Tag Archives: Copper Country

Ellen Carlson: Copper Country Woman

Ellen Carlson, undated
Ellen Carlson, undated

For many women, the early 20th century ushered in a new period of possibilities for life and work outside the home and changes to the traditional roles of wife and mother. While employment opportunities were still limited to a few fields such as school teacher, secretary, and nurse, many women fought to make their lives outside domestic life rich and fulfilling. Archival collections are full of stories of such women and the Copper Country is no different. To honor the many unique and fascinating women of the Copper Country during Women’s History Month, our blog post today highlights one amazing woman from Rockland, Michigan: Ellen Carlson.

Ellen Carlson with cat, undated.
Ellen Carlson with cat, undated.

Ellen Carlson was born in Rockland, Michigan around 1901 to Swedish parents, Gustave and Anna, who immigrated to the Upper Peninsula in 1899. Her father worked for the copper mine in Rockland until his death in 1915 following a mining accident. Ellen’s mother, Anna, was left to raise her daughter and son, Hugo, by herself. She ensured that her children received a good education and the children attended school in Rockland, with Ellen graduating in 1918. However, Ellen’s early aspirations for higher learning at the Marquette Normal School were cut short due to the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza. Though she never received a formal degree, Carlson attended classes at Wayne State, University of Michigan’s Rackham School, and the Milwaukee State Teachers College and became a school teacher, initially teaching in a four-room school in Victoria. She moved back to Rockland for a period of time before moving to Marquette in 1922 to finish her teaching studies, but continued to move back and forth between the U.P. and downstate, teaching again in Rockland, Montrose, Flint, Ferndale and Taylor. In 1965, after 46 years of teaching, Carlson retired and returned to her family’s home in Rockland where she lived until her passing in 1988.

Love letters from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.
Love letters from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.

For many, there is a certain stereotype associated with the concept of an unmarried, rural school teacher in the early 20th century. However, a glimpse into the the personal correspondence of a woman like Ellen reveals a vibrant personal and social life, as well as a woman who was undeterred in her quest in fulfilling her lifelong aspirations. The Ellen Carlson Correspondence (MS-416) collection held at the Michigan Tech Archives is a rich resource for anyone interested in the personal lives of women in the Copper Country. The collection primarily contains correspondence Carlson kept with friends, students, and family members throughout her life and provides a unique perspective on the life of women in the Copper Country.

Some of the earliest correspondence in the collection dates from around 1918 when Ellen was just a young woman starting her teaching education. Nearly a decade worth of letters from a likely high school beau then living in Chicago shows a young woman in love, but one torn between that love and a dedication to her studies. Sadly, the romance fizzled out during May and June of 1926 based on the letters from Chicago. We can only speculate that the relationship had a deep impact on her as she never did marry.

From the correspondence you get a sense of the importance family and social ties had to Ellen. She maintained lengthy correspondence with close friends throughout her life, in some cases receiving multiple letters per week, which implies the amount of outgoing correspondence and connections she must have maintained were extensive. Though the collection only contains correspondence she received, a researcher gets an impression of the topics that were important to women during this time period, notably between women as she maintained correspondence with several other women from her Rockland community and elsewhere throughout her life. It’s also clear that Ellen maintained a strong relationship with her mother, Anna, particularly during the latter half of her mother’s life up until her unexpected death in 1954. This section of correspondence is a fascinating view of mother-daughter relationships and a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.
Ellen Carlson with friends, undated.
Ellen Carlson with friends, undated.

Ellen clearly maintained a wide social circle of friends, especially with those within the Rockland area. An article printed in the local paper sometime between 1976 and her passing in Rockland in 1988 attests to her vibrant social life and the importance that women played within the community. Noted within the article, fellow community members described her as having “a host of friends, young and old” and that she was “very sociable — has a houseful of company all summer long.” One comment from a friend regarding the amount of birthday cards she routinely received is apparent in her correspondence collection. Among the regular correspondence and photographs, Ellen maintained several scrapbooks worth of birthday and holiday cards that she received or collected overtime, presenting a very interesting and delightful resource for people interested in period greeting cards.

Sample of greeting cards from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.
Sample of greeting cards from the Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection.

According to the article, Ellen was a lifelong and active member of the Methodist church and an accomplished pianist, serving as the district organist for the Order of the Eastern Star since 1920, which is evident from the correspondence and ephemera tucked into her collection.  Among her other passions was regional history. She and fellow local, Mary Jeffs Regan, co-founded the Rockland Museum and donated material to the collection over the years. Ellen, according to the article printed later in her life, was also a reader, crossword puzzle enthusiast, and enjoyed playing cards.

While the collection is primarily composed of correspondence, Ellen maintained journals, especially later in life, which can be found in the collection. Also included are scrapbooks, postcard albums, and photographs, many of them documenting the lives of her friends and family members that were dear to her.

The Ellen Carlson Correspondence collection reveals a woman many can relate to; one driven to follow their passions and affinity for one’s roots. It provides a glimpse into the impact a singular person can have within a community and a rich resource for those looking into the lives of everyday women in the Copper Country. This extensive collection is just waiting for further exploration and insight from researchers. If you are interested in viewing this collection, visit the Michigan Tech Archives! The department is open for regular research hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, no appointment necessary. You may also contact us directly at (906) 487-2505 or by email at copper@mtu.edu.


Behind the Scenes: Windows to History

Class of 1940 Window.
Class of 1940 Window.

If you have ever visited the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, you might know that the staff are eager to welcome members of the campus and Copper Country community to the reading room. What you might not know, is that we’re equally excited to share information about the reading room itself and the objects that are visible to patrons every day. One of the most beloved aspects of our reading room are the three stained glass windows that adorn the south wall of the space. Each year we field a variety of questions regarding the windows, but today we’re going to reveal many of those secrets, as well as some that have recently come to light for our staff.

The first stained glass window ever installed in the archives’ reading room was the center window celebrating the class of 1940. The window was a created in tandem with the opening of an expanded facility for the University Archives in the Library in 1982, made possible through donations by the Michigan Tech Class of 1940. The window itself was designed by Walter Boylan-Pett of Mohawk. The new facility was celebrated with an open house to the public on August 6, 1982, debuting the window featuring the Michigan College of Mining and Technology school seal. Its original installation on the third floor of the library allowed for natural illumination by ambient light from the exterior of the building. Today, each window on the garden level is backlit by fluorescent lighting to give the illusion of natural lighting, which has the added benefit of making the reading room appear cheerful and sunny.

Michigan Technological University Centennial Window.
Michigan Technological University Centennial Window.

To the right of the Class of 1940 window is our stained glass window celebrating the University’s centennial. Dedicated in 1985 to celebrate the school’s 100th birthday since its founding in 1885, the window features a vibrant green, yellow, and orange pallet.

At the far left of the reading room is the “Window to the Copper Country” stained glass window. Designed by Peg McNinch by commission for the Michigan Tech Archives in the summer of 1988, the window was made “to honor the depth of local historical and natural resources materials” and has, by far, the mosting interesting story to tell of the three windows. The unveiling of the window in 1988 included a dedication by State Director of the Bureau of History, Martha M. Bigelow. The window, which stands at 6.5 x 5.5 feet, features a map of the region as its central focal point while border panels depict the local historical and natural resources for the which the window was designed.

The history of the Copper Country is indebted to the native peoples who occupied and made this area their home long before the establishment of modern mining operations. The Chippewa, Ojibway and Ottawa bands have resided in the Upper Peninsula for nearly 4,000 years, leaving a lasting legacy. The Thunderbird, which occupies a place of prominence at the top of the window is meant to represent a mythical bird believed to cause lightning and thunder while honoring the native peoples of the Upper Peninsula.

Several panels depict the natural resources of the Copper Country and incorporate local materials into the artwork. One panel on the middle-left of the window shows a waterfall representing the many natural waterfalls in the area such, as Douglass Houghton Falls, Hungarian Falls and Jacobs Falls. Local specimens of datolite are embedded into this panel. Another panel at the lower left shows the trillium and thimbleberry, well-known natural plants in the area. The thimbleberry in particular is a favorite of locals and makes excellent jam, which can be found throughout the Copper Country. A third panel on the middle-right depicts Estivant Pines, representing the last stand of virgin white pine in Michigan. Named after Edward A. J. Estivant, a pioneer who purchased the site in the 1870’s, this natural wonder is an amazing site that can be visited just south of Copper Harbor.

Window to the Copper Country.
Window to the Copper Country.

While the majority of the panels depict the aboveground history of the region, the bottom right panel containing a miner’s candle, hat and pick, is meant to commemorate the vast resources underground and the lasting legacy of the mining heritage of the Copper Country.  A quartz crystal, donated by the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, is inlaid on the miner’s candle, which represents the earliest form of illumination used by miners while working in the underground mines.

Prominent buildings are represented among the panels to showcase different aspects of the commercial, entertainment, and recreational history of the area. The top left panel depicts the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. A fixture within the Copper Country, the Mountain Lodge is one of the major resorts in the area. Built in the 1930s under the Civil Works Administration, the resort is located off of U.S. 41 just outside of Copper Harbor and includes a 9-hole golf course.

Like the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, the Copper Harbor Lighthouse has long been an important building and site in the Upper Peninsula. Built in 1866, the lighthouse marked an important port of shipping on Lake Superior since water transportation was the sole means of accessing the area and moving people, supplies, and equipment until the age of rail transportation. The top right panel depicts the Copper Harbor Lighthouse and this important era in the history of the Copper Country.

Peg McNinch working on the Window to the Copper Country, circa 1988.
Peg McNinch working on the Window to the Copper Country, circa 1988.

During our research into the Window to the Copper Country, we made a very surprising discovery that we’re excited to share with you today. On the bottom center of the window is a panel depicting the Calumet Theater. Meant to symbolize the important role the theater has played since its opening in 1900 as a place of entertainment and social gatherings into today, the panel plays a subtle, yet significant, dual role of commemoration. In December 1913, following the tragic events of the Italian Hall disaster, which left 73 people dead, including 60 children, the dead were brought to the Calumet Theater, which functioned as a temporary morgue. This relationship between the Italian Hall and the Calumet Theater is solidified in the window, which includes a slice of brick imbedded in the panel from Italian Hall. While likely known by departmental staff at the time, this interesting aspect of the window was rediscovered during our research into the windows.

We hope that you enjoyed this one of a kind behind the scenes view of the Archives’ reading room. If you would like to view the windows in person, please visit us anytime during our regular operating hours, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.!


Happy (Vintage) Easter!

Swapping winter wools for light spring cloths, tasty ham, rabbits and candy are just a few of our favorite Easter traditions. Scroll through some 20th century print advertisements our staff has found in a couple of our local historic newspapers.

 

Printed in the Calumet News on April 10,1925 on page 10
Printed in the Calumet News, April 10,1925 on page 10

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette on April 7, 1944 on page 8
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, April 7, 1944 on page 8

 

Printed in the Calumet News on March 30, 1925 on page 5
Printed in the Calumet News, March 30, 1925 on page 5

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette on March 16, 1951 on page 2
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, March 16, 1951 on page 2

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette on March 15, 1951 on page 6
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, March 15, 1951 on page 6

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette March 16, 1915 on page 2
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, March 16, 1915 on page 2

 

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

 


Vintage Copper Country Christmas Advertisements

Have a look at these jolly Christmas advertisements for some last minute gift-giving inspiration. Below, we have provided a small curated sample of print advertising from the Daily Mining Gazette ranging from 1903 to 1953. (Clicking directly on any advertisement will make it larger for readability.)

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1919, page 7
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1919, page 7

 

A little extra heat is always appreciated in the winter, so why not gift an electric heater this year? The Houghton County Electric Light Company certainly hopes you do.

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 20, 1929, page 9
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 20, 1929, page 9

 

Part stationary furniture, part musical instrument – these wooden radios sold at Klingkammer’s Music Store in Houghton looked great and sounded even better. With light coming from the fireplace and Christmas tree, warmth from blankets on the couch and with Christmas specials quietly playing over your brand new radio, hardly a more cozy scene could be imagined.

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 22, 1953, page 15
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 22, 1953, page 15

 

“Second only to good food, no treat you can serve will add to the day’s pleasures like smooth, mellow, golden Bosch.” Brewed in the sportsman’s paradise, a case of Bosch would have made a great host or hostess’ gift.

 

DMG 12-22-1929 Pg 2
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 22, 1929, page 2

 

If you are lucky enough to be hosting your own holiday dinner this year, do not forget to take advantage of seasonal specials when grocery shopping. You may even be lucky enough to see Santa Claus, as shoppers of Riteway did in 1929.

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1903, page 10
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1903, page 10

 

In 1903, Santa visited the E. F. Sutton Company to meet with children, pass out candy and to see how his toys were selling at the store. During the two weeks preceding Christmas, the E. F. Sutton Company used the Daily Mining Gazette columns to call attention to their huge stock of holiday wares. Because of these ads, the store had huge sales in 1903 compared to previous years.

Prompted by the previous advertisement and Santa’s appearance at the E. F. Sutton Company, two young boys co-wrote and mailed a letter to Santa Claus at Santa Clausland, Lake Linden, Michigan, in care of the E. F. Sutton Company. This letter was printed in the Daily Mining Gazette on December 22, 1903, two days after Santa made his appearance at the E F. Sutton Company. It has been transcribed below.

 

Dear Santa Claus:

I now take the time to write you a few lines and hope I will see you tomorrow. Well, Santa Claus, I suppose I may give my order. I no you won’t forget us for you always come to see us no matter how far we were. Santa Claus,  I won’t ask for too much for I know that there is lots of poor people that I would like to see them have something too. Please may I have these things following: A game of lottos; a game of flinch; a  game of trip to New York; cherket board; the coon’s hunt; a glove box; a handkerchief box; a pare of leggons for boys; a merry go round; a child’s cornet; an airship; three funny books.

I don’t want no doll this year, but I like to have a doll’s head. The rest we will leave to you. Santa Claus, when you see papa’s stockings don’t laugh, but please fill them. Well, I must close, goodby.

P.S. – This is from Albert and I.

 

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

 


Female Spaces, Working Class Communities, and the Labor Movement

Please join us for visiting scholar Shannon Kirkwood at 4:00 pm on Thursday July 17 in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library on the Michigan Technological University campus. This event is free of charge and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

In this presentation, Kirkwood will address the politics of female space in a male-dominated labor movement, as well as class consciousness based home, kin and neighborhood networks. These themes will be discussed in the contexts of the Copper Country, Seattle and Glasgow.

Kirkwood is a doctoral student at Central Michigan University and a recent presenter at “Retrospection and Respect: the 1913-1914 Mining/Labor Strike Symposium of 2014”. Her research has focused on the participation of miners’ wives in the 1913-14 Copper Strike and the indirect relationship these women had with the mining companies, their relationships with their men, and their relationships with each other.

Kirkwood’s research visit and presentation are supported by a travel grant from the Friends of the Van Pelt and Opie Library. Since 1988, the Michigan Tech Archives Travel Grant program has helped scholars advance their research by supporting travel to the manuscript collections at the Archives.

For more information, feel free to call the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505, email at copper@mtu.edu, or visit them on the web at http://www.lib.mtu.edu/mtuarchives/.