Tag Archives: mining

Tsu Ming Han: Man of Two Different Worlds

Tsu Ming Han

Dr. Magnaghi and James Shefchik recently published a book that they had been working on for some time. Tsu Ming Han: Man of Two Different Worlds is the title, and it details the incredible life of Tsu-Ming Han. Here is the synopsis:

“Over the centuries the Upper Peninsula has grown and developed due to many immigrants who arrived. Some of their stories are known but most have been lost to time. One of these stories belongs to Tsu-Ming Han, a Chinese immigrant, a geologist and senior research laboratory scientist at Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (now Cliffs Natural Resources). He came to the Upper Peninsula in the 1950s and was instrumental in the development of lower grade iron ore refinement processes and pelletization, which had a direct impact on the region and its people. In his spare time as a geologist, he identified an ancient fossil, Grypania Spiralis. Additionally important to the story was his family: Joy his wife and his children; Dennis, Timothy, and Lisa. This is another major effort of Northern Michigan University’s Center for Upper Peninsula Studies to shed new light and ideas on the history of the U.P.”

This little known U.P. star is finally getting his time to shine. For more information on Tsu-Ming Han, check out our former blog post about him. The finding aid for Tsu Ming Han’s papers is also online.

If you’re interested in reading the book, it is available on amazon, google books, and LuLu.com in an ebook format. The NMU archives also has the Tsu-Ming Han papers available. Come stop by to check them out!

Written by Grace Menter


Evening at the Archives: Italian American Immigration in the Upper Peninsula


This past Tuesday, we held our bi-annual Evening at the Archives event. Senior history major Austin Bannister gave a fascinating presentation about Italian American immigration in the Upper Peninsula in the early twentieth century. His research was part of his HS 390 project, a class required of all history majors in which they must do a research project at the archives.

He discussed general trends of immigration to the United States in the early twentieth century. Many Italians, he said, came here only temporarily to work in the mines and later returned home. Others frequently went back and forth between the US and Italy. Some remained here and even arranged marriages. Mining conditions and fraternal organizations created by the miners were also discussed.

Interested in this topic? Want to do some research yourself? Here are useful resources at the archives:

  • Italian American Oral History Collection: This incredibly helpful resource consists of hundreds of oral history interviews conducted by Dr. Russell Magnaghi and others.
  • Marquette County Articles of Incorporation: As mentioned above, Italian immigrants created fraternal organizations to help support each other in times of need. Many of these organization registered their bylaws and other materials with the county.
  • Marquette County Naturalization Records: The naturalization records document how many Italians (and other nationalities) were becoming citizens, where they were from, what their job was, if they were married or had children, etc. They can be quite important for researchers.
  • Russell Magnaghi papers: Besides creating the Italian American oral history collection, Dr. Magnaghi has done much research into Italian Americans (and many other topics!). His papers document his research and can be extremely helpful to researchers seeking sources.
  • Il Minatore: A few issues of an Italian language newspaper from the UP
  • Many other regional newspapers: While time-consuming, looking through newspapers can yield fantastic results!

Come into the Archives and check out these and other collections today! Please note that we will be closed Wednesday-Friday of next week for Thanksgiving.

Written by Annika Peterson

Collection Feature: Maps and Plans

For this blog post, I thought I’d highlight a style of record we have here at the archives that receives less attention than many of our other collections and archives- the maps and plans. Maps and plans can shed insight into the knowledge of the times of the area and the landscape, and the extent of exploration and societal interaction that was occurring. Plans typically focus on proposed construction projects, or architectural designs for buildings and other structures. The breadth and depth of the types of maps and plans here at the archives is one of its greatest strengths. We have maps of the UP, of Lake Superior, of the Marquette area, of individual localities such as farms, as well as forestry and property maps, in addition to numerous differing mining-related maps, maps of the University here and aerial views over time, and much more. Some of these maps even go back into the 1700s, making them some of the oldest materials we have at the archives! Below are pictured a small sampling of such maps.


Here is a map of the U.P. and Lake Superior from the 1900s.


This map from the 1700s (in French) is one of the oldest maps we have. Members of our staff are currently working on specially preserving it to ensure it lasts in years to come. The artistry and the knowledge of the time make this map especially interesting. Many of the maps we have are found in our map cabinet in the processing room, and all are accessible to the public. One large collection is Archiv-016. It contains maps and plans from the Marquette area, Delta and Menomonee Counties in the UP, the Upper Peninsula, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean.


This map is a map of some of the different copper mines in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the UP from the 1860s to the 1960s. Cool stuff! This map was only just “discovered” as I went through some two-to-three dozen unprocessed maps and plans currently sitting on top of our map cabinet which for varying reasons were never properly catalogued or accessioned. So, I’m going through them. First, I check to see if they’re in our Archives Space database. If not, I determine whether they can be grouped with existing collections or if new accession records need to be made.


A more local chart here, this one shows a proposed floor plan for a building at the Sawyer International Airport near Gwinn from ca. the 1970s.

Come and check out these maps and more at the Archives!

Written by Stefan Nelson

The 1946 Marquette Iron Range Strike and Paul Robeson

At 12:01 a.m. on February 8, 1946, nearly 3,000 iron miners on the Marquette Iron Range in Michigan’s central Upper Peninsula walked off their jobs.  It was the first major labor action in the region since 1895.  Three thousand inexperienced union miners on the Marquette Iron Range joined 750,000 steelworkers nation-wide in a strike of the steel industry led by the recently formed United Steel Workers of America (USWA).   The nation-wide strike against the steel industry lasted just nine days, but the strike on the Marquette Iron Range against the iron mining companies lasted 104 long and frustrating days and finally ended on May 22 when the companies capitulated to the union’s demands for recognition, dues write-off, and 18.5 cents per hour more in wages. Towards the tail-end of this bitter strife stepped an extremely unlikely hero, but one that would reinvigorate community support and give the strike a lifesaving morale boost.

Negaunee strike parade

Strike parade through downtown Negaunee (Central UP and NMU Archives)

Today, very few people remember the famous Broadway star and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University, All-American football star, and accomplished lawyer, Robeson by 1946 was best known for his stellar Broadway performances of Othello and Showboat, where his rendition of Ol’ Man River became a sensation and is still considered a standard. However, Robeson was also an ardent and tireless supporter of organized labor, making numerous appearances at labor rallies throughout his career. Historians also suspect that he was a member of the Communist Party USA, although no direct evidence exists.

othello robeson

Robeson in The Theatre Guild performance of Othello, 1943 (Wikipedia)

Oddly enough, Robeson’s arrival in Ishpeming, Michigan, on April 25 had nothing initially to do with the iron miners’ strike. In the fall of 1945, Robeson had embarked on a national concert tour that took him to all the far-flung regions of the country. George Quaal, part of a wealthy Ishpeming mercantile family, had engaged Robeson for a performance as part of a concert series that he sponsored and held in the Ishpeming public auditorium. Soon after his arrival at the train station, leaders of the strike, including District Director Jack Powell, besieged the famous singer in his Mather Inn room. Although it is likely USWA officials had reached out to Robeson prior to his arrival, they had little difficulty encouraging him to publicly lend his support to the strike effort.

paul robeson in mather inn

Paul Robeson and the USWA’s press officer in the Mather Inn (Central UP and NMU Archives)

On the afternoon of April 26, Robeson and strike leaders drove out to the Mather Mine (at present day Negaunee High School) and joined the picket line.  Surprised and excited miners and their families crowded around the famous singer as he shook hands and offered words of support.  Robeson then stepped up to a sound car and gave a Broadway worthy performance.   Along with his standard repertoire, he serenaded his audience with a number of radical working class songs, such as “Joe Hill.”   Home on leave from the Army shortly after Robeson’s visit, retired labor activist Ernie Ronn was struck by the effect the singer had on the strikers.  “I don’t know of anyone,” he remembered, “who was on that picket line that day who ever forgot.  Robeson built-up their spirit and morale.”  In fact, one observer described Robeson as a “heroic physical type of man” possessed of “innate dignity and emotional sincerity.”    For many of the miners and their families, Robeson’s appearance was their only chance to see the famous performer, since few could afford the $5.00 ticket price for the concert.

robeson picket line

Robeson on the picket line with striking miners and their families. Standing to his left is Jack Powell, the local USWA district director and strike leader. Powell is a member of the Upper Peninsula Labor Hall of Fame located in the Superior Dome. (Central UP and NMU Archives)

On the following day, Jack Powell interviewed Robeson on WDMJ radio.   The activist recounted the poverty of his early childhood and expressed support for the struggle of the working class.  Because of the country’s great wealth and productive capacity, Robeson told his listeners, the sight of the miners and their families huddled on the picket line was a travesty of justice.  “It should be plain to all,” he declared, “that these people have a right to share more equally in the wealth they create.”  For their part, the iron mining companies denounced Robeson and decried the USWA’s use of a known communist agitator.


USWA strike radio program on WDMJ. Labor Hall of Fame member, the late Ernie Ronn is second from the right. He was home on leave from the Army. (Central UP and NMU Archives)

Ten years after his appearance on the Marquette Iron Range, Robeson’s radical support for labor, civil rights, and his alleged connection to the Communist Party caused him to be dragged before the House of Representatives’ “Un-American Activities Committee” (HUAC). Black-listed and his career ruined, Robeson fled into self-imposed exile eventually returning to the United States in 1963. He died in relative obscurity and poverty in New York in 1976.

But to the iron miners and their families on the picket line that cold April afternoon, Paul Robeson made their struggle something more than a demand for an additional 18.5 cents per hour.  He crossed race and class boundaries to remind them that economic and social justice is a universal and moral goal and that music and courage can create “a real meeting place of hearts and minds.”

To learn more about the 1946 Iron Miners Strike, please visit the Central UP and NMU Archives. Our new fall hours are Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10 AM-5 PM and Tuesday/Thursday 10 AM-7 PM.

Written by Marcus Robyns

It’s almost Summer–Time for some Genealogical Research!

We are back to normal pace here at the archives, just in time for the semester to start winding down. We will be open all summer, Monday through Friday, and during that time we usually see quite a number of patrons researching our most popular topic: genealogy.

For those of you from the Upper Peninsula, this can be a great way to trace your roots and find out more information about your heritage. We have many collections to aid in your search, such as Immigration and Naturalization records for Marquette County, Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Mining Company records, Coroner’s Inquests that date back to the late 1800s, and Marquette County Court records. We also host a vast array of oral history interviews from our Italian-American Oral History Collection, some of which can be found online at http://archives.nmu.edu/oral_history/.

Miners at the Lake Mine around the turn of the century.

Miners at the Lake Mine around the turn of the century.

Other Oral History collections that could provide genealogical information include our Recorded in Stone: Voices on the Marquette Iron Range collection and The Red Dust Oral History collection. Recorded in Stone provides information on the history of immigration in the Marquette Iron Range. The Red Dust collection is a collection of interviews conducted between 1983 and 2000 by students of the former National Mine School (what is now Aspen Ridge Middle School).

In addition to this variety of sources, information can also be found in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records or the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan collection. St. Paul’s was the first Episcopal church in Marquette.

So whether you’re searching for general family lineage or in-depth research of a specific person from Marquette County, we hope to see you in the archives!

For more information about the Archives or genealogical research, visit our website at www.nmu.edu/archives or come check us out in Room 126 of the LRC (down by Starbucks).

Prepared by Alexandria Eisner and Olivia Ernst.

Kacey Lewis, Digitization Specialist, works with 16mm film

Dabbling in Digitization

Kacey Lewis, Digitization Specialist, works with 16mm film

Due to the rapid invasion of technology in today’s society, the archival world is undergoing some major changes. At the NMU Archives, we digitize material for two main reasons: preservation and accessibility.

Kacey Lewis is our Digitization Specialist here at the NMU Archives. She works to preserve existing collections of digital media, and reformats collections to be more technologically friendly. For example, Kacey is currently working on a deteriorating film collection. The original 16mm film is losing its quality and therefore must be converted into a digital format before its content is no longer accessible. This reformatting ensures that the film will be usable for the next few years at least.

Accessibility is an important aspect of any archives’ function. With our society’s increasing dependency on digital technology, the NMU Archives is working to make our collections available to researchers far and wide through project websites. In early 2010, we were awarded a grant by the National Historic Publications and Records Committee (NHPRC) to digitize a large portion of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company records collection. The digitized documents, as well as information about the digitization process used here at NMU, can now be viewed online by visiting http://archives.nmu.edu/cci/.

Although digital formats have many benefits, there is a downside. Technology changes at a rapid pace, with upgrades and new software coming out each year. This makes it difficult to ensure that our digital material will be accessible in years to come. For example, remember floppy disks? The once ‘innovative’ technology is now almost obsolete, and it is difficult to find the hardware necessary to read one. Many offices once stored all of their important documentation on floppy disks, hoping to preserve it more efficiently than paper filing systems; now, their records are all but inaccessible. This phenomenon is one of the main reasons that archives are only dabbling in digitization.

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.

Ruth Smith

Researcher Spotlight: Ruth Smith of Michigamme

Ruth Smith

Here at the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives we are proud of the many collections and resources we have to offer to the public. We enjoy helping each one of our researchers uncover the unique histories they’ve come to explore. And every so often, their discoveries make for an interesting day for us, too.

Ruth Smith is a born and raised Michigamme resident who has set out to write a book about the history of the mines in the Michigamme area. So far, she has spent four days in the NMU Archives reading letters dating back to 1870 written by the mine superintendents in the Michigamme Mine and addressed to the main office in Chicago. Smith says she was surprised when she read the letters because they were not the dry statistics she was expecting. Many of the letters contain stories and updates about everyday life at the mine. There are comments about the weather and references to insect problems, even a statement from the superintendent saying, “It’s election day today, the men won’t work.” Smith enjoys getting a look into what life at the mine was like back then; her family was very involved in the Michigamme mines when she was younger, and that connection helps fuel her interest in the topic. Her mother was born at one of the mine locations and her grandfather was an accountant for the mine.

“I’ve always been around those mines” Smith says. “I can find each one of them to this day. If someone doesn’t do this research, soon there will be no one left who will.”

Smith works at the Michigamme Historical Society, but this research is one of personal interest. “It’s my baby” she jokes.  If it isn’t impressive enough that Ruth is doing this research by herself, remember that she is 86 years old! When asked why she still does extensive research like this at her age she simply replied, “To me, it is absolutely fascinating.” She has done research at the NMU Archives as well as the Michigan Technological University Archives in Houghton. This project has been her focus for the past four months and she hopes to be finished by mid-October. “I just finished the first box, Hallelujah!” she announced as I finished up my questions. It looks like she’s well on her way. We wish her luck and look forward to reading her book when it comes out.

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.