Category: Manuscript Collections

A Retro Copper Country Halloween

NHPRCResearchers can find a trove of ghoulish retro Halloween photographs in the Daily Mining Gazette Photograph Collection. The Daily Mining Gazette photograph collection contains photographs documenting people and events in the Copper Country. Most of the photographs were taken between 1952 and 1979. This collection was able to be fully processed during the NHPRC grant funded Detailed Processing Project.

Young trick-or-treaters inspect their loot on the sidewalk
Halloween in the Copper Country, original image from an October 1954 issue of the Daily Mining Gazette
Another group of trick-or-treaters
More trick-or-treaters from a November 1954 issue of the Daily Mining Gazette

And Now for Something (not) Completely Different

For the first NHPRC project blog posting after the October fire, I felt it would be appropriate to take a look at a much more unfortunate case.

In 1917, the resident agent of the St. Mary’s Canal Mineral Land Company, F. W. Nichols, was trying to find some early land records.  He wrote to Richard S. Harvey, who was the son of Charles T. Harvey, the land agent for the company’s predecessor.

The following image is the second page of a response from Harvey.  Take a look at the second paragraph.

And his fourth office burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp.

Look for more about the (surviving) records of the St. Mary’s Canal Mineral Land Company (part of the Copper Range Company Records) in a future blog post.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.

Help from Calumet and Hecla Consolidated Copper Company

Telephone directories from Calumet and Hecla

The telephone has become so ubiquitous in our lives that we often forget it’s a relatively new technology.  In 1952, Calumet and Hecla  provided some help using the telephone in their telephone directory.  In case you need some help yourselves:

“Before attempting to dial a call, lift the receiver and listen for the ‘dial tone’, a steady humming sound … Secure from this directory the number of the person or department wanted.  Dial each digit carefully, making sure the dial is pulled until the ‘stop’ is reached.  Allow the dial to return to its normal position after each pull; any attempt to force the dial may result in a wrong number.  If, during the process of dialing, you discover you have made an error, hang up for a few seconds and then dial over.  If the telephone you have dialed is busy, you will hear a short rapid ‘buzz-buzz’ sound.  If you hear this sound, hang up and wait a moment before attempting to dial again.  A ‘burr-burr-burring’ sound indicates that the telephone you have called is ringing.”

Okay, a little different from today – who remembers rotary phones?

National Park Helps With Preservation

Keweenaw National Historical Park is assisting the Michigan Tech Archives in preserving records of the Copper Range Company.  During our current processing and cataloging project (funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission), some documents of the former mining company and its common carrier railroad were discovered to be a bit moldy. This isn’t an unusual discovery for records of former industrial enterprises, as documents were often stored in damp and dirty mining structures. Although the Michigan Tech Archives storage facilities have reasonable temperature and humidity control, there is always a danger of a mold outbreak.

Through a collaborative effort, some of the most valuable of these records were physically delivered to the Calumet facilities of Keweenaw National Historical Park for treatment. The materials were cycled through the Park’s Wei T’o freeze drying machine, a process that kills a variety of pests, including mold. Upon return to the Archives, additional work will be undertake to physically remove the dead mold spores from the material before they become a permanent part of our collections.

Many thanks to Brian Hoduski, Museum Curator and Chief of Museum and Archival Services Division, and Jeremiah Mason, Archivist, for their welcoming and professional assistance with this important preservation work.

Jeremiah Mason, archivist for Keweenaw National Historical Park, adjusts controls on the Park's Wei T'o freeze dry machine. The Park is assisting with mold decontamination on records from the Copper Range Company.

This preservation work is undertaken with the generous support of the National Park Service and its staff, equipment and facilities.  Processing of the Copper Range Company archival records is supported through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission


What are footprints doing on this Copper Range Company document?

A note from Florence E. Gregorich documents that certain records from the Copper Range Company’s old Boston headquarters were sent to Houghton for the use of Dr. J. Robert Van Pelt (former president of Michigan Tech and the library’s namesake) in writing a history of the Copper Range Company.

In September 1976, vandals broke into the warehouse and scattered many of the records.  Due to a lack of time and manpower, there was no attempt to reassemble the records before they were moved into storage at White Pine Mine, from where the material was later donated to the Michigan Tech Archives.

Most likely the vandals were frustrated to have gone to the trouble of breaking into a warehouse only to discover boxes of records, rather than electronics.  However, I like to think that they did this specifically to make trouble for future archivists.  I imagine them shouting “archive this!” as they fling the papers across the room.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.

Isle Royale & the Copper Country

As this year’s graduate summer intern at the Archives, I’ve come a long way this summer.  I mean this both in terms of distance (over 1500 miles from Austin, Texas!) and in my knowledge and appreciation of the Copper Country.  While working with the staff here and with the collections, I’ve learned much more about copper mining than I ever imagined I would ever want or need to know.  It is safe to say that I’ve grown fond of this area and its unique history.

My project this summer was to process the Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection.  The Isle Royale wolf-moose project has been ongoing for over 50 years now, studying the relationship between moose and wolf populations on the secluded island.

A sample of the forms of photographs in the Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection

While working with the collection, I was fascinated in how the research and record-keeping practices changed over the decades, both with changes in leadership and with changes in technology.  Early manuscripts in the collection were edited by physically cutting and taping type-written pages, while later manuscripts were edited in a word processor. Hand-drawn graphs similarly became computerized, and photographs changed to digital formats. Perhaps some things in field research will withstand technological changes–I simply can’t imagine an iPad taking the place of a field notebook.  Technology loses its charms when removed from other modern conveniences on a remote island wilderness.

Aside from its ties to Michigan Tech, the wolf-moose project may seem to be in a world all its own, far removed from the Copper Country.  But my experiences this summer have led me to believe that this is far from true.  Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula sit, like two peas in a pod, on each end of the Lake Superior basin.  They are each unique in their own right, through their history, geology and ecology.  And yet they share, at least in my mind, a pristine quality and sense of mystery.  Surely they have secrets yet to be uncovered.

Graduate intern, Megan Dirickson, in front of the Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection

The Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale Collection contains correspondence, administrative records, data collection files, manuscripts, reports, and publications.  The bulk of materials date from 1957-1999, covering Durward L. Allen’s and Rolf O. Peterson’s leads on the project. The collection is quite varied in format, including annual reports, photos, raw film footage, field guides, 169 field notebooks, newspaper and journal articles, and maps of Isle Royale.  Whether you are interested in ecological research, the history of this study, or the more personal side of the project, there is something for everyone in this collection.

A Unique Home Storage Solution

Harold Putnam Photograph Collection Slides
These Slides are Vitamin Fresh

Sometimes when processing manuscript collections we archivists come across unique home storage systems. These slides from the Harold Putnam Photograph Collection have been stored in a waxed paper box with the Harold Putnam’s original filing system.  Although FRESHrap may have kept the slides vitamin fresh for many years the slides will be moved to a less adorable, but more practical archival container.  In the archives we store our photographic material in  enclosures that have passed the photographic activity test (PAT.) The PAT basically uses accelerated aging to predict the interaction that will occur over time between the photograph and the enclosure. Photograph albums and scrapbooking supplies that have passed the PAT can even be found at retailers such as Target and Joanne’s Fabrics. Enclosures that have passed the PAT will always indicate as such on their packaging.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and  Records Commission.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission

A Copper Range Railroad Poet

As part of a grant-funded project to process manuscript collections, I have been working closely with the records of the Copper Range Company and its subsidiary holdings.

In 1913, the Copper Range Railroad Company (CRRR) constructed the Painesdale Cut Off, which altered the course of the main line built in 1899.  As in all of the CRRR’s construction projects, most of the work was done by contractors.  To keep track of labor costs, CRRR maintained force accounts, which documented the amount of hours worked by each pay grade of workers.

Although the title page doesn’t indicate it, there is something unusual about this particular force account.  Specifically, the second page:

You may boast about your railroad with its roadbed superfine;

With rolling stock, ect., [sic] hard to beat;

With a startling good record of its long trains ‘there’ On Time,

Or about its sumptuous meals you gladly eat;

Or the grandeur of the scenery that you see when on your way,

Or the stations and the comforts found therein;

Or the cars’ illumination that makes things bright as day;

Or the manners of the train crews that sure win,

If you’d always keep a talking you could not my ‘pinion change,

Or make me think in any different way!

For I’ll always ‘stick up’ proudly for the good old

Copper Range

“The Speedy, On Time, Copper Country Way.”

—Norman T. Bolles, August 1913

Admittedly, it isn’t Shakespeare (if still better than anything I could do).  The rest of the book contains the expected details of the construction.  The track and steam shovel gangs (later joined by a cable gang) worked Monday through Saturday, while a watchman was employed on Sundays.

So who was this poetic railroad man?  Unfortunately, the employee records processed to this point do not include him.  However, there was another Bolles working for the CRRR at the time.  Fred Robert Bolles, better known as F. R. Bolles, was promoted to General Manager in 1912; a position he held until 1920.

At this time it was quite common for whole families to work for a single company in various capacities.  Although the idea of F. R. Bolles hiring his close relatives would be considered nepotism today, it was a widely accepted practice at the time.  On the other hand, Norman Bolles may have already been an employee before F. R. was made general manager.

As the processing of the CRRR records continues, it may be possible to find out more about Norman T. Bolles.  Yet whoever he was, we can thank him for reminding us of the serendipity involved in archival research.

This project is supported with a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.

Archives’ Summer Intern Megan Dirickson

The Michigan Tech Archives is pleased to have the assistance of Megan Dirickson as a graduate student intern this summer. Megan is currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a master of science degree in information studies with a specialization in archives and preservation. During her archival coursework Megan also completed a practicum working with manuscript collections at the Texas State Archives. She is a board member of UT’s student chapter of the Society of American Archivists and has previously worked as a conservation technician with Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation and as a graduate intern with UT’s Blanton Museum of Art.

While in Houghton, Megan will be assisting with public service in the Michigan Tech Archives reading room, particularly during the busy summer genealogical research season. She is also working to arrange and describe a recent acquisition of research and administrative files from Michigan Tech faculty members Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich relating to their ongoing Isle Royale wolf-moose predator-prey study.

A native of Texas, Megan (and her husband, Will, and dog, Faolan) have been enjoying the scenery and milder weather of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

Grant Funds Two Archivists

Senior Project Archivist, Rachael Bussert
Processing Archivist, Daniel Michelson

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has begun a two-year project funded by a $168,000 grant from the “Detailed Processing Projects” program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The grant will be used to improve access to 92 historic collections documenting the history of the Michigan’s Copper Country. The grant supports two project archivists, Rachael Bussert, Senior Project Archivist, and Daniel Michelson, Processing Archivist, to arrange and describe 1,329 cubic feet of documents to the folder level following minimal processing standards.

The collections document a wide range of regional history, from copper mining, railroad, and maritime industries to records of local schools, churches, and social organizations. Among the collections to be processed are records of several Michigan copper mining companies, including a large collection from the Copper Range Company and records relating to the Victoria Mining Company and the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.  Researchers will also find valuable primary resources about businesses such as the Keweenaw Co-op and The Daily Mining Gazette, as well as social groups like the Miscowabik Club in Calumet and Fortnightly Club in Hancock.

The project will utilize the Archivists’ Toolkit to produce EAD finding aids that will be accessible through the Archives’ web page, the Michigan Technological University Library catalog, and OCLC ArchiveGrid. While the majority of the collections will be processed according to the Greene and Meissner’s “More Product, Less Process” minimal processing philosophy, some personal papers, local business, and non-profit records may require a more detailed approach. The project will maintain metrics on processing rates for different types of records.

Updates and interim reports posted to the Archives’ blog site will allow the public to follow the project’s progress and learn more about the methods used by the project archivists. Archives’ staff will also promote the project through presentations to local community organizations, professional groups, and schools. The project will help to better preserve the collections and greatly improve their discovery and use by researchers.

Funding for this project is provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the granting agency of the United States National Archives and Records Administration. The Michigan Tech Archives is a department of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library and is located in the library building in the heart of the Michigan Tech campus in Houghton, Michigan. For further information, contact the Archives at 906-487-2505 or at