National Michigan Day is celebrated every year on January 18. Michigan is fondly called ‘The Great Lakes State’ because it is bordered by four of the five Great North American Lakes — Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario, and Superior. The state is also the only one that’s spread across lower and upper peninsulas with over 60,000 ponds and inland lakes, and the Upper Peninsula is an important tourist destination thanks to its stunning natural vistas. Michigan is famous for its automobile industry, home to the ‘Big Three’ which refers to the three largest automobile manufacturers — General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler.
History of National Michigan Day
Michigan is an upper Midwestern state in the United States, located in the Great Lakes region. The name is a French variant of the Ojibwe word ‘mishigami,’ which means ‘large water or lake.’ Michigan has a population of about 10.1 million and an area of roughly 97,000 square miles, making it the 10th largest state by population and 11th largest by area. Lansing is the state capital, and Detroit is its largest city. The Straits of Mackinac — a five-mile channel that joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan — separates the Lower Peninsula (shaped like a mitten) from the Upper Peninsula (or ‘the U.P.’), and the Mackinac Bridge connects the two peninsulas.
Rich in iron and copper, Michigan was first explored by the French, and was soon a center of industrial activity, becoming an American territory in 1783. In the past, ferries would carry travelers back and forth the Straits of Mackinac to move from one peninsula to the other. The Mackinac Bridge was built in 1957 to connect the two sides, making the journey safer and more convenient. At 26,372 feet long, it is the third-longest suspension bridge in the world! Industry dominated the early 20th century in Michigan, from logging and shipping to rail and automotive. This resulted in a population boom with the influx of workers during war and peacetime. Through skilled trades like engineering and manufacturing, employment grew exponentially, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, assembly workers were in great demand across the country. Since Michigan was the epicenter of the automobile industry, it was inevitable that skilled workers found their way to the state. Of the many factory workers in Michigan, the most famous was a Willow Run worker who became the main Rosie the Riveter spokesperson, wearing the iconic bandana and flexing her muscles to sell war bonds. Rose Will Monroe’s efforts, as well as thousands of other women in Michigan and across the country, changed the status of women for generations to come.
Also known for its Motown sound and legendary music makers, Michigan launched some of the most memorable names in jazz and gospel music. Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder were some of the most influential musicians in their genre, and they all came from Michigan.
National Michigan Day timeline
French explorers Étienne Brulé and Grenoble discover Lake Superior.
Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac and his lieutenant set up a trading post on the Detroit River, naming it Fort Pontchartrain, which is where Detroit is now located.
The French surrender Fort Pontchartrain to Major Robert Rogers of the British Army.
The Indians Strike Back
The Native Americans fight for their land across the west of the Allegheny Mountains and succeed in taking back all the Michigan forts except Detroit due to the Pontiac-led Siege of Detroit which lasts 135 days.
Michigan holds its first election under the British Parliament's Constitutional Act.
Michigan is admitted to the Union as the 26th state after President Andrew Jackson signs the bill into law.
Henry Ford builds his first experimental automobile, the quadricycle, at his home in Detroit, Michigan.
The world-renowned Detroit Symphony Orchestra is revived in Metro Detroit, the foundation of Michigan’s rich musical history.
Gerald R. Ford of Grand Rapids becomes the 38th President of the U.S.
Jennifer M. Granholm becomes the first female Governor of Michigan.
National Michigan Day FAQs
What is the State of Michigan known as?
Michigan is most commonly called the ‘Great Lakes State.’ Its other epithets are ‘The Mitten State,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ and ‘The Wolverine State.’
What is Michigan famous for?
Michigan is known for fishing and forestry. This is because it has 3,288 miles of coastline — the longest freshwater coastline in the mainland United States — and 90% of the Upper Peninsula is covered in trees.
Who is the Pure Michigan voice?
Pure Michigan is an advertising campaign that the State of Michigan launched on television in 2008. The campaign uses actor and comedian Tim Allen’s voice and the title song from ‘The Cider House Rules.’
National Michigan Day Activities
Plan a vacation to Michigan on National Michigan Day. The great state has something in store for every visitor, including Mackinac Island (and the Mackinac Bridge Museum), Mount Pleasant, Sculpture Park, Sleeping Bear Dunes, National Lakeshore, Frederik Meijer Gardens, and more. The U.P. is rich in rare natural phenomena, Detroit is home to many historical monuments, and Lake Erie is a natural Winter Wonderland during the winter.
Drive a car
Michigan is home to some of the biggest automobile brands in America. Drive a Ford, General Motors, or Fiat car to get in the mood for National Michigan Day.
Enjoy local Michigan food
Mackinac Island Fudge and the Coney Island Hot Dog are some of the most famous foods from Michigan. Get your fill of them on National Michigan Day!
5 Fascinating Facts About Michigan
It is the unofficial golf capital
The state has more golf courses than any other in the U.S.
It has the world’s largest quarry
Michigan is home to the largest limestone quarry on Earth.
Michigan has a state reptile
The painted turtle is Michigan’s state reptile.
There’s a floating post office
Michigan is home to the only floating post office in the world, J.W. Westcott II.
The very first phone numbers
The good people of Detroit were the first U.S. citizens to have phone numbers.
Why We Love National Michigan Day
It celebrates the Great Lakes State
Michigan is home to about 60,000 water bodies which truly makes it a unique state. It has over 3,000 miles of shoreline, 11,000 inland lakes, and millions of acres of forest.
Michigan revolutionized the automobile industry
Ford, General Motors, and Fiat set up factories in Michigan and introduced the world to some of the best cars. National Michigan Day applauds the innovation and industriousness of the state’s automobile industry.
We remember Motown music and jazz
Some of the greatest musicians of modern times, like Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder, are from Michigan. National Michigan Day reminds us of the cultural contributions the state has made to the U.S. and the world.
National Michigan Day dates