From Our Kitchens to Yours

They say food brings people together. A shared meal between friends or family can knit us together in the best of times and the worst of times; it can tell us about where we came from and our current situations. Right now, many folks are feeling very disconnected, both physically and socially, which is why we couldn’t think of a better post for Flashback Friday than one that highlights something that always makes us feel connected: food.

Copper Country, what are you cookin’ up for yourself and loved ones right now? While we sadly can’t smell or taste your delicious cooking, we want to see what you’ve been making at home that makes you feel connected! Dish it up and share away! We’ll get started with a couple of bites from our Van Pelt and Opie Library staff.

Erin Matas (Faculty Engagement and Research Support Librarian) and Cécile Piret

As a Belgian, chocolate is my core comfort. Sharing chocolate with my family during the 4 pm goûter is the bright light of my day. – Cécile Piret


Lindsay Hiltunen (University Archivist)

In these times of uncertainty and isolation, some of us turn to classic comfort food to fuel the soul and calm the heart. This dish is so special to me because it is one that I always made for others. Each time I cook it I think of the long afternoons cooking this slow cook dish, drinking wine with friends and family, blasting records, chopping veggies and sharing stories. 

Season with salt and pepper, then lightly coat with flour of your choice, then sear 2-3 lbs of stew beef (usually in two batches) in a big pot or Dutch oven on the stovetop. I use a butter and olive oil combo to serve as the fat to sear the beef in. About 4 tablespoons butter and olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. You can add a little more to sear the second batch if needed.

Remove the meat, lower temp to medium high and add a bottle of red wine, deglaze the bottom of the pot to get all the good bits. Add meat back to the wine, add a quart of beef stock, 1 and a half teaspoons of ground cloves, 8-12 smashed garlic cloves (depends on how much you like garlic), 10 fresh thyme sprigs (or dry thyme is fine – not sure about conversion), two bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.  Then simmer the beef on medium or medium low (depends on your equipment) for three hours (first twenty minutes uncovered, the rest covered.) In the last hour I add a small bag of baby carrots (or chop up 6-8 regular carrots), 10-12 quartered yellow potatoes, and chopped mushrooms of your choosing. I like button or cremini mushrooms. In the last half hour I add a bag of pearl onions. Sprinkle with parsley or chives before serving. Enjoy with crusty bread and red wine, or all on its own!

Feeds a crowd or makes a lot of lefties for a couple and it tastes better the next day.

Allison Neely (Archivist)

Irish Potato Pie

While I would classify myself as an adventurous eater; I’ll always be a Midwestern girl at heart. The fact that I’m always that person scouting out the weirdest, wackiest food at the MN State Fair says a lot about my food preferences. That said, what could be more Midwestern than a dish containing meat and potatoes?! 


This Irish Potato Pie is a new recipe to my family and definitely a keeper. We pulled it out of the Internet ether to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year as a nice way to celebrate the day and enjoy some good old fashioned comfort food. Layers of golden potatoes, the saltiness of the bacon, and sweetness of the sauteed onion complemented the flaky puff pastry and the rich heavy cream drizzled above; making for a very hearty meal. Definitely one that will stick with you!

Chefs’ Notes

Times like this call for simplicity and creature comforts; for sharing knowledge and gifts with one another. We hope that these anecdotes from our kitchens and homes brighten up your day and give you some cooking inspiration. What are you cookin’ up this weekend?!

Stay tuned for our next installment of From Our Kitchens to Yours!


Flashback Friday: Reasons to Smile

This week has been a challenging one for many of us. It hardly seems necessary to remind our readers of the tumult, uncertainty, and anxiety that is even more common in the community as what we’re fighting against. With that in mind, Flashback Friday is going to take a different form this week. We’ve pulled some photographs from our Copper Country Historical Images (CCHI) database that give us a reason to smile–and a reason for hope.

Man in multicolored hat at graduation podiumIn time, we’ll be back to having Michigan Tech commencements featuring speakers in funny hats.

Group of boys playing hockey on a snowy residential street

In time, we’ll once again have pick-up hockey on the street with the neighbors.

Woman in white playing a piano with a dog resting his front paws on her bench

In time, our dogs will help us play the piano at real parties.

Group of people gathered around a long picnic table with a white cloth

In time, we’ll gather our extended families for picnics and bask in the sunshine.

Group of people of various ages, and their dog, on the porch of a house

In time, we’ll be out on the porch with our friends. Summer is coming.

Sun shining on the waves of Lake Superior

Lake Superior will still be breathtakingly beautiful on the other side of this.

Kittens and little kids are as adorable as ever, especially together.

The mines closed, Houghton County battled for years the state’s highest rate of tuberculosis, and a flood took a life, damaged our homes, and destroyed our roads. The Keweenaw is still standing because we’re Copper Country Strong. We’ll get through this.

While the reading room is closed at the Michigan Tech Archives and we’re assisting patrons only remotely, CCHI remains available for you to peruse from the comfort of your easy chair at any time of day. Photographs on that website may be used as you see fit and free of charge, so long as the watermark remains unaltered. If you have any questions, our staff can still be reached via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu or via voicemail at (906) 487-2505.


Flashback Friday: Splish Splash, I Was Taking a Bath

There’s nothing like a long soak in the tub at the end of a long day. Run the water hot, turn the lights down, and settle in among the bubbles with a good book to wash away stress and frustration. While this pleasure might seem a simple one today, for many Copper Country residents a hundred years ago, the luxury of a long bath at home was precisely that: a luxury. Mine managers, prosperous business owners, bankers, or other members of the upper crust might have a bathroom with hot running water for themselves and even their household servants. The family of the average trammer or surface laborer, on the other hand, hauled a washtub into the kitchen on Saturday nights, boiling water on the stove, and pouring it into the larger vessel for a scrub. 

Floorplan of large house
Floor plan of Calumet & Hecla General Manager James MacNaughton’s home, showing bathrooms with bathtubs.

The typical Calumet & Hecla company house in the early 1900s did not include a bath on initial construction. Upon written request, the company would be willing to install a flush toilet in the basement if the house were located on a street connected to the local sanitary sewer; if the homeowner had built his own house on land leased from the company, he had to purchase the fixture himself and pay for installation. By 1912, historian Alison K. Hoagland noted in her book Mine Towns, half of C&H company houses already featured this indoor convenience, and the company was responding to requests for more. The question of a full bath–and an installed bathtub–was another matter entirely. Large families and boarders who provided needed supplemental income strained the size of working-class company houses; residents needed all the square footage provided by bedrooms, kitchens, pantries, and common areas. Giving up sleeping spots for bathing room was simply impractical, and constructing an addition to make a space was beyond the financial means of a common laborer. 

Aerial view of workers’ houses in the Swedetown neighborhood of Calumet.

Yet while C&H was unwilling to provide the fixtures or the room necessary for its average employee to bathe conveniently at home, it did offer a compromise that represented, perhaps, one of its most enjoyable benefits. The company instead installed communal baths in a central location. At first, this was the basement of the C&H library building, a fine stone structure erected at the corner of Mine Street and Red Jacket Road. Bath patrons descended the western staircase of the building to a landing that separated them into male and female quarters. On the men’s side, showers proved more popular than baths. In the women’s facilities, tubs won out. While friends and family members browsed the vast selection of company-approved books a floor or two above, downstairs their bodies could be scrubbed clean of dirt, germs, and worry.

The new C&H bathhouse, opened in 1911.

The baths proved so popular–unsurprisingly–that C&H soon found a need to expand the facility, a move that also opened up more room at the library. Employees and family members looking to bathe didn’t have to go far to find the new place, however. In 1911, the redesigned and expanded bathhouse opened in a single-story structure just around the corner on Depot Street. Possibly to offset the $45,000 price tag and to subsidize operations, C&H imposed a small fee for male users: three cents for grown men with a half-cent discount for adolescents. Women, girls, and very young boys still enjoyed the bathhouse for free. Showers and tubs remained, but the improved building offered an extra treat: a swimming pool. Initially, swimming time, like the bath facilities, was strictly segregated by gender. Why? Unlike today, few people purchased special bathing suits. Swimming took place au naturel!

Bathers at the C&H swimming pool–thankfully after the introduction of swimsuits.

As the workforce shrank and C&H became increasingly disengaged from providing benefits like the bathhouse, homeowners found it more practical and more affordable than before to add bathrooms with bathtubs to the house. The former bathhouse still stands in Calumet, however, and scars of the original shower stalls in the basement of the company library can be seen today by visitors to the Keweenaw National Historical Park archives. One wonders if maybe a stray rubber duck from a miner’s bath long ago might one day be found tucked away in an office corner. 


Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant Program 2020 – Call for Applicants

Archive Image

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, a department within the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library, is currently accepting applications for its annual Travel Grant Program, which brings scholars and researchers to Michigan Technological University to work with the archives’ collections. Financial support for the Travel Grant Program is provided by the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library, a support organization for the Van Pelt and Opie Library. Grants are awarded for up to $1000 to defray the costs of travel to visit and conduct research in Houghton, Michigan. In addition, graduate students applying to the program may request up to an additional $200 to help defray any duplication costs incurred during a qualified research trip.

The Michigan Tech Archives houses a wide variety of historical print, graphic and manuscript resources related to the Copper Country and Michigan Technological University. Subject coverage is vast, some of which includes university and campus life, regional towns and cities, local industries and businesses, social organizations, events and personalities of the Copper Country and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Primary topical research areas include the western Upper Peninsula, industrial history, particularly copper mining and its ancillary industries, social history, community development along the Keweenaw Peninsula, transportation and the environment. Finding aids for some of the collections can be found here: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/collections/.

To apply for funding through the Travel Grant Program please visit the program website: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/programs-and-services/travel-grants/

Applications are due on March 27, 2020. Award recipients will be notified by late April. The successful candidate must complete their travel by December 4, 2020. Electronic submission of applications is required.

For further information, please contact:

Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist
Michigan Tech Archives
J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI  49931
Phone: (906) 487-3209
E-mail: copper@mtu.edu


Call for Applicants: CLIR Digitization Specialist

Miners leaving work after a long day at C&H.

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, a department within the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library at Michigan Technological University, is currently seeking applicants for a Digitization Specialist to produce digital surrogates of archival documents. This position will support the Archives digitization program associated with the recently awarded Council on Library and Information Resources Digitizing Hidden Special Collections grant project “Michigan Miners at Home and Work: Digitizing, Mapping, and Sharing Employee Records.” This will include routine and repetitive tasks working with a large collection of archival materials pertaining to the regional copper mining industry.

The Digitization Specialist will be responsible for creating digital images according to deadlines and at specific levels of quality to meet the Library’s goals and the grant project’s guidelines for preserving collections and providing online access. The Digitization Specialist is also responsible for transcribing textual information from digitized archival records, safeguarding sensitive information, and creating appropriate descriptive metadata to enhance discovery of records in a variety of contexts. This position will provide specialized support for still image materials utilizing a variety of imaging equipment, software, techniques, and standards. The Digitization Specialist will work closely with professional staff, faculty, and various student assistants, assisting in the training and quality control of student work. This position involves using a variety of office technology, moving and shelving archival materials, properly handling fragile archival materials, and will require the ability to lift and carry up to 35 pounds and push carts up to 100 pounds.

The Digitization Specialist must possess a strong attention to detail and have excellent organizational and project-management skills; have strong interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills; have an ability to work effectively independently and as part of a team; and possess a demonstrated commitment to providing outstanding service.

This is a 40 hour per week, temporary position intended to span one year with the possibility to renew depending on funding and the needs of the project. There are no benefits included with this position and the successful candidate will be expected to cover travel expenses to Houghton, Michigan. The position will be compensated for actual work performed at the hourly rate of $18.00 per hour. Offers of employment are contingent upon and not considered finalized until the required background check has been performed and the results received and assessed.

Essential Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide support for the archives grant-funded digitization project.
  • Scan archival documents using scanning equipment, such as flatbed scanners, large format scanners, computers, and document cameras.
  • EEdit digital content, including cropping, image rotation, contrast adjustment, blurring, and other techniques using Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop) and other software.
  • Maintain order and control in naming and storage of digital files.
  • Create and edit descriptive information about digitized materials (metadata creation), for example, recording item formats, creation dates, dimensions, source information, notes, etc. Review descriptive metadata for spelling and other errors.
  • Transcribe information from historical documents. Review transcriptions for spelling and other errors.
  • Research and assign appropriate subject headings according to best practices and standards. 
  • Maintain proper collections handling and order in the scanning station and storage spaces; responsible for retrieval and shelving of collections. 
  • Maintain security of confidential and sensitive information.
  • Work with colleagues in various departments to reach all outlined project goals on time and with accuracy. 
  • Assist university archivist and manager of technology and innovation with development of project workflows and guidelines.
  • Assist manager of technology and innovation and others as needed with the set up and oversight of project scanning station(s); keep work area and equipment clean and orderly.
  • Assist project leaders with the supervision and training of student assistants; provide assistance with quality control of student work.
  • Keep records about preservation concerns, including making notes of damaged items and working with the university archivist to suggest storage improvements for materials at risk.
  • Represent the University and library at all times with service excellence and demonstrate a focus on safety; demonstrate highly effective collaboration with staff within the department and across the library.
  • Duties must be performed courteously, accurately and in a timely manner.
  • Other duties as assigned.
  • Apply safety-related knowledge, skills, and practices to everyday work.
  • Commit to learning about continuous improvement strategies and applying them to everyday work. Actively engage in University continuous improvement initiatives.

Required Education (minimum requirements)
Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience from which comparable knowledge and abilities can be acquired.

Desired Education
Bachelor’s degree; college level coursework in history, especially US history or Michigan history; knowledge of copper mining, industrial heritage, or labor history.

Required Experience (minimum requirements)
Two years of office/clerical experience. 
Two years experience using a computer with basic software packages including word processing and database and spreadsheet applications.
One year of experience using digital imaging software such as Adobe Creative Suite (especially Photoshop) or similar.

Desired Experience

  • Two years or more of experience using digital imaging software such as Adobe Creative Suite (especially Photoshop) or similar.
  • One year of experience in a library, archives, or museum environment.
  • Demonstrated experience handling archival materials.
  • Familiarity or experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). 

Required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (minimum requirements)

  • Excellent interpersonal and customer service skills with experience working with diverse populations.
  • Experience working effectively and with patience while conducting repetitive tasks with some interruption.
  • The ability to read cursive writing.
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries and work harmoniously with diverse groups of students, faculty, and staff.
  • Commitment to learning new skills.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Demonstrated commitment to contribute to a safe work environment.

Work Environment
The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. While performing the duties of this position the incumbent is required to use a computer workstation (and its software applications through a keyboard/mouse), telephone and a variety of equipment including scanners, photocopiers and others. They may elect to stand or sit (or a combination) but these activities constitute the majority of the work of this position during the workday. Some interruptions, including questions, phone calls and electronic communication are common and the incumbent must be able to return to assigned work when the interruption concludes. Lifting of boxes is required; pushing of carts is required; manually moving large shelving units on a pulley system is required. To support the need for accuracy of text and numbers, specific vision abilities required include close vision and the ability to adjust focus. The noise level in the work area, an open desk within a larger suite of employees, is moderate.

To learn more about us, please visit our website: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/

Applications are due by February 28, 2020. Direct any questions, or to apply, submit your cover letter and resume to:

Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections
Van Pelt and Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
lehalkol@mtu.edu
(906) 487-3209

Email applications are preferred.

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 CLIR grant program and its 2019 Awards are made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.  To learn more, visit www.clir.org or visit them on Facebook and Twitter


Flashback Friday: The Man Behind the Camera

Underground in a Calumet & Hecla drift with two miners. Photograph by Adolph Isler.

The Michigan Tech Archives has been blessed with photographic good fortune. Ever since Joseph Nicéphore Niépce set a rudimentary camera up to his window at Le Gras, France, in the late 1820s and captured his first successful still image, people have been drawn to photographing their families, their homes, their neighbors, their pets, events of their communities–anything that catches the eye and seems to cry out for seeming immortality on film. As the Copper Country industrialized and grew in the late 1800s, and as cameras became available to more than just scientists and inventors, the Keweenaw Peninsula came into focus through the lens. Many of the images that resulted, whether taken by trained photographers or hobbyists, have made their way into our archives. They capture scenes of simple family life, booming industry, and bustling towns that have faded away.

Plowing snow with a Mineral Range Railroad train at Lake Linden. Photograph by Adolph Isler.

Among the prolific photographers of the Copper Country–including peers like J.W. Nara and J.T. Reeder–Adolph (or Adolf) F. Isler made his mark in a particularly profound way. At the time of his death, the Daily Mining Gazette wrote that he “probably had a wider acquaintance among the pioneers of the whole Lake Superior region than any other man in northern Michigan.” A true Renaissance man, Isler devoted himself intensely to a wide range of interests, each of which came to mark and shape his character and career. 

Isler was born on December 20, 1848, according to his death certificate. Most sources indicate that he was a native of Switzerland; the Isler family moved from Adolph’s birthplace in the mid-1850s and came to North America. Around 1860, the family settled in Hancock, where Adolph’s father, Henry, set up practice as a physician. There, Adolph grew up alongside the burgeoning mining community. No wonder “the building up of the great mining industry of the Lake Superior copper region,” as his obituary described it, fascinated him for the rest of his life.

A view of Eagle River on a breezy day, circa 1890. Photograph by Adolph Isler.

The Islers led a traveling life. In his youth, Adolph apparently carried the mail extensively throughout the Copper Country, bearing sacks by foot, by dog sled, and by horse cart from Hancock north to Eagle Harbor. By 1870, he and his father had relocated to Marquette, where the younger Isler labored as a store clerk. Subsequently, he established his own apothecary at L’Anse. Someone who has fallen in love with the heart of the Copper Country cannot stay away for long, however, and the Islers moved back to Red Jacket. Romance blossomed there between Adolph and a young English widow, Anna Rowe Retallack; the two married on March 7, 1878. Isler’s fatherly love–a trait reflected in his frequent choice of children as photographic subjects–knew no end, and Anna’s little girl Winifred (“Winnie”) from her first union became his daughter, too. Ten months after the wedding, Lena Isler was born. The happy young family settled down on First Street in Red Jacket, where the census taker found them in 1880. 

Although Isler seemed poised to embark on a medical career, following in the footsteps of his father, his vast range of interests soon led him elsewhere. By day, he worked as a pharmacist at Calumet & Hecla; outside of work, he increasingly focused on photography and journalism. In part, his decision seems to have been driven by a natural inclination to the news: he sought and received roles as correspondent for a number of publications, including the Mining Journal out of Marquette. Collections of Isler’s photographers now in the Michigan Tech Archives also show a dramatic uptick in production in the late 1880s into the 1890s, coinciding with Isler’s decision to invest himself more completely in the art. One cannot help but wonder, too, if there was a sentimental side to his increased interest. The years between 1880 and 1900 proved to be times of great personal loss for Adolph and Anna Isler, despite the birth of son Harry Fred in 1886. In 1883, little Winnie, described as “bright beyond her years” and endowed with “gentle manners [that] endeared herself to teachers and playmates,” died following a brief illness in 1883. She was a little shy of ten years old. By 1900, the Islers had welcomed–and buried–four more children. In 1888, Dr. Henry Isler passed away at the home of his son and daughter-in-law. Adolph’s brother, Arnold, died young, and the Islers took in his daughter, Marialotte. Perhaps, with such painful evidence of how tenuous one’s hold on life could be, Isler felt drawn to do something that would offer an enduring reminder of people and places slipping away. 

Lena and Harry Isler at home. Photograph by their father, Adolph Isler.

Isler’s photographic style soon developed a distinct flair. Children scampering down the sidewalk or playing in the family home often came into focus. In streetscapes captured during the height of a Copper Country winter, Isler propped a pair of snowshoes somewhere in the scene. Whenever he could, he scaled a tower, a smokestack, a building to take in the most expansive view possible of the town or mine unfolding beneath him. Keweenaw characters who enjoy panoramic photos owe much to Isler’s intrepid character–and fearlessness where heights were concerned. 

Panoramic view of Red Jacket (Calumet), Isler’s home of many years, taken by Isler.

Although Isler had left his job at C&H in favor of the Calumet News, the Hancock Evening Journal, and amassing one of the most impressive mineral collections to be found in the region, the company nevertheless relied on his expertise when it decided to assemble a certain exhibit of its own. As C&H opened its own library, it called upon Isler to select “a very complete collection of photographs of the region” that should become part of the new holdings. The vivacious Isler complied with great enthusiasm and even continued to add to the project until shortly before his death.

Workers and spectators at the deadly Osceola No. 3 mine fire on September 7, 1895. Photograph by Adolph Isler.

In about 1911, Isler’s health took a downturn. Physicians diagnosed bladder cancer. In January 1912, on the recommendation of his doctors, Adolph and Anna went south to Ann Arbor, there to seek treatment from the medical staff associated with the University of Michigan. The operation itself was a success, removing the malignancy, but Isler’s weakened body could not endure the infection that followed. He contracted pneumonia and rapidly took a turn for the worse. Early in the morning of January 23, Adolph Isler died in the hospital. “Mr. Isler’s figure, with its flowing, iron gray whiskers, his camera or fold of magazines and papers, and his little brown dog” would tramp the streets of Calumet, climb a smokestack at the mill in Lake Linden, or wander the shores near Eagle River no more. 

Hancock’s Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church after being struck by lightning in 1896. Photograph by Adolph Isler.

Surviving Isler were his wife Anna, his daughter Lena, and his son Harry. His body was laid to rest in Calumet’s Lakeview Cemetery. His photographs found new homes around the Copper Country before many arrived in the Michigan Tech Archives, where generations continue to discover scenes of Keweenaw past. 


Flashback Friday: The Queens of Winters Past

The 1947 queen is crowned.
The Winter Carnival Queen for 1947, Queen Barbara Green, is crowned. Pure joy!

The past few weeks the Michigan Tech campus has been gearing up for Winter Carnival 2020! The month-long statue contest began in earnest a few weeks ago, with some of the contests like snow volleyball, curling, snow soccer, and ice bowling taking place this past week.

A portrait of the 1959 carnival queen.
Carnival Queen 1959, Lee Schirmer.

One of the Winter Carnival highlights, the Queens Coronation, takes place on Saturday, February 1 at 7 p.m. in the Rozsa Center. Although not the longest running Winter Carnival tradition — the one night Ice Carnival started in 1922 and the queens did not appear until 1928 — the coronation is one of the most beloved. Bringing together campus and the community, the queens competition has been a fun spectacle almost since the beginning. To celebrate this special event, our Flashback Friday today is a pictorial, looking back at queens and courts of carnivals past!

The 1955 Carnival Queen candidates pose outside with a young man in a sled.
Winter Carnival Queen Candidates from 1955, left to right: Nancy Boyd, Kathy Laine, Dorothy Roy, Carm Guilbault (queen), Mary Aldrich. The women pose with one of the contestants from the Beard Competition.
The 1959 carnival court poses outside in the snow.
The 1959 Court.
The 1968 candidates pose outside in the snow.
The queen candidates pose by a statue in progress, 1968.
A portrait of the 1968 carnival queen.
Julie Anderson, Winter Carnival Queen 1968.
The 1970 carnival queen judges the beard contest.
Wendy Mickle, Winter Carnival Queen 1970, helps to judge the annual Beard Competition.
The 1971 queen candidates pose with a horse and sleigh.
Winter Carnival Queen Candidates of 1971.
Danni Croom, first African-American Winter Carnival Queen
Danni Croom’s reign begins, Winter Carnival Queen 1971.
The 1983 queen candidates pose outside.
Winter Carnival Queen Candidates, 1983.
The 1984 queen and runners up.
Winter Carnival Queen and runners-up, 1984.
Winter Carnival 2009 Queen: Melissa Meyer
Winter Carnival Queen 2009, Melissa Meyer .

This is just a quick glimpse into some of the wonderful photographs we have from queens and carnivals gone by. For more great images of past carnivals, you can check out the digitized Winter Carnival Pictorials on the Archives Section of Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech or stop into the archives anytime during our public reading room hours.


Flashback Friday: “There Have Been No Perfect Days Without You”

Envelope and exterior of the above card, sent from Tom to Lily on her own stationery, Box 3, Folder 1
Envelope and exterior of the above card, sent from Tom to Lily on her own stationery, Box 3, Folder 1

“Ten o’clock on Tuesday night, back in the Soo. And in case you can’t imagine what I am wanting at this hour, it is the sight of a golden haired lady with an unfailing smile. Believe it or not–I do, I always have, and I always must–love you.”  –December 30, 1941

Thomas Rowe Ford and Lily Orvokki Siren probably met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she was working as a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital and he was studying for his bachelor’s degree in education. Lily was the daughter of Finnish immigrants who had settled near Mass City; “Tom” was born in Illinois. Lily found herself besotted with the tall, serious man in his mid-twenties. Tom considered Lily the sweetest and most remarkable woman he had ever met. The two married in Ann Arbor on October 6, 1934.

Image #MTU Neg 00141--Mass City from Depot.
Image #MTU Neg 00141–Mass City from Depot.

For several years, the newlyweds resided together in Ann Arbor. Lily’s nursing career thrived. Although Tom earned a master’s degree in 1935, the Great Depression stymied his attempts to succeed as a teacher and writer. In late 1940 or early 1941, faced with the grim reality of bills, Tom took a job with Michigan’s State Tax Commission and was assigned to the Upper Peninsula. Lily remained at work in Ann Arbor, far from her road-weary husband, through the following summer. The two kept in contact by writing each other nearly daily.

“I stayed awake until four o’clock this morning, thinking and worrying about your pleurisy and your cough. Do you know what I thought about most? It was about a room at 204 Forest, with a magic door without a lock, which by tacit house-consent shut the place into a firm retreat.” –February 20, 1942

The letters the couple exchanged during their time apart are the heart of MS-427, Thomas R. and Lily S. Ford Correspondence, at the Michigan Tech Archives. Some handwritten on hotel stationery, others typed on State Tax Commission letterhead, Tom’s letters–the bulk of the collection–document the difficulties created by their separation, their ongoing struggles to have a child, their desire to relocate to a wooded retreat, dubbed Metsala, near Mass City. Through the countless obstacles endured Tom and Lily’s deep love and respect for each other, emotions that played out intensely and sometimes teasingly in their correspondence.

World War II tested the Fords further. In June 1943, the United States Army discovered a need for Tom; his service, which included fighting in Germany, concluded in October 1945. Any letters he and Lily–who returned to the University of Michigan to further her knowledge of public health in 1944–exchanged during this war have not come down to us.

“One thing about the time in Ann Arbor I shall always I appreciate. It may not have given us–or me–very much of a push toward fame, but whatever else it did or didn’t do, it kept me within five minutes walk of the dearest lady in the world. And I made that walk several hundred times, always with the deepest satisfaction any man can know–the satisfaction of going home to the one he loves.” –March 12, 1941

After demobilization, Tom and Lily Ford found the world suddenly full of possibilities. Tom received a job offer from what would become Michigan State University and joined its faculty as a teacher of English. He also became deeply involved in improving the curricula of junior colleges, particularly what is now Gogebic Community College. Lily took a position as a public health nurse in Lansing that found her offering continuing education to fellow professionals. Finally, the couple that had longed to be together for so long resided under the same roof, bringing a touch of the “firm retreat” of their Ann Arbor youth to the maturity of their marriage. The sweet reunion would be sadly brief.

On May 22, 1953, Lily stood at the front of a room in Grand Rapids, preparing to deliver a lecture to a gathering of doctors and nurses. Suddenly, she collapsed. While those present hurried to her aid and rushed her to the nearest hospital, it was too late. Lily Siren Ford was only forty-five years old.

There have been no perfect days without you, and the end of every day is dull and savourless. I love you, dear lady. I need you.” –February 6, 1942

Eventually, Tom Ford remarried. His new wife was Mabel Cosby, a teacher and native of Kentucky. Tom’s last years, however, were consumed by poor health, which forced him to leave his long-sought teaching position in Lansing. Illness eventually claimed his life on October 15, 1961. He, like Lily, was cremated and buried in Ontonagon County. But both Fords–and their hopes, sorrows, and dreams–remain forever alive in their letters, freely open for research at the Michigan Tech Archives.

“And always–whatever–my dear, you will be respected, and loved, and–my God–wanted.” –June 12, 1941

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our blog in February 2017.


Flashback Friday – Hidden Gems: Archives Receives New Funding to Digitize Hidden Special Collections

Miners leaving the shaft, 1915.
Calumet and Hecla miners leave the shaft after work, 1915.

Today’s Flashback Friday serves a special purpose. Our image looks back to 1915 as Calumet and Hecla miners leave the shaft after a long day’s work, hidden below the surface. In the spirit of revealing hidden gems, be it precious metals or the hardworking laborers of the copper mines, we are excited to announce the Michigan Tech Archives, in collaboration with the Keweenaw Time Traveler, has been awarded a Digitizing Hidden Special Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

This project, called Michigan Miners at Home and Work: Digitizing, Mapping, and Sharing Employee Records, will support 1 Digitization Specialist, 6 Undergraduate students, and 1 Master’s student over 2 years. The project team will work with a subset of records from one of our most prized collections, MS-002: The Calumet and Hecla Mining Companies Collection. The goal of the project is to make a rare collection of 40,000 employee records available online for both academic and public use. This particular subseries of archival records provides valuable insights into the lives of mine company workers and their families unavailable in other public records, including details like the types of work performed, wages, previous employers, as well as notes about injuries and fatalities. The project is made possible through a collaborative effort between the Michigan Tech Archives, the Michigan Tech Social Sciences Department, and the Historical Environments Spatial Analytics Lab.

Miners eating lunch. Date unknown.

The Michigan Tech Archives will be working with the Van Pelt and Opie Library’s Manager of Technology and Innovation to create the new Copper Mining Employee Card database, which will be hosted on the library’s Preservica platform. The new database will serve as a sister database to our digital image repository, Copper Country Historical Images. Additionally, this project will provide for further access options to the employee cards by integrating the records into the Keweenaw Time Traveler. Since these employee records contain addresses and family information, the student team working with the Time Traveler will be able to connect each record at the household level with census and city directory information already loaded into the online maps. We anticipate these new resources to be available to the public in early 2022.

An example of an employee card.
An example of an employee record.

Updates about the project will be shared on our social media platforms, the Keweenaw Time Traveler Project Blog, and various local news outlets. Public programming will include several “Night at the Archives” programs which will include special evening hours to discuss the project and how the public and scholars may use the collection. Guests at our public programs can also become citizen historians by transcribing some of the cards and including them in our data set! Program dates will be shared as they become available.

Principal investigators for this $240,014 grant are Sarah Fayen Scarlett (SS), Don Lafreniere (SS), and Lindsay Hiltunen (University Archivist). David Holden is also an important project contributor. The CLIR grant program and its 2019 Awards are made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.  To learn more, visit www.clir.org or visit them on Facebook and Twitter


For more information, please contact Lindsay Hiltunen at lehalkol@mtu.edu or call (906) 487-2505.

Logos for the project sponsor and the project partners.

Flashback Friday: Skaters Gonna Skate, Skate, Skate

Happy New Year, Copper Country! We hope that you had a fun and relaxing holiday. For many of you, the first work week of the new year isn’t until next Monday and for the rest of you, well, you’re skating into the weekend already! So despite the recent melting and rain, there’s still plenty of fun to be had outdoors with your free time, which is why for this week’s Flashback Friday we are focusing on outdoor fun with an ice skating photo collage! Enjoy!

[Making an outdoor skating rink], 1913. Image no. MS019-11-05-02
[Ice skating on an unidentified lake], undated. Image no. MTU Neg 00414
[Skating in L’Anse], January 13, 1964. Image no. MS051-021-005-001

Ice skating on Portage Lake, January 1, 1914. Image no. MS042-034-999-G137G

Off for the skating rink, December 27, 1915. Image no. MS668-01-06-30

Skating on Portage Lake, January 1, 1914. Image no. MS042-034-999-G137D