Place your left hand flat on a table or desk: that’s the shape of lower Michigan. It looks like a mitten.
The state is the only one in the country that’s bordered by four of the five Great Lakes. (The exception is Lake Ontario.) Here’s a trick to help you remember the names of all five Great Lakes: The first letter of each of the lake’s names spells the word HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
In chapter 27, Mo and Finchy visit Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, which is a popular summertime resort town. The island is the home of the Grand Hotel, which opened in 1887. Its front porch is 660 feet, the largest porch in the world. If you lived on the island, you would have to walk, snowmobile, ride your bicycle, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to the store, school, or anywhere else you wanted to go. No cars are allowed on the island, except for emergency vehicles that include a police car, ambulance and a firetruck or two. Cars were banned on the island in 1901 because they caused too many problems for horse-drawn carriages.
What do you think it would be like to snowmobile or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to school when it’s raining, snowing or freezing outside?
Ironically, about 250 miles south is the state’s biggest city, which is named Detroit. It’s also home to the auto industry. It was nicknamed the Motor City and also the car capital of the world because so many cars were made there.
Michigan shares southern land borders with Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana. It also has water borders (the Great Lakes) to the west with Illinois and Minnesota, and to the north and east with Ontario, Canada.
What really happened
- People have lived in this state for at least 12,000 years. Centuries later, there were mainly three Native American tribes that lived in the state: the Ojibwe who mostly lived in the Upper Peninsula; the Ottawa who lived in the west; and the Potawatomi who lived in the southwest. These three tribes formed a group called the Council of the Three Fires.
- French explorers came to the state around 1618 and controlled the land until the mid-1700s. They traded with the local natives for furs. But, after England defeated the French in the French Indian War in 1763, the British gained control of Michigan and more Europeans began to settle in the region.
- After the Revolutionary War (the US won the war against the British), the United States declared Michigan as part of its Northwest Territory in 1787. But the British didn’t leave the state until 1796. Michigan became its own territory in 1805 and gained full control of the Upper Peninsula in 1818.
- In 1817, the University of Michigan was the first university established by any state. It moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in 1841.
- When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, more settlers began to move to Michigan and the population grew. In 1837, the state was admitted to the Union as the 26th The city of Detroit was the first capital, which was then moved to Lansing in 1847.
- Michigan joined the Union as a free (anti-slavery) state in 1837.
- Four flags have flown over Michigan: France, England, Spain and the United States.
- In 1879, people living in Detroit were the first in the country to have phone numbers. In other cities, calls were routed by people’s names.
- Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company) began manufacturing the Model T (car) in 1908. It was the first car that people could afford. In 1909, it cost $850, but the price dropped to only $260 by 1924.
- Detroit is also where Henry Ford invented the assembly line, which makes it possible to produce many cars quickly. Likewise, the first air-conditioned car was invented here in 1939.
- In 1929, the Michigan State Police established the first state police radio system in the world.
Stuff you should know
- Michigan has more miles of freshwater shoreline than any other state in the nation. About 3,000 miles, to be exact!
- The Great Lakes contain more than 80 percent of North America’s (and more than 20 percent of the world’s) surface freshwater supply.
- Michigan is the only state that’s split into two pieces, or landmasses, called the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. (A peninsula is a piece of land surrounded by water on three sides.) They are connected by the five-mile Mackinac Bridge, one of the world’s largest suspension bridges.
- The state also has more than 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of streams.
- Gerald R. Ford became the first person from Michigan to become President of the US. As the 38th president, he served from 1974 to 1977.
- The state was the first to provide for the establishment of public libraries in its Constitution.
- Michigan was also the first state to guarantee every child the right to a free (tax-paid) high school education.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird
- No matter where people are in Michigan, they are within 85 miles of one of the Great Lakes.
- Michigan is the only place in the world with a floating post office. Located on the Detroit River, the J.W. Westcott II is the only boat in the world that delivers mail to crew members stationed on ships throughout the river.
- The city of Grand Haven is famous for its singing sand beaches. They make a whistling sound when you walk on them.
- Michigan has some old, weird laws: You can’t give a friend a haircut or manicure without the governor’s permission.
Tell me more
- The Kellogg Company (which makes a ton of breakfast cereals that include Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops) is based in Battle Creek, making the city the cereal capital of the world. Corn Flakes were created here in 1898 by the Kellogg brothers. They were trying to make granola, but accidentally created flakes instead.
- The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, a city near Detroit, displays lots of cool and historical stuff like Thomas Edison’s laboratory, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and even the bus that Rosa Parks (a civil rights activist) rode on when she refused to sit in the back of the bus because she was Black.
- The western shore of Lake Michigan has many sand dunes. One of them is called Sleeping Bear Dunes, which is 460 feet above Lake Michigan.
- The first auto traffic tunnel built between two nations was the mile-long Detroit-Windsor (Canada) tunnel under the Detroit River.
Do you live in Michigan or have you ever visited the state? Please share something fun or interesting about it by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll post it on Mo’s social media pages along with your name, age, and state where you currently live.