Monthly Archives: September 2015

An Interesting Visit

On Monday, September 21st I was able to sit in on an oral history interview with NMU Alum David Williams. He was invited back to Northern Michigan University as a speaker for the United Conference on Monday night. Williams was involved in the basketball game sit-in as well as the Dean of Students Office sit-in during the late 1960’s. Our University Archivist, Marcus Robyns, asked Williams if he would give an oral history interview about his time here at Northern and it was a real pleasure to be able to sit and listen to his story.
Williams was born in Detroit Michigan and came to NMU in 1965. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1969 then decided to stay and get his masters in 1970. Currently, Williams works at Vanderbilt Law School as the Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics and as the Athletics Director. While at Northern Williams was the President of a Fraternity and a leader of the Black Student Union. Upon graduating Northern his thesis paper was titled Anatomy of a Racist University (which is available for patrons to research at the Archives).

David Williams

For almost a year my co-workers and I worked on the Student Protest Exhibit so I knew about Dr. Williams and his time here at Northern. I read some of his thesis paper, I saw newspaper articles talking about the Marquette Six, and I listened to Robert McClellan recounting his stories about Williams and the other black students. For me, Williams became a legend, a person who stood up for his beliefs and fought for equal rights. Due to Williams and the other black students NMU grew and changed. Without their influence Northern Michigan would not be the same University it is today. To be able to meet Dr. Williams in person and listen to his stories about Northern was a great experience.

Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletes - David Williams for Commodore Nation March issue.(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletes – David Williams for Commodore Nation March issue.(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Interested in listening to David Williams oral history interview? Come visit the Archives! You can also learn more about Williams and the student protests on our Student Protest Web Exhibit at


Homecoming Week Spotlight

As I’m sure you all know, this is homecoming week. Many events have occurred this week, including the Dead River Games, the King and Queen competition, the Scavenger Hunt, the Stepping Competition, Capture the Flag, the parade, and the Tailgating Party. However, these events are only forerunners to the main event- the football game. This year, we thought we would share some photographs from past football teams, games, and homecomings which haven’t been seen before. All pictures below can be found in the Photographic File, ARCHIV-014.

There has been a football team at Northern since at least 1909, with varying successful years and other less fortunate years. Pictured below are members of the team of 1975, which went on to be the NCAA Division II Champion, making a group tackle. Hopefully this year’s team will have as good a record as the 13-1 championship team.

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Below are fans at a football game in 1957. There will surely be many more fans this year. On the top right appears to be a student section. If you look carefully you may spot fans holding the white cone-shaped “megaphones” to cheer with.

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Pictured below is a game from an unknown year where Northern played Hillsdale. Hillsdale is the opponent for NMU this Saturday, with the game scheduled for 4pm at the Superior Dome.

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In these next few photos, the evolution of the uniform can be easily seen. The first picture shows members of the 1919 team in practice, with minimal pads and no helmets. Next are four men with long-sleeved jerseys from the 1939 team, which likely helped keep out the cold in later season outdoor games. Third, members of a team from 1960 or ’61 run out onto the field dressed in white and with newer jerseys and more modern helmets.

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Below, some players of the Northern Michigan College team wrap themselves in blankets on the bench during a cool evening circa 1960. Games were usually held outside, as the great Superior Dome wasn’t completed until 1991.

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These last two pictures show a stark difference in team size between the 1929 team and a more recent (ca. 1980’s-1990’s) team. Happy Homecoming, and go Wildcats!

photo 8photo 9Written by Stefan Nelson

Upper Peninsula Newspapers and Upcoming Events!

If you have ancestors in the Escanaba vicinity, are interested in the history of the Upper Peninsula, or just really love browsing old newspapers, you’ll be excited to learn that the Escanaba Public Library recently released many old Escanaba newspapers online! The newspapers range from 1869-1926 and are searchable by keyword using a technology called OCR.

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OCR, or optical character recognition, is a technology that can read the characters in a printed, handwritten, or typed document and make them searchable.  The accuracy of OCR varies from system to system, but is typically around 80%–so if you don’t find what you’re looking for, try using other keywords! It has become increasingly common at archives and libraries (though we still do not have OCR at the Northern Michigan University Archives).

However, while we do not have access to OCR, we do have a whole host of regional newspapers on microfilm that can be quite useful for scholarly and genealogical research. Our newspaper collection includes not just Marquette County newspapers but also newspapers from Alger County, the Keweenaw Peninsula, Delta County, Dickinson County, Gogebic County, Schoolcraft County, and even some limited newspapers from Saint Ignace, Dearborn, and Detroit! A complete list of our newspapers with dates can be found here.


On October 15 at 7 PM, we will be holding another Evening at the Archives. Elizabeth Oliver, one of our Grace H. Magnaghi Visiting Research Fellowship Grant recipients will be presenting the fruits of her research here this summer. She researched a local Episcopalian bishop, Hayward Ablewhite, who embezzled a great deal of money from the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan during the 1930s. He ended up in jail but later became a director of Henry Ford’s Edison Institute Museum. To learn more about this interesting character, come to the presentation!

Written by Annika Peterson

Labor Day Weekend Spotlight: Iron Workers Local 783

The fall semester is well underway, but there is still one last holiday weekend before the real grind begins: Labor Day. In addition to enjoying the outdoors and grilling hamburgers, one longstanding Michigan tradition is the annual walk across the Mackinac Bridge. For almost sixty years, curious and adventurous residents from above and below the bridge partake in the event.

Especially on the eve of such a holiday, we should not forget the iron workers who risked their life to create one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.
During the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, iron workers banded together to form Iron Workers Local 783 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Iron Workers. After much planning, Marquette’s local chapter was officially installed on November 23, 1957 just three weeks after the Mackinac Bridge opened to motorists. The NMU Archives is lucky enough to have a collection, MSS-24, which documents the creation and administration of Local 783.

sarapiconeA copy of the original 1957 union agreement.

The original charter says roughly 70 men signed the original charter as founding members of the chapter. In addition, this folder also contains a letter from the General Treasurer which outlines the initial funds supplied to the chapter, Due and Benefit Stamps (100 each) for paying members, and confirmation that Local 783’s seal was officially on order. (Box One, Folder 10).

In a copy of the 1964 approved union bylaws, monthly dues were $6.00 a month for journeymen and $5.00 a month for apprenticeship members. The bylaws also carefully outline election procedures for officers, how the revenue from union dues would be used, and how worksite stewards must be placed on each job immediately (Box One, Folder 7).

sarapictwoThe first of two books which document meeting minutes.

In addition to the original charter list and the bylaws, the collection also contains meeting minutes, financial and benefit records, and election information. The records span from the chapters founding in 1957 to 1994 when the Local 783 merged with Local 8. In addition to these union records, you may also be interested in Sheet Metal Workers Local 94 (MSS-044), UAW Local 2178 (MSS-104), and UPIU Local 209, 110, and 21 (MSS-094) manuscript collections.

As we celebrate Labor Day this weekend, let us remember those who fought for early labor rights in America. For more on our collections, including more records pertaining to the labor movement in the UP, please visit our collections website here.

Blog written by Sara Kiszka