Happy Flashback Friday, Copper Country. This week we’re paying tribute to that age-old rite of spring when U.P. anglers switch from ice fishing to open water fishing.
For this week’s Flashback Friday we’re remembering how quickly change can happen overnight, sometimes when you least expect it.
On this date (March 15) in 1923 fire blazed through the metallurgy building at the Michigan College of Mines. According to a report in The Michigan College of Mines Alumnus from that year, students who arrived first on scene were credited with saving much of the valuable equipment inside the building. First responders reported that the fire appeared to be contained on the second floor of the building, but “minutes later the fire broke out over the whole building.” The Houghton and Hancock fire departments arrived on scene, but by then the fire had spread “into the walls and ventilation ways.”
However, by September 1923, the Alumnus reported that plans for rebuilding the metallurgy building were underway and by January 1925 the publication was asking alumni to weigh in on a name for the new structure. The new metallurgy building opened for students, faculty, and staff later that year and christened McNair Hall, the college’s former president who died tragically in an accident in 1924. While this building bears the same name as a current resident hall at Michigan Tech, these were two distinct buildings.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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 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!
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.
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
1944-46 Asst. Secretary
Copper Range Railroad
White Pine Copper Co.
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 email@example.com.
The following post was researched and authored by Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist.
For most Americans of today, the word “tuberculosis” carries little weight. It might mean a needle prick to the forearm before being approved for a hospital volunteer position or a warning offered to vacationers bound for China, Brazil, or Kenya, three of the countries where the disease maintains a foothold. Those living in the United States now might forget a time in this country when tuberculosis (TB) was a dreaded scourge called the “white death.”
In those days, the Copper Country was at the epicenter of Michigan’s tuberculosis problem. By 1930, the death rate among those suffering from the disease was higher in Houghton and Keweenaw counties than anywhere else in the state and nearly double the statewide average: 117 deaths per 100,000 people in these two counties, according to data collected by contemporary public health officials, compared to 60 deaths per 100,000 statewide. Dr. James Acocks, a physician who spent most of his career treating TB patients in the Upper Peninsula, recalled that public health officials advanced many potential explanations for the apparent epidemic in mining country but never definitively determined its cause.
Even if the origin of the plague remained a mystery, the need for tuberculosis care in the Keweenaw was plainly apparent. In 1910, Houghton County voters approved a bond measure to construct a sanatorium on a plot of civic land near Houghton Canal Road, not far from the county’s residential facility for the indigent. In keeping with the prevailing treatment philosophies of the time, which called for ample fresh air and natural light, the wood-frame building of the Houghton County Sanatorium featured a large screen porch to which patients were escorted on days when the weather was nice. The sanatorium was intended to house just twelve people at first, but the large local TB population quickly overwhelmed this small capacity, even with assistance from outpatient clinics. In 1915, the sanatorium was enlarged to house thirty-six patients; a second expansion two decades later added another twenty-nine beds–removing the much-heralded screen porch–and a 1940 WPA grant allowed for various other upgrades to the facility, now called the Copper Country Sanatorium. Just a few years after the WPA improvements, however, a state inspection found the tuberculosis hospital to be “an obvious fire trap” and unfit for continued use. Construction began soon after on a modern brick building in Hancock, not far from what was then St. Joseph’s Hospital; the new facility would open in 1950.
These twilight years of tuberculosis treatment at the Houghton Canal Road building, however, yielded a truly rare gem, one recently donated to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. In 1950–the last year the original sanatorium operated–a resident patient apparently smuggled a camera into the hospital and captured snapshots of experiences there. Thirty-three of those photographs are now part of MS-963: Brenda Papke Photograph Collection, a newly-processed collection just made available for research. The images are a look behind the scenes, so to speak: a unique and sometimes furtive glimpse into the lives of people whose fight against a devastating, deadly illness had taken them away from home and family.
Although no information about the individual who took the sanatorium pictures has come down to us, it seems likely that the photographer was a woman. Many of the images depict women lounging in what appears to be a female ward of the sanatorium. Seemingly relaxed and content, for one photograph the ladies propped their legs on the bedside tables, rolled up their pajamas or bathrobes, and flashed views of their ankles and thighs that vaguely remind the viewer of 1940s pinups. For another picture, two women hopped into bed beside an open window and threw their arms around each other, beaming out at the camera in a manner that seems almost carefree. One of the women had decorated the area above her bed with a calendar, an image of a puppy and a kitten, an advertisement with a child’s picture, and two wishbones–presumably for good luck in the face of tuberculosis. In several other images, a large contingent of female patients assembled for a group shot, all dressed in their best bathrobes or house dresses and with hair neatly curled. Tall women, short women, women whose wrinkled faces testified to many years already lived, women whose youthful appearance bespoke a hope that their whole lives still lay ahead of them–vastly different women all, part of a sisterhood forged by the scourge of tuberculosis.
While many of the pictures show female camaraderie in the sanatorium wards, other images show the mingling and mixing that took place across the hospital. The photographer captured two men hard at work at some sort of machine, perhaps a kitchen tool or a shop instrument. Another young man was apparently a favorite model, repeatedly striking dramatic poses inside and outside the building while wearing his monogrammed pajamas. The women who had been pictured relaxing in bed crowded onto a bench with their male counterparts, squinting against the light of the sun as the photographer captured a group shot. In other cases, sanatorium staff got in on the action: the collection includes two pictures of nurses, both candid and posed. Then there were moments of pure absurdity, with one individual donning an outrageous mask and pushing a bookshelf in a wheelchair through the hallway. Despite the serious threat of tuberculosis hanging over their heads, fellowship and fun obviously persisted among the sanatorium’s residents.
The Brenda Papke Photograph Collection is a trove of visual treasures, of which the photographs presented in this piece are only a part. The thirty-three sanatorium pictures truly take the researcher into the heart of the hospital, helping one to glimpse what life was like for those who found themselves on the front lines of the fight against tuberculosis. Interested in investigating the collection for yourself or finding out more about the treatment of TB in the Copper Country? Feel free to stop by the Michigan Tech Archives during our normal business hours, give us a call at (906) 487-2505, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s photo of the day comes from the 1924 Keweenawan yearbook, showing the new equipment at the Michigan College of Mines Radio Broadcasting Station WWAO. The photograph shows a man sitting in the operating room on the 3rd floor of Hubbell Hall.