housing, Copper Miners, Communities, and Non-mining Activity. What follows is a very cursory overview of material selected.

Copper Range Companies Collection

CR 212, 10-9

Record of House Repairs, Painesdale

c. 1943-1950

This document includes photos and blueprints of company housing in Painesdale, Michigan. It shows the range and variety of housing provided by Copper Range to its workers, from a simple 4-room dwelling to the more well-appointed physician’s residence.

Browne, Mary Jo Rowell. A Comparative Study between Miner’s Homes in Cornwall, England and the Miner’s Homes of the Cornish in Michigan. University of Minnesota, unpublished thesis, 1986.

Mine Worker Housing in Calumet, Michigan: 1864-1950; Historic and Architectural Survey. Keweenaw National Historic Park, Calumet, Michigan. 2000.

From the Copper Country Vertical Files:

Agriculture – Losses and Troubles: (Although the topic is a serious one, I had to smile at the grim-sounding subject heading for this file.)  In it are such things as a newspaper article entitled “Grasshoppers gobbling up U.P. crops,” and coverage of unusual periods of drought in the Keweenaw. A photocopy of the table of contents for the March/April 1984 issue of Michigan History magazine indicates that it was devoted to Michigan farming, including the Upper Peninsula.

Cities & Towns – Company Towns

Copper Miners – Accidents


From the Copper County Photo Files:


Building – Houses – Exterior

Cities & Towns – Calumet

Copper Mines & Mining – Underground Scenes

Lumbering – Camps Scenes

Social Life & Customs

Social Life & Customs – Celebrations

Social Life & Customs – Picnics

Mining Company Employment Cards

Houghton County Mine Inspector Reports

I selected a few representative samples of employment cards from both the Quincy Mining Company and the Calumet & Hecla Minnig Company. In particular, I used the C&H employment card of John Lakner, who was unfortunately killed on the job, because the Mine Inspector’s Report for Houghton County includes the incident in which Lakner met his demise on November 13, 1905. I wanted to illustrate to the students that with some sleuthing, a researcher can sometimes find documentation of an event or person in more than a single source. It is often the piecing together of different primary accounts that creates a more complete picture of a person, place, or event from the past.

Quincy Mining Company, Spy Reports

Box 341

There is a set of correspondence in the Quincy Collection that reveals how the mining company planted company spies among their workers in order to find out about any seditious activity brewing. Spies were obtained through several detective agencies, among them the famed Pinkerton Agency. Such men worked as miners and laborers, living like the men they observed. They reported back to the agency, who sent anonymous reports to the mining companies. They reports provide a glimpse into the daily activity of the working man, on and off-duty. Quincy wasn’t alone in this practice; C&H also employed company spies.

Houghton County Jail Records

Circuit Court Chancery Journals

These two volumes journal all matters that came before a judge of the court for a particular period of time, and document jail activity. It is possible to see evidence of labor unrest during periods of mass arrests for disorderly conduct, or to find out what kinds of behavior were considered socially disruptive. Some things don’t change much; assault and battery are still a crime. “Insanity” and “bastardy,” however, are dealt with in entirely different ways today than spending a night in the slammer. Some things change for the better.

A series of reports on Congressional Hearings on Conditions in the Copper Mines of Michigan were convened in response to the 1913 copper miners’ strike. These reports contain eyewitness testimony of life in and out of the Keweenaw copper mines, and are a real treasure trove of information about the lives of mine workers and their families almost 100 years ago.

These are just some of the sources found in the Archives that yield information about “The Working Man.” If you’d like to find out more, our reading room is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or feel free to drop us a line at

Records Document Groundbreaking of the Soo Locks

A collection discovered during the current NHPRC project includes records of the Sault St. Marie Canal Company, aka: The St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.  Ground breaking for the canal began in June of 1853, the engineer L.L. Nichols placed in entry in the ledger reporting on initial efforts for establishing housing facilities and beginning the construction.

The following information is found in the collection titled ‘The St. Mary’s Canal and Mineral Land Company Records’ Accession #115 and is part of the larger Copper Range Mining Company Records Collection

First Report on Canal Construction
First Report on Canal Construction

Nichols reported:

“That we arrived at the Sault on Monday the 11th am.  The first object of solicitude on our arrival was to provide our laborers with comfortable quarters.  Mr. Hearvey took hold of the business of providing lumber [and] materials for building with an energy seldom equaled [and] before night we had a building enclosed 55 by 22 feet [and] part of the roof on.”

“On the 8th day of June at 11 am being 48 hours from the time of our arrive we broke ground for the canal.”

Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later
Engineers update on canal construction 9 months later

A quote from the second report indicates the expectations and challenges faced by the engineers and their progress.

“It is now nine months since operations commenced here, and it may be well to take a retrospective review as well as a prospective view of the work contracted to be completed in our year and twenty days from this time, or about 22 months from the the time of breaking ground.  There was then 230,000 yards of earth and rock-excavation to be done above and below water.  There is now less than 88,000 yards remaining.”

-Excerpt from Engineer L.L. Nichols report dated 14 March 1854

The ledger also provides interesting information on the growth and development of the Upper Peninsula, a Memorium addressed to Congress and the House of Representative in 1854 calls for the state to construct roads in the Upper Peninsula.  Issues cited for the necessity of the roads included the growing Mineral District (Copper Range) and Iron District combined with the construction of the canal increasing Lake Superior traffic.