Happy birthday, Michigan!
The Great Lakes State — or Mitten State, if you prefer — turns 182 today, joining the union on Jan. 26, 1837.
To celebrate, here are some fun facts about the 26th state:
1) Many people know the state bird is the robin and the state flower is the apple blossom.
But Michigan has a slew of other official symbols, including a state fish (brook trout), fossil (mastodon), reptile (painted turtle), stone (Petoskey stone) and wild flower (Dwarf Lake Iris). There’s even a state soil, the Kalkaska soil series.
2) Michigan has its own version of the Pledge of Allegiance … sort of. Lawmakers adopted a pledge to the state flag in 1972: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of Michigan, and to the state for which it stands, 2 beautiful peninsulas united by a bridge of steel, where equal opportunity and justice to all is our ideal.”
3) What’s a Michigander? Then-Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln coined the term in 1848. Lincoln referred to Michigan Gov. Lewis Cass, who was running for president as a Democrat, as a “Michigander,” meaning he was as silly as a goose. Though the term was meant as an insult, Michigander stuck around in the state lexicon. “Michiganian” is another popular demonym.
4) The California Gold Rush had nothing on Michigan. Before anyone trekked to California to seek all that glitters in 1849, speculators flocked to the Upper Peninsula for copper in 1843, spurred by reports from the state’s first geologist, Douglass Houghton. Michigan copper was pure and plentiful. The population of the remote Keewenaw Peninsula exploded as miners flocked from around the world, living in tent cities because houses hadn’t yet been built. Over the next 130 years, more than 5 million tons of copper would be mined.
5) Plenty of drama surrounded Michigan’s statehood. On June 15, 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed the act that would allow Michigan to become a state. The Northern Ohio Boundary Bill, which Congress passed, gave Toledo to Ohio and most of the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, along with immediate statehood, if Michigan agreed to the terms.
Michigan was required to then hold a convention to discuss this deal. Delegates gathered in September in Ann Arbor but rejected the compromise. They finally OK’d it in December.
The Toledo Strip was a flash point for Michigan and Ohio. Ohio’s constitution described the border as “from the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan to the most northerly extreme of the Miami (Maumee) Bay,” and that’s how surveyor William Harris drew the line in 1817. The following year, surveyor John Fulton made the boundary according to the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The dispute over the 468-square-mile area between the two lines led to the Toledo War.
6) Michigan was born as a state the same year as an animal that lived to the ripe ol’ age of 154. A 321-pound lake sturgeon washed ashore on Lake Erie near Buffalo in 1991, ending a life that began in 1837. Biologists were able to determine its age by counting the growth rings in the fish’s ear bones (otoliths), like counting growth rings in a tree stump.