2015 Collections Acquisitions

2015 Collections Acquisitions

The year 2015 was a busy one for collections as the Mackinac Island State Park Commission accessioned 140 gifts and 150 purchases to the historic object and archival collections. Many of the objects acquired this year were images of Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City and the surrounding area. These include photo album pages with images from visitor’s trips, stereo views that were a popular souvenir in the late 1800’s, postcards and press photographs. The park purchased a rare bill for fish from 1853 and a medal commemorating one of Fort Mackinac’s commanders. (more…)

Fort Mackinac and the Mackinac National Park

Lt. Calvin Cowles, along with Lt. Benjamin Morse, surveyed the National Park in 1885.

Lt. Calvin Cowles, along with Lt. Benjamin Morse, surveyed the National Park in 1885.

This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary. By 1916, the Mackinac National Park had already passed into and out of existence, its fate linked to the fortunes of Fort Mackinac.

After Congress created Yellowstone in 1872, Senator Thomas Ferry introduced legislation to create a second park on Mackinac Island. In addition to the island’s attractive history and natural features, the U.S. government already owned much of the island as part of the Fort Mackinac military reservation and the soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac could act as caretakers. As a result, the park would cost almost nothing, which Ferry knew appealed to the tight-fisted Congressmen of the 1870s. After two years of campaigning, President Ulysses Grant created the Mackinac National Park, the second park in the country, on March 3, 1875. (more…)

Snowshoeing at the Straits of Mackinac

Snowshoeing at the Straits of Mackinac

Snowshoeing is a popular winter pastime in northern Michigan, but it’s not a new activity. People at the Straits of Mackinac needed snowshoes to go about their daily lives 250 years ago. Take a look at this brief video in which Museum Historian Craig Wilson describes the nature and the need of snowshoeing through the centuries.

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Lost Hotels of Mackinac: The Palmer House

Lost Hotels of Mackinac: The Palmer House

The Palmer House, Ca. 1880

The Palmer House, Ca. 1880

Mackinac Island features many historic hotels that have welcomed visitors for generations. There were other early hotels that, for a variety of reason, have closed their doors. Some of these buildings remain standing but are used for different purposes. Others have disappeared completely. In this and future posts we will explore some of these lost hotels of Mackinac Island. (more…)

A New Exhibit at Michilimackinac: The Commanding Officer’s House

Ever wonder what happens during the winter time at Mackinac State Historic Parks? Although our museums are closed for the winter, there’s still a lot of work going on to prepare for 2016. One of our major projects this winter is the renovation and reinterpretation of the Commanding Officer’s House at Michilimackinac, which will look completely different when visitors arrive next summer. (more…)

A Century Ago at Old Mackinac Point – December 15, 1915

Have you ever kept a journal or a diary? Looking back at what you’ve written can help you remember ideas, special events, and how you felt at a certain time. A century ago, the keepers at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse were required to keep a log of their daily activities, and while the logs don’t reveal the keepers’ emotions, they do tell us a great deal about what life was like at the station. (more…)

Which Flag Flew Over Michilimackinac?

Which Flag Flew Over Michilimackinac?

In the late 18th century, Michilimackinac served as an important economic, diplomatic, and military center for the British government. Although one of the most remote outposts of the British empire, Michilimackinac held the key to British influence in the Great Lakes, and it seems only logical to assume that the British projected this regional power by flying a flag over their fort on the Straits of Mackinac.

The Red Ensign served as the flag of the British Royal Navy until 1864. Today, it is the flag of the British merchant fleet.

The Red Ensign served as the flag of the British Royal Navy until 1864. Today, it is the flag of the British merchant fleet.

In a September 1774 letter to Lt. Col. Samuel Cleaveland of the Royal Artillery, newly-arrived Capt. Arent DePeyster made a rare reference to a flag when he requested a “large Ensign” be sent to Michilimackinac. For many years, historians assumed that DePeyster was referring to the Red Ensign, which served as the flag of the Royal Navy in the 18th century. However, reviewing the entire letter reveals a bit more ambiguity in DePeyster’s request:

Sir- I was informed by my predecessor that the Colours of this Garrison belonged to a Master of a Vessel of whom he had borrowed them to hoist upon particular occasions. They are at length demanded by the owner, by which means the Garrison remains without Colours which are absolutely necessary to return the compliments of tribes of Indians when they come on matters of any consequence to the Government. They serve to display a certain necessary dignity, therefore I am informed by the standing orders of this post that the Commanding Officer of the Artillery [Cleaveland] is to be applied to for Colours when wanted. I take the liberty of troubling you upon this occasion and shall be glad to have a good large Ensign sent as early in the spring as possible.

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Lost Landmarks of Mackinac Island: The Mitchell House

The Mitchell House, on Mackinac Island’s Market Street, was constructed by David and Elizabeth Mitchell. David, a native of Scotland, had served as a surgeon’s mate with the King’s Eighth Regiment at Michilimackinac since 1774. There he met Elizabeth, of French Canadian and Ojibwa ancestory. They were married in 1776 and moved with the rest of the coummunity to Mackinac Island in 1780. In 1783, when the King’s Eighth left Mackinac, David received approval to resign his post and remain with his family.

The Mitchell House 1 (more…)

Charting the Great Lakes

Maps of the Great Lakes created during the 17th and 18th centuries reflect the importance of waterways to early explorers. These maps reveal the struggle explorers faced when documenting this challenging landscape. Early maps of this region allow researchers and historians to better understand the ways in which Europeans explorers related to their new surroundings. The colonization of North America rapidly increased the need and desire for atlases and maps, mainly being produced by the Dutch, English and French. (more…)