Category Archives: Collections

This category will include posts about the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives: manuscript materials, photographs, maps, books, and other physical items held by the department.

Flashback Friday: Strikes, Codes, and Knives

Image of well-dressed parade
Supporters of the Western Federation of Miners parade through Calumet in a show of solidarity, July 1913.

In July 1913, the Copper Country exploded. Frustration with pay, hours of work, and other grievances related to work in the mines had been fomenting for years, and the arrival of new technologies that threatened jobs–and the enrollment of many locals in the Western Federation of Miners–crystallized into a decision to strike. The powderkeg had been lit, and the communities of the Copper Country would forever bear the marks left as it burned.

Whether a person sympathized with the strikers or the companies, communication at this time was absolutely essential. During the Western Federation of Miners copper strike, which endured until April 1914, a bevy of letters and telegrams on the labor dispute flowed from office to office and mailbox to mailbox. Many of them were lost before they could be preserved in any archives, but several gems mercifully remain, demonstrating the erupting tensions of the strike and the ingenuity of their authors in conveying a message.

Image of letter cut from newspaper
A threatening letter sent anonymously to James MacNaughton, presumably by a striking miner or union member. From MS-002, Calumet and Hecla Mining Companies Collection.

It might be easy to assume that the old words-cut-from-a-newspaper letter is merely an old trope, something that appears in movies but never went beyond the silver screen. Perhaps it is the case of life imitating art–or vice versa. James MacNaughton, the general manager of Calumet & Hecla and arguably the most intractable man on the company side, received just such a letter in November. “Mr. MacNaughton,” the anonymous author warned, “your day has come.” Alluding to the manager’s influence over a vast workforce, the writer reminded him that “you are running 50,000 persons” but that even this vast power had its limitations. “But I only will run You. DYE [sic] you MUST, today, tomorrow or next year.” If the meaning of the message weren’t clear enough, a carefully-affixed image of a short-bladed knife would certainly make the point. “This is your death.”

Of course, MacNaughton and his compatriots had their own unique ways of communicating during the strike, as well. To our knowledge, none of the mine management group ended up sending union leaders images of knives, but plenty of biting commentary and plans to break the strike flew between the local offices of the Copper Country and company directors stationed in East Coast cities. Given the sensitivity of the information and the magnitude of what mine management believed to be at stake, they relied upon their very own code to ensure privacy. This secret language could be read easily by men like MacNaughton, who kept the master cipher, but would appear as gibberish to a person who intercepted the coded telegrams.

Image of two telegram sheets
A coded telegram sent to Calumet & Hecla General Manager James MacNaughton, along with a rough translation. From MS-002, Calumet and Hecla Mining Companies Collection.

 

 

In one such note, sent to MacNaughton while he was apparently in New York for the annual board of directors meeting, the general manager learned that “hundred come paying days balance… looking who conditions up suggest raging wire to parties and hundred fare county thirty men own cast at Potter.” To us–to almost everyone–it was as clear as mud. To MacNaughton, it was the beginning of an explanation that some 235 men had come to Houghton County on their own accord and paid their own fare for travel, not arriving as hired strikebreakers.

Next time you send a message, no matter how trivial, take a moment to consider how easily your words fly across a distance and, most likely, without fear of interception. And please, unless you’re a fictional character in a murder mystery, don’t send anyone threatening letters cut from newspapers!


Flashback Friday – Diverse Dialogues Series

Image of the Michigan Tech Afro-American Society, 1973.

Today’s Flashback Friday takes us back to the 1973 yearbook and the Afro-American Society. The society’s major purpose was to uplift black students, promote learning, and engage in building better relationships with diverse students across campus. The group was active in many beneficial on and off campus projects. Students shown in the photo- Row One: Seth Boone, Billy Walker, Jerry Muff, Renald Paul; Row Two:Cynthia Edmonds, Jack Fray, Brenda Jones; Row Three: James Parker, Willie Edmonds, Errol Baker, W. Larry Scott. We are sharing this photo not only to remember this particular student organization, but also to promote the Michigan Tech Archives participation in the Diverse Dialogues Series, which is sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI.)

“Black Voices in the Copper Country: Exploring Community and Michigan Tech Campus Life, 1850-1990,” our award-winning exhibit, oral history, and conversation circle project, examines the African-American experience in the Keweenaw, particularly on the Michigan Tech campus. The online exhibit was intended to highlight materials that explore the stories of underrepresented individuals and narratives in Michigan history and serves to encourage researchers to consider more inclusivity when telling regional and state history. The ongoing oral history project and the accompanying discussion groups seek to build awareness about the need for diverse stories in our historical record. The Black Voices project is a multifaceted research initiative that has included substantial archival research, public programming and exhibits. 

The CDI and the Archives would like to invite you to be part of a critical campus discussion at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 in the University Archives on the garden level of the library. Learn about the project that can serve as a stepping stone to further research and encourage critical investigation to uncover stories and individuals not widely known, but deeply important to the rich heritage of the Copper Country and its unique history. The exhibit will be presented by University Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen and hosted by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

The Diverse Dialogues series provides opportunities for students, faculty and staff to have conversations about relevant issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice and much more. The conversations are designed to be an informal, yet guided gathering to allow participants to educate and learn from one another. While each dialogue in the series has a centralized theme, we want to encourage participants to determine where the conversations go. This series is meant to start the discussion on difficult topics, elevate the diversity and inclusion efforts and work being done by faculty/staff on campus, and implore individuals to push their awareness, knowledge and action related to themes of diversity and inclusion.

For more information about the Diverse Dialogues series or the Michigan Tech Archives, please call (906) 487-2505 or e-mail copper@mtu.edu.


Flashback Friday: Timber Riches in Bergland

Mr. Ludger Belanger and his horse, Prince pose at the White River Lumber Company in Bergland, Michigan, October 24, 1953. From the Daily Mining Gazette Photograph Collection.

Today’s Flashback Friday takes us to this week in 1953. A great still image of Ludger Belanger and his horse, Prince, pays tribute to the Upper Peninsula’s rich logging tradition. Both Belanger and his horse Prince worked for the White River Lumber Company of Bergland, Michigan.

Bergland, an unincorporated community in Bergland Township, Ontonagon County, has a rich timber tradition that stretches back to the communities founding at the start of the twentieth century. The first settlement documented was established in 1900 following some seasonal timber cultivation in the late 1800s north of Lake Gogebic. Gunlek A. Bergland, who had been logging

Record load of pine logs hauled to the White River mill in Bergland by Ed Brown. Date unknown.

near Sidnaw, Michigan, purchased a large tract of timber land west of Lake Gogebic in 1900 and decided to move his operations to that area. The lake was a key asset in floating logs to the sawmill. The tract was rich with hardwood, hemlock, and some stands of pine. Although the heydey of pine logging from the 1880s and 1890s was over, hardwoods were coming into more general use and lumberman were quick to turn their attention to those types of forests.

The history of the town of Bergland is the history of the logging era after 1900. After G. A. Bergland made his first timber stand purchase, the hardwood and

A copy of Bergland, by Knox Jamison available at the Michigan Tech Archives.

hemlock timbering activities just north of Lake Gogebic accelerated greatly. In 1903 he built a sawmill on Lake Gogebic, so logs no longer had to be shipped by rail to Sidnaw. After the sawmill, shingle and lathe mills were also constructed, with operations running day and night. In the early 1900s four lumber camps cropped up around the growing industry. Thanks to G. A. Bergland’s industrious nature and his views on private ownership of businesses and homes, the town of Bergland turned into a bustling community of logging operations for many decades. A brief history of the community, including reference to mineral extraction and the timber industry is available in the Michigan Tech Archives.


Flashback Friday: A Change of Seasons

We’re using our Flashback Friday this week to honor the changing seasons. No, we don’t mean saying goodbye to fall, but farewell to road construction season!
This week back in 1958 saw the end of a big highway paving job between Quincy and Calumet, which the Michigan State Highway Department christened with the addition of yellow and white lines, pictured here. The Daily Mining Gazette reported that “sunshine, an infrequent visitor in the area in recent days, made the painting project by…motor propelled machinery impossible” following paving two weeks prior. No doubt, many motorists in the Copper Country were happy to have the work, completed by the Thornton Construction Co., come to an end and to have the roads reopened for fall color tours up the peninsula  .
We know the end of road construction means the beginning of our winter months and its own set of driving frustrations, but imagine all that glorious snow that’s on its way to the Copper Country! Enjoy the lingering fall colors, motorists!

An All-Star Flashback Friday: John Scott at Michigan Tech

Two hockey players on the ice

John Scott (Huskies #20) in action on the ice, 2004

At 7:37 tonight, the puck will drop in the opening game of the 2018-2019 season for the Michigan Tech Hockey Huskies. A team of veterans–fresh off the second consecutive WCHA Men’s championship–and eager freshmen will take the ice in brilliant Tech black, gold, and white, hoping to defend their title for yet another year.

Many famous figures in the world of hockey have worn the Michigan Tech jersey over the years. Tony Esposito, now part of the Hockey Hall of Fame, played goalie at Tech and helped to propel the team to an NCAA Championship in 1965. Mel Person, one-time Huskies head coach and now leader of the University of Michigan men’s hockey program, suited up as a forward between 1977 and 1981. Randy McKay, an alumnus later who later served as an assistant coach at Tech, put his name on the Stanley Cup twice as a part of the New Jersey Devils.

Lately, however, conversation about well-known Hockey Huskies has centered around a name that has surprised many outside Michigan Tech circles. John Scott, who started at Tech in 2002 and received his mechanical engineering degree in 2010, rose to a new degree of national prominence in January 2016 through the most remarkable NHL All-Star Game in recent memory. As a professional hockey player, Scott had gained a reputation as an enforcer, a player who was unafraid to deliver hits, start fights to motivate his team, physically punish opponents who endangered a victory, or protect star players from enforcers on the other team. Forwards participating in the All-Star exhibition match were expected to be drawn from the NHL’s most remarkable players in terms of goal scoring and playmaking–traits for which Scott, with five NHL goals to his name, was not known. Taking advantage of the rule that allowed fans to vote for All-Star team members, viewers colluded to prank the NHL by casting votes en masse for Scott. Scott was initially reticent to the fan campaign but ultimately decided to take the place awarded him following a sudden trade, assignment to a minor league affiliate, and unwelcome remarks from an NHL official concerning the effects of playing in the game on Scott’s children. Over the weekend of competition, Scott scored two goals and was honored as the event’s Most Valuable Player.

Anyone who followed the NHL in 2015-2016 had to have heard the John Scott All-Star story, but few have taken a walk back through the Michigan Tech Archives to discover the John Scott Husky story. Scott’s first year on the hockey team went without much reporting by either campus or community newspapers, thanks in part to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for several games. As the rookie became a veteran, however, his dedication to his teammates, his physical talent on the ice, and his cheeky quips off it garnered him press attention. Journalists took one awed look at the 6-foot-7 Canadian then playing defense and chose a slew of colorful adjectives to describe him. “Hulking” turned out to be their favorite.

John Scott with teammates

Scott proved a valuable addition to the Huskies blue line. By his own admission in his autobiography A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut (co-written with Brian Cazeneuve), he joined a team that was struggling to put up wins, especially in the first two years. From day one, wrote a local reporter, Scott was a “tower of strength” on the team. In his absence following that freshman-year shoulder injury, “the Husky defense looked dazed and confused.” In 2005, the Tech coach was quoted as saying that Scott was “our best penalty killer” and that his no-holds-barred playing took “a tremendous load off of the rest of the defensive core.” Although “offense [was] not a big part of his game” and defense was his primary focus, when he scored, observers noted, “it counts.” His first goal as a college player broke a tie against the talented University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Other articles over the years recorded key moments when Scott knotted up a game with a “greasy goal” against a big rival or a highlight-reel wrist shot received from a teammate’s no-look pass. As the end of his college career approached, it was clear that Scott’s presence on the ice made a world of difference for his fellow Huskies.

And, yes, there were fights. The local papers loved it when John Scott dropped the gloves: it gave them a chance to trot out even more vivid descriptions than the adjectives they used for his height. After a game versus the University of Alaska Anchorage where Scott and Seawolves forward Justin Johnson took a few good shots at each other, one reporter boasted that Scott’s “stomping” on Johnson made the UAA player realize that “he picked the wrong Husky to mess with.” In the last few minutes of a 2004 match-up, University of North Dakota’s Ryan Hale “made the mistake of challenging hulking MTU defenseman John Scott.” With tangible satisfaction, the paper wrote that Hale “came away having landing [sic] maybe one punch and his face completely mauled by Scott.” 

Appropriately enough, it was at another UND-MTU game in Scott’s senior year that a lucky reporter captured this classic quip, the one that might have best summed up his reputation: “I wish there was fighting in this league. I’d love to go out there… and pound on ‘em, but I can’t do it.”

John Scott, for your grit, your lip, and your heart, both on the ice and off–we’re proud to claim you as a part of Husky history.


It’s Homecoming Weekend at Michigan Tech!

Homecoming parade, 1948.
Homecoming parade, 1948.

Happy Homecoming, Huskies! We’re honoring homecoming weekend with a flashback to 1948.

According to coverage of the event in the Michigan Tech Lode, the 1948 homecoming was the “most successful Homecoming weekend ever held at Tech.” Festivities included a parade and football rally Friday night. Attendees were told to meet at the Clubhouse at 8 p.m. for the torchlight parade to Engineer’s Field with a toasty bonfire and speeches by Dr. Stipe, Coach Al Bovard, and “members of the undefeated Huskies.”

Front page, Michigan Tech Lode,  October 22, 1948.
Front page, Michigan Tech Lode, October 22, 1948.

Revelers then made their way to Dee Stadium for cider, doughnuts, and a square dance. Another parade was held Saturday and included floats from most of the fraternities and professional organizations with Sigma Rho winning top honors. According to the paper, Tech “humiliated” Northern Michigan University, remaining undefeated in their fifth win of the season.

Homecoming Complete Success, Michigan Tech Lode, 1948.
Homecoming Complete Success, Michigan Tech Lode, 1948.

Coach Bovard was awarded the Tech-Northern trophy, the Paul Bunyan axe, from Northern head cheerleader, Joe Erickson. Football fans familiar with the big Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry and their Paul Bunyan axe will surely be scratching their heads at that, but it seems Tech and Northern had a similar tradition.

We hope that you enjoyed this flashback to 1948. Enjoy Homecoming, Huskies! We’d love to hear your favorite your favorite Homecoming memory!

Homecoming float, 1948.
Homecoming float, 1948.

Flashback Friday: When Storms and Miners Strike

National Guardsmen standing in the snow

National Guardsmen assigned to strike duty in Calumet found themselves in the midst of a freak snowstorm.

We’re no stranger to snow here in the Copper Country, but getting a taste of winter in September is unusual even for us. The bizarre weather and the tumult of the Western Federation of Miners copper strike combined to make September 1913 noteworthy for Houghton County.

On September 19, what the Calumet News described as “a freakish barometric disturbance” formed over Winnipeg and began to drift eastward. As it reached the Midwest on September 20, the storm apparently stalled, pummeling the Keweenaw Peninsula for nearly forty-eight hours. The weather bureau recorded winds of almost forty miles per hour, a number more typical of November weather than balmy September. Rain and sleet fell in sheets. The precipitation and high winds downed telephone lines and cut off service to some 600 phones, mostly in Calumet and Laurium.

Most notably, however, the storm blanketed the Copper Country with nearly three inches of snow. National Guardsmen called to Calumet to enforce order during the strike peeked out from their tents to find their neighbors’ shelters collapsed and coated in ice. A photographer captured five images of the storm’s aftermath in the camp on September 21, showing men with hands shoved into military-issued coat pockets, surveying the damage, squinting against the howling wind, and perhaps questioning their decision to join the National Guard. The images have since become part of the Brockway Photograph Collection (MS-019) at the Michigan Tech Archives.

Collapsed tents in the snow

Tents in the National Guard encampment fared poorly in the wintry gale.

It was a scene that could only have happened in 1913. At no other time in the Copper Country history could the weather and the course of labor relations have conspired to put these men and their camp in the midst of a September snowstorm.

Luckily, the forecast for Houghton County doesn’t include any snow for the foreseeable future. We will simply have to wait and watch to find out when those first flakes may fall. Anyone care to take a guess?


Flashback Friday: The Game of Guts

The Library Bar Guts Frisbee team, 1979.
The Library Guts Frisbee team, 1974 (previously thought to be 1979).

Flashback Friday pays tribute to Guts Frisbee, which had its first invitational tournament in Eagle Harbor, Michigan in 1958. Our image takes us back to this day in 1974, when the Library Bar Frisbee Team had a grand year in Guts Frisbee. The team took home the world championship as well as all major tournament wins. The team can be shown showing off all their hardware in this triumphant photograph. Standing from left, are Bill Dwyer, Jon Davis (team sponsor), and Bill Hodges; in front, from left, are Bob Hansen, John Hodges, Joe Wickstrom (captain), and Bob Reade.

While this photo is from 1974, the game of Guts Frisbee has an origin story that dates back to the 1950s. In 1958, brothers Boots and John Healy discovered a “Pluto Platter” in a shop in Minneapolis. The disc was passed around the family until Tim and Mary Healy, along with some friends, began tossing the frisbee around on July 4, 1958. By the end of the day, the game of Guts Frisbee was invented. The first tournament was held later that year at a family picnic in Eagle Harbor and the rest is history. For a full rundown of the history and modern day status of Guts, be sure to check out their website!


Flashback Friday: Ahmeek Mining Company

The shared shaft house for Ahmeek No. 3 and No. 4 is shown in this photograph, taken on this day in 1963. The image is courtesy of the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection.
The shared shaft house for Ahmeek No. 3 and No. 4 is shown in this photograph, taken on this day in 1963. The image is courtesy of the Calumet and Hecla Photograph Collection.

There is one more long weekend ahead of us before classes resume on Tuesday, September 4. A splendid opportunity to hit the road and explore the Copper Country! One way or another, all roads lead to copper and the rich history of the region.

Today’s Flashback Friday looks down the road to points north of campus, offering a glimpse of Ahmeek, Michigan. The village of Ahmeek, a small community in Keweenaw County, derives it name from the Ojibwe amik, which means beaver. The village grew up around the Ahmeek Mining Company, which opened for business in 1903. The founding of the village is credited to Joseph Bosch, of Bosch Brewing Company fame. The Ahmeek No. 3 and No. 4 site is featured in this photograph from August 31, 1963.

Although the Ahmeek Mining Company began operations as an individual enterprise in the early 1900s, the company was initially organized in 1880 as a subsidiary exploration wing of the Seneca Mining Company. Initial extraction took place through two shallow shafts, but the lode proved to be unreliable and production was irregular at best. In 1903, with the discovery of the Kearsarge Amygdaloid lode, the Ahmeek Mining Company became a separate operation. The operation consisted of four shafts that reached a depth of approximately 3,000 feet.

The uniqueness of shafts No. 3 and No. 4 is highlighted in the photograph, demonstrating that both shafts were serviced from a common shaft house. There is certainly more than meets the eye when you compare the surface to the underground architecture at this site!

In 1923 the Ahmeek Mining Company was absorbed by Calumet & Hecla. Operations eventually suspended in 1931. After the Great Depression ended, the mine reopened in 1936 and continued until the mid 1960s, with most accounts indicating that the mine officially closed permanently in 1966.

Wherever your Labor Day weekend adventures may bring you, we hope our Huskies all make it back to campus safely with plenty of good stories from the summer! Please note, the Van Pelt and Opie Library will be closed on Monday, September 3 in observance of Labor Day. The library, including our department, will reopen with regular hours on Tuesday, September 4.


Collection Spotlight: Central Mine School Records

Photograph of shuttered Central Mine School

The second school built at Central Mine. Photograph taken by J.T. Reeder in July 1921, after the school building had ceased to serve students.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Central Mine, the kind of soft spot that leads a person to wander the ghost town’s hillside on weekends and affix an “I <3 Central” decal to a car. It was that affection and the ongoing pursuit of my family history that led me to investigate a thin folder at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections: MS-787, Central School Records.

The title of the collection is, perhaps, slightly misleading. This worn, weathered volume does not contain attendance statistics, names of teachers, or exam grades. Rather, it consists wholly of annual censuses taken, presumably, by the township school board of school-age children in the Central Mine settlement between 1877 and 1890. By this first year, students had already been attending classes in Central for two decades. What, one might wonder, was the sudden urgency in enumerating all of the children in the village? The timing suggests a certain conclusion. Simply put, Central Mine was successful–too successful. The population of the town soared in response, and the small schoolhouse on the edge of the settlement had been overwhelmed. By 1877, both it and the overflow classrooms in the Central Mine Methodist Episcopal Church were strained to their limits. The townspeople realized their obvious need for a new school, and knowing how many students it must serve was a critical part of construction. The expanded building, shown at the head of this blog post, opened for classes in 1878.

How can a survey conducted to gauge the student population at Central assist you in your research? Genealogists may consider it especially valuable. Consider that, while many mining families put down deep roots, others migrated from place to place within the Copper Country, following the fortunes of the mines from Clifton to Central to Calumet. You may find that your relatives drifted to Central for a year or two before moving on to a different location, where they were recorded in federal censuses. The school census particularly proves its worth in those years between 1880 and 1890. As any genealogist quickly learns, the 1890 federal census is essentially lost, forcing researchers to compensate with other records. Along with Michigan state census forms for Keweenaw County completed in 1884 and 1894, this Central Mine collection can help to bridge the gap.

In my case, I’ll always be grateful to this collection for giving me a few insights into my family tree that I never anticipated. I had two ancestors–a mother and a daughter–whom I believed to have arrived from England in about 1887, since the mother was married that year to a man with deep roots at Central Mine. I expected to find the daughter residing with her mother and new stepfamily in the 1887 school census, but she wasn’t included in their household listing. Had she stayed in England while her mother went on ahead? That would change my research in some interesting ways. I browsed through the other pages and finally found her with a family whose name I didn’t recognize. Further investigation showed that the mother of the family was the last elusive sibling in the mother’s extended clan, a woman who had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. It turned out that she had merely moved to the ends of it instead, settling in Central with her husband and children. This was the one and only year that my ancestor lived with this long-lost aunt, who soon left Michigan, and I never would have made the connection between the two of them without the school census. This is just one of several instances where the Central Mine school census made the critical difference in my genealogical research, and it may do the same for you.

Want to check out MS-787: Central School Records for yourself and see what insights it can offer? We at the Michigan Tech Archives would be happy to help you. Please feel free to stop by during our open hours (Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm), to e-mail us at copper@mtu.edu, or to call us at (906) 487-2505.