Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peninsular Concerns

Magnet # 153: Michigan Letters

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

Michigan gained its statehood on this day in 1837, ending years of fighting to control the area. The French were the first Europeans to reach what would become Michigan, building settlements at areas such as Sault Saint-Marie and Marquette. They controlled the area for over 150 years, building it up and establishing a fur trade and shipping post before losing the area to the British after the French and Indian War. And after the Revolutionary War, the United States likewise gained some control over the area, but Britain was determined to keep some of its holdings there, particularly Detroit. It would take over a decade to finally clear them out of the area, and Congress eventually created the Michigan Territory in 1805, but when the War of 1812 broke out, Britain had the excuse they had been looking for to take Detroit back. They captured the settlement, joining it with their territories in Canada. However, the United States managed to take it back a year later, and never lost control of it thereafter. From there, the population of the territory grew, thanks largely to the creation of the Erie Canal, and Michigan was able to attain statehood.

As a state, Michigan truly came into its own in the early twentieth century, when Henry Ford opened his first automobile plant near Detroit. Since then, the automobile industry has grown greatly in the state, becoming a powerful force in Michigan and around the world. And though its major three automotive producers have hit hard times, it's likely that at least a couple of them will recover eventually. Michigan still is at the forefront of the global automobile industry, although a good deal of vehicles are now produced in the Southern United States and overseas. But don't count the state out yet - the automobile industry began there, and Michigan is determined to stay in the lead.

Michigan is the only state in the United States that consists of two peninsulas, and it's also the only state in the continental U.S. that has two major separated landmasses. I've been to it once, before I could drive, with my family. We didn't spend much time in the lower parts of the state, but headed straight up to Mackinac Island. I loved it there, but I do have two magnets from it, so I'll save what I have to say about it until I post them. From there, we went to the Upper Peninsula, where my parents lived years before I was born. We visited some of their old stomping grounds, but I must admit, I don't remember much about that part of the trip, so I asked my friend Jessica, who's lived there for over half of her life, for some thoughts on her home state. She's only lived in the city of Gwinn in the Upper Peninsula, and she says it is completely different from the Lower Peninsula, which to her is very fast and urban. She also told me the automobile industry really isn't present in the U.P., but they do have a lot of mining and the lumber industry does a good deal of business there. The people who live there are called Yoopers, and she likes their casual, free-spirited attitude (which she shares). One of the more entertaining stories she shared about the U.P. with me was that of the local Air Force Base, K.I. Sawyer, which has now closed. When she was growing up, she and her family used to cut through the base on their daily route. But the base stored bombs, and would move them from time to time. And when they did, everything stopped. Sirens went off and people on base would stop what they were doing, even pulling their cars over to the side of the road, until it was safe to move again. Sounds pretty unnerving to me - and perhaps a bit irritating, after awhile. Jessica says she really loves the natural landscapes of the U.P. and that she could even see Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, there. But she also said it's terribly cold this time of year, so it might not be a good idea to travel there anytime soon.

Clearly, there's plenty to be seen in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And, as I have more magnets from Michigan, I think I might do another post to focus on the Lower Peninsula. Okay, I may not have spent any time touring it, and may not really know anyone from there, but that's no excuse. I'm sure there are some really great sites in the Lower Peninsula, and will give the folks living there some attention as well. So keep an eye out for it - and, of course, the aforementioned post on idyllic Mackinac Island.

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