The State of Michigan
AT A GLANCE
Name: Michigan comes from a Native American word that means “great or large lake.”
Nicknames: Wolverine State, Great Lakes State
Size: 58,513 sq. mi. (151,548 sq km)
Population: 9,922,576 (2015 est)
Statehood: Michigan became the 26th state on January 26, 1837.
Electoral votes: 17 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 16 (until 2016)
State tree: white pine
State flower: apple blossom
State insect: dragonfly
Highest point: Mount Curwood, 1,980 ft. (604 m)
Michigan is one of the Great Lake states. The Great Lakes separate Michigan into the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The Mackinac Bridge, one of the world's longest suspension bridges, connects the two areas. The western half of the Upper Peninsula is the most mountainous part of Michigan.
This region is covered by dense forests, rivers, and waterfalls, and has some of the best copper and iron deposits in the country. The rest of the state is a fairly level plain.
The land is swampy in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula and fertile in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. Most of the farms in the state are located in that area, which has the richest soil, as well as valuable oil and natural gas deposits.
The Great Lakes often influence Michigan's weather. Its climate is generally moist and humid, and summers are warmer in the southern part of the state. Northern Michigan receives more snow than southern regions of the state.
Facts and Firsts
- Michigan is the only state that touches four of the five Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. It has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world and more general shoreline than any other state except Alaska.
- Rogers City contains one of the world's largest limestone quarries.
- Although Michigan is known as the Wolverine State, there are no longer any wolverines there.
- Michigan was the first state to guarantee every child the right to a free high school education.
- Michigan established the first state university, the University of Michigan, in 1817.
- In 1879, Detroit was the first city in the nation to be issued telephone numbers to make calling easier.
- Michigan has the only floating post office in the world. It is aboard the J.W. Westcott II, a boat that delivers mail to ships.
- Michigan produces more automobiles and parts than any other state.
When French Canadian explorers from Quebec first traveled into Michigan in search of furs and a water route to the Pacific Ocean, they found more than 15,000 Native Americans living in the area.
When they found no route to the West, the French established the city of Detroit in 1701 and began to trade furs with the local tribes. When the British took control of Canada, Michigan became a British territory. The English settlers who moved to the region were more interested in trading furs than in settling the region. Because of the profitable fur trade, the British refused to surrender Michigan to the United States until 1796, many years after the Revolutionary War ended.
In 1825, completion of the Erie Canal connected the area around the Great Lakes with New York. The canal provided a valuable transportation route from the Atlantic coast to the western territories. As a result, more settlers began to move into Michigan.
In 1837, Michigan became the 26th state in the Union. Mining was an important industry in the Upper Peninsula, and iron and steel factories sprang up along the Great Lakes. The lumbering industry grew in the years after the Civil War. The state's population doubled over the next thirty years, and agriculture became more important as new settlers cleared the land for farming.
During the early 1900s, industrialization expanded as the Olds Motor Works and the Ford Motor Company built automobile plants in Detroit. The Great Depression of the 1930s hurt these companies and many others, but Michigan began to recover during World War II, when the state's automobile industry shifted to the production of tanks, airplane equipment, and other materials for the U.S. military.
Nationwide economic slumps in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1980s hurt Michigan's automobile sales. The automobile industry suffered, and unemployment rose dramatically.
Detroit remains the leading producer of automobiles and automobile parts in the United States. Automobiles are also manufactured in Flint and Lansing. During recent decades, however, the state has tried to lessen its dependence on the automobile industry, and has encouraged the development of other types of manufacturing, including steel and food-processing plants.
Michigan is also one of the leading agricultural states, and raises some of the nation's largest apple and cherry crops. Mining also continues to balance the state's economy—only Minnesota produces more iron ore than Michigan. In addition, Michigan produces natural gas, petroleum, salt, sand, and crushed gravel.
Michigan's many lakes and forests, and its beaches along the Great Lakes, have also helped to make it a leading tourist destination. Tourists visit Michigan to hike, swim, and fish in the lakes that dot the countryside.
Born in Michigan
- Ellen Burstyn, actress
- Bruce Catton, historian
- Roger Chaffee, astronaut
- Francis Ford Coppola, film director
- Henry Ford, industrialist
- Julie Harris, actress
- Earvin “Magic” Johnson, basketball player
- Charles A. Lindbergh, aviator
- Madonna, singer
- Terry McMillan, author
- Jason Robards, actor
- Diana Ross, singer
- Steven Seagal, actor
- Bob Seger, singer
- Tom Selleck, actor