July 19, 2012

Michigan – “The Great Lake State”


Michigan Map

Just the Facts…


bird – Robin
flower – Apple Blossom 
tree – Eastern White Pine
capital – Lansing
union – 26th on January 26, 1837
population – about 10 million




The Basics 

Michigan is in the Great Lakes region of America.  In fact, the name “Michigan” came from the French interpretation of a Native American word that means “large water.”

Michigan consists of two peninsulas – the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula.   The two parts of Michigan are connected by a 5 mile bridge – the Mackinac Bridge.  The Upper Peninsula is full of forests and rugged terrain – it is home to the Porcupine Mountains, which are thought to be the oldest mountains in America.  The Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten – try holding your hand up (with your fingers together and your thumb out a little bit) and see how its shape compares to the Lower Peninsula.

Michigan was first explored and settled by French voyageurs who came down from Canada (they were French Canadian as opposed to French Creole in the south).  They established trading posts and forts in Michigan, which supported their activities of hunting and trapping wildlife and trading goods with the Native Americans.  The area was lost to England in the French and Indian War and became part of the Northwest Territory.

Michigan approved a state constitution in 1835, but was not admitted into the Union as a state for two years because of a dispute over the boundary with Ohio.  The “Toledo Strip” was an area claimed by both Ohio and Michigan and was the source of years of controversy.  Finally, as a condition to statehood, Michigan had to give up the Toledo Strip and was given the Upper Peninsula in return.


Its Claim to Fame

Michigan has the most freshwater shoreline of any state.  The Upper Peninsula has Lake Superior on the north and Lake Michigan on the south.  The Lower Peninsula has Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the northeast.  And believe it or not, the very southeaster tip of Michigan touches Lake Erie.  That is four Great Lakes!  Also, quite a few islands make up part of Michigan’s shoreline.  Those islands are primarily in Lakes Michigan and Huron, although Michigan also owns Isle Royale in Lake Superior.


What Makes it Tick

Michigan was largely unsettled land until the opening of the Erie Canal.  The Erie Canal allowed people from New England to travel through Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and finally to Michigan’s shores.  As a result, Michigan grew tremendously in the 1820s and 1830s.  Most of this population boom took place in the Lower Peninsula.  Even now, a majority of Michigan’s population remains in the Lower Peninsula, specifically around Detroit.  Much of the Upper Peninsula is still wilderness, with relatively few people calling it home. And, many of those people who do call it home came from Canada (rather than through the Erie Canal).

Michigan is famous as the birthplace of the American car industry.  Ford, General Motors, Dodge, Buick, Oldsmobile were all started in Michigan.  Henry Ford built his “Model T” in Michigan – the first car to be built on an assembly line.  The rest, as they say, is history.  During both World Wars, the car factories in Michigan made most of the vehicles needed by the military – trucks, tanks, airplanes, etc.  Today, Michigan is still the leading producer of cars in America.

In the 19th Century, the lumber industry and dairy farming is what made Michigan tick.  Now, two of the biggest pizza companies are in Michigan – Domino’s and Little Caesars.  When was the last time you had a Domino’s Pizza?  The dough and sauce for that pizza was probably made in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


If You Visited

If you visited Michigan, you might stay on Mackinac Island, which is right off the shore of both peninsulas, in the straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron.   Some people say that time stands still on Mackinac Island – it is known for its carriage rides, grand historic hotels, and the famous Mackinac Island Fudge.  But don’t bring your car – very few motor vehicles are allowed on the island!  In fact, there is not even a bridge that connects Mackinac to the mainland.  You get there by ferry!

Or, you might visit the Henry Ford – which is a museum, village and factory in Dearborn, Michigan.  You can ride a restored Model T or see how trucks are made today.  The Museum is a tribute to American ingenuity – from airplanes to steam engines to cars.  The Village has seven different historic districts that highlight various aspects of America’s past.  There is even a replica of Thomas Edison’s workshop, where he invented something we use everyday – the lightbulb.   The Village also has a baseball diamond -  you could watch a baseball game, 19th Century style!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Michigan state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Michigan? Or, maybe you have visited Michigan?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Michigan?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Michigan to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Michigan.  Visit these websites to learn more: