Native Americans and French Explorers
The Ojibwa, the Ottawa, the Potawatomi, and other Algonquian-speaking
Native American groups were living in Michigan when the French explorer
Étienne Brulé landed at the narrows of Sault Ste. Marie in 1618,
probably the first European to have reached present Michigan. Later
French explorers, traders, and missionaries came, including Jean Nicolet,
who was searching for the Northwest Passage; Jacques Marquette, who
founded a mission in the Mackinac region; and the empire builder, Robert
Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, who came on the Griffon, the first ship to
sail the Great Lakes. French posts were scattered along the lakes and
the rivers, and Mackinac Island (in the Straits of Mackinac) became a
center of the fur trade. Fort Pontchartrain, later Detroit, was founded
in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. The vast region was weakly held
by France until lost to Great Britain in the last conflict (1754-63) of
the French and Indian Wars.
Resistance to British Occupation
The Native Americans of Michigan, who had lived in peace with the
French, resented the coming of the British, who were the allies of the
much-hated Iroquois tribes. Under Pontiac they revolted (see Pontiac's
Rebellion) against the British occupation. The rebellion, which began in
1763, was short-lived, ending in 1766, and the Native Americans
subsequently supported the British during the American Revolution.
Native American resistance to U.S. control was effectively ended at the
Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 with the victory of Gen. Anthony Wayne.
Despite provisions of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American
Revolution (1783; see Paris, Treaty of), the British held stubbornly to
Detroit and Mackinac until 1796.
After passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, Michigan became part
of the Northwest Territory. However, even after the Northwest Territory
was broken up and Detroit was made (1805) capital of Michigan Territory,
British agents still maintained great influence over the Native
Americans, who fought on the British side in the War of 1812. In that
war Mackinac and Detroit fell almost immediately to the British as a
result of the ineffective control of U.S. Gen. William Hull and his
troops. Michigan remained in British hands through most of the war until
Gen. William Henry Harrison in the battle of Thames and Oliver Hazard
Perry in the battle of Lake Erie restored U.S. control.
Settlement and Statehood
After peace came, pioneers moved into Michigan. The policy of pushing
Native Americans westward and opening the lands for settlement was
largely due to the efforts of Gen. Lewis Cass, who was governor of
Michigan Territory (1813-31) and later a U.S. Senator. Steamboat
navigation on the Great Lakes and sale of public lands in Detroit both
began in 1818, and the Erie Canal was opened in 1825. Farmers came to
the Michigan fields, and the first sawmills were built along the rivers.
The move toward statehood was slowed by the desire of Ohio and Indiana
to absorb parts of present S Michigan, and by the opposition of southern
states to the admission of another free state. The Michigan electorate
organized a government without U.S. sanction and in 1836 operated as a
state, although outside the Union. To resolve the boundary dispute
Congress proposed that the Toledo strip be ceded to Ohio and Indiana
with compensation to Michigan of land in the Upper Peninsula. Though the
Michigan electorate rejected the offer, a group of Democratic leaders
accepted it, and by their acceptance Michigan became a state in 1837.
(The admission of Arkansas as a slaveholding state offset that of
Michigan as a free state.) Detroit served as the capital until 1847,
when it was replaced by Lansing.
After statehood, Michigan promptly adopted a program of internal
improvement through the building of railroads, roads, and canals,
including the Soo Locks Ship Canal at Sault Ste. Marie. At the same time
lumbering was expanding, and the population grew as German, Irish, and
Dutch immigrants arrived. In 1854 the Republican party was organized at
Jackson, Mich. During the Civil War, Michigan fought on the side of the
Union, contributing 90,000 troops to the cause.
After the war the state remained firmly Republican until 1882. Then
Michigan farmers, moved by the same financial difficulties and outrage
at high transportation and storage rates that aroused other Western
farmers, supported movements advocating agrarian interests, such as the
Granger movement and the Greenback party. The farmers joined with the
growing numbers of workers in the mines and lumber camps to elect a
Greenback-Democratic governor in 1882 and succeeded in getting
legislation passed for agrarian improvement and public welfare.
Reforms influenced by the labor movement were the creation of a state
board of labor (1883), a law enforcing a 10-hr day (1885), and a
moderate child-labor law (1887). The lumbering business, with its yield
of wealth to the timber barons, declined to virtual inactivity. Some of
the loggers joined the ranks of industrial workers, which were further
swelled by many Polish and Norwegian immigrants.
Assembly Lines and Labor Strife
With the invention of the automobile and the construction of automotive
plants, industry in Michigan was altered radically. Henry Ford
established the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and introduced conveyor-belt
assembly lines in 1918. General Motors and the Chrysler Corporation (now
DiamlerChrysler A.G.) were established shortly after Ford. Along with
the development of mass-production methods came the growth of the labor
movement. In the 1930s, when the automobile industry was well
established in the state, labor unions struggled for recognition. The
conflict between labor and the automotive industry, which continued into
the 1940s, included sit-down strikes and was sometimes violent. Walter
Reuther, a pioneer of the labor movement, was elected president of the
United Auto Workers (UAW) in 1946.
In World War II Michigan produced large numbers of tanks, airplanes, and
other war matériel. Industrial production again expanded after the
Korean War broke out in 1950, and the opening of the Saint Lawrence
Seaway in 1959 increased export trade by bringing many oceangoing
vessels to the port of Detroit. In the early 1960s, however, economic
growth lagged and unemployment became a problem in the state.
Racial Tensions and Recession
Detroit was shaken by severe race riots in 1967 that left 43 persons
dead and many injured, in addition to causing $200 million in damage. In
the wake of the rioting, programs were undertaken to improve housing
facilities and job opportunities in the city, but these failed as the
city suffered massive outmigration. While Detroit deteriorated, the
suburbs experienced dramatic growth, spreading throughout SE Michigan.
Resistance to busing was a major political issue in the state in the
The state's dependence on the auto industry was exhibited during the
recession of the early 1980s, when car sales slumped, many factories
were closed and Michigan's unemployment rate at over 15% was the
nation's highest. The federal government helped bail out the Chrysler
Corporation in 1979, authorizing $1.5 billion in loan guarantees. After
a brief period of recovery through limited diversification of the state
economy, Michigan was again especially hard hit by national recession
and continuing foreign competition in the early 1990s, as General Motors
laid off thousands of its Michigan employees.
Facts and Figures
Area, 58,216 sq mi (150,779 sq km). Pop. (2000) 9,938,444, a 6.9%
increase since the 1990 census. Capital, Lansing. Largest city, Detroit.
Statehood, Jan. 26, 1837 (26th state). Highest pt., Mt. Curwood, 1,980
ft (604 m); lowest pt., Lake Erie, 572 ft (174 m). Nickname, Wolverine
State. Motto, Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice [If You Seek a
Pleasant Peninsula, Look about You]. State bird, robin. State flower,
apple blossom. State tree, white pine. Abbr., Mich.; MI
The Lower Peninsula, shaped like a mitten, is separated from Ontario,
Canada, on the east by Lake Erie and Lake Huron, and by the Detroit
River and the St. Clair River, which together link these two Great
Lakes. It is bordered by Lake Michigan on the west, across which lies
Wisconsin. The Upper Peninsula lies northeast of Wisconsin between Lake
Michigan and Lake Superior, and is separated from Ontario by the narrow
St. Marys River.
The Upper Peninsula. known as the U.P. (its residents call themselves
Yoopers), is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of
Mackinac; a bridge connecting the two peninsulas was opened in 1957 and
has spurred the development of the Upper Peninsula. The eastern portion
of the Upper Peninsula has swampy flats and limestone hills on the Lake
Michigan shore, while sandstone ridges rise abruptly from the rough
waters of Lake Superior; in the west the land rises to forested
mountains, still rich in copper and iron.
The northern Michigan wilds, numerous inland lakes, and some 3,000 mi
(4,800 km) of shoreline, combined with a pleasantly cool summer climate,
have long attracted vacationers. In the winter Michigan's snow-covered
hills bring skiers from all over the Midwest. Places of interest in the
state include Greenfield Village, a re-creation of a 19th-century
American village, and the Henry Ford Museum, both at Dearborn; Pictured
Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshores; and Isle Royal
Lansing is the capital, and Detroit is the largest city. Other major
cities are Grand Rapids, Warren, Flint, and Ann Arbor.
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