Day: December 18, 2009

Exhibit Highlights Calumet Photographer J.W. Nara

The Michigan Tech Archives premiered a new traveling exhibit about the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara at a special opening event on Wednesday, December 16, on the first floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library at Michigan Technological University.  The exhibit will remain on display at the library through February 7, 2010.

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 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. The exhibit is designed as a touring exhibit and will travel to libraries, museums, and schools following its initial installation in Houghton. A small exhibit catalog is available at no charge and includes three Nara photograph postcards from the collection.

The exhibit text was written by Michigan Tech archivists Erik Nordberg and Julia Blair, while the graphic layout design was completed by Mike Stockwell at Cranking Graphics.

The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display at the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library through February 7, 2010.






 The exhibit consists of 10 vinyl ‘banner up’ panels. Here is the introductory panel, which discusses J.W. Nara’s life and photography business. J.W. did a lot of studio work, some if it fanciful like the onset pic of the bartender training the dog. nara-jrvp-2



 Four panels explore themes of recreation, rural life, urban life, and family life captured through Nara’s lens. Each panel enlarges a detail photograph of individuals to life size from an inset image.


 The remaining five panels explore themes concerning the 1913 Michigan copper miners’ strike, which Nara experienced – and photographed – first hand. One of our ulterior motives with this exhibit was to position ourselves a bit for planning for strike centennial commerorative activities in 2013.


















There is also a collapsible literature rack which holds free giveaway copies of an eight-page exhibit catalog. The catalog includes most of the text from the exhibit, as well as three cut-out Nara photo postcards.

Here are a few photographs from the exhibit opening event: picture-028

Members of the Nara family recognize ancestors in the exhibit.


Bill and Eloise Haller of Houghton.



With Tech VP Dan Greenlee with University Archivist Erik Nordberg at the opening. Dan grew up in Calumet and had nice things to say about the exhibit, too.

The event was covered by local television and newspaper media.

Here is a link to the newspaper article which appeared in the December 17, 2009, issue of The Daily Mining Gazette:







The J.W. Nara exhibit will remain on display near the Research Help Desk on the first floor of the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library through February 7, 2010.

Sneak Peek at New Exhibit

The Michigan Tech provided a sneak peek at its new exhibit concerning the life and times of Calumet photographer J.W. Nara.

Nara BOC 1










Although the official opening will occur in the library on December 16, we were asked to set it up for the university’s Board of Control meeting on Friday, December 11, in the Memorial Union Building on the Michigan Tech campus.

Nara BOC 2











The exhibit consists of 10 ‘banner up’ exhibit panels highlighting the photos and life of J.W. Nara, a photographer who lived in Calumet, Michigan, in the early Twentieth Century. There is also a small exhibit catalog with cut-out postcards of three Nara photos.

Nara BOC 3

















Dr. Robert Nara and his wife Ruth. Bob is a grandson of photographer J.W. Nara, and provided support for the project.

Scott Turner’s Doctoral Hood

It’s been a busy fall semester for the Archives. Nine individual classes have incorporated archival sources into their coursework this semester, which means at least 200 students were regulars in the reading room over the past 15 weeks, studying different aspects of the University’s history, such as broomball, the Pep Band, and the Ford Forestry Center, as well as poring through civic and mining company records in search of documentation on the Quincy Smelter, the lives of copper miners, the history of the St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal Company.

Although the semester is winding down, we’re still seeing last minute student researchers making a final effort to uncover more content or verify source citation information. (Find help citing archival sources at our web pages

In addition to the normal bustle of our well-used reading room, the Archives recently played host to a photo shoot.

UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.
UMC photographer works to capture just the right image of recent graduate Dr. Cameron Hartnell.

Photographer Calvin Goh (UMC) used the Archives Reading Room as a fitting backdrop for his images of recent graduate, Cameron Hartnell, PhD, Industrial Archaeology. Here, the photographer is captured at his craft:

Cameron’s doctoral research focused on the archaeological remains of the Arctic Coal Company on the island of Spitsbergen, or Svalbard. An earlier Tech grad, Scott Turner, spent six years in the early 20th century working for the ACC at Spitsbergen.

Through his doctoral research, Hartnell became quite familiar with the Scott Turner Collection, housed here at the Michigan Tech Archives. To honor the man whose papers were invaluable to his own research, Hartnell approached the Archives with a unique request: to wear Turner’s doctoral hood in the University’s midwinter commencement ceremonies.

Turner wore this hood when he received an honorary PhD from Michigan Tech in 1932 and it was donated to the Michigan Tech Archives along with corporate records, personal correspondence and other artifacts by Turner’s family following his death. According to Hartnell, the intricate folds and pockets of the graduation hood served a very practical purpose in the past. Students at one time kept a bit of bread or fruit in the pouches so they could continue their studies while they ate.

Doctoral hoods are part of a long academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.
Doctoral hoods are part of an academic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.


The following overview on Turner’s life and accomplishments is excerpted from an article by Erik Nordberg, first published in the Michigan Tech Alumnus, 2002.

Scott Turner began his mining career in a somewhat ordinary manner, completing his BS and Engineer of Mines degrees at the Michigan College of Mines in 1904 at the age of 24.  A native of Lansing, he had completed an associate’s degree at Ann Arbor before taking up the mining trade as his life’s passion.  Yet from these humble Michigan roots, numerous mining jobs and work as an assistant editor for the Mining & Scientific Press took him to the four corners of the globe within the first few years of his career.

In 1926, he received a call from the United States government requesting his service as Director of the Bureau of Mines.  Although an important federal appointment, many noted its added significance under then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, one of the nation’s most prominent mining engineers.  Turner spent eight years at the helm of the BOM, overseeing difficult changes associated with the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing onset of the Great Depression.  During this period, Turner returned to Houghton to receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1932.  He received similar honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, Colorado School of Mines, and Kenyon College.

A chance meeting with John Longyear in London in 1911 directed a major change in Turner’s career.  The Marquette, Michigan, lumber and mining man was interested in potentially profitable iron and coal deposits in Spitsbergen, an unclaimed arctic island north of Scandinavia.  Turner accepted the position of manager for Longyear’s European interests, an assignment that would keep his attention focused on Spitsbergen for nearly six years.  In addition to a “small fixed annual salary,” he received a bonus of 5% of the company’s net profits.

His work in Spitsbergen was marked by many unusual feats.  The mines proved particularly difficult to develop; only 750 miles below the North Pole, the Arctic Coal Company was the first company to successfully implement modern mining methods at so high a latitude.  In addition, the land was “terra nullius,” meaning that no single nation had ownership of the place.  Through permission of the U.S. government, Turner represented American interests in the region – perhaps the only time that a civilian engineer has been enlisted to maintain American sovereignty overseas.

It was on one of Turner’s many trips across to Spitsbergen that he became a participant in another of history’s infamous incidents.  On May 7, 1915, as it neared the coast of Ireland, a German torpedo struck Turner’s ship, the S.S. Lusitania, just a few decks below the engineer’s cabin.

The mining engineer’s work continued in earnest.  Following his discharge from the hospital, he continued his journey to Scandinavia and arranged for the sale of Longyear’s Spitsbergen properties to Norwegian interests (on his trip from England to Norway, his ship narrowly missed destruction by bombs dropped from raiding German Zeppelins).  Looking to escape the growing European turmoil, Turner headed south, pursuing work in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.  He completed a two-year stint in the Naval Reserves at the tail end of World War I and then spent the next seven years of his life as “Technical Head” for the Mining Corporation of Canada.  This work took him to various parts of that country – as well as China, Mexico, Russia and South America — on exploratory and mine development work.  He often traveled with his new wife, the former Amy Pudden, whom he had married in Lansing in 1919.

Following his departure from the Bureau, he pursued a variety of consulting work.  At one point he was an officer or director of nine mining companies.  He even returned to Spitsbergen to review the progress of mines he developed decades earlier. His life work was capped in 1957 when he received the Hoover Medal, a special honor commemorating civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers.  Recipients are selected by a special board with representatives from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME).

Scott Turner died in July 1972, just one day shy of his 92 birthday.  In his later years, when not hunting or fishing, Turner would talk regularly of his life’s adventures.  But it was his spot on the Lusitania that always singled him out for the most attention.  He responded to endless requests for interviews and completed dozens of questionnaires about the incident.  In the mid-1950s Turner donated the Boddy life belt that had saved his life to the museum at Michigan State University.  It is not clear what became of a cast iron medal he owned, minted in 1915 by the German government to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania.  The medal had been uncovered during some road construction in Washington, D.C. and had been presented to Turner as a survivor of this historic event.

Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.
Left to right, Dr. Jackie Huntoon, dean of the graduate school, Cameron Hartnell, his fiancé Dr. Elizabeth Norris, and Dr. Patrick Martin, Cameron's doctoral advisor and chair of the Social Sciences department.

The staff of the Michigan Tech Archives congratulate Cameron Hartnell on his achievement and are pleased that our collections – both paper and fabric – were such integral parts of his study and graduation.

Archives’ Genealogy Collections

Genealogical holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives were highlighted in a feature article in the November 7, 2009 issue of Houghton’s Daily Mining Gazette.  Here is the article:

Genealogy resources abound in Copper Country
By Garrett Neese, DMG Writer

HOUGHTON – Every year, thousands of people come to the Copper Country to research their heritage.

Fortunately for them, there are many resources available locally to help them with their quest.

Many of the records for which people are looking may be found in county courthouses. Houghton County’s clerk’s office has vital records dating back more than 150 years: births and deaths since 1867 (indexes starting 1893 and 1911, respectively), marriages since 1855 and naturalization records starting in 1848.

Some records are restricted, said Mary Sivonen, senior accounts processor with the county clerk’s office: Only family members may see birth records, while military discharge records may be seen by that person and a spouse.

Because of space and staffing constraints, Sivonen said people should call ahead and set aside a time to come.

“We limit it to just a couple at a time,” she said. “We don’t allow groups to come up because we only have a limited amount of space. The books are very large.”

Coming in to look at open records is free. There are small fees for services beyond that, including $2 for copies and $10 for any records that need to be typed.

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has a wealth of sources, including Upper Peninsula census reports, local newspapers, tax and immigration records, and tract books showing purchases of land from the government.

Assistant archivist Julia Blair didn’t have total visitor numbers, but said hundreds of people come per month to do research.

There are microfilm archives from about 70 local papers, which can include pertinent information such as obituaries. Copies of the Daily Mining Gazette and its predecessor, the Portage Lake Mining Gazette, date back to 1862. There are other papers both major and minor, including three months of 1908 copies of the Hancock newspaper Wage Slave.

Other information includes census records, mine inspector reports of mining accidents, and Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. records, “probably the resource that is most valuable to people who come from outside the area,” Blair said.

The archives have telephone directories from Houghton and Keweenaw counties and Chassell, as well as their forerunner, the Polk directories, which included a list of residents with their job and address (for example, the 1898 Houghton County edition includes Dagenain Frederick, a laborer who lived at 129 Hecla St. in Laurium).

Many people also use Sanborn insurance maps, which shows the layout of streets in the town, as well as the businesses there at that point in time.

“It’s possible to trace a particular family dwelling and see if that home is still there,” she said.

Recently, Blair had a woman call who was interested in what business used to be in a particular building in South Range.

But as with any kind of historical research, Blair said, people should be prepared to put a little time into it.

“We can’t just type in a name, and say ‘Oh, we have this,'” she said.

In the event there’s nothing at the archives, they will also connect them to other resources, Blair said.

“It’s rare that we can’t connect somebody to some records in the past, but it has happened,” she said.

Archives Increases Hours


The Michigan Tech Archives is increasing its hours for public research. Effective Monday, October 5, 2009, the Archives will be open weekdays, Monday-Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm. This increases the total number of hours from 32 to 35 per week, makes the schedule more consistent from day to day, continues lunchtime hours for off-campus users, and will more effectively utilize existing staffing. Responding to input from user focus groups for additional hours, and benchmarking data of other institutions, these extended hours are in line with other archives with similar staffing levels.

Questions or comments may be shared to Erik Nordberg at the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at

New Michigan Tech Building Has Century of History

Michigan Tech is working this summer to convert the former UPPCO building on the waterfront in downtown Houghton into its new “Lakeshore Center.”

A mention of the new project was included in an August 26 article by Stacey Ashcraft inThe Daily Mining Gazette:

As the university expands, there has been a demand for more space, so, last year, Michigan Tech purchased the old UPPCO building.  The MTEC SmartZone received a $3.02 million federal Economic Development grant for renovations to the building. Gundlach Champion has been constructing the project. Now, the former UPPCO building, located on the Houghton Waterfront, has a new name – the Lakeshore Center.  “The project is in process and we’re hoping to be fairly well complete for people to move in late this fall, about Nov. 1,” [MTU Facilities head John] Rovano said. 

The Lakeshore Center will have three floors with three entities – the ground floor will house MTEC with a 20-year lease and the second floor will house Michigan Tech offices as well as Gundlach Champion, Rovano said. The third floor will house university administration, which is moving from Michigan Tech’s campus.  “There are also going to be a number of departments that will be moving, such as accounting and administration,” he said. “There will be a whole lot of moving.” 

What the story fails to mention, however, is the long history of this building on Houghton’s waterfront.  Driving by the building this week, the renovations have begun to expose some clues to the building’s origins.


One can clearly read the word “fruit” — revealing the building’s former use as a waterfront warehouse.

Sources in the Michigan Tech Archives vertical files indicate the building was constructed in the early 1900s as a warehouse storage facility for the Peninsula Wholesale Grocery. A Sanborn fire insurance map for 1908 shows the original building covering only a single waterfront city lot; by 1917 it had enlarged to cover the 4 city lots it currently occupies.

Although the exact date is unclear, the building changed owners and was used for many decades as storage warehouse for the Cohodas-Paoli Company which specialized in the wholesale market for fruits and vegetables. In 1991, the building was renovated by the Upper Peninsula Power Company for use as its office headquarters. Michigan Tech finalized its purchase of the building from UPPCO in February 2008.

A visit to the Keweenaw Digital Archives ( finds many interesting historical photographs of the building.


Although a bit overexposed, the above undated photograph looks from the Ripley hillside across Portage Lake toward downtown Houghton.  The Cahodas-Paoli warehouse is a white building just right of center on the shoreline. (image# MTU Neg 01282 online at


This photograph appeared in the Tuesday, July 22, 1958, issue of The Daily Mining Gazette.  The caption indicates that Cohodas-Paoli also owned the dock frontage near the building:  “On Sunday the largest consignment of diesel or fuel oil ever to be loaded on a craft at the Cohodas-Paoli dock was paced aboard the Corps of Engineers sand sucker Hains. Slightly more than 20,000 gallons were pumped into the reservoir tank of the ship from three trucks and trailers with carrying tanks on each. The oil came from Gladstone in Detroit tank trucks. The sand barge has departed for dredging work near Bay City. It had been working for the past week at Lily Pond.”   (image #MS051-016-001-006 online at


The photograph shown above appeared in the February 28, 1972, edition of The Daily Mining Gazette with the caption:  “An enclosed three flight stairway, which was built in the 1940’s on the Cohodas-Paoli produce building in Houghton, is being dismantled by Mattila Contracting to make way for a new front on the building. The stairway was erected for the purpose of providing a separate entrance to the third floor of the building where at that time was located a dressmakers shop to employ women of the area during the World War II years. It was used as a branch of Ely Walker, clothing manufacturer, but was only in existence for a few years.”  (image #MS051-037-001-004 online at

Some of the best photos, however, aren’t just about the warehouse building, but are those that catch it as a background element.


1972 and the Library Restaurant.  (image #:MS051-038-001-002 online at


Unknown date (maybe the 1950s?) with two Coast Guard sailors in front of the Gazette Building on Isle Royale Street.  The Cohodas-Paoli warehouse is in the background. (image #MS044-005-077 online at

It’s great that Michigan Tech is giving this building new life as the Lakeshore Center — and also lots of fun to celebrate its 100+ year history in photographs as one of the many landmarks on Houghton’s waterfront.

Take some time to locate other photographs of this building in the Keweenaw Digital Archives at

Archives adds Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection


The Michigan Tech Archives has opened the Nissila Livery and Greenhouse Collection for research.  The collection, accession # 08-083A, comprises three cubic feet of documents, correspondence, and photographs. The materials were donated by Pete Nissila in 2009, following the closure of the family’s greenhouse and nursery business in Ripley, just east of Hancock.


Originally called Nissila & Makela Livery and later as the Scott Street Livery, the business began as a livery stable, providing horses and carriages to individuals, companies, and for funeral services.  It was located on Scott Street in Hancock. 


Eventually, the business evolved into a floral shop.  After returning from service in Europe during WWII, Carl Nissila took over the shop along with his wife Gertrude.  He attended Michigan State University from 1948-1950, earning a degree in horticulture.  The floral shop started in the home on Scott Street and later moved to a location on Quincy Street, where it remained until 1952, when the business moved again to Ripley.  The location in Ripley had been in place since the early part of the century, originally being home to a local competitor, Dale’s Greenhouse. 


In 1984, Carl and Gertrude retired, and Carl’s son Pete and his wife Jill took over the business.  Pete was a recipient of a master’s degree in horticulture from Oregon State University in Corvallis.  Locally, during his management of the greenhouse he hosted a weekly radio show on WZRK-FM and offered gardening classes.  The business remained active until 2008, at which time the property went up for sale. 


This collection was processed by Autumn Hall-Tun, a graduate student intern in the Archives during the summer of 2009.



Aerial view of Nissila Greenhouse and surrounding buildings east of Ripley.  The photograph is image #ACC-08-083A-Pt 2  (you can view the record by clicking this link:

The Isle Royale Copper Company: A Century of Evolution

Join local historian Bill Haller for an illustrated talk on the history of the Isle Royale Mining Company near Hurontown.  The presentation will take place at 7:00pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in room 641 of the Dow Environmental Engineering Building on the Michigan Tech campus.  This event is part of the Archival Speakers Series and is free and open to the public.

Following unsuccessful attempts at mining in Copper Harbor and on the island of Isle Royale, the Isle Royale Mining Company relocated south of Houghton in 1852. It was one of many small mines working the “South Portage Range,” including the Portage, Dodge, and Huron mines. Some of these companies also developed communities around their mines, including the present towns of Dodgeville and Hurontown.

By 1909, the properties were consolidated into the Isle Royale Copper Company, a subsidiary of the famed Calumet & Hecla Company.  C&H operated the properties profitably for many decades and built a short line railroad to carry copper ore to a stamp mill near the mouth of the Pilgrim River. Remnants of this mill include extensive deposits of stamp sands. The mining properties continued in operation by C&H until 1946, with some later work attempted by the Copper Range Company.  

Haller’s presentation will provide an overview of the evolution of this important mining area, including photographs and maps showing the different mine locations, industrial buildings, and underground workings.  Although few significant structures remain from the Isle Royale Mine, many of the operation’s key sites lay adjacent to major highways and are passed unknowingly by local residents every day.


Employees of the Meyers Bros Ice Company cut ice from the Huron Dam area south of Houghton. The lake formed by Huron dam once provided water to the copper stamp mill of the Huron Mining Company (note the former mill buildings in the background being used for ice storage). The story of the Huron, Dodge and Isle Royale mines will be told by local historian Bill Haller on July 21. The photograph above is image #MTU Neg 00221  (you can view the record by clicking this link:

Michigan Tech’s Archival Speakers Series highlights current research utilizing the Archives’ collections. The department hosts a wide variety of researchers and research topics — everything from genealogical investigations to book and magazine publications — engaging students, staff, and faculty, as well as local citizens and other off-campus researchers. The presentation is free and open to the public.  

For further information contact the MTU Archives at 906-487-2505 or via e-mail at copper@mtu.eduThe Archives reading room is located on the ground floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library, in the heart of the Michigan Tech Campus.


More than 125 attended the event in Room 641 of the Dow Building on the Michigan Tech Campus.



Local historian Bill Haller (left) speaks with attendees following his presentation.

Michigan Tech Archives Receives $116,000 Grant to Reveal Hidden Collections



The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has received a federal grant to support a two-year project to improve the description of its historical collections and share more of this information across the web. The grant has been awarded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission (NHPRC), the grantmaking arm of the National Archives. The outright grant of $116,500 is for 47 percent of the budgeted project cost of $250,342.


“This is a huge step forward for our department,” said Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Tech. “Monies from this federal grant program are intended to “reveal hidden collections” at mid-sized institutions, particularly those which are geographically remote like ours here in Houghton. Because we’re a bit farther off the beaten path, we need to find ways to reach potential researchers.”


As part of the project, the Archives will hire two additional staff and implement Proficio, a specialized collection management software program created for archives and museums. Descriptions of each of the Archives’ 900 manuscript collections will be created in the new system, with information shared to Michigan Tech’s Van Pelt and Opie Library catalog and to WorldCat, a national bibliographic utility which comingles information from libraries and archives around the world.


“Not only will this push information out about our collections to researchers around the world,” Nordberg said, “but it will also build the foundation to gather and organize even more detail about our collections after the grant project is completed.”


A regional history manuscript collection, the Michigan Tech Archives collects information on the history of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula, including its historic copper mining industry. The collections to be described include a wide variety of format and content, including personal papers and diaries, business and industrial records, photographs, maps, and wide format items.


A full listing of projects funded by NHPRC this spring is linked from here: 


For further information contact the MTU Archives at (906) 487-2505 or via e-mail at The Archives reading room is located on the ground floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library, in the heart of the Michigan Tech Campus.




Authors Use Archives For Research and Publication

We’ve recently compiled a list of publications drawn from research in the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives over the last 25 years. We created the list at the request of a granting agency who wanted to understand the types of research and publication which were conducted in our holdings (more on the grant project soon).  The list isn’t intended to be completely comprehensive, but does highlight the wide range of books, articles, and graduate theses and dissertations which have made use of our collections.

The list is linked from our main web page at under the “Quick Links” section.  You can download the list as either as a .pdf document or in Microsoft Word format.

It is our intention to update the list on a periodic basis.  Please feel free to use the comment section immediately below this message to share other publications you feel should be added to the list.


Michigan Tech historian Larry Lankton discusses the newly-published book “Old Reliable: An Illustrated History of the Quincy Mining Company” with archivist Theresa Spence at a book premier event held in August 1982 under the big No. 2 hoist at the Quincy mine site. The book, based partially upon research conducted in the collections of the Michigan Tech Archives, was co-authored by Lankton and Charles Hyde and published by the Quincy Mine Hoist Association.  The photograph above is image #No Neg 2008-01-07-03 from photograph vertical file (you can view the record by clicking this link: