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Michigan is a state in the United States. The name is derived from Lake Michigan, which in turn is believed to come from the Chippewa Indian word meicigama, meaning "great water." Bounded by four of the Great Lakes, Michigan has the longest state shoreline in the continental United States, and more recreational boats than any other state in the union.

Michigan is primarily known as the birthplace of the automobile industry. However, it is also home to a thriving tourist industry, with destinations such as Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Saugatuck and the entire Upper Peninsula drawing vacationers, hunters and nature enthusiasts from across the United States and Canada.

Michigan is simultaneously known for its cities, supported by heavy industry, and its pristine wilderness, home to more than 11,000 lakes. The clang and clamor of metro Detroit's crowded thoroughfares and busy factories stand in vivid counterpoint to the tranquility found in virtually every corner of the state.

An individual from Michigan is called a "Michigander" or "Michiganian." A resident of Michigan's Upper Peninsula ("the U.P.") is often called a "Yooper" (or U.P.'er). In turn, residents of the lower peninsula may be jokingly referred to as "trolls" -- because they "live below the Mackinac Bridge." As the Lower Peninsula is famously shaped like a mitten, residents often use their left hand or right palm as a shorthand "map" to illustrate which part of the state they hail from.

Its U.S. postal abbreviation is "MI" (traditional: "Mich."). The U.S. Navy's USS Michigan was named in honor of the state. Michigan is nicknamed the "Great Lakes State", and also the "Wolverine State", from a nickname earned during the Toledo War.



Michigan was explored and settled by French voyageurs in the 17th century. In 1701, explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit on the straits between Lakes St. Clair and Erie. The town became a major fur-trading and shipping post. Most of the rest of the region remained unsettled by whites, however. Michigan passed to Great Britain in 1763 and then to the new United States two decades later. The population grew slowly until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which brought large numbers of settlers.

By the 1830s, Michigan had some 80,000 residents, more than enough to apply for statehood. A state government was formed in 1835, although Congressional recognition of the state languished due to a boundary dispute with Ohio, with both sides claiming a 468 square mile (1,210 km²) strip of land that included the important port city of Toledo on Lake Erie and an area to the west then known as the "Great Black Swamp". The dispute eventually culminated into what would be known as the Toledo War when Michigan and Ohio militia maneuvered in the area. Ultimately, Congress awarded the "Toledo Strip" to Ohio, and Michigan, having received the western part of the Upper Peninsula as a concession, formally entered the Union on January 26, 1837.

Thought to be useless at the time of its addition to Michigan, it was soon discovered that the Upper Peninsula was a rich and important source of lumber, iron, and copper, which would become the state's most sought-after natural resources.

Michigan's economy underwent a massive shift at the turn of the 20th century. The birth of the automotive industry, with Henry Ford's first plant in the Highland Park suburb of Detroit, marked the beginning of a new era in personal transportation. It was a development that not only transformed Detroit and Michigan, but permanently altered the socio-economic climate of the United States and much of the world, for that matter.

Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan, is also a center of automotive manufacturing. Since 1838, the city has also been noted for its thriving furniture industry.

Since World War II, Detroit's industrial base has eroded as auto companies abandoned some of the area's industrial parks in favor of less expensive labor found overseas and in southern U.S. states. Still, with 10 million residents, Michigan remains a large and influential state and ranks 8th in population among the 50 states.

Michigan history timeline

Early European history

U.S. history

  • 1805 Michigan Territory was created, with Detroit designated as the seat of government. William Hull appointed as governor. Detroit was destroyed by fire.
  • 1813 Lewis Cass became Territorial Governor.
  • 1819 In the Treaty of Saginaw, the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi ceded more than six million acres, or 24,000 km² in the central portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the United States.
  • 1821 With the Treaty of Chicago, the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi ceded all the lands south of the Grand River to the United States.
  • 1823 Congress transferred legislative powers previously exercised by the Territorial Governor and Judges to a nine-member Legislative Council, appointed by the U.S. President who selected them from eighteen persons chosen by the people. The Council was expanded to thirteen members in 1815 and made an elected body in 1827.
  • 1828 Territorial Capitol built in Detroit at a cost of $24,500.
  • 1835 First Constitutional Convention. Stevens T. Mason inaugurated as the first Governor. A minor conflict with Ohio over the city of Toledo, Ohio, known as the Toledo War, contributed to delaying Michigan's statehood. As a resolution, Ohio received Toledo and the Toledo Strip but Michigan gained the western two-thirds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
  • 1837 Admitted as a free state into the union (the 26th state), it was admitted concurrently with the slave state of Arkansas.

Major historical events

Law and Government

  • Referendum and Voter Initiative: Michigan's constitution provides for voter initiative and referendum (Article II, § 9 [[1]]), defined as "the power to propose laws and to enact and reject laws, called the initiative, and the power to approve or reject laws enacted by the legislature, called the referendum. The power of initiative extends only to laws which the legislature may enact under this constitution."

Michigan counties and townships are statutory units of government, meaning that they have only those powers expressly provided or fairly implied by state law. Cities and villages are vested with home rule powers, meaning that they can do almost anything not prohibited by law.

There are two types of townships in Michigan: general law and charter. Charter township status was created by the state legislature in 1947 and grants additional powers and stream-lined administration in order to provide greater protection against annexation by a city. As of April 2001, there were 127 charter townships in Michigan.

See: List of Michigan Governors, List of United States Senators from Michigan, List of United States Representatives from Michigan


See: List of Michigan counties   Islands of Michigan   List of Michigan rivers

Michigan encompasses 96,810 square miles, making it, by far, the largest state east of the Mississippi River. Georgia has a slightly larger land area, however.

Michigan borders Indiana and Ohio to the south, and Wisconsin to the southwest of the Upper Peninsula. Michigan also borders Minnesota, Illinois, the Canadian province of Ontario, and the Canadian First Nation (Indian) reserve of Walpole Island, but only on water boundaries in the Great Lakes system. The highest point is Mount Arvon in the Upper Peninsula at 1979 feet (603 m). The highest point in the Lower Peninsula is not definitely established but is either Briar Hill at 1705 feet (520 meters), or one of several points closely nearby.

Michigan consists of two peninsulas:

The Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten and is 277 miles long from north to south and 195 miles from east to west. The heavily forested Upper Peninsula (often called simply "The U.P.") is as big as Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island combined, but has less than 320,000 inhabitants, who are sometimes called "Yoopers" (from "U.P.'ers") and whose speech has been heavily influenced by the large number of Scandinavian and Canadian immigrants who settled the area during the mining boom of the late 1800's.

These two sections are connected only by the five mile long Mackinac Bridge -- the third longest suspension bridge in the world. The two peninsulas are surrounded by an extensive Great Lakes shoreline. Other than Alaska, Michigan has the longest shoreline of any state -- 2,242 miles (and another 879 miles if islands are included). This equals the length of the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to Florida. The Great Lakes which touch the two peninsulas of Michigan are Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. No point in Michigan is more than 6 miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes, and the state has more than 11,000 inland lakes and more than 36,000 miles of rivers and streams.

Detroit, Michigan is the only major city in the continental United States that is actually due north of Canada.

National parks

See also Protected areas of Michigan, List of Michigan state parks


See also: List of companies based in Michigan


Michigan's total population (2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimate): 10,079,985

The racial makeup of the state is:

  • 3.3% of the population is of Hispanic origin, a category that may include members of any race.

The five largest ancestries in Michigan are: German (20.4%), African American (14.2%), Irish (10.7%), English (9.9%), Polish (8.6%).


The religious affiliations of the people of Michigan are:

  • Protestant – 54%
  • Roman Catholic – 29%
  • Other Christian – 1%
  • Other Religions – 4% (mostly Muslim and Jewish)
  • Non-Religious – 9%

The three largest Protestant denominations in Michigan are: Baptist (16% of the total state population), Lutheran (8%), Methodist (7%).

Michigan map depicting territorial waters

See also National-atlas-michigan.gif

Important cities

See: List of cities, villages, and townships in Michigan

The largest cities in Michigan are (according to the 2000 census):

Other important cities include


Colleges and universities

Community Colleges and Technical Schools

  • Monroe County Community College
  • Montcalm Community College
  • Mott Community College
  • Muskegon Community College
  • National Institute of Technology - Southfield
  • National Institute of Technology - Wyoming
  • North Central Michigan College
  • Northwestern Michigan College
  • Oakland Community College
  • Olympia Career Training Institute - Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Olympia Career Training Institute - Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Saint Clair County Community College
  • Schoolcraft College
  • Southwestern Michigan College
  • Suomi College
  • University of Phoenix - Detroit, Michigan
  • University of Phoenix - Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Washtenaw Community College
  • Wayne County Community College
  • West Shore Community College

Professional sports teams

Other notable sports teams

State symbols

Miscellaneous information

Michigan has 116 lighthouses. The first lighthouses in Michigan were built between 1818 and 1822. They were built to project light at night and to serve as a landmark during the day to safely guide the passenger ships and freighters traveling the Great Lakes. See Lighthouses in the United States.

Michigan has the most registered boats (over 1 million) of any state in the Union.

Although most famous for its automotive industry, over half of Michigan's land is forested, much of it quite remote.

Quick trivia

  • State nicknames include the Wolverine State, Great Lakes State, Mitten State, and Winter Water Wonderland.
  • The state motto, Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice is Latin for "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you", a paraphrase of a statement made by British architect Sir Christopher Wren about his influence on London.
  • The state stone, the Petoskey stone (Hexagonaria pericarnata), is composed of fossilized diatoms from long ago when the middle of the continent was covered with a shallow sea.
  • The state gem chlorastrolite , literally the green star stone, also known as the Isle Royale greenstone is found on Isle Royale and the Keweenaw.
  • The state wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris), is a federal-listed threatened species.
  • The state soil, Kalkaska Sand , ranges in color from black to yellowish brown, covers nearly a million acres (4,000 km²) in 29 counties.
  • Michigan is the only state composed of two separate peninsulas.

Related articles

External links

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