Category Archives: Staff picks

Christmas on Isle Royale, Diary entries of a frontier woman

The ever-white winters of the Keweenaw are beautiful, but the intense snowfall can also leave residents feeling isolated. Both of these sentiments become even more true on Isle Royale.

The following set of diary entries were written by Lydia Smith Douglass in 1848 during the first year of her marriage to Columbus C. Douglass. During the winter of this year, the couple lived on Isle Royale while Columbus worked for the Ohio and Isle Royale Mining Company.

These entries were written around the time of Christmas.


Isle Royale in Winter. (Photo courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives.)
Isle Royale in Winter. (Photo courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archives).



December 23, 1848

It was eleven o’clock before I retired last night. I said some time before night that I would finish the piece of work I was engaged with before I slept. Consequently, I had to sit up later than usual. Mr. Douglass returned home a little after six this evening, having walked from Epidote to Datholite and from thence home today on snow shoes. He was so fatigued as to be hardly able to stand up, when he came in, and so completely drenched with perspirations, one might have thought he had been in the water. Such overexertion must certainly be very injurious to one’s health.

December 25, 1848

Christmas has come with pleasant weather, and snow sufficient for good sleighing, but unfortunately for us we have neither roads nor teams. The contrast in the manner of our spending the day is quite different from last Christmas Day, then among our friends at Ann Arbor. Now, on a remote and lonely island, but I forbear to repine. We are happy here, even in this solitude, but would still be happier if we could communicate with our friends. We have as many of comforts of life here, as we should enjoy in almost any place. Many more than one would suppose that had no experience in this new country. We have as yet a plenty of fresh meats such as, beef, fish, fowls, rabbits, etc. etc., together with as good vegetables as one would wish to find in any place, also a sufficiency of nick-nacks. In short, everything for our health and comfort.

December 26, 1848

The morning was rather snowy, but cleared away about noon and remained pleasant during the rest of the day. The day passed off in the usual routine of sewing, reading, writing, eating, etc., etc., etc. We brought with us a choice library, with which to employ our leisure moments, and it is a source of amusement and profit to us. We are now reading the Life and Voyages of Columbus, written by Washington Irving, which is very interesting. It seems strange to us of the present day that a civilized people should have thrown so many obstacles in the way of this great discoverer.


These diary entries are held by the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections as a part of the Lydia Smith Douglass Diary Collection.

Thanksgiving in the Copper Country, as seen through past advertising

The Michigan Tech Archives will be closed Thursday, November 27 and Friday November 28 for the holiday. Standard operating hours will resume the week of December 1.

Every year we are met with advertisements for upcoming holidays, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Below, we have a small selection of Thanksgiving advertisements dating from the early to mid 1950s originally published in the Daily Mining Gazette. Only some of the businesses that took out space for these ads are still operating in the Copper Country today, but the traditions and scenes depicted in all of the ads remain familiar.


Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 12, 1953, page 10
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 12, 1953, page 10


Upper Peninsula Power Company’s mascot, Reddy Kilowatt, cooks Thanksgiving dinner for a family in the Upper Peninsula. All mother needs to do is set the control and snap the switch of her big electric oven and her work is done, Reddy Kilowatt takes care off the actual cooking – and for only a few pennies!


Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 21, 1951, page 4
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 21, 1951, page 4


If you would like to completely remove the hassle of cooking a family meal, the Douglass House offered blue point oysters on the half shell or oyster stew for $0.65 and a table d’hote dinner for $2.00.


Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 6, 1950, page 10
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 6, 1950, page 10


In the autumn months of 1950, Pearce’s advertisement  for Maytag gas ranges boasts 1949 prices and even offers a free twenty pound turkey with purchase. Who says we can’t have it all?


Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 2, 1950, page 9
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 2, 1950, page 9


What says Thanksgiving like Spam and cranberries? In 1950, Eatmor Cranberries published this hot dish recipe for readers so they might have something new to serve at Thanksgiving – and to boost the season’s cranberry sales.


Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 14, 1950, page 11
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 14, 1950, page 11


Haas Brewing Company of Houghton keeps their ad simple with this contented turkey cartoon and straightforward message.


Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 1, 1950, page 2
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, November 1, 1950, page 2


Swift’s Hardware of downtown Houghton advertises their kitchen wares. Stocking everything from pressure saucepans and double boilers, to tableware and cake covers, they sell nearly everything needed for a great Thanksgiving dinner – minus the turkey.

These newspapers, along with around 70 other local historic newspapers are available for viewing on microfilm at the Michigan Tech and Copper Country Archives. Feel free to call us at (906) 487-2505 or email us at to learn more.

Symposium Speakers Announced

The  speakers for Retrospection & Respect: The 1913-1914 Mining/Labor Strike Symposium of 2014” have been announced!  FinnForum X speakers will be added soon.

Full conference registration is $30.00 and includes Friday reception and Saturday sessions for both the 1913-1914 Mining/ Labor Strike and FinnForum X concurrent sessions, and includes breakfast and lunch. Keynote dinner reservations must be made separately.

Registration opens February 15, 2014 at Registration, 906-487-2505, or The full conference registration deadline is April 9, 2014. Walk-in registrations are welcome, but meals tickets will not be available.

the 1913-1914 Mining/Labor Strike Symposium of 2014
Join us April 11-12, 2014, running concurrently with FinnForum X.

The following topics will be covered:

John Beck Co-director, Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, Associate Professor, Labor Education Program, School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI :

“Father Dietz, the Catholic Church and the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike”

Roger Burt, Professor Emeritus, History Department, College of Humanities, University of Exeter, Devon, UK :

“The role of fraternal organisation in migration and informal Labour organisations in mining communities: Cornwall, the Keweenaw and California Compared”

Peter Kratz, Professor, History Department, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada :

Mainari, Farmari, Lumperjäkki, Piika : “Ethnic Identity” and Earning a Living in the Keweenaw and Nickel Belts to 1930″

Paul Lubotina, Assistant Professor, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN :

“Teofilo Petriella: Marxist Revolutionary”

Thomas Mackaman, Assistant Professor of History, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA :

“Our lives, our thoughts and our allegiance : New immigrants and American industry in 1914″

Alice Margerum, Houghton, MI :

“Beneath the Starry Flag: the Flags and Songs of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike as Image-making in the American Labor Movement”

Erik Nordberg, Executive Director, Michigan Humanities Council, Lansing, MI :

“Company Houses along the Picket Line”

Brendan Pelto, Student, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI :

“The 1968-1969 Copper Strike”

Patrick Allan Pospisek, Department of History, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI :

“Federal Authority and the Development of Corporate Mining, 1807-1847”

Ryan Tate, PhD student, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ :

“Flash in the Pan: Cross-Class Cooperation in 1916 Iron Range Strike”

Joanne Thomas, Allouez, MI :

“100 Years to Red Jacket – and Annie : An Extraordinary Mass”

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?