Archives Features Talk & Book Signing by Local Author Gary Kaunonen

The Michigan Tech Archives hosts local author Gary Kaunonen for a presentation and book signing in the JR Van Pelt & Opie Library’s East Reading Room on Tuesday, August 17 at 4 p.m.

In his latest book, Challenge Accepted: a Finnish immigrant response to industrial America in Michigan’s Copper Country, published by Michigan State University Press, Kaunonen tells the story of the Finnish immigrant challenge to the historic social order. He explores their clash with Copper Country industrialists by examining the written record and material culture of the Finnish immigrant working class through analysis of buildings, cultural institutions, and publication of print media.

Challenge Accepted takes an in-depth look at the way a portion of the Finnish immigrant working class gambled the success of early organizational efforts by participating in the bitter and bloody 1913-14 copper miners’ strike. This nine-month struggle between organized labor and the mining companies culminated in the tragic events at Italian Hall. Kaunonen examines the events of the 1913-14 Strike and Italian Hall using often-overlooked proletarian Finnish immigrant sources.

Based in Hancock, the Tyomies Publishing Company rallied strikers and their families during the 1913-14 copper miners’ strike. Author Gary Kaunonen’s new book explores the politics and culture of the working class Finnish immigrants who made a stand against the mining companies. This image from the Keweenaw Digital Archives (#400-12-13-1988-01-08-04) was taken in February 1914 near the end of the Copper Country’s most violent labor strike.
Based in Hancock, the Tyomies Publishing Company rallied strikers and their families during the 1913-14 copper miners’ strike. Author Gary Kaunonen’s new book explores the politics and culture of the working class Finnish immigrants who made a stand against the mining companies. This image from the Keweenaw Digital Archives (#400-12-13-1988-01-08-04) was taken in February 1914 near the end of the Copper Country’s most violent labor strike.

Kaunonen suggests that the most noteworthy accomplishment of these Finnish immigrants in the Copper Country was that as a largely unskilled group of immigrant laborers, newspaper employees, and radical “hoboes,” they had a very considerable impact on the history of a place dominated by powerful mining companies and the men who ran those companies. This was truly remarkable, a challenge accepted by a proactive segment of the Finnish immigrant working class to have a say in their own working conditions. Embedded in this study of ethnic political-labor history is also a story of division and decline that ultimately fractured a working class movement dedicated to solidarity. This demise is significant when recounting the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the American labor movement in the early twentieth century.

Gary Kaunonen is a social and labor historian currently working on a PhD at Michigan Tech. He received a Master’s in Industrial History and Archaeology from Michigan Tech in 2007, and for a while worked as an archivist at the Finnish American Historical Archive at Finlandia. Kaunonen studies the history of the UP’s Finnish immigrant population, and the interaction between Finns and American industry. Both of his grandfathers worked in the iron mines of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, and Kaunonen himself charged blast furnaces and operated a bull-ladle before turning to academics. His first book, also published by Michigan State University Press, is called The Finns in Michigan.

Limited copies of Kaunonen’s latest book, Challenge Accepted, will be available to purchase at the August 17 event at the JR Van Pelt & Opie Library at Michigan Tech.

For more information, call the Archives at 487-2505.

Brown Bag Seminar with Industrial Historian Charles Hyde

Dr. Charles Hyde, professor of history at Wayne State University, will be the featured speaker at a brown bag seminar hosted by the Michigan Tech Archives and the Social Sciences department. The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, August 4th in the Alumni Lounge of the Memorial Union Building.

Professor Hyde has done significant work in the field of industrial archeology, completing more than 70 projects involving the documentation of historic buildings or structures. His 1978 survey of industrial sites in the Upper Peninsula identified the significant material culture remains at the Quincy mine site. This encouraged a subsequent intensive survey of the site by Hyde and other historians, including current Michigan Tech professor Larry Lankton. Hyde and Lankton coauthored Old Reliable: An Illustrated History of the Quincy Mining Company in 1982 and Hyde went on to publish Copper For America: The United States Copper Industry from Colonial Times to the 1990s, a survey of the United States copper industry, in 1998.

Hyde’s publication and historical documentation efforts include significant work with Michigan’s automotive industry. These include studies of the Dodge Main, Chrysler Jefferson Avenue and Chrysler Highland Park assembly plants, scholarly articles on architect Albert Kahn’s work for the automobile industry, and book publications on Dodge, Chrysler, Nash, Hudson, and American Motors.

The informal seminar is open to the public and attendees are encouraged to bring their own lunch or refreshments. For further information contact Erik Nordberg in the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or

Upcoming Special Events

The Michigan Tech Archives has planning underway for the following events:

Tuesday, August 17, 4:00 p.m., East Reading Room, Van Pelt and Opie Library
Gary Kaunonen will present information from his new book Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in Michigan’s Copper Country. The book draws upon work Kaunonen did in the Archives’ collections for his master’s degree in industrial archaeology. Further details about this event are available here.

Tuesday, September 14, 7:00pm (Room 642, Dow Environmental Sciences Building)
Jennifer Gunn, the fourth recipient of a 2010 research travel award, will provide a public presentation about her research which examines rural medicine practices in twentieth-century America.

Tuesday, September 28, 7:00 p.m.  (Room 642, Dow Environmental Sciences Building)
Dr. Valerie Bradley-Holliday will discuss research from her recently published book Northern Roots: African Descended Pioneers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

More information about these events will be distributed when available. Contact the Michigan Tech Archives by telephone at 487-2505 or via e-mail at

Visiting Scholar Discusses Economic Development in Lake Superior Iron Mining Towns


As the mining insdustry experienced boom and bust cycles, groups like the Copper Country Vacationist League encouraged tourism and other 'new' industries to help stabilize local economies. Image MS050-008-002, Harold Putnam Photograph Collection.
As the mining insdustry experienced boom and bust cycles, groups like the Copper Country Vacationist League encouraged tourism and other 'new' industries to help stabilize local economies. Image MS050-008-002, Harold Putnam Photograph Collection.

The ups and downs of iron mining around Lake Superior will be the topic of a public presentation at 7:00pm on Tuesday, July 20, Room 102 of the Chemical Science Building at Michigan Tech. The presentation is part of the “Archival Speakers Series” and is free and open to the public.

Jeff Manuel, assistant professor of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, will discuss his research into mining communities and their response to economic challenges in the second half of the twentieth century.

The economic fate Lake Superior iron mining has long been tied to volatile global markets in the iron and steel industry and residents in the region have experienced a roller coaster of booms and busts during the last 60 years. At the same time, politicians, community leaders, and economists have pushed various plans to develop local economies and ensure a stable economic base for the region. A review of different approaches to development in past decades reveals the good (and bad) of economic development efforts throughout the region.

Manuel’s research is supported by a Michigan Tech Archives travel grant, with funding provided by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library. Since 1998, the Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant has assisted more than 25 scholars advance their work through research in the department’s varied historical collections.

 For more information on the July 20 presentation, call the Michigan Tech Archives at 487-2505,or visit them on the web at

Archives By the Numbers

archives-logo-smallEstablished in 1978, the Michigan Tech Archives is an actively used repository that collects and preserves historical and cultural records of Michigan’s historic copper mining district (the “Copper Country”) and Michigan Technological University to support education and research by University faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. The Archives strives to be the first and best resource for historical information about the Copper Country and Michigan Technological University.

Permanent professional staff                         2

Permanent support staff                                 1

Grant-funded professional staff                      1 (2-year position)

Federal work-study student workers              0.8 FTE

Public hours                                                    35 hours/week

Annual reference transactions                        4,377 (in person and electronic)

Class instruction sessions                               21 annually

Materials used in reading room                      15,071 items

Collections                                                      931 manuscript collections

Collections in cubic feet                                  7,985 cf

Keweenaw Digital Archives                            9,132 images

The Keweenaw Digital Archives is a searchable online database of historical photographs providing a detailed look at the lives of copper miners and their families in Michigan’s historic copper mining district.  Users can search for images by keyword or browse subject headings. The site allows visitors to add comments and information to photographs in the archives, create a personal web album of images, and purchase prints and digital scans.

Archives Travel Grant Program                     26 funded researchers, 1997-present

This travel-to-collections grant program provides up to $750 to support research in the Archives. Funded by the Friends of the Van Pelt Library, the program increases awareness of the Archives’ collections and encourages use of some lesser-known resources by scholars. Visiting scholars give public talks on their research topics, ranging from the role of fraternal orders in Lake Superior mining communities, the development of company housing at Hecla Location near Calumet, to the transformation of former mining districts into vacation and tourist destinations after World War II. The Archives has sponsored visiting scholars from throughout the United States and as far away as Sweden and England.

Archives web page:

Archives blog:

Keweenaw Digital Archives:

Digital Exhibits:

Archival Speaker Series: The View From Below

Mining engineers faced challenges in displaying three-dimensional information on underground mine workings. Technological changes in blueprinting helped transform the way engineers and labor practiced their professions. This drawing shows the extent of Calumet & Hecla's Tamarack mine in 1910.

Calumet and Hecla Mine – Tamarack [Image #:MTU Neg 03253]

This Tuesday night, July 13, at 7 p.m., the Michigan Tech Archives Speaker Series hosts visiting scholar Eric Nystrom in Room 102 of the Chemical Science Building on the Michigan Tech campus.

Nystrom will give a presentation on his research, called “Change of Plans: Blueprint technology and the evolution of engineering practice.” The advent of blueprinting technology in the late years of the 19th century gradually changed the organization, presentation, and use of visual information in the late 19th and early 20th century American industrial enterprise.  Blueprints helped consolidate authority in the space of the engineering office and in the hands of upper management, enabling them to exercise greater control over work at a greater distance from the office, and changed the labor of engineering work.  This change was gradual and uneven, as managers and engineers figured out how to use blueprinting to their advantage, reorganize their practices to accommodate the limitations of the new technology, and increase efficiencies in administration.  Nystrom will sketch the broad contours of changes wrought by blueprinting technology, including the gradual transformation of engineering spaces, practices, and labor, by drawing on examples and artifacts from the Keweenaw and elsewhere.

Nystrom is an assistant professor of history at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester New York. He is working on a book manuscript about the history of underground mapping and modeling in the American mining industry.

The presentation is sponsored by the Michigan Tech Archives and the Friends of the Van Pelt Library. Since 1998, the Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant has helped scholars advance their research by supporting travel to the manuscript collections at the Archives. The program is intended to encourage research using the Archives’ lesser known collections or promote new methodological approaches to well-known collections. From a competitive field of applicants, the grant committee selected four scholars this year whose research typifies the spirit of the grant program. They join the ranks of twenty-two past recipients in this most recent round of awards.

For more information on the July 13th presentation, call the Michigan Tech Archives at 487-2505.

Eagle Harbor is next stop for Archives Exhibit

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. Photograph by J.W. Nara, Image # Nara 42-220.
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. Photograph by J.W. Nara, Image # Nara 42-220.

People, Place and Time: Michigan’s Copper Country Through the Lens of J.W. Nara, a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, will visit the Keweenaw County Historical Society in Eagle Harbor. The exhibit, which will be installed in the Society’s Fishing Museum building, explores the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara and is open to the public through July 10 through August 14 during the museum’s regular hours.  

On Sunday, July 11, the Society will host a public reception and program at 2:00 p.m.  in conjunction with the exhibit installation. Erik Nordberg from the Michigan Tech Archives will provide introductory comments about the life and photography of J.W. Nara.

John William Nara was born in Finland in 1874. He later immigrated to the United States and established a photographic studio in Calumet, Michigan, in the heart of America’s most productive copper mining region. In addition to posed studio portraits, J. W. Nara’s lens also captured the people, place, and time he experienced in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Copper mining and industry are an important part of the story, but Nara also captured the Keweenaw’s rural landscape, including local farms, shorelines, lighthouses, and pastoral back roads.

The travelling exhibit, funded in part by descendants Robert and Ruth Nara of Bootjack Michigan, works from historical photographs held at the Michigan Tech Archives. Interpretive panels highlight the people, places, and times that J.W. Nara experienced during his lifetime and include material on urban life, farming, and the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the Keweenaw County Historical Society  through August 14.  More informaton about the exhibit is available here, including details on hosting the exhibit at your location.  J.W. Nara photographs are online as part of the Keweenaw Digital Archives — now at 9,000 images and still growing!

Not all the Archives’ treasures are collections

Even when you enjoy your work, as I do, it is refreshing to experience your profession anew through the eyes of an enthusiastic student in the discipline. Crystal Laudeman is such a person. A graduate of Northern Michigan’s history program, Crystal is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and is completing a graduate student internship at the Michigan Tech Archives.

Crystal’s internship is supported through a grant from NHPRC, part of a two-year project to develop catalog-level descriptions of all our collections. You can access these records as they are created through our library’s Voyager catalog, WorldCat, this blog, and the public web. Crystal has had the enviable job of actually getting to look into every box in the Archives and reporting on the physical condition of the archival material within.

She’s gotten a crash course in on-the-fly preservation assessment, a skill that will stand her well in her future profession. In addition to surveying the collections, Crystal has brought to our attention many of the hidden gems in the collection. You can read about some of her adventures in the Archives in past blog entries.

One of the things I will miss most when Crystal leaves us to continue her education are our philosophical debates on the theory and practice of the archival profession. The nexus of these elements is, on a day-to-day basis, a pragmatic approach that balances the twin goals of access and preservation. These two ideals, perfect preservation and total access, are really what drives an archives forward. It has been a real pleasure to have Crystal so actively contribute to our professional discourse.

We’ve been very fortunate to have Crystal’s enthusiasm and energy throughout the past six or so months. Although she is leaving us, she has become a part of the Michigan Tech Archives. The results of her work will benefit our patrons and staff for many years to come.

Crystal has somehow managed to survive these past months without her cats, Boomer and Cleo, but they forgive her and will let her make it up to them when she returns home.

Boomer and Cleo
Boomer and Cleo missed Crystal while she was gone, when they could fit it into a busy napping schedule.

Flower Power and the Lizard King: student publications at Michigan Tech

The third issue of "flush"  takes a decidedly radical tone despite the ethereal mood suggested by its cover. This issue was published at the advent of The Summer of Love.
The third issue of "flush" takes a decidedly radical tone despite the ethereal mood suggested by its cover. This issue was published at the advent of The Summer of Love.

I attended the Midwest Archives Conference earlier this year. In addition to the session I participated in, I attended a fascinating presentation by Jenna Freedman, Barnard College zine librarian. She talked about aspects of zines that appeal to archivists, like issues of collecting and preserving zines, but she also just talked about zine culture itself. I have to admit I was hooked. Her handouts were even real DIY mini-zines – hand-lettered with random stickers, printed on the back of paper obviously from the recycling bin.

I was pleased to find evidence of an underground press here at Tech when I came across flush, an off-campus newspaper self-published by a band of merry Michigan Tech pranksters in 1968 and ’69. While not a zine in the truest sense of an expression by an individual, flush nonetheless captures the spirit of its time. The inaugural issue claims “flush wants only to enter your mind, to make you aware, to make you THINK.”  It’s irreverent and provocative, hand-drawn and full of quotes from the likes of Ché Guevara and Jefferson Airplane. Interspersed with material carefully calculated to shock the establishment of the day are some thoughtful pieces whose writing reflects compassion and commitment toward making positive change in the world. What stood out most to me as an archivist and historian was a two-part interview with three African American students that addresses head-on the experience of being black on a very white campus during a time of great national unrest and social upheaval. Although dates are noticeably absent from much of flush, given the context of some of the pieces it is evident that this interview took place only months following the assassination of Martin Luther King. Over its two-year run, the contents of flush become more politically charged. Although no reason for its demise is indicated, the newsletter gets less cerebral over time, rather far out, to use the vernacular.

Student publications have flourished on and off-campus through the years, from sanctioned papers like the Michigan Tech Lode, to boldly sardonic broadsheets like the Daily Bull (reminiscent of flush), to the now dormant TechnoBabe Times. Lamentably, not all of these works make their way into the Archives collections, and some are only incompletely represented in the collections.

Do you know of a student publication, or perhaps write for one? Claim your place for posterity and consider placing copies of your newsletter, zine, or publication in the Archives. The Michigan Tech Archives seeks to document the social and cultural history of the Copper Country, and that includes the long relationship between campus and community. Michigan Tech students have been a distinctive presence in the area for 125 years. Make your voice part of the University’s history. Call the Archives at 487-2505, email us at, or just stop by our beautiful reading room and talk to an archivist. While you’re at it, take a look at flush (LD 3347 .F58).

Coming at Ya: The Copper Country in 3D!

An example of a historic stereoview photograph, depicting the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company.
An example of a historic stereoview photograph, depicting the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company.

Tired of viewing the Keweenaw’s fascinating history in only two dimensions? Join Erik Nordberg of the Michigan Tech Archives and Jack Deo of Marquette’s Superior View studios as Copper Country people and places ‘back in the day’ jump off the screen with amazing 3D effects! This special event will occur at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 5, at the Calumet Theatre at the corner of 6th and Elm in historic Calumet, Michigan.

Using special digital technology, more than 100 historic stereoview photos will be projected on the giant screen of the historic Calumet Theatre where audiences will see them in eye-popping three dimensions using special 3D glasses.  See local towns, mines, railroads, and scenery as you’ve never seen them before.

This event is a fundraiser for the Michigan Tech Archives, with proceeds supporting the Keweenaw Digital Archives and preservation of historic photographs in the Copper Country Historical Collections.  The College Avenue Vision Clinic in Houghton is providing the special 3D glasses for this event. Additional sponsors include Superior View studio, The Daily Mining Gazette, The Book Concern, Copper World, The Michigan House Cafe, and Cranking Graphics.

Tickets are only $15 for adults and $7 for children and may be purchased in advance from the Calumet Theatre or at the door. Admission includes your own set of 3D glasses. For further information contact the MTU Archives at 906-487-2505, via e-mail at, or visit them on the web at