Things Named Mackinac/aw

A logger wearing a mackinaw coat near a log train, ca. 1906. Hennepin County Library

Today there are several easily recognizable places and things named either Mackinac or Mackinaw. Mackinac Island, the Straits of Mackinac, the Mackinac Bridge, and Mackinaw City all come to mind. Did you know there are even more uses for Mackinac/Mackinaw?

The retired 1944 USCGC Mackinaw (left) is now docked in Mackinaw City as a museum. The 2006 USCGC Mackinaw (right) occasionally stops in port as part of her modern duties.

A Mackinaw boat on display outside Darrow’s Restaurant in Mackinaw City.

Many different boats and ships have been named after the Mackinac region. In the most generic sense, a Mackinaw boat is a small, open craft with a canoe-shaped hull perhaps 20 feet long, a mast, and a retractable centerboard for stability. These boats were likely perfected in the Mackinac region for use in the fur trade sometime in the 18th century. Later, they became the vessel of choice for commercial fishermen plying the Great Lakes in the 19th century. More formally, the U.S. Navy has commissioned two USS Mackinacs and one USS Mackinaw. The Coast Guard has also had its share of similarly-named vessels, with two more USCGC Mackinacs. More famous to residents of the Great Lakes region are the two Coast Guard cutters named USCGC Mackinaw. The first, an icebreaker commissioned in 1944 and in service until 2006, is now a museum ship in Mackinaw City. The second USCGC Mackinaw is in active service and continues to fulfill the old Mackinaw’s role today and is based in Cheboygan.

A fashionable variant of the mackinaw coat for women, ca. 1913. New York Public Library

Like the Mackinaw boat, the word “Mackinaw” can also be applied generically to a heavy jacket, often made of plaid wool and fastened up the front with buttons. This style of coat may have originated in the Mackinac area in the 19th century, but its exact history is unclear. Mackinaw coats were commonly worn by lumberjacks, and in the 20th century became a popular piece of outdoor wear for sportsmen. The U.S. Army introduced a Mackinaw coat as part of the uniform for drivers and members of mobile units beginning in 1938.

As you go about your daily routine, see if you can find anything named “Mackinac” or “Mackinaw-” you never know what you might find! For example, Pepperidge Farm currently sells the “Mackinac Oatmeal Milk Chocolate Cookie.” How it got the name is unclear (perhaps the chocolate chunks are reminiscent of Mackinac Island fudge?), but it’s just another example of how many different uses Mackinac can have. How many things named Mackinac/Mackinaw can you find?

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

Comments (required)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>