In the Constitution of 1835 Michigan voters approved forming a state government and becoming the 26th to enter the Union but it was not until the boundary dispute between Michigan and Ohio was settle did it get any Congressional acknowledgement. The “Toledo War” was resolved when Michigan got the Upper Peninsula and Ohio got to keep the contested “Toledo Strip”. Michigan joined the Union on January 26th, 1837.
The Erie Canal provided New England families a way to the “promised land” of Michigan. It was completed in 1825 and was the second longest canal in the world. It cut across 363 miles the land connecting the Atlantic Ocean water traffic thru the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. The ease of moving trade goods and passengers boosted the economy of New York, New York City, and the United States. By 1837 the Erie Canal provided affordable transportation that, “it seemed as if all New England were coming” according to one earlier pioneer.
In 1829 the city of “Jacksonburgh” was founded as “Jackson” named after Andrew Jackson the president soon-to-have his portrait on the new $20 bill. It was the Birthplace of the Republican Party and a strong-hold of supporters of the Union leading up to the Civil War. Two years after joining the Union in 1893 and just after the end Civil War Jackson was the site for the first state prison.
Native Americans started mining copper in Michigan thousands of years ago. Some artifacts made of copper found in the Mediterranean can be traced back to Michigan resources. During the early 1840s these ancient mines were rediscovered in the Keweenaw Peninsula by settlers along Lake Superior who found copper tools and mining pits. Experienced Cornish miners supervised the mining operations and soon Michigan became the leading U.S. supplier of copper and iron ore. The demand for these natural resources encouraged the building of the Soo Locks that were completed in 1855.
Michigan’s rich New England Yankee heritage made the state unique among frontier states in the Antebellum period (the period after the War of 1812 and the beginning of the Civil War). Michigan Yankee inhabitants led the crusade against slavery during the reforms of the 1840s 1850s. Michigan continued to be a frontier culture until the start of the Civil War.
In 1850 anti-slavery activists and those persons that believed that western lands should be given to all new settlers free from any government charges “Freesoilers”, held the first meeting of the Republican Party in Jackson. Some of these anti-slavery abolitionists were members of the Whig, Know-Nothing, and Democratic parties that were dissatisfied with their parties directions. Within ten years this “Yankee” party, later nicknamed the GOP “Grand Old Party”, was a majority in Michigan and it dominated politics from the Civil War until the 1960s.
Democrats had always used equalitarianism “a school of thought that prioritizes equality for all people, maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status.” They had always used this political tactic to attack the rich elitist Whigs Party. Michigan Democrats were charged by the Republicans that their party “was in bed” with the South’s “slave power aristocrats,” thus pulling the rug out from under them.
The Republicans recommended following a more moralistic spirit like the pietists, an earlier movement founded by Philipp Spener that combined its emphasis on biblical doctrine with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life.
In 1861 there was an awe-inspiring outpouring of patriotism in the cities of Grand Rapids and Niles whipping up enthusiasm for the war in all segments of society, political, religious, ethnic, and occupational groups. These communities sent thousands of volunteers off to fight in the American Civil War. They were among the first to be mustered into the 1st Michigan Infantry and over the course of the war sent 90,000 men, 1, 600 black soldiers to join the Union Army. By 1862 the enthusiasm faded with each casualties list that was made available to the public. The focused on the war became more on freeing the slaves and preserving the Union.
The Civil War ended in 1865 and from then on throughout the 1870s wide-ranging industries grew quickly, lumbering, railroads, dairy farming, and by 1890 the population in Michigan doubled.
Michigan contributed 90,000 men and at least one woman dressed as a man to fight. The state played a key role in the war effort and after it was over Abraham Lincoln said “slavery has ended and the Union is saved, thank God for Michigan”
The French were the first to cut down the great trees of Michigan to make forts and trading posts. Some of the white pines were over 200 years old, two hundred feet high, and five feet in diameter. Michigan’s hardwoods were used by the British and Americans to build sailing ships.
When the lumber companies from New England stated logging in the state it was said the huge forests of Michigan would last for many, many years but it only took 20 years from 1870 to 1890 for most of the trees to be cut. Local lumber barons had the opportunity to buy land for as little as $1.25 per acre.
During the 1880s Michigan was producing as much lumber as the next three states combined. The lumber business became very profitable with logging in Michigan’s virgin forests. All these giants were cut leaving just stumps for miles. The lumberjacks had to follow the tree line to keep working. The lumber business became very profitable with logging in Michigan’s virgin forests.
Michigan Railroads were the transportation blood vessels in which trade goods, ruff or finished and civilian traffic flowed. In land settlements did not have to count on Great Lake sailing ships or steamers which could only deliver to the population living along the coast. Prosperity blossomed in commercial and industrial business along with population growth due to the railroads.
In 1896 the mayor of Detroit Hazen Pingree, a Yankee Republican and leader of the Progressive Movement was elected governor. He was a social reformer who battled big corporations for equal taxation. He endorsed municipal ownership of public utilities and regulating railroad rates.
Mayor Pingree voiced his Liberal fear of too much corporate control over business and government, “”I do not condemn corporations and rich men,” he said, “but I would keep them within their proper spheres. It is not safe to entrust the government of the country to the influence of Wall Street.” Hazen Pingree was quit possibly Detroit’s finest mayor.
With his political power and personal influence Pingree endorsed the regulations of railroads rates and equal taxation, and he encouraged municipal ownership of public utilities. He was one of the first to call for direct election of U.S. senators in primary elections and he supported the referendum, the abolition of child labor, and the eight-hour-workday. He stood by the workers against big business and called for a compulsory arbitration of labor disputes.
In the early part of the 20th century Michigan became a leader in manufacturing industries, and this was the chief source of income for the state mostly due to the automobile industry. In 1896 Ransom E. Olds founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in a factory in Lansing. In 1903 Henry Ford formed the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. General Motors was founded in 1908.
In 1899 Henry Ford was the first manufacture of automobiles to use the “moving assemble line” to build the Model T in his new factory at Highland Park. This contagiously moving assembly line allows the automobile’s chassis to be assembles as it moves from one workers station to the next.
By 1913 worker turnover was high and the employees complained the work on the assembly line was mind-numbing and unending. Henry Ford increased their wages to $5 per day doubling their pay. This also contributed to the migration of workers from the Upper Peninsula south to the better paying jobs in the cities.
At the end of the 1800s and thru the early 1900s Michigan’s state government out spent all other states in the union on a state school system and public education. It was based on the German model, public schools first grade thru high. The state was the first state to establish a full college four-year program just for training teachers to instruct the lower grades. Michigan also established colleges for classical academic studies and professors.
In 1908 a manufacture of horse-drawn carriages in Flint, William C. Durant founded General Motors a holding company for the Buick Car Company. He was a captivating entrepreneur that had an endless hunger for new business endeavors. By 1910 Durant also owned the biggest names in the automotive manufacturing together with Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Pontiac.
Detroit rose and fell with the automobile industry. In 1900 with a population of 285,000 it was the thirteenth largest city in the United States. Most of the residents lived in the downtown area. Over a million migrants came to Detroit on the promises of new jobs in automobile manufacturing. There were many separate businesses that were connected to or relied on the auto industry from machine shops and metal workers, to service business like restaurants hotels and housing realtors. Across the state of Michigan machine shops and manufactures of consumer goods were doing good business in small town factories.
Detroit was like most industrial cities of the 19th century their manufacturing factories were situated along the river providing water power and easy transportation for arriving supplies and departing finished goods. These goods included metal working, stove manufacture, food production, tobacco goods, drugs and chemicals.
In the first part of the twentieth century Detroit saw tremendous growth in the manufacturing of motor vehicles even though the industry was still moderately small. The automobile manufactures of Detroit led the world in automobile production for the next 30 years. Detroit’s central location in the middle of the country provided access to capital and markets which contributed greatly to the extraordinary growth of the city and its business. The River Rouge Plant in the metropolitan area of Detroit in 1910 made Michigan a national leader in manufacturing.
Detroit was ideally located in the center of America’s industrial heartland. This region stretched like a belt “the rust belt” from lower New England south to Pennsylvania across the Appalachians and westward through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
The Great Lakes waterways and railroads brought all the raw materials needed for automobile production. They transported coal from Pennsylvania and West Virginia and shipped iron and copper ore from northern Michigan to the great steel mills of Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland, Gary and Chicago. These cities were within a few hundred miles from Detroit and were easily accessible.
In 1901 one of the first automobile industries was in Jackson manufacturing car parts and building them even before Detroit began using the assembly line for production. At one time there were over twenty different automobiles that were being assembled in Jackson like the, Buick, Duck, Gem, Hollier, Steel Swallow, and the Wolverine. The auto industry quickly became Jackson’s main industry by 1910.
In 1906 in Battle Creek members of the Seventh-day-Adventist Church, the Kellogg brothers, founded the Toasted Corn Flake Company later known as Kellogg’s.
The War Department divided the Michigan National Guard between duty on the southern border with Mexico and serving in World War I in France. The First Michigan Ambulance Co. was incorporated into the famous 42nd Rainbow Division. In 1917 the Michigan Guard merged into the 32nd Infantry “Red Arrow” Division that became well known international as Americas roughest fighting units. Michigan Guard were part of the sixth division to join the Allied Expeditionary Force and they were the first Americans troops to set foot on German soil in 1918.
A French instructor introduces National Guard Soldiers of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division to life in the trenches during World War I. French instructors taught American Soldiers the basics of trench warfare as the Americans prepared to enter combat in the winter of 1918. ( Courtesy New York State Military Museum)In one battle in May 1918 soldiers of the 32nd marched 300 kilometers to the Rhine river and held a bridgehead for four months, holding control over 63 towns and 400 square kilometers of territory. They were under constant enemy fire and the men only got a total of 10 days rest until November.
Throughout World War I thousands of African-Americans from the south joined the Great Migration north to the industrial jobs in Michigan cities particularly in Detroit. They brought with them a vivacious culture of music, traditional cuisine, and good old-time religion. White southerners from Appalachia also came for the jobs and farm land.
October 29, 1929, “Black Tuesday,” the stock market crashed and it began The Great Depression which brought to an end to the era of extraordinary uneven prosperity. This calamity had been fermenting for years. By 1933 over 5,000 banks had gone out of business and 25% of Americans were unemployed. Michigan was hit harder than other states because of its economy was dependent to its industrial manufacturing.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s there was sharp drop off of manufacturing production resulting in the failing companies laying off workers and as a result consumer spending and investment was significantly reduced. Thousands of auto workers were dismissed when their manufacturing jobs were terminated triggering severe financial hardship for the state of Michigan.
The French first settled the Upper Peninsula based on the fur trade and it was continued by the British and the Americans and it was controlled by the Native American population. During the 1840s with the discovery of copper and iron ore in the Upper Peninsula the population climbed sharply. The growth of mining supported workers of its associated industries like engineers, specialists, mill workers, transportation ship and rail, and necessary laborers.
The Copper County strike of 1913 triggered a decline of the mining in the Upper Peninsula. Migrant miners started leaving the uncertain turmoil and harder working conditions for other mining areas around the country. Striking miners were black-balled from any future work and forced to seek employment in their trade in other states.
In the 1930s Michigan’s copper reserves were depleted to only deep rock mining in the Upper Peninsula. Local mines production was greatly reduced with the lower grade ore that was harder to get to. Michigan miners could not compete with other states that had mining copper in less deep rock layers. Experienced miners understood that the copper would not last forever, the quality of what was being mined was not the better grade ore, and it would cost much more to mine it.
During the Great Depression in 1933 15 million Americans were unemployed and half of the nation’s banks had failed and closed. Investments in future business and consumer spending in Michigan fell to a new low as workers were laid off and companies closed.
Washington distributed funds for relief, recovery and reform to relieve cities from the burden of providing assistance for the economically broken population. Failed Republican economic policies led to a political realignment of the Democratic Coalition party, the end of prohibition in 1933, and Franklin D. Roosevelt offered a New Deal to stabilize the economy and bring back prosperity to Americans. He quickly stabilized the economy by providing new jobs and assistance to those who were struggling.
The federal government passed laws that were favorable to unions and after 1935 they had a large and very visible existence in the factories. The United Auto Workers Union (UAW) was formed during the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37. After strikers occupied several plants for more than 40 days and resisted the courts, police and National Guard to take them away, General Motors signed a contract with the UAW legitimizing the union and its dues paying members increased from 30,000 to 500,000 in one year.
In 1941 the United States was forced into World War II with a surprise attack by Japan on American soil at the navel base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The immediate need for military goods rejuvenated the manufacturing industries in Michigan as their plants went all ahead full in production of war materials. Workers were needed to fill the new jobs that were created as automobile factories were quickly converted over to large-scale production of weapons and military vehicles. Michigan becomes the “arsenal of democracy”. The automotive manufacturing industries resumed normal production after the end of WWII in 1945 and there was an increase of mining operations.
The world’s longest suspension bridge which connected the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, the Mackinac Bridge, was opened in 1957. The design of the suspension bridge allows it to expand and contract with temperature change and weight. During high winds it can move as much as 35 feet. From anchorage to anchorage, the Mackinac Bridge is the third longest suspension bridge in the world and the longest in the U.S.
In 1959 at Detroit Motown Records was a pioneer in the recording artists who produced songs that celebrated the years of prosperity that were the postwar years. It was the start of the Baby Boom years and each new family wanted to own their own home in a safe middle-class neighborhood.
Over 100,000 hippie dressed young people converge at the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park area for the Human Be-In festival during the 1967 “Summer of Love.”
But in Detroit it was known as the “Long hot summer of 67”. In the early 1960s manufacturing production was reduced due to de-industrialization and reorganizing the plants which caused the loss of many jobs. The week local economy forced the city to suspend needed changes and to overlook social problems and growing racial unrest. Hostilities broke out between law enforcement and the black residents into the 12th Street riot on Sunday July 23rd. Police raided an illegal bar in the African American community triggering protests and fierce confrontations across the city. The U.S Army was call on to stop the riot that burned out the inner city and left 43 persons died. The anger and violent protesting exploded in other Michigan cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, and Jackson. The racial tension was felt across the nation, but it was the bloodiest in Detroit. What followed was a mass migration from the inner cities to the suburbs.
In 1973 Syria and Egypt made a joint surprise attack on Israeli troops in the Yom Kippur War. The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared an oil embargo aimed at countries that supported Israel during the war. This was responsible for an economic recession in the United states that crippled the Michigan economy. American automobile manufactures suffered another setback with international competition particularly from Japan car makers.
During the 1970s the unemployment rate was the higher in Michigan than any other state in the union. The state government had no choice but to cut spending on education, public health, and welfare programs to help reduce the budget deficits.
The automobile industry continued to decline due to lack of sales and competition with foreign manufactures like Japan and South Korea. Michigan’s economy depended heavily on the success of automobile manufacturing and world-wide sales. In the 1980s the unemployment numbers rose to a new high as Michigan struggled with reliance on a single industry.
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