The Bobbed Hair “Epidemic”

While researching for a project at the archives, I was flipping through old NMU student newspapers from the 1920s on microfilm. There I happened to find quite a humorous story written by one of the female students.  

bobbed hair pt 1 .jpeg

I was enthralled with the plight of this student and how unreceptive people had been to this new style. Even more unexpected were the follow-up articles, written by other students, commenting negatively on this epidemic of  “bobbed hair.”bobbed hair pt 2
bobbed hair pt 3

It is interesting how many of the other students and faculty — mostly men — were not only unreceptive but outright against the bobbed haircut, even going so far as to say that the women should just grow it out and pretend that it is “put up.”

Though, something interesting happened when I continued searching through the next years’ newspapers for the newest installment of the “bobbed hair series.” What I found instead was that, slowly but surely, the horrific bobbed hair soon became… normalized. Just a few years later, bobbed hairstyles were modeled in several ads in the newspaper, and thereby ending the anti-bobbed-hair movement.

ad from 1923

ad from 1924

ad from 1925

As a person originally from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, I have noticed that, upon beginning my time here at Northern, it’s often the case that new fashion trends can take a while to come to Marquette. I feel as though this is due to how far away Marquette is from bigger cities that have more diverse arrays of people, in which different styles of hair and dress are more easily accepted. Another reason might be the harsh weather experienced in the U.P., which may discourage trendiness and favor comfort and practicality. It is interesting and humorous to see that this was especially the case almost 100 years ago as well.

This post was written by Kyleigh Sapp.



The Ore Docks of Marquette

While searching for a topic to write about, I sought inspiration in the photographs. I was most intrigued by the photos of Marquette from 1863, and by the photos of the ore dock and what it used to look like. Since I’m not allowed to do a blog post solely of photos, I researched a bit of ore dock history.


Construction of the ore dock in Lower Harbor, Marquette, 1931.

Marquette was founded in 1849 because companies like the Marquette Iron Company and the Jackson Mining Company drew workers from all over the world to work in the mines, and those workers needed a place to live. The iron from those mines proved valuable and useful, and is still a major economic contributor to  the community. In the beginning the mined iron stayed local as no one had figured out a good way to transport it yet. When the Soo Locks were built in 1855, iron companies suddenly had a way to export the ore to the rest of the world. The first dock ever built for the iron industry was built in Marquette in 1857. It looked different, and operated much differently than the one we are familiar with today. After the iron ore was transported to the dock by train, the ships were loaded by hand using wheelbarrows. Iron ore was and still is being turned into pellets for easy transportation, and as a way to increase quality of the iron. Marquette in total has had six ore docks, with three simultaneously operating in Lower Harbor at one point. The ore dock that can be seen there today was built in 1931, and was closed in 1971 due to poor market conditions. For information on Lower Harbor ore dock renovations, visit There is one dock that still ships iron ore from Marquette, located on Presque Isle. It was built in 1911, and ships nine to ten million tons of ore each year.


This railroad through Marquette’s downtown that was used to transport the iron ore. 

These photographs and many others can be viewed in the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, located underneath the Lydia M. Olson Library on NMU’s campus.


Constructing the ore dock, 1931.


Marquette, 1863.


Marquette, n.d.

This post was written by Eliza Compton.


Slang and the College Student

Every collection is different. Some are good remedies for insomnia, while others are interesting and have some really blog worthy items hidden within the folders. My current processing project is the Dr. Stewart Kingsbury papers (MSS-329). Kingsbury was an English professor at Northern Michigan University (NMU), 1969-1991. One of his interests was in dialects of English. In the late 1960s, Kingsbury became active in a computerized dialect survey of Upper Michigan English.

  The ‘gem’ I unearthed is a paper, entitled Campus Slang; A Survey, written by L. K. Wirtanen of the class of 1973 for EN404: The English Language,  taught by Dr. Zacharias Thundy in 1972 (course description: “(t)he background of both the grammar of present-day English and the historical development of the language. The definition of and status of language; the sounds, inflections, and syntax of modern English; the historical development of grammatical signals; usage; dialect geography; and the position of English among world languages”).  Wirtanen first provides some background to the topic and then asserts that the “off-hand jargon of virtually any standard garden-variety college student might well be incomprehensible to a Gulliver’s traveler from the outer world.” Wirtanen goes on to detail the methodology behind the survey, composed of 75 questions pertaining to “grades, student-teacher relationships, sex, drugs, social relationships and extra-curricular activities.” Each question lists a number of responses, along with a space for ‘other’ responses. Each student also included demographic information; gender, birthdate and place, and college status.


  Twenty five students filled out the survey, sixteen females and nine males. Most were from Michigan, but there was one graduate student, a male, from Dieberg, Germany.

 I was particularly interested in the paper, because I attended and graduated from NMU in the late 1970’s, so I wondered if I could recognize the slang terms identified in the report.

 Wirtanen includes a glossary/dictionary of certain slang words, gathered from the responses to the questionnaire. Some are probably still in use today, such as blast – defined as a noun meaning an enjoyable time or as a verb meaning to give vent to anger. Book it – a verb meaning to study diligently and usually the night preceding an important exam was not at all familiar, while another term with the same meaning cram is still probably used today.

 Brown-up – a verb meaning to play up or flatter a teacher was unfamiliar, but we have all heard its synonym, brown nose. Cut out, a verb meaning to leave a place, person or situation was also unfamiliar. Wirtanen did leave an editorial comment that this term was used less frequently.

 Creep, which Wirtanen defined as a noun, was a derogatory term for a bothersome male and is still in use today, as is gross – an adjective meaning crude, crass or vulgar. Grubs a noun meaning old, near to rags, but extremely comfortable clothes; may have fallen out of favor, but everyone still has their ”grubbies” and we’ve all had our share of ”Mickey Mouse” classes.

 Burned out is a mainstream term these days as is one of the definitions of bear – meaning an angered or hostile person. In determining its contemporary status, I used an online dictionary.


 I remember far out being used, while rap has changed from meaning ‘to talk, converse, usually about some deep subject’ to a form of music.

 In the paper, Wirtanen also includes the survey, the response rate for some of the choices in the survey and lastly, additional slang responses recorded on the survey. To be included in the alternate slang responses, a term had to be used at least four times. Some of those responses are interesting, who has ever heard of the phrase turn ralph, meaning make a right turn or zanked to mean drunk?

 I’m sure that if I were to administer the survey to my college age colleagues, some of their responses would be totally different from the ones in this paper. I confess to still using some of these terms, especially ‘boogie’ (to leave or go), much to the dismay and eye rolling of my children.

 This collection is still being processed, but once it is on the shelves anyone can come in and look at the slang paper for themselves.

This post was written by Karen Kasper.