The last week of April was World Immunization Week. A campaign of the World Health Organization (WHO), this special event celebrates the development of vaccines to prevent diseases that once ravaged communities. The Copper Country was no exception to the scourge of sickness: measles, meningitis, diphtheria, and other illnesses made the rounds of mine towns, often with devastating effects.
Mining companies took a keen interest in the spread of these diseases and others in their surrounding communities, both for the benefit of the corporation and the good of the workforce. From nearly the beginning of Copper Country mining, company payrolls included doctors, a holdover from the Cornish roots of many early miners. As the region matured, several mines constructed hospitals and medication dispensaries to serve their employees. For a modest monthly contribution and additional fees for inpatient care, workers and their families were entitled to diagnostic services–both at home and at the hospital–and medication. Calumet & Hecla (C&H) offered perhaps the archetypal example of this service. The company opened its first hospital in 1871 and, by 1897, boasted an expanded, state-of-the-art facility with a substantial staff. Patients seeking treatment visited this impressive building on the east side of Calumet Avenue (US-41), just north of Church Street. C&H also operated a clinic in Lake Linden.
By the late 1890s, C&H hospital physicians also aligned themselves with the growing field of public health. At the end of each month, doctors sent the company’s superintendent reports about the highly communicable diseases–now often preventable with vaccines–that its staff had treated. These dispatches, which C&H titled “Sanitary Bulletins,” recorded the nature of each illness, the neighborhood in which it had occurred, and the address of the patient; in an endeavour that presaged today’s emphasis on data visualization, physicians then carefully plotted the cases on a map of the Calumet area, using colored circles corresponding to the illnesses observed. The month’s average temperature, mean barometric pressure, total precipitation, and prevailing wind direction also featured prominently in these bulletins, which have been preserved as part of MS-002: Calumet and Hecla Mining Companies Collection.
The sanitary bulletins are a fascinating snapshot of the state of public health in Calumet in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Through the meticulous note keeping of the mine physicians, modern researchers glimpse the illnesses that struck the community and the geography of epidemics, how sickness spread through a mine town. In March 1910, for example, a physician was called to Rockland Street in Calumet location–a settlement along the east side of today’s US-41–to tend to a feverish patient, probably a child, who was suffering from a cough, running nose, and watery eyes. An angry red rash had erupted across the patient’s skin. When the doctor came to the home, his diagnosis confirmed what family members had no doubt suspected: a case of the measles. This became the first blue dot–that month’s chosen color for measles–in a wave of illness, the tip of the iceberg.
Four days later, C&H physicians were called to tend to two cases of measles down the road in Hecla location; the following week, the neighborhood where the outbreak had begun saw another four patients with the same disease. Measles began to spread west along Pine Street, branching into the community of Blue Jacket even as it took further hold in Hecla and Calumet locations. In April, the simple outbreak of measles exploded into an epidemic. Pine Street had 18 measles patients, Rockland Street a total of 25. Adjacent Caledonia Street topped them all: 45 residents came down with measles that month. Imagine this happening in your neighborhood! The epidemic, which faded by June, sickened over 200 people. No longer able to squeeze all of the blue dots onto their sanitary bulletin, C&H doctors settled for drawing one dot per street and painstakingly penciling the total number of measles cases beside it.
Although none of the 1910 measles cases appears to have been fatal, the sanitary bulletins often tell of patients who were not so fortunate. Diphtheria, a capricious disease, sometimes dealt a glancing blow–or led to a date inked onto the chart with the word “died” beside it. Pertussis (whooping cough) lingered in homes; a painful annoyance to older children, it frequently led to deadly pneumonia in infants. Meningitis killed without prejudice, taking up to 80 percent of its victims in a matter of days.
Today, vaccines dramatically curtail the spread of these diseases, sparing countless individuals from miserable illnesses and their families from grief at the premature loss of loved ones. Poring over these fascinating artifacts unlocks a vivid story of life and death, a world before widespread vaccination. To discover more of the story, visit or contact the Michigan Tech Archives–our friendly staff are always ready to assist you.
A special thank you to our Assistant Archivist, Emily Riippa, for another well-researched and thoughtful post.
Today, the name A.E. (Arthur Edmund) Seaman is well-known in the Copper Country, largely for his close ties to the Michigan Technological University and for the mineral museum along Sharon Avenue in Houghton that bears his name. Born in Casnovia, Michigan on December 29, 1858, Seaman was a graduate from Michigan Tech, having earned his B.S. degree in 1895 at the age of 37. Seaman later became a full professor in the Department of Geology and Mineralogy and was a noted authority on the pre-Cambrian geology of the Lake Superior region. Among his contemporaries, he had a reputation for having a wider, first-hand knowledge of the geology of the Lake Superior region than any other man.
Seaman retired in 1928 with the title of professor emeritus of mineralogy and geology, but was made curator of the mineralogy and geology museum, which was then housed on the third floor of the college’s new engineering building. According to the 1928-1929 Bulletin of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology, the collection was “unusually complete” and “famous for its well arranged and complete assortment of rocks and minerals from all parts of the world.” The museum was renamed in Seaman’s honor in 1932 as the A.E. Seaman Museum, later renamed to the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum and moved to its current location along Sharon Avenue.
While Seaman’s contributions to the field of mineralogy and to Michigan Tech, a relationship he maintained until his death in 1937, cannot be understated, what is less widely known is the personal side of this important figure within the Copper Country. His granddaughter, Jeanne Seaman Farnum, described Seaman as being, “known as a kindly gentleman with a bubbling sense of humor” with “a habit of being cheerful.” A man of a seemingly friendly nature and genuine concern for his students, Seaman was a softhearted man of many talents. Among his non-academic interests was his penchant for writing poetry, something that he shared with family, friends, and students alike.
His poem, Peace with Justice, published in the Daily Mining Gazette on November 17, 1918 just days following the armistice is a reflection on the costs of war. Several of Seaman’s poems scattered throughout speak of war, freedom, sacrifice and patriotism, issues common throughout the country at the time. These were obviously themes that weighed heavily on his mind as well. His poem Cootie, The Mascot, however brings a tinge of humor to his World War I poetry, in his ode to the tiny lice that plagued so many of the men in the trenches.
His World War I poetry put aside, the majority of Seaman’s poetry reflects his life in the Copper Country, his love of nature and geology. In his poem What I Write About published in a family compilation of his work titled Reminiscence of An Old Prospector, Seaman writes,
“Of scenes along the woodland trail
Where joy is never known to fail;
Of crags that form the mountain crest-
Of things I love, I write the best.”
Indeed, the bulk of his poems to reflect the landscape, heritage, and natural beauty of the Keweenaw. References to the mining industry, local plant and wildlife, as well as geological makeup of the land permeate his poems. Poems in the collection reflect his interests in geology and history such as his poems Down The Ages, Dinosaurs, or Stories Of The Rocks, which directly reflect his interest in various geological eras and the beasts that occupied the land long before man.
Seaman wrote, at least in part, about his personal experiences. His poem My First Discovery (Idaho, 1899) chronicles his discovery of gold out west and subsequent digging where he “worked until the perspiration filled my/eyes and made me blind-/worked and toiled with muttered cursings-/no more colors could I find.”. It’s unclear whether the poem is biographical, thought the title does suggest it, or merely a musing on the feverish feeling of a first time discovery. However, read within the larger context of the mining history in the Copper Country Seaman’s poem speaks volumes to local mining tradition.
A.E. Seaman was a man of many talents and interests. His poetry may never be revered in the same way as Shakespeare’s, but it represents a fascinating layer to a man well-known in the Copper Country for his other achievements and one that provides a glimpse into the personal side of a very public figure.
You can view more of A.E. Seaman’s poetry in the Seaman Family Collection as well as in the semi-published compilation of his work, Reminiscence of an Old Prospector, at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.
Yesterday was National Pet Day, so we couldn’t resist sharing this photograph Georgeann found of Lobo the crow. From the Daily Mining Gazette article, October 20, 1958: “The crow had half the surrounding area up in the air trying to find its owner, recently, with police checking from crow owner to crow owner, Lobo eventually was returned to a Kearsarge resident.” Be sure to check out the Copper Country Historical Images site for more interesting photographs of people, pets and more!
The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections is currently seeking applicants for the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Graduate Internship for summer, 2017. The archives provides a high level of service to scholars, students and a wide range of walk-in visitors and global patrons through virtual reference. Summer services are fast-paced and we see an increase in visitors, especially through our role as part of the Keweenaw Heritage Site network, a partnership with the Keweenaw National Historical Park, a member of the National Park Service. Areas of emphasis include manuscripts, maps, print and digital images which document the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and university history. Partnerships with faculty and collaborative initiatives within the Van Pelt and Opie Library expose archivists to leading edge projects. Current projects include a migration to ArchivesSpace, a formalization of our outreach program through the Harwood Cohort Public Innovators workshop, and a research study and exhibit of the Copper Range Railroad.
The intern selected will receive substantial experience in both public service and collections handling. The intern will assist in (day-to-day) public service activities, including greeting and assisting researchers, retrieving and shelving collections, and assisting university and community patrons with use of materials and equipment. The intern will also gain experience in organizing, describing and processing archival collections. This includes researching people or events covered by a collection, cleaning, arranging, boxing and creating finding aids.
Preference will be given to applicants currently enrolled in a graduate archival studies program, but consideration may be given for equivalent education and experience. The following skills are required:
- Knowledge of contemporary archival practices, policies and procedures, including arrangement and description, and familiarity with DACS, MARC, LCSH and MPLP.
- Demonstrated analytical and research skills.
- Ability to work independently and exercise initiative, discretion and judgment.
- Ability to work collegially and effectively in a team-based environment.
This is a 35 hour per week, part-time summer position to span seven weeks. The preferred start date is June 26, to coincide with the university’s second summer session. There are no benefits included with this position and the successful candidate will be expected to cover travel expenses to Houghton, Michigan. The intern will be compensated in the form of a $5,000 stipend to be paid out bi-weekly throughout the duration of employment. Offers of employment are contingent upon and not considered finalized until the required background check has been performed and the results received and assessed. Housing options in the Copper Country include independently requesting a single occupancy dorm room and included meal plan (depending on availability) or making off-campus housing arrangements. In addition to a great working environment you will enjoy exquisite scenery, moderate temperatures and outdoor activities near the shores of Lake Superior!
To learn more about us, please visit our website: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/
Applications are due by May 12, 2017. Direct any questions, or submit your cover letter and resume to:
Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections
Attn: Graduate Student Summer Intern Position
Van Pelt and Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer, which includes providing equal opportunity for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.
The following post is by our Assistant Archivist resident, Emily Riippa.
Most families have their legends about black sheep, relatives whom the older generation spoke about in lowered tones or with the admonition that little pitchers have big ears. Sometimes, the subjects of these stories simply marched to the beat of their own drums; other times, they fought the law, and the law won. While Houghton County was never a Deadwood or a Tombstone, its mining communities had their share of residents who ran afoul of Lady Justice. The details of their brushes with the law from about 1900 through the early 1970s are part of the Houghton County Circuit Court Records here at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. The records–which also include civil suits and divorces–are a hidden gem for genealogists.
Often weighed down with legalese, case documents can at first be daunting for even practiced researchers. With a little patience, however, the circuit court files add new dimensions to ancestors who might otherwise have been understood through sparse details provided by census records or death certificates. Perhaps you’ll discover a wife you never knew your great-uncle had or a criminal past no one had ever discussed. On other hand, maybe that black sheep has been talked about for years, and the stories of their misdeeds seem to be growing more colorful with every retelling. The sworn testimony of witnesses and first-hand sources collected by the Houghton County Circuit Court put family legends to the test, dispelling myths and sometimes uncovering truths even more interesting than fiction.
I had the opportunity to use these documents for just such a project of my own, and I hope that walking through my example will inspire and guide others researching their family history. Great-Grandmother Marija Riippa was an immigrant from Finland, the widow of a disabled miner, the mother of ten, and a petite woman who never reached five feet in height. She was also, my family said, an inveterate moonshiner whose profits eventually took her from impoverished to financially comfortable. Who said Prohibition wasn’t a success? Although my dad had known Marija well in his childhood, I sometimes wondered whether all of these larger-than-life stories could be true. The Circuit Court files offered the perfect arbiter between family legend and legal truth.
I began, as anyone wanting to look for their relatives in these documents should begin, by searching for my great-grandmother’s name in the index to parties involved in the various cases. Archives staff happily conduct this search on behalf of all patrons. Be prepared to think creatively when starting your research: courts often managed the spelling of names or substituted English equivalents of foreign names. Marija, for example, was normally listed as “Mary,” and her surname was usually spelled “Rippa” or “Riipa.” My search yielded five criminal cases–as indicated by the State of Michigan serving as plaintiff–and, interestingly, one civil suit filed by Marija against the Houghton County Road Commission. While the database gives hints as to whether a case was related to a divorce, criminal charge, or civil matter, it does not list dates, charges, or outcomes. The next step was to pull the case files.
What you’ll find in a case file depends on the nature of the suit and how far it was carried out before reaching some sort of resolution, like a settlement, conviction, or finalization of a divorce. Summons, complaints, and injunctions describe why the case was brought to court; witness lists give a sense of who an accused person knew and how widespread the knowledge of their alleged crime had been. If the case went to trial, transcripts of the proceedings provide the most vivid, detailed descriptions of what took place to bring the case to court and inside the courtroom.
Marija, I discovered in looking through the documents, was charged at least three times “violation of the prohibitory liquor law” between 1922 and 1928. The first indictment also involved her husband, Joel, a miner who was no longer able to work. With Prohibition in full force, the couple apparently seized on a new business opportunity to put food on the table. Perhaps swayed by Joel’s disability and the small children at home, the court dropped the charges. After Joel died in 1923, Marija persisted in their business. The state brought charges against her again, but this second case went no further than the first. Finally, any mercy the court had offered wore thin. In July 1928, the sheriff and one of his deputies arrived at Marija’s house in Winona. Finding her not at home, they presented her daughter Julia with a warrant, confiscated the supply of liquor, and eventually arrested the moonshiner herself. When Marija stood trial and the prosecutor questioned the sheriff about the raid, he responded that he had taken seventy-five bottles of alcohol from her house. The court reporter captured Marija’s indignant outburst from the defense table, where she was representing herself: “There were only forty-two bottles!”
So, what family history insights can I take away from these files? First of all, the family legends were, amazingly, true. Great-Grandmother Marija was a moonshiner, and she had done well for herself: two witnesses testified that she was charging $0.25 per glass of whiskey and a dollar for a pint. Documents in the civil suit told me that she had sued the Houghton County Road Commission in 1927 after one of their trucks collided with her touring car–another detail from the stories that proved accurate and testified to her success. In addition to confirming family lore, the court files showed me more about Marija as a person: she was a tenacious woman who kept going in spite of what life sent her way; she was enterprising, and the number of people testifying that they had purchased from her shows that she knew how to develop a customer base; and she was proud and not about to let the sheriff err in describing her moonshining, even if she incriminated herself in the process.
With some patience for making sense of the Houghton County Circuit Court Records, you, too, might uncover family secrets, the truth about family legends, or a vivid personality to add new understanding to a distant past. Staff of the Michigan Tech Archives are always ready and eager to help you begin your research into this fascinating collection. Simply stop by during normal business hours, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone (906) 487-2505.
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.
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.
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.
The Michigan Technological University Department of Social Sciences and the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections are pleased to announce that the Michigan History Day district 1 competition will be held at the Memorial Union Building at Michigan Tech, Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Several secondary schools from MI-District 1 (the 6 western counties of the UP) will be sending over 40 students for the competition. Top entries in each category — exhibits, documentaries, websites, papers, and performances — will be eligible to go to state competition in the spring. Winning entries will also be on display in May at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton.
History Day is a competition for middle and high school students who develop historical research projects based on an annual theme that highlight people, events and ideas in history. This year’s national theme is “Taking a Stand in History” and projects are on local, state, national and even world history. Michigan History Day is sponsored and coordinated by the Historical Society of Michigan, which coordinates 13 districts statewide. Each school in the district has initial competitions and sends up to three entries (individual or group) in each category to the district competition, which then sends on top projects in each category to state finals. History day is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.
ABOUT MHD-district 1: Associate Professor Steven Walton and Assistant Professor Jonathan Robins, both historians in the Dept. of Social Sciences, and University Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen of the Michigan Tech Archives are the coordinators for Michigan District 1, which includes Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, Iron and Gogebic counties.
The Department of Social Sciences offers a B.A. degree in history with particular strength in industrial and environmental history and archaeology. The Michigan Tech Archives holds unparalleled historical resources on the Copper Country and its mining history. Michigan Tech has been hosting the district contest each February or early March for nearly a decade.