Category Archives: About the Archives

This category is used for posts that talk more about the people, services, and operation of the archives as a department.

Rooting Around for Your Roots: A Little Genealogy Advice

Five middle-aged relatives on a sofa

Genealogy brings the family together.

The arrival of summer in the Copper Country brings with it many travelers who come to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in search of their ancestors. Although we serve all kinds of patrons year-round, our staff affectionately dub the summer “genealogy season” in light of how many family historians arrive between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With that in mind, it seems that the summer is an ideal time for our blog to highlight some of the genealogy resources that the Michigan Tech Archives can offer and recommend a few online tools that have proven particularly useful to our staff.

Picture me, resident genealogist, rubbing my hands together in delighted anticipation.

With that, let’s begin our exploration.

Michigan Tech Archives

We’re fortunate at the Michigan Tech Archives to have a substantial number of collections of use to genealogists. In addition to a few resources that address the history of a particular family–such as MS-916: Baril Family Genealogy or MS-506: Bartle Family Genealogy Research–the holdings include several key collections with broad appeal.

If your ancestor(s) worked for Calumet & Hecla (C&H) or Quincy mining companies, you will find the information available in those companies’ employment records immensely valuable. Although the collections do not include every worker, their coverage is remarkable: in the case of C&H, employment cards number well over 50,000. Injury reports and employment cards from Quincy total some 20,000 records. The cards are full of gems, and researchers will find them immensely valuable to “mine” for such details as places of birth, physical descriptions, addresses, occupations, and names of family members. While some inaccuracies can appear in such records, they are often a tremendous starting point for further research and a wonderful snapshot of an individual’s working life. For more information about how to interpret a Calumet & Hecla employment card once you’ve found one, you may wish to read part 1 and part 2 of our posts on that topic from last year.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card for a Slovenian miner, Peter Gasperic.

Should you be searching for an ancestor who didn’t work in the mines, or if you want to go beyond what the employment card offers, you’ll find numerous opportunities to do so at the Michigan Tech Archives. City directories published by the R.L. Polk Company–colloquially called “Polks” by our staff–offer information about individuals’ residences and occupations, mining and otherwise. The collection of Polks at Michigan Tech begins in 1895 and is generally complete through 1917. From there, the materials skip thirteen years to 1930 and then another nine years to 1939 before making one final leap to the 1970s. Each major town in the Copper Country (including Calumet, Houghton, Hancock, and Laurium) is included in the Polks; coverage of other areas, such as Lake Linden, Chassell, or South Range, can be more sporadic. Nevertheless, the Polks are a wonderful way to follow a family between census years, especially given the tragic loss of the 1890 federal census.

Once you’ve sketched in the basic outline of your family, you may wish to add some color and humanity to it. Perhaps you want to know a little more about your great-grandparents’ wedding, or you suspect that a great-uncle may have had an encounter with the law. For the former question, consider perusing our extensive collection of newspapers on microfilm. Michigan Tech holds titles from virtually every county in the Upper Peninsula, with a special focus on newspapers published in the Copper Country. This includes the Daily Mining Gazette and its predecessors, back to 1862, as well as several major titles that have since gone out of business: the Calumet News, the Copper Country Evening News, and the Evening Copper Journal, to name a few. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers from the Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society, staff at the Michigan Tech Archives can search for names in indices of several area newspapers through 1914 and provide the exact date and page on which an article about each person was published.

While most articles that appeared about individuals, aside from those especially prominent in the community, focused on major life events like marriage or death, at times your exploration of the newspapers may lead you to something more scandalous. For the details of criminal conduct or the dirty laundry surrounding a messy divorce, turn to the files of the Houghton County Circuit Court. A prior piece on this blog sheds greater light on that collection.

Online Sources

What if you’re not able to come to visit us here at Michigan Tech? You still have plenty of options for conducting your genealogical research! Our staff are always happy to assist with remote reference requests, such as copying obituaries, employment cards, or pages from Polks. Please feel free to contact us at copper@mtu.edu or (906) 487-2505 if you would like to put in a remote request.

Other resources can also help you to go further in your research. As a genealogist with deep roots in the Copper Country, I’ve found that several key websites have been crucial in helping me to dig into my family background, both here and abroad. All of these sites are free for basic use, though registration for no cost may be required to view some materials.

FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org/search): FamilySearch is a product of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a group known for dedication to genealogy. Along with innumerable other collections, it includes an index of Michigan deaths from 1867 to 1897, marriage records to 1925, and birth records to 1902. FamilySearch does require users to sign up for a free account before they can view search results in detail.

For British research, Cornwall OPC Database (www.cornwall-opc-database.org): Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (OPC) Database transcribes parish records of key events–like baptisms, marriages, and burials–from the various Church of England parishes and non-conformist groups in Cornwall. The collections are extensive, continually growing, and all available for free access. In addition to these vital records, Cornwall OPC Database includes some bonus materials, such as select lists of institution inmates and prisoners. Now I know that one of my ancestors, sentenced in 1822 for having two children out of wedlock, was a little over five feet tall with “grey eyes, full face, pale [complexion], [and] dark hair.” She behaved “very well.”

Table showing Cornwall OPC Database baptism record

Sample baptism record from Chacewater parish on Cornwall OPC Database.

For Finnish research, HisKi (hiski.genealogia.fi/hiski): HisKi is something like the Finnish version of Cornwall OPC Database. Almost all historic Finnish parishes are represented, to some degree or another, in various types of events: christenings, marriages, burials, and migrations. Some parishes on HisKi include records as recent as the early 1900s, while others begin as early as 1700 and continue through 1850. The search is extremely flexible, checking for variations on names (remember that Finland recorded all such records in Swedish through the late 1800s) and allowing for wide ranges of years to be perused. HisKi was the difference between my knowing virtually nothing about my Finnish ancestors and being able to add hundreds to my tree.

Table showing HisKi marriage record

Sample HisKi marriage record for Herman Salonen and Lisa Haapala.

For Michigan research, Seeking Michigan (www.seekingmichigan.org): We have the fine folks at the Archives of Michigan to thank for Seeking Michigan. While it features a wide range of materials related to Michigan’s history, genealogists will probably find its collections of death certificates and state censuses to be most useful. Images of the certificates are available from 1897 (the year that Michigan implemented these documents) through the early 1940s, and more join the site as certificates enter the public record under state law. Additionally, Michigan conducted state censuses in the 19th century, generally in years ending in 4. Sadly, for reasons about which archivists can only speculate, most state census records have since been destroyed. Records from Houghton County in 1864 and 1874 and Keweenaw County in 1884 and 1894 survive and can be searched on Seeking Michigan.

And there you have it–a little advice for genealogy season, courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives. Hopefully, these resources and tips will be useful to you in moving your research forward. If there is ever any way in which our staff may be of assistance, or if you have further questions about family history research, please do not hesitate to contact us. Once again, our e-mail address is copper@mtu.edu, and our phone number is (906) 487-2505.

Happy sleuthing!


Welcome to Summer Intern Angie Piccolo

Our new FMTL Archives Intern for summer 2018, Angie Piccolo.
Our new FMTL Archives Intern for summer 2018, Angie Piccolo.

On behalf of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, in partnership with the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library, we hope you will help us welcome our new Archives Intern for summer 2018. Angie Piccolo was selected as the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Archives Intern after a competitive national call for applicants. While in Houghton, Angie will be assisting with research support services and collections processing in the Michigan Tech Archives. She will also be responsible for helping us research a forthcoming exhibit related to World War I. We are very excited to have her on board! Below, please take a moment to get to know Angie as she introduces herself in her own words.

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Hello!

My name is Angie Piccolo and I am honored to be spending the summer in Houghton as the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library 2018 Intern. Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, I am brand new to the Midwest and the Upper Peninsula, but I am excited to learn more about the history of this region and explore the beautiful natural environment that Michigan has to offer. I graduated from Gonzaga University in 2015 with a BA in History and I just recently graduated from Western Washington University with a MA in History, focusing on Archives and Records Management. My goal is to one day work for an institution, like Michigan Tech, that strives to provide patrons with the best access to historical materials. As the archives intern, I am ecstatic to continue pursuing my passion of history and I look forward to developing new archival skills, gaining knowledge about the local history, and helping researchers and community members find the historical materials they need.

Some fun facts about me: I had the opportunity to intern at Yellowstone National Park’s archives last summer where I not only learned about the history of the Park, but I also had the chance to visit Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, as well as take pictures of black bears and bison (from a safe distance of course.) When I am not in the archives, I love to explore antique shops, go on nature walks and spend time with friends and family. I also love watching period dramas, such as Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, but my guilty pleasure is reality TV (anything Real Housewives.)

I will be here until mid-August so make sure to stop by with any history and archive questions or recommendations for the best pasty bakeries around town.

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For more information on the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Internship Program or to set up a time to say hello to our new intern, please call our University Archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen at (906) 487-2505 or e-mail us at copper@mtu.edu. The Michigan Tech Archives can also be found on Twitter: @mtuarchives, Instagram: michigantecharchives, and Facebook.


Travel Grant Talk – Circling Lake Superior: Rephotography to Document Changing Landscapes of the Lake Superior Circle Tour

MTU_Talk_Photo_Lieschalternate
A historic image of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and a 2018 image of the same location. The bridge is an iconic part of the scenic Lake Superior Circle tour’s Keweenaw loop. (Photos courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives and Matt Liesch)

 

Please join us for visiting scholar Dr. Matthew Liesch at 4:00 pm on Monday, June 25 in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library on the Michigan Technological University campus for his travel grant talk, “Circling Lake Superior: Rephotography to Document Changing Landscapes of the Lake Superior Circle Tour.” This event is free of charge and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

In this presentation, Liesch will guide the audience on a photographic journey to explore changing landscapes from throughout the Copper Country and the Lake Superior Circle Tour. This presentation features historic landscape photography from the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, and supplements these with other scenes along the route. For comparative purposes, Liesch has rephotographed ordinary landscapes around Lake Superior during 2018. Observations are illuminated through archived policies, and plans, plus perspectives from geography and land use planning alike.

Matthew Liesch, PhD, is an Associate Professor at Central Michigan University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. His areas of research interest include cultural and historical geography, landscape studies, park and protected areas, and environmental policy. He has published and presented extensively on these topics and is active in the professional community.

Liesch’s research visit and presentation are supported by a travel grant from the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library. Since 1988, the Michigan Technological University Archives Travel Grant program has helped scholars advance their research by supporting travel to the manuscript collections at the Michigan Tech Archives.

For more information, feel free to call the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505, email at copper@mtu.edu, or visit on the web at http://www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives/. You can also find us on Facebook, @mtuarchives on Twitter, and as michigantecharchives on Instagram.


New Donation – White Pine Mine Slides

Roger Hewlett delivers the White Pine Copper Company slide collection to university archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen in May 2018.
Roger Hewlett delivers the White Pine Copper Company slide collection to university archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen in May 2018.

We are happy to announce a recent donation to the Michigan Tech Archives! The new acquisition consists of slides related to the history of the White Pine Copper Company. The materials were delivered to the archives by Roger Hewlett on behalf of George Haynes. The slides originally belonged to the late J. Roland Ackroyd, a former Secretary and Director of the Copper Range Consolidated, the Copper Range Railroad, and the White Pine Copper Company. The slides will be inventoried this summer and available for researchers this fall. Subjects represented include above and below ground images of industrial activities at White Pine. The slides are believed to be Copper Range’s official corporate collection of photos on the building of the White Pine Mine and surrounding area.

Roland Ackroyd (1912-1979) was born in Needham, Massachusetts and was the son of James A. (1872-1957) and Emily P. Ackroyd. He was educated in Needham schools and went on to graduate with an accounting degree from Northeastern University and Bentley University School in 1936. His professional career began at the Copper Range Company in 1933 on a temporary basis as a bookkeeper. During this first appointment his father was the secretary of the company. Over the years, Ackroyd would go on to hold many prominent positions in several firms with business related to White Pine, including the Copper Range Consolidated, the subsidiary railroad, and the White Pine Copper Company.

Positions held included:

Copper Range Consolidated 

J. Roland Ackroyd's official Copper Range Consolidated photograph.
J. Roland Ackroyd’s official Copper Range Consolidated photograph.

1944-46        Asst. Secretary

1947-62        Secretary

1962-70        Secretary/Treasurer

1968-70        Director

Copper Range Railroad

1954-62        Secretary

1962-71        Secretary/Treasurer

White Pine Copper Co.

1950-51        Director

1950-62        Secretary

1962-70        Secretary/Treasurer

Ackroyd lived in Needham and Stamford, Connecticut throughout his career and summered at Ocean Point, Maine. He retired in 1970. After retirement, he and his wife Natalie moved permanently to Ocean Point. Ackroyd was a key adviser in the development of the White Pine Mine and the local community. He was known to visit the area regularly throughout his career. Beyond his professional commitments, Ackroyd was also very active in his community. He was very dedicated to community service, serving with the Needham Board of Selectmen, Masons, Boy Scouts, Lions Club, Power Squadrons, the Boothbay Conservation Commission and various regional clubs in Maine.

The Michigan Tech Archives is very pleased to receive this important donation. We look forward to sharing the history of White Pine for generations to come! For more information about this collection, please contact university archivist, Lindsay Hiltunen, at (906) 487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu.  


Student Awards Spotlight 2018 – Becky

Becky poses with her certificate by the State Records Collection in the Archives stacks.
Becky poses with her certificate by the State Records Collection in the Archives stacks.

During the month of March, the Van Pelt and Opie Library hosts the annual Student Awards for all the student assistants in the library. This year’s event took place on Wednesday, March 21 and it included delicious food and a festive awards ceremony, which offered awards in eight categories. We are pleased to announce that both of our student assistants won awards!

To thank our students for their hard work and to further congratulate them on their award-winning work, we are featuring our students on social media to showcase all their efforts. Becky, our veteran student assistant, won the Excellence in Job Performance Award which goes to show that she is always on top of the many projects she works on over each semester. Our nomination for Becky is included below:

This student continues to excel and embody all the characteristics of an exceptional worker. This student consistently receives rave reviews from colleagues in the department and continues to positively impact our customer service in the department. This student turns in nearly all projects ahead of schedule and provides work that transcends that quality of normal student work. For instance, I asked for some assistance on some research and the student was able to finish several complex research tasks in a 2-hour shift, work that would normally take another student assistant at least 3 hours. In addition, this student takes initiative on research projects by anticipating patron needs and working with the supervisor to make sure no stone is left unturned. This student’s writing skills are equal to their research skills and I cannot imagine our department without this student! The quality and excellence of work projects, the care and attention to detail, and the constant cheerful demeanor set this student a cut above the rest!


Student Awards Spotlight 2018 – Jeremy

Jeremy poses by MS-080: Copper Range Collection, which has been the main collection he has worked with to build the railroad exhibit.
Jeremy poses by MS-080: Copper Range Collection, which has been the main collection he has worked with to build the railroad exhibit.

During the month of March, the Van Pelt and Opie Library hosts the annual Student Awards for all the student assistants in the library. This year’s event took place on Wednesday, March 21 and it included delicious food and a festive awards ceremony, which offered awards in eight categories. We are pleased to announce that both of our student assistants won awards!

To thank our students for their hard work and to further congratulate them on their award-winning work, we are featuring our students on social media to showcase all their efforts. Our first student award winner is Jeremy, our Copper Range Railroad exhibit research assistant. Jeremy won the Project Achievement Award. Our nomination for Jeremy is included below:

This student has gone above and beyond on a complex research project related to a grant-funded exhibit. This student provided accurate and timely research on a lesser known but historically important part of our local heritage. This student’s research findings are being applied to an exhibit project which will not only be on display in the Library, but will eventually travel off-site to other institutions. The student for this project maintained clear and consistent communication with the project team leader and was also able to earn the praise of project consultants and stakeholders interested in the project outcomes. In addition to achieving great research outcomes on this difficult and time-consuming project, the student was in a class of his own when it comes to positive attitude and enthusiasm. Not a day would go by without this student bringing joy and verve to research along with specific subject knowledge expertise which was directly beneficial to the project. This student has made this difficult project fun and informative. I always look forward to this student being in the department!


Thank you Jeremy for all of your efforts! You are a wonderful part of the archives team!


Michigan Tech Archives Seeking Graduate Intern for Summer 2018

intern

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections is currently seeking applicants for the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library Graduate Internship for summer 2018. The archives provides a high level of service to scholars, students and a wide range of walk-in visitors and global patrons through virtual reference. Summer services are fast-paced and we see an increase in visitors, especially through our role as part of the Keweenaw Heritage Site network, a partnership with the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Areas of emphasis include manuscripts, maps, print and digital images which document the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and university history. The intern selected will receive experience in both public service and collections handling. The intern will assist in day-to-day reference activities, including greeting and assisting researchers, retrieving and shelving collections, and assisting university and community patrons with use of materials and equipment. The intern will also gain experience in organizing, describing and processing archival collections.

Preference will be given to applicants currently enrolled in a graduate archival studies program, but consideration may be given for equivalent education and experience. The following skills are required:

  • Knowledge of contemporary archival practices, policies and procedures, including arrangement and description, and familiarity with DACS, MARC, LCSH, Dublin Core and MPLP.
  • Demonstrated analytical and research skills.
  • Ability to work independently and exercise initiative, discretion and judgment.
  • Ability to work collegially and effectively in a team-based environment.

This is intended to be a 35 hour per week, part-time summer position to span seven weeks. The preferred start date is June 25. There are no benefits included with this position and the successful candidate will be expected to cover travel expenses to Houghton, Michigan. The intern will be compensated in the form of a competitive hourly wage to be paid out bi-weekly throughout the duration of employment. Offers of employment are contingent upon and not considered finalized until the required background check has been performed and the results received and assessed. Housing options in the Copper Country include independently requesting a single occupancy dorm room and included meal plan (depending on availability) or making off-campus housing arrangements. In addition to a great working environment you will enjoy exquisite scenery, moderate temperatures and outdoor activities near the shores of Lake Superior! To learn more about us, please visit our website: http://www.mtu.edu/library/archives/

Applications are due by May 11, 2018. Direct any questions, or 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
copper@mtu.edu
(906) 487-2505

Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer, which includes providing equal opportunity for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.


Guest Post from Travel Grant Researcher Matthew Liesch – Circling Superior’s Shores: Rephotography to Document Changing Landscapes of the Lake Superior Circle Tour

A 1960s-era roadside mom-and-pop-style motel, which may or may not still be taking reservations.

Cords of firewood orderly stacked in advance of a long winter and lake-effect snows.

An 1800s lakefront street now inland, separated from Lake Superior by dredge spoils, sawdust, or other (non)toxic materials, afterthoughts dumped in a different era.

1920-era bungalows transitioning to newer housing styles, larger yards, and garages facing the highway heading away from downtown.

Small aspens shooting upward, their roots expanding cracked pavement within a formerly-used logging road.

These descriptions are of a few common landscapes on the amalgam of American and Canadian highways now known as the Lake Superior Circle Tour route. Today, we take for granted the ability to drive around Lake Superior’s shoreland communities on a connected system of paved roads, designed to the exacting specifications of modern engineering. Glossy tourism brochures and travel guides showcase selected scenes to cultivate romanticized impressions of the lakeshore and nearby communities.  Travel writers in Midwest Living, Lake Superior Magazine, and other publications hype up the Lakeshore’s natural and built environments alike.

Landscapes are inherently suited for visual methodologies. Rephotography helps scholars to trace the evolution of landscape tastes, and a small yet growing group of geographers, historians, and artists have conducted rephotography as part of constructing case study narratives that inform theory about social, environmental, geological, technological, or legal changes. In this vein, I am conducting rephotography of roads around the Lake’s edges to investigate the roles of culture, technology, and policy in guiding landscape change. Photographs can help illuminate landscape change provided that other spatial and historical data are available to researchers to piece together portions of the past, or the landscape’s “backstory.”

My visits to the Michigan Tech Archives and other museums and archives have been to find photographs and textual documents to construct landscape backstories of coastal communities and connect them with theory. Planning and zoning documents, park management plans, media reports, and correspondences between grassroots activists and decision-makers are some examples of the kinds of documents necessary to explain how Lake Superior’s coastal landscapes look the way they do today.

I am selecting photographs from the Copper Country Archives Photo Files, rephotographing them, and connecting their changes to theories of wayfinding and land use classifications. The late David Lynch popularized categories of paths, edges, corridors, nodes, and districts in his classic The Image of the City (MIT Press, 1960, still in print). Other images I am considering highlight change in notable land-use classifications such as public space, civic space, residential, commercial, and industrial land uses.

The photo above is a 1960 view from Hancock of the old and current bridges from the John T. Reeder Collection, Michigan Technological University and Copper Country Archives.
The photo above is a 1960 view from Hancock of the old and current bridges from the John T. Reeder Collection, Michigan Technological University and Copper Country Archives.

As the only bridge connecting the Copper Country across Portage Lake, the present-day Portage Lake Lift Bridge serves as a prominent node. Residents’ and tourists’ cognitive images of the Copper Country most likely include this landmark. Accordingly, the Bridge serves as a key node for photographs, parades, and political rallies. Given the traffic and raising/lowering of the bridge deck to allow ships through, this iconic landscape element is arguably the closest the Copper Country gets to traffic jams today.  Owing to the traffic, a variety of alternate methods have been used in the past, such as ice roads, and correspondences housed at the Archives’ Vertical Files mention ideas floated for the future, such as ideas for a second bridge to alleviate traffic as well as bypass Houghton to the East.

Headline about road construction to Lake of the Clouds. Image from the Roads (Pre-1979) folder, Copper Country Vertical Files, Michigan Technological University and Copper Country Archives.
Headline about road construction to Lake of the Clouds. Image from the Roads (Pre-1979) folder, Copper Country Vertical Files, Michigan Technological University and Copper Country Archives.

Likewise, the Archives’ Copper Country Vertical Files have been a good starting point for finding content on landscape-oriented issues. These include information with broader impacts outside the Copper Country, such as correspondence documenting disagreement between the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and communities hoping to lower speed limits on stretches of state and federal highways.

In 1944, the State of Michigan created Porcupine Mountains State Park as a solution to concerns of proposed clear-cutting. Over a decade earlier, State of Michigan Highway Commissioner Murray Van Wagner worked to create a road west from Silver City to Lake of the Clouds. This 1936 article, “Porcupines Road Nearly Complete” provided an update on the gravel road, flanked by a 400-foot right of way buffer zone obtained to for the purposes of guiding the appearance of landscape aesthetics. Two decades later, Michigan Governor George Romney (Mitt Romney’s father) sought to prevent the extension of lakeshore road west from Lake of the Clouds to Gogebic County. The Lake Superior Circle Tour Route today would presumably have a different route if paved roads exist along that stretch of lakefront, in place of the present expanse of a contiguous wilderness area for outdoors enthusiasts, flora, and fauna alike. Although newspaper articles cannot tell the full backstory of landscape changes themselves, they are helpful for me to provide context, to serve as leads on the potential availability of laws and management plans, and to compare with other evidentiary sources.

Daily Mining Gazette article on installation of the first “Lake Superior Circle Tour” reassurance shield signage, from the Roads – US 41 folder, Copper Country Vertical Files, Michigan Technological University and Copper Country Archives.
Daily Mining Gazette article on installation of the first “Lake Superior Circle Tour” reassurance shield signage, from the Roads – US 41 folder, Copper Country Vertical Files, Michigan Technological University and Copper Country Archives.

The now-ubiquitous “Lake Superior Circle Tour” green and white signage program is only a generation old. On the eastern shores of Lake Superior, sparse population, limited commerce, and rugged topography diminished funding priorities for blasting a highway route through granitic bedrock. Not until September 17, 1960 could the touring public feasibly circumnavigate the lakeshore on wheels. That day, Ontario Prime Minister Peter Frost and a motorcade of other dignitaries cut a ribbon to commence the official opening of a Lake Superior Circle Route. Afterward, North American media hailed the completed road through a variety of monikers, such as the “Lake Superior International Highway” and “Lake Superior Circle Route.” (The present-day label of “Lake Superior Circle Tour” derives from then-Michigan First Lady Paula Blanchard’s 1985 efforts to promote tourism.) The Circle Tour sign shown here is an example of a “reassurance marker” to symbolize the route for travelers. The Daily Mining Gazette article of July 3, 1986 mentions that signs were being installed that week at 10-mile intervals.

Although the Archives serves as a regional repository for the Western Upper Peninsula, its holdings contain useful documents of interest to scholars working on other areas of Lake Superior as well. The Keweenaw Historical Society Collection appears as if it would exclusively focus on the Keweenaw Peninsula, but holds a wealth of documents from seemingly disparate lakeshore locales. One example is the collections on Silver Islet. Due north of Isle Royale, Silver Islet is the site of a short-lived silver mine, once led by William Frue of Houghton. Shareholders’ Meeting Reports and other records help piece together the story of strategies to modify the landscape at Silver Islet, with regard to both lakeshore development at the Silver Islet community on the mainland, and expansion of the island’s size using leftover rock from the silver mine. Other far-flung files in the collection include photographs of Marquette, updates of roadbuilding through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and documents about the Soo Locks.

This Spring, I will rephotograph key places and landscape elements in order to examine landscape change along Lake Superior’s shores and settlements. Incorporating these photos with geographical and historical data into a book will interest both scholars of cultural landscapes and segments of the general population interested in seeing how Lake Superior’s landscapes have evolved. I will share some of these images at a Michigan Tech Copper Country Archives Speaker Series talk in June.

Editor’s Note: Matthew Liesch is Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Central Michigan University. His publications range from iron and copper mining heritage to use of GIS in archaeology to conservation easement modeling. Other current research includes a Mott Foundation-funded project integrating interview data into economic modeling to examine return on investment of the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative program. Liesch is a former Chair of Main Street Calumet’s Economic Restructuring Committee and is a Planning Commissioner for the City of Mount Pleasant.


2018 Travel Grant Program Call for Proposals

 

francis jacker

 

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections is currently accepting applications for its annual Travel Grant Program, which brings scholars and researchers external 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 library and archives of Michigan Tech. Grants are awarded for up to $750 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 includes university and campus life, regional towns and cities, local industries and businesses, as well as 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 16, 2018. Award recipients will be notified by late April. The successful candidate must complete their travel by December 7, 2018. Electronic submission is preferred.

For further information, please contact:

Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist
Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections
J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI  49931
Phone: (906) 487-2505
E-mail: copper@mtu.edu


A Calumet & Hecla Rosetta Stone: Reading a C&H Employment Card Part 2

The following post is part two of a two-part series, which was researched and authored by Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist. 

Welcome to the second part of a discussion on deciphering Calumet & Hecla Mining Company (C&H) employment records held by the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. This post will concentrate on the back page of a C&H yellow employment card, which emphasized a worker’s job history and relationship to the company. If you missed the initial part of the series or would like to refresh your memory of the card’s front page–where the employee’s personal traits and family connections were in focus–you may find it valuable to reread the prior post before perusing this one.

We’ll continue our exploration of the yellow C&H employment cards, which the company used from about 1915 through at least 1957, by once again examining the sample record of Peter Gasperich, my great-great-grandfather. As a reminder, Peter was a Slovenian immigrant and resident of Osceola who worked for C&H at the time of his death. From the front page of his card, we learned that he was married and the father of seven children, that he had previously been employed by the Osceola and Champion copper companies, and that he was a literate man of modest height and solid build. On the reverse of the card, we will find the bulk of the information related to job titles, the divisions of C&H in which the employee worked, and rates of pay. Parsing this data is often the most complicated part of interpreting an employment card, both due to its density and the number of abbreviated, specialized terms used–enough, it seems, to fill a small book rather than a blog post. Still, with the space we have, let us try to unravel the mystery of the back page, piece by piece.

The back page of Peter Gasperich’s Calumet & Hecla employment card, which looks at his relationship to the company and the finer points of his job history.
The back page of Peter Gasperich’s Calumet & Hecla employment card, which looks at his relationship to the company and the finer points of his job history.

 

In the upper left corner of this page, C&H set aside a section that can best be described as a General Notes field. Here, the company documented matters like the date and cause of a worker’s death or information about his pension if he received one; here, too, were any explanations for why he left the company–willingly or involuntarily–including times when he and his boss had butted heads. As with the results of the worker’s physical exam on the front page, these remarks were consistently blunt, if not outright brusque: “losing time,” “lazy,” “no good,” to name a few. For Peter, the card’s most prominent note was that he had left the company’s employ permanently with his death on June 14, 1923 from bronchitis. Keep in mind that C&H did not always accurately record causes of death, either deliberately or from lack of knowledge, so it is wise to cross-reference this information with official death certificates whenever possible. In Peter’s case, the state’s explanation–stomach cancer–seems far more likely in light of clues given in other areas of his employment card.

We see those clues as we move clockwise around this part of the card to look at Peter’s financial relationship with Calumet & Hecla. Next to General Notes, the company recorded a list of dates and amounts of cash. These figures indicate money that Peter withdrew from the C&H Aid Fund, a benefit society of sorts operated by the company. A set deduction was taken from each paycheck of employees who agreed to participate, and C&H matched their contributions. Later, if, like Peter, the worker were laid low by illness or injury, he could draw on the aid fund to keep his family housed, clothed, and fed until he could be back on the job. Though generous by contemporary standards, C&H also kept a sharp eye on its aid fund and monitored the frequency and duration of use by each employee. Distrust fell on men who seemed overly dependent on charitable moneys. The company’s observation, however, and its recordkeeping can provide interesting insight to genealogists in particular. From Peter’s employee aid record, I was able to see that he had called upon the aid fund on several occasions, including one string of withdrawals that began in February 1923. It seemed likely that the fatal illness must have begun around this time, and picturing those last few months in the Gasperich house as Peter declined added a new dimension to my understanding of my ancestors.

Below the General Notes and accounts of Peter’s aid fund use came several additional fields whose meaning is more familiar to modern readers: a tally for dates that he had received workmen’s compensation funds for any injuries received on the job, a list of addresses he had occupied and changes he made to his residence, and the dates that he had been examined by a C&H physician. Individuals joining the company had to pass physicals, which were seemingly required at irregular intervals thereafter; any extraordinary results–described in General Notes–could mean the rescindment of an offer of employment, lest the worker become a threat to his colleagues or a financial drain on the company’s hospital.

The left side of the back page of Peter’s C&H employment card, concerning his death, his use of various company funds, his examination by a C&H physician, and his address history.
The left side of the back page of Peter’s C&H employment card, concerning his death, his use of various company funds, his examination by a C&H physician, and his address history.

Although interesting, these components are not the meat of the employment card’s back page. That honor belongs to the right side, where Peter’s work history was recorded in meticulous detail. This section began with Peter’s typed name and, below it, two identification numbers: an enrollment card number and a pay roll number (which also appeared on the front page). It is not uncommon for the latter of these numbers to be crossed off if the employee had passed away or replaced with digits in the form P-### if the worker had been pensioned. Further information on any such pensions were recorded, as we have already seen, in the General Notes field. Beneath these numbers came several columns designed to capture the nuances of Peter’s time at C&H. Two of them–the first and the next-to-last–simply listed the dates that Peter began his work, whether at the company or in a new position, and the dates that he ceased to hold that job.

Next was given the title of the occupation itself, often in abbreviated form. To most modern researchers, Peter’s having worked as a “tram” or a “pipe” seems nonsensical, but these terms indicate that Peter worked as a trammer–moving heavy cars of mine rock along a shaft level to be raised to the surface of the shaft–and a pipeman, someone who laid and repaired pipe for compressed air, steam, or water. Similarly, as a timberman (or “timb,” as C&H put it), Peter would have placed and maintained wooden mine structures, like ladders and hanging wall supports. Occupational shorthand abounded through the cards, but two other common terms of note were “dry” for “dry man”–often an older or partially disabled man who kept the workers’ change house clean and supplied–or “sfc,” for surface, preceding a job to distinguish employees who did the work on one side of the ground or the other. Keep in mind, as well, that sometimes words that seem straightforward today had nuances at the time the cards were created. It’s easy to think that every underground man at C&H was a miner, but the term was specific in its meaning and referred only to workers who drilled and blasted rock in search for copper.

Under the Rate column, C&H provided the wage paid for each occupation that an employee held. Notice on Peter’s card the word “cont” in several places, indicating that he was paid wages specified in a contract he had negotiated with the company. For other jobs, the amount of pay was given in numeric form: a monthly wage, generally speaking, until about 1918, when a daily rate began to be used. In the 1940s, C&H switched again, transitioning to listing pay in hourly terms. If you see an ancestor’s income listed as cents and fractional cents, that is a good indicator that this pay was hourly. If the card bears a number like $55.00, the rate was monthly.

The Company and Department (Dept) headings can also be a source of confusion. Although it is useful shorthand to think of C&H as a single entity, in many respects it was more of a corporate umbrella containing component companies, including some former competitors. A little history may help to explain this. Calumet & Hecla began life as two related organizations–the Calumet Mining Company and the Hecla Mining Company–that were combined into C&H in 1871. To ensure the company’s continued success, in the early 1900s C&H began to acquire large amounts of stock in some of its local competitors, placing them under C&H’s control. This method brought Osceola into the C&H “family” in 1909 and Tamarack in 1917. Ahmeek, Allouez, and Centennial were purchased outright in 1923, leading to the creation of the Calumet & Hecla Consolidated Copper Company. Other mines and facilities also came under the umbrella over the years, creating a C&H that employed workers in places far beyond the little village once called Red Jacket.

Given this history, the Company and Department columns seem more logical. “Company” allowed C&H’s clerks to specify which part of the organization an employee belonged to: Osceola, Kearsarge, South Hecla, C&H proper, etc. “Department” permitted greater specificity: a Hecla miner could be said to work in the #9 shaft, for example, or a C&H general laborer could be designated as a smelter employee. For companies that already had subsidiaries at the time of their incorporation into C&H–like Osceola’s operations at Kearsarge–the Department field could also be used to further distinguish among the company hierarchy. At other times, however, the two sections simply repeated each other. On Peter’s card, for example, we can see Company listed as in one place as “Osc. Cons,” referring to Osceola Consolidated Mining Company, and the Department simply listed as “Osc,” not shedding much light on his particular place within the organization. Where greater details than these were provided, these fields in conjunction with the Occupation column offer the genealogist significant insight into the nature of an ancestor’s work.

As with Occupation, abbreviations for Company and Department abound. Decoding the meaning of the more obscure shorthand is an ongoing project at the Michigan Tech Archives. A few basic words of advice are worth sharing at this point, however. Common entries in the Company column–in addition to the ones mentioned above–include LMS & R[ef] Co for Lake Milling, Smelting, and Refining Company; Tam for Tamarack, west of Calumet; I.R.C. and I. Royale for Isle Royale Copper Company, near Houghton; and a dizzying array of options for the Tamarack, Osceola, and Ahmeek mills on Torch Lake. Department abbreviations featured likewise ran the gamut. Rkhs, rchs, and r. hse indicated an employee assigned to the rock house; sm, smelt, and smelts, the smelter; mill or st. m, the stamp mill; or sfc, the surface. Where a number or single letter were given in the Department column, it referred to a particular designated mine shaft at the company in question.

The right side of the back page of Peter Gasperich’s employment card, showing the details of his positions and pay at C&H.
The right side of the back page of Peter Gasperich’s employment card, showing the details of his positions and pay at C&H.

Moving past the Date Left column that was mentioned earlier, we look at last to the Reason column, which provided a rationale for Peter’s departure from each position. Peter’s card included three of the most common explanations: Q for quit (he chose to find work elsewhere), L.O. for laid off (economic factors led C&H to cut his job), and Sett for settled up (he died, and C&H concluded its business with him). This last term also was used to address workers who resigned, possibly in lieu of termination, and sometimes men who had been drafted into the armed forces. If an employee’s reason for departure was given as “Dis.,” he certainly was dismissed or discharged–fired. “Ret” workers had simply retired. Peter’s card also used the word “Strike” in the explanation column. This does not necessarily mean that he was an active part of the 1913-1914 Western Federation of Miners (WFM) copper strike; rather, C&H used it to indicate that the mine at which he had worked shut down during that time. Occasionally, recordkeepers placed numbers in parentheses next to one of these reasons, indicating a more detailed explanation was available next to the corresponding number in the General Notes section. Look to that section, as well, to distinguish men who had joined the union from men whose note of “Strike” simply meant that they were bystanders: if the note indicates that a man burned or gave up his WFM book, he was a union member.

What more can be said about the Calumet & Hecla employment cards? Quite a lot. These documents mirror the organization that created them: they are as broad as the workforce and as deep as the company’s copper mines. The Michigan Tech Archives earnestly hopes that this overview of the C&H records has been useful, limited by necessity as it may have been. If your interest in learning more about your ancestors’ potential ties to C&H has been piqued, if you would like assistance in deciphering a record already located, or if you have any other research questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Michigan Tech Archives. We may be reached via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu or by telephone at (906) 487-2505, and, as always, we are very happy to help.