In the 19th century, before becoming a state, Michigan was a new and barely-settled place. The territory of Michigan grew up with the process of industrialization and the development of America. The history of Michigan includes such integral points as the environment and people who settled and inhabited this place. In the Midwest, the increasing number of population affected the economic growth. In the early 19th century, only three small Midwest settlements such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit represented the Michigan State. Soon, they became three of the nation’s greatest cities. The good access to water, trees, and animals helped to shape the economy and the law in Michigan. The natural resources and the variety of transportation routes gave Michigan a manufacturing power. According to the characteristic of historian George May, Michigan is perhaps the least typical of all of the original forty-eight states in the Union. The law and culture of Michigan were not stagnant or unchanging and they always reflected the traditions of the dynamic life. This paper mainly focuses on the early Statehood era of Michigan. In particular, it explores the settlements, culture, economy, and legacy of this era in the history of Michigan.
The Settlement of Michigan in the Early Statehood Era
From the very beginning, Michigan was a home for different tribes of Native Americans. Initially, three main tribes resided in the state and formed the group the Confederacy of the Three Fires. These people spoke familiar languages and called themselves Anishinabek. The first tribe Chippewa inhabited the eastern part of the Lower Peninsula, while the second one, Ottawa, took the western part. The Potawatomi tribe occupied the southwest of Michigan. The majority of the native settlements were located near river valleys or the shoreline of the Great Lakes. However, the citizens of these tribes were not permanent. Thus, they used to move to new locations every few years by using the rivers and lakes for transportation.
The first Europeans who saw Michigan were French explorers. In 1620, Étienne Brûlé came in the Upper Peninsula and stayed with the Huron tribe to learn their language and culture. He was mainly interested in the fur trade and he tried to establish good relationships with Natives. To facilitate transportation, the invaders built several military forts near Detroit. However, fur was not the only reason for the European invasion. The Frenchmen found large deposits of gold, silver, and copper.
The British penetration in Michigan continued the European invasion into the land. They established their flag over Michigan for 36 years. The British people, as well as the French, found a great benefit of these lands. Consequently, constant conflicts between the French settlers, Natives, and the British people ended in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
These events attracted attention to Michigan. The first governor of Michigan, Lewis Cass, signed peace with Indians and opened the pioneers’ era. Thus, in 1830, the number of people in Michigan was around 27,000, while by 1840, it was more than 212,000. However, for the settlers of the early Statehood period arriving to Michigan from the eastern states was often a challenge. First, the road was muddy and rocky without any bridges for crossing even a small creek. Moreover, deep forests and wild animals caused many problems. However, the main reason why people decided to move into Michigan was the cheap farmland. To reach the favored territory, pioneers used various technologies. For instance, they developed lake transportation. First settlers came by wagon or horseback, and in 1825, many came by the newly built steamboats. In addition, pioneers used horses to pull the boats along the canals. Another new technology that settlers had created was an extensive network of railroads. The first railroad in Michigan started to work in 1830. During the next 6 years, the railroad reached into all parts of the state. However, not only low prices for the farmland made people leave their houses and move in travel to the unknown territories. Thus, in the 1830s, rich copper, iron, and oil deposits were discovered. Michigan became a multicultural land of abundant natural resources, opportunities, and economic growth.
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Culture of Michigan in the Early Statehood Era
The new inhabitants of Michigan represented a diversity of traditions and cultures that were gathered in one unique identity. The first thing all the settlers in Michigan tried was to develop some activity to survive and earn some money. Thus, the culture and artwork of the early Statehood period were mostly bound with the leading activities such as lumbering, sailing, and mining.
The lakes have always had a great influence on Michigan’s history and culture. To be a sailor meant to relate to a specific cultural sphere. Michigan’s sailors made a great contribution to folklore. The legends of great feats and mysterious disappearances upon the lakes were numerous. The frequent disasters on the lakes also caused many stories of sunken treasures. Moreover, the sailors of the Great Lakes developed chanteys and amusement songs. The first chanteys appeared from oceans’ sailors, but these songs soon acquired some local flavor. Sailors’ songs differed from other songs, as they were more rhythmic. These songs helped people to work in unison on a capstan or any work that required united efforts. Usually, the main chanteyman started to sing a couplet and then the group supported him. The words in such songs could be about anything, while the rhythm was the most important thing. Thus, a good chanteyman could make up the couplets during all day of the work.
However, the state with abundant raw materials became the birthplace for not only the fishing activity. When the first settlers came to Michigan, they saw such a dense forest that Some said a squirrel could travel on tree branches for hundreds of miles without ever touching the ground. In the beginning, settlers used trees for their purposes. However, by the 1840s, they started to sell wood and established commercial lumbering. Up to the 1860s, Michigan became the leading lumber-producing state. The furniture manufacturing became one of the most colourful activities. Furthermore, the stories from the lumber camps formed the basis of Michigan’s richest folklore. The most well-known songs that came from lumber trade were “Timber-Drover Bigler” or the French one “The Wreck of the Wood Scow Julie Plante”.
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The first artworks that appeared in Michigan were the figures from wood that were carved for shipbuilders of the 19th century. In addition, craftsmen used wood and metal simple geometric designs for ornamentation on furniture. The historians also found many puppets and marionettes. The mining activity brought an opportunity for the creation of iron ornamental deer and nymphs. The new lands attacked painters that represented a beauty of the state in their works. For instance, James Otto Lewis established the first school where he trained Michigan art. He also designed the seal of the City of Detroit. Later, he accompanied the governor Lewis Cass in the travel through the Indian territories and made the drawings of Indian chiefs. For today, his portfolio has great historical value. Other early artists, such as C.V. Bond, J.M. Stanley, and Gildersleeve Hurd, also made a significant contribution to the culture of Michigan. As a result, the first settlers’ activities in Michigan formed literature, music, and culture in general anf they had a crucial impact on the economy of the state.
Economy of Michigan in the Early Statehood Era
In the early years, Michigan built its economic strength from the natural resources. There were several key industries such as lumbering, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing. Nevertheless, agriculture remained the most important economic activity. The majority of the immigrants that came to Michigan were farmers. For instance, the Germans settled predominately in the southeastern part of Michigan and represented themselves as excellent farmers. The Dutch immigrants introduced the raising of celery and other truck crops. The key crop of Michigan was wheat. The price of the bushel of wheat was around 70 cents, while the total value more than $2 million. However, the pioneers quickly admitted that the local climate was suitable for the fruit production. For instance, apples, berries, and small fruits were shipped from the Lake Michigan shore. It was one of the most massive economic activities of that era. First, the biggest part of citizens was engaged in agriculture. Thus, the number of workers in the agricultural sphere was equal to the total employed in manufacturing, trade, and transportation. During the first 20 years of the Statehood period, the number of farms increased from 62,000 up to 207,000. Thus, in the next decade, the output of agriculture industry was around 88 million. In the early Statehood period, the output of such industries as mining and lumbering was comparatively less because the majority of settlers were farmers. Furthermore, the evolution of agriculture in Michigan brings a significant contribution to the economy of the state today.
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Legacy of Michigan in the Early Statehood Era
Numerous achievements in Michigan, such as a fast development of machinery manufacturing and railroad transportation, can be related to the early Statehood period. However, it was also a time of important social reforms. These reforms changed the areas such as education, women’s suffrage, prisons, and slavery. Thus, it had an essential impact on the future of the state. First, beginning from 1838, the system of prison discipline became more humane. Hence, the prisoners received an opportunity to become rehabilitated. Moreover, in 1846, the reforms abolished capital punishment. As a result, Michigan became the first state that canceled capital punishment. Later, in 1854, the state established the first institution for people with special needs. It was the first step towards the evolution of medical care in Michigan. Work in the fields of nutrition helped the development of the cereal industry.
Various religious denominations built the foundation of the education system. Consequently, Hillsdale College, Albion College, and Olivet College opened the doors for the citizens. Furthermore, the early Statehood period was the time when the first library appeared and transformed in the biggest state library that works even nowadays. The antislavery activists Laura Haviland and Elizabeth Chandler led the most dramatic movement. It caused the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act that was the reason for the development of the Republican Party. The famous meeting “under the oaks” was the dominant political force that supported the ban on slavery. In general, the young state overcame many changes, but the social reforms aided in the evolution of society in Michigan and made the first steps toward a better life in the entire state.
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The early Statehood period of Michigan built economic, manufacturing, cultural, and social foundations. The settlers transformed Michigan from an outback frontier to a prosperous state and established its civil culture. The tribal groups of Indians were the first Michigan’s residents. They overcame the invasion of the newcomers from all over the world. The European and other immigrants brought new ideas, customs, and religions. They used modern weapons and transport. Being rich in various resources, Michigan helped new settlers develop agriculture, mining, lumbering, fishing, and other industries. Under those circumstances, the traditions of immigrants united in the culture of Michigan. The most important changes that influenced the entire state were the social reform. These reforms made the first steps towards the creation of society. The establishment of the medical care and educational institutions was the most important legacy of the early Statehood period as it had changed the life of the next generations up to nowadays. Michigan became the first state that started to defend human rights by the cancellation of capital punishment and slavery. Therefore, because of the results of the early Statehood era today, people can live and support further development of the state.