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Overall History of Michigan

September 17th, 2011 2:19 am

Jesuit Père Jacques Marquette sailed over from France and staked the first European claim in Michigan in 1668. He named his settlement Sault Ste Marie, and it became the USA’s third-oldest town. In 1763 the British swiped all of France’s settlements and used Michigan as a base for conducting Indian raids against the Americans during the Revolutionary War. The Brits also built a fort on Mackinac Island in 1780. Its location in the straits between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron made it one of the most important ports in the North American fur trade, and a site the British and Americans battled over many times.

Starting in the 1920s, car-making became inextricably linked to Michigan’s economy, although that hasn’t been a good thing in recent years as the industry sputters. General Motors (GM), Ford and Chrysler all maintain their headquarters in or near Detroit.

Reform Movements

September 17th, 2011 2:16 am

After the war the state remained firmly Republican until 1882. Then Michigan farmers, moved by the same financial difficulties and outrage at high transportation and storage rates that aroused other Western farmers, supported movements advocating agrarian interests, such as the Granger movement and the Greenback party. The farmers joined with the growing numbers of workers in the mines and lumber camps to elect a Greenback-Democratic governor in 1882 and succeeded in getting legislation passed for agrarian improvement and public welfare.

Reforms influenced by the labor movement were the creation of a state board of labor (1883), a law enforcing a 10-hr day (1885), and a moderate child-labor law (1887). The lumbering business, with its yield of wealth to the timber barons, declined to virtual inactivity. Some of the loggers joined the ranks of industrial workers, which were further swelled by many Polish and Norwegian immigrants.

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