Michigan, the Great Lakes State, became the 26th state in the United States in 1837. Its unique geography consists of two peninsulas separated by water, and it has more shoreline than any state besides Alaska. Michigan has been a major industrial force for more than a century, and continues to have great significance in the Midwest and the nation as a whole.
Michigan’s name comes from its earliest settlers. Native Americans gave the land the Ojibwe name “Mishigamaa,” which means large lake or large water. The name is thought to refer to Lake Superior, which borders Michigan on the north.
The area was colonized by the French in the 1700s and later taken over by the British. After the Revolutionary War, the area came under the control of the U.S. The population of Michigan boomed after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The waterway connected the Great Lakes to New York City via the Hudson River, making trade much more lucrative. Settlers poured into Michigan to become farmers and merchants, supplying the rest of the country with products such as lumber, iron, and crops.
The beginning of the 20th century marked a major change in the economic history of Michigan with the development of the auto industry. Henry Ford’s famous innovations in the assembly line launched a whole new method of industry, and Michigan was at the center of it. The population continued to soar, and Michigan became a vital player in the country’s economic and technological growth.
Michigan is the 11th largest state in the country, and the largest state east of the Mississippi. The state consists of two peninsulas: the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula, which are separated by a channel of water called the Straits of Mackinac. Bounded by four Great Lakes, Michigan is almost completely surrounded by fresh water. The state also has nearly 65,000 lakes and ponds. Anywhere in Michigan, you are always within six miles of a natural source of water.
Michigan is famous for having the most lighthouses, registered boats, and golf courses in the country. The state boasts 78 state parks and 6 state forests, and in fact has the biggest state forest and state park systems in the United States.
As of 2017, Michigan has a population of nearly 10 million people, with approximately 6% born outside the United States. state’s population is 78.9% white, 14.2% black, 2.4% Asian, 2.3% multiracial, and 0.6% American Indian. The majority of residents are Caucasian of European descent. British, German, Irish, Polish, Finnish, and Belgian ancestries are heavily represented. In addition, Michigan is famous for its preservation of Dutch heritage. Newer immigrants include Hmong, Japanese, and Macedonian people.
Symbols and Nicknames
Michigan is known as the Wolverine State, the Great Lakes State, and the Water Wonderland. Its official state bird is the robin and the state tree is the Eastern White Pine. The flag, which was designed in 1911, is dark blue, with a shield in the center and three mottoes: “I will defend,” “One nation made up of many states,” and “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around.” The state song is “Michigan, My Michigan” by Douglas Malloch and W. Otto Meissner.
The capital of Michigan is Lansing. Early settlers, who came from the village of Lansing, New York, named the area Lansing Township in 1836. Today, Lansing has a population of 114,000, making it the state’s fifth largest city. The greater Lansing region, sometimes called “Mid-Michigan,” is a significant area for government, education, culture, and industry. In addition to several major institutions of higher learning, Lansing is also home to the Michigan State Capitol, state Supreme Court, and the Library of Michigan.
With a population of 672,000, Detroit is Michigan's largest city. The city was founded in 1701 by French settlers. Due to its favorable location on the Detroit River, the city grew to become an important industrial center for the surrounding area. The city’s economic significance grew with the birth of the automotive industry in the early 1900s. Despite many years of financial success, Detroit fell victim to the financial crisis of the early 21st century and entered bankruptcy in 2013. It recovered the following year and has shown recent signs of economic improvement and civic revitalization.
Michigan is most famous for its automotive industry, with all three major American automobile companies headquartered in Detroit. Ford, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler all went through difficult financial periods in the early 2000s. GM and Chrysler required assistance from the federal government to come out of bankruptcy and restructure their organizations. Since 2010, all of the “Big Three” automakers have been reporting meaningful profits.
Besides autos, Michigan also produces food products, aerospace and military equipment, furniture, Christmas trees, copper, and iron ore. Two of the top national pizza chains, Domino’s Pizza and Little Caesar’s Pizza, were founded and are still headquartered in Michigan. In recent years, the state has become a welcoming home to many high-tech companies.
In addition to automotive, high-tech, and other industries, Michigan also depends upon agriculture and tourism for its economy. The state’s 54,800 farms produce a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Some of the most prevalent crops include corn, soy, wheat, potatoes, blueberries, and cherries. The Upper Peninsula has an abundance of natural resources that make it a draw for tourism. Forests, mountains, and waterfalls make the area rugged and beautiful. Detroit is an important tourism draw as well with its numerous museums, casinos, and sports teams.
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