October is American Archives Month

Since 2006, American Archives Month has given the profession an opportunity to share and remind people about the importance of archives and the items that are being preserved, cataloged, cared for, and made accessible by archivists and other cultural heritage colleagues. Be sure to follow us on social media all month long for collection spotlights, news about programs and events, and all things archives!

Our first event is coming up on October 3, when archivists around the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Staff of the Michigan Tech Archives encourage everyone to take this opportunity to engage with us via Twitter (or our other social media) to ask questions about the archival profession, collections at Michigan Tech and local history generally. Questions will vary widely, from the silly (What is the strangest thing in your collection?) to the practical (How can I preserve my family photographs?)

Adding to the fun this year, Blizzard will be stopping by the Archives from 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm to take part in this great event. Please tweet us @mtuarchives and be sure to use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. We hope you will join the conversation and help us celebrate American Archives Month!

AskAnArchivistDay

 

 


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!


Keweenaw Day (K-Day): A Fine Tradition

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While the start of fall semester at Michigan Tech heralds the beginning of a new adventure for new and returning students, it also brings back many fond memories for our alumni. For some, it’s memories of moving into the dorms or buying textbooks; for others, it’s their first class on campus and meeting their advisers for the first time. However, most would agree that it was the student activities outside the classroom that they remember the most. Whether it was their first Tech football game or homecoming activities, if you’ve been a student at Tech since the early 1950s, you remember the fun and excitement of K-Day.

K-Day, short for Keweenaw Day, has been a favorite annual tradition of Michigan Tech students since 1951. The first Keweenaw Day was established as a way to bring the campus community together. In response to a growing student body at the then Michigan College of Mining and Technology (MCMT), faculty member, Dr. Charles San Clemente, suggested to the Faculty Association in the spring of 1951 that the college consider a campus community-wide picnic to bring students, faculty, and staff together before the rush of mid semester.

A couple enjoy Keweenaw Day on Brockway Mountain Drive, 1970.
A couple enjoy Keweenaw Day on Brockway Mountain Drive, 1970.

The November 1951 edition of the MCMT Alumni News reported on the success of the first Keweenaw Day celebration held on October 9 held at the picturesque Fort Wilkins State Park. Over 1,000 members of the campus community and their guests attended the event, marking “the beginning of a fine tradition.” The sounding of the campus siren (sometimes referred to as the Engineer’s Whistle) at 11 a.m. marked the end of classes for the day and the beginning of Keweenaw Day festivities. Buses and vans shuttled people up the coast to take in the scenic vistas of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Upon arriving at Fort Wilkins, K-Day-goers were treated to a picnic lunch and a variety of activities, including games, sightseeing trips to the lake shore and up Brockway Mountain, small game hunting, and fishing. A highlight of the day was the faculty-student baseball game, pictured here. While the game was all in fun, there are rumors that the students won. After the games and tours were ending, K-day culminated in a sing-along around the campfire.

In its 67 years a Tech tradition, K-Day has seen some changes, but at its core, the main themes of festivities, food, and friendship have remained the same. The event was moved to McLain’s State Park in 1976 to shorten the driving time from campus and reduce the road congestion that plagued the event in its early years. Picnicking and fun activities have always been central to K-Day, but additions over the years has kept K-Day a favorite among students. Inflatable games, live music, contests and informational booths; as well as demonstrations featuring medieval fighting, Bonzai bikes, and exploding gummy bears. The student organization fair has also been a great way for new students to learn about campus activities and organizations.

Local band performing at K-Day, 1997.
Local band performing at K-Day, 1997.

Generous financial and moral support from the College administration and the Student Organization helped to support the event in the early years before the Memorial Union Board took over responsibility in 1967 and Inter-Fraternity Council in 1976. Today, K-Day is sponsored by Fraternity & Sorority Life and Student Activities and still a much-beloved campus event.

As Michigan Tech welcomes a new class of Huskies to campus and another day of K-Day, take a trip down memory lane and share your own K-Day stories!


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.


Flashback Friday: Move-In Weekend

Three students relax in a dorm room, 1983.
Three students relax in a dorm room, 1983.

It is hard to believe, but Michigan Tech’s Move-in Weekend is upon us! Move-in weekend is a big part of the new academic year as the university prepares to welcome a new group of Huskies to the Copper Country.

The majority of newcomers plan to arrive sometime between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday to get settled into their dorms, meet new friends, and start the year off right. Housing staff and dormitory resident assistants will be on campus this weekend to welcome new students and their families as well as to help students get acclimated to dorm life.

Our Flashback Friday pays tribute to all the great things about dorm life, looking back to three friends relaxing in a dorm room in 1983. The loft, a classic part of the experience, is prominently featured. For more information about Move-in weekend, see a detailed write-up on the Keweenaw Report website.


Turning the Page to the Next Chapter

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It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and even harder to believe that my time here is up. These past seven weeks as the Michigan Tech Archives intern were full of amazing (and challenging) opportunities. I had the chance to experience many different aspects of the archival profession, gain new archival skills and continue to develop others.

The most valuable and memorable experience from this internship is working with patrons on their reference requests. Providing access to archival materials is one of the most important aspects of an archivist’s job and assisting patrons find the materials they need can be challenging. Each patron and their research is unique and thus requires good communication skills that I developed over the course of this internship.IMG_0051

Property assessments and tax rolls became a surprising favorite research request of mine. Although they can be difficult to understand at first, the documents provide really interesting information about the property owners and the region in general. It is fascinating to see the changing ownership of historic homes and buildings, as well as land.

Overall, I am very blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to intern at Michigan Tech University and to spend my summer in the Copper Country. This internship gave me the skills and knowledge needed to flourish as a new archivist and has prepared me for my future in this profession. I want to again thank the University Archivist and the rest of the Archive’s team for welcoming me into their archives and guiding me along this internship.


Flashback Friday: Something About a Pasty

Woman preparing pasties

Preparing a batch of mouth-watering pasties. Undated photograph from the Harold Putnam Collection (MS-050).

A good old Cornish song proclaims, “There’s something about a pasty that is fine, fine, fine!” We Yoopers and friends know the truth of those words. The delicious dish nourishes the body and warms the spirit with its blend of meat, potatoes, and rutabaga, all nestled inside a flaky crust.

How did a meal synonymous with Cornwall become a staple of the Upper Peninsula? Cornwall’s long history of copper and tin mining led the rest of Great Britain to remark wryly, “Wherever you find a hole in the ground, you’ll find a Cornishman at the bottom of it.” Life in the mines of England often meant low wages and back-breaking labor, but it also cultivated a skill and knowledge of the work that made the Cornish miners a gold standard. As Michigan’s copper mines were first being opened for industry, their founders looked to Cornwall for able laborers, and the people of Cornwall, whose mines were tapering off, looked to Michigan for a new hope. Twenty Cornishmen, according to one scholarly history of the pasty, were already at work in the Copper Country by 1844. With them came their favorite workday meal, which was subsequently adopted en masse by colleagues of all backgrounds.

Text of pasty recipe

One of many variations on the pasty recipe held at the Michigan Tech Archives. This one was provided by the ladies of the Calumet United Methodist Church.

We don’t know for certain who invented this tasty pocket of joy, which has seen considerable changes over the years, but we do understand why it was so appealing to the men who worked in the mines and the women who prepared their dinners each day. The pasty’s hearty fillings can be prepared in a large batch and energize a person for a day of hard work; the meal can be held in the hand and eaten without utensils; and it’s easy, relatively speaking, for a miner to reheat a pasty over his candle far underground. Nowadays, you’ll see pasties around the Copper Country lunch table, sold at community fundraisers, at picnics by the shores of Lake Superior, or on parade at Calumet’s Pasty Fest, held this Saturday, August 18.

While we can all agree that pasties are scrumptious, debate rages about other aspects of pasty culture. Do carrots belong in a pasty? Should the potatoes be cubed or sliced? Can a pasty mascot appropriately be named Toivo? Most importantly, how can a person justify gravy when everyone knows that real pasties are eaten with ketchup?

Family joyfully eating pasties

Alfred Nicholls and his family show the joy of pasties at the Central Mine Reunion, undated.