The Great Lake State

How Michigan Got Its Name and the State Nicknames

The origins of how a state got its name can tell us so much about a state’s history; and a state’s nickname can tell us so much about famous landmarks, historic sites, or goods produced in that state. Michigan comes from the Ojibwa word michigama, sometimes spelled meicigama, which means “great lake”. French explorers started using the term when referring to Lake Michigan, one of the four Great Lakes that borders the state. When the United States Congress created the Territory of Michigan in 1805, it became the official name of the land. The official nickname is “The Great Lake State”. Other nicknames include: “ The Wolverine State”, “The Peninsula State”, “The Auto State”, “The Mitten State”, and “Water Wonderland”.

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State Flag

State flags are extremely important in the United states, because they each have symbols that are important to that particular state, and Michigan is no exception. The current Michigan state flag is the third official state flag for that state, which was adopted in 1911. The flag has a deep blue background and incorporates the state seal. The state seal is a shield, which shows the sun rising over a lake and peninsula. It also shows a man with a raised hand and holding a gun in the other, representing peace and his ability to defend his rights. The elk and moose hold the shield, and are symbols for Michigan. The bald eagle above the shield represents the United States. On the red ribbon, the latin phrase E Pluribus Unum, which means "From Many, One" (U.S. motto) is inscribed. On the white ribbon is the phrase Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam, Circumspice , which means "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you" (Michigan State motto). Finally, on the shield, is Tuebor, which means "I will defend" (refers to the frontier position of Michigan).

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The Michigan State Bird, and "Kids for Kirt"

It may seem a trivial matter, but selecting the Michigan State bird was not an easy task, and there is still debate to this very day. In 1929, the Michigan Audubon Society held a contest to pick their state bird. With almost 200,000 votes, the favored were the American Robin and the Chickadee. Due to the influence of the Audubon Society, the American Robin was selected the Michigan State Bird on April 8, 1931. The American Robin is the most widespread thrush in North America; and has a red breast, similar in appearance to the European “robin redbreast”. However, those who loved the chickadee did not give up easily, and have often petitioned to have the chickadee installed as the official state bird. In 2000, the legislature petitioned to have the American Robin removed as their state bird, and have it replaced by the chickadee. The most compelling argument was that the chickadee was a permanent resident, and did not migrate to warmer climates in the winter. Their petition failed. In 2003, the Michigan Audubon Society organized a group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to petition for the replacement of the American Robin with the Kirtland Warbler as the official state bird. They campaigned with the slogan “Kids for Kirt”. Some of their reasons for wanting the Kirtland Warbler declared the new Michigan State Bird were: the Kirtland’s Warbler nests only in Michigan, it is the rarest warbler in North America, and it has recovered from near-extinction due to the conservation efforts to preserve their only habitat; Michigan's Jack Pine Barrens. Even though Wisconsin and Connecticut also claim the American Robin as their state bird, it was decided that Michigan also keep the American Robin as their state bird.

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Places of Interest

There are many interesting sites to visit in the state of Michigan. Among those are Detroit's auto plants, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Henry Ford Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, and Greenfield Village. The Greenfield Village has historic structures like the lab where Thomas Edison worked on the lightbulb, the workshop where the Wright brothers worked on planes, the building where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, home of where Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary, and has the farmhouse where Henry Ford grew up. Finally, the Mackinac Bridge is a 3800 feet suspension bridge, connecting the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. It is the third longest suspension bridge in the U.S., and the 16th longest, worldwide.
The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village

Famous People from Michigan

  • William Hull (June 24, 1753 - November 29, 1825) - first governor of the Michigan territory in 1805.
  • Charles Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 - August 26, 1974) - first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Born in Detroit, Michigan.
  • Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 - April 7, 1947) - founder of Ford Motor Company, and helped develop modern assembly lines. Born in Greenfield Township, Michigan.
  • William Boeing ( October 1, 1881 - September 28, 1956) - founded Boeing Airplane Company. Born in Detroit, Michigan.
  • John F. Dodge (October 25, 1864 - January 14, 1920) and Horace E. Dodge (May 17, 1868 - December 10, 1920) - founded Dodge Motors. Born in Niles, Michigan.
  • Madonna (August 16, 1958 to present) - pop singer and actress, born in Bay City, Michigan.
  • Gregory Jarvis (August 24, 1944 - January 28, 1986) - astronaut and payload specialist - died the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. Born in Detroit, Michigan.

Did You Know....?

  • Michigan didn't have an official state food, so a 4th grade class from Defer Elementary School created a cookie recipe. They submitted it to the state legislature to try to get lawmakers to introduce a bill making their cookie the state's official cookie, and it's first official state food. The cookie was a chocolate cookie with chocolate chunks and dried cherries. They called it the Michigan Treasure Cookie.
  • Battle Creek, Michigan, became known as "Cereal City" and "The Cereal Capital of the World" because in the 1900s, there were 43 cereal companies in Battle Creek, most notably Kellogg's Cereal.
  • Although "My Michigan", written by Giles Kavanagh (lyrics) and H. O'Reilly clint (music), was adopted as the official state song on May 21, 1937, it is rarely sung, and never used at state events because the State does not have copyright to the song. Many people wrongly believe that "Michigan, My Michigan" is the state song.
  • State Capital: Lansing
  • State Children's Book: The Legend of Sleeping Bear.
  • State Gem: Chlorastrolite, or "green star stone".
  • State Fish: Brook Trout
  • State Tree: White Pine Tree
  • State Mammal: White-tailed Deer
  • State Reptile: Painted Turtle
  • State stone: Petoskey Stone - rock and coral fossil
  • State soil: Kalkaska sand - a yellowish-brown sand, unique to Michigan.
  • State Wildflower: Dwarf Lake Iris
  • State Flower: Apple Blossom
  • State Fossil: Mastodon
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On the Shores of the Great Lakes

About The Author...... Michael O'Keefe

This state report is part of my 5th grade assignments. I enjoy traveling, and would like to visit some of the many great sites in Michigan.