LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – 186 years ago on January 26, 1837, Michigan officially became the 26th state.

The “Great Lakes State” as some call it has other nicknames as well including “The Wolverine State” and “The Mitten” which allows the lower peninsula to be easily illustrated by a Michigander (or Michiganian) holding up their hand to strangers and pointing to the Michigan location that they live in.

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Michigan is the only state America that has two peninsulas – an Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and a lower peninsula. Michigan’s motto is “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice” means “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” Those peninsulas are separated by the Straits of Mackinac, a five mile channel, and connected by Mackinac Bridge (“Mighty Mac”) which spans almost five miles and is one of the world’s longest suspension bridges ranking 27th. The bridge took more than three years to complete and was open to traffic in 1957. Before that, Michiganders had to travel by ferry to get back and forth between the peninsulas.

Water is a big deal in Michigan. The name Michigan was derived from the Indian word “Michigama” meaning great or large lake. According to history.com, the state has more than 11,000 inland lakes, more than 36,000 miles of streams and 3,126 miles of shoreline along the Great Lakes. Michigan has the second-most water of any state behind Alaska. The Great Lakes also contain more than 80% of North America’s surface freshwater supply (and more than 20% of the world’s). Michigan borders four of the five Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a Michigander is never more than six miles away from a body of water or 85 miles away from a Great Lake in the state.

Michigan is also the state with the most lighthouses – about 130 of them. According to Pure Michigan, “Short and squat, or tall and lean, each of Michigan’s uniquely-beautiful lighthouses plays its part in keeping the Great Lakes safe.”

Michigan’s land is about 97K square miles and the state is the 10th largest state by population and the 11th largest by area east of the Mississippi. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2022, Michigan’s population was 10,034,113. While the Upper Peninsula contains 29% of the land area of Michigan, it only has about 2% of the population. Residents there are affectionately known as the “Yoopers” (derived from “UP-ers”). The Upper Peninsula has a variety of wildlife including wolves, coyotes, deer, fox, moose, bobcats, bear, eagles, owls, hawks and many smaller animals. The U.P. also boosts more than 150 waterfalls.

Even though Michigan was admitted into the union as the 26th state in 1837, there was a bit of drama beforehand when a skirmish with Ohio known as the “Toledo War” delayed statehood. In the end, it led to a trade – Toledo and the Maumee River became part of the state of Ohio and Michigan got 9,000 square miles of land in the Upper Peninsula and was admitted to the Union. When the deal was made, The Detroit Free Press had called the Upper Peninsula a barren wasteland of “perpetual snow” when commenting on what they considered a bad deal. However, later many came to realize the riches of the land after discovering valuable deposits of copper and iron ore. The Toledo War, once thought of as the most ferocious conflict in Ohio-Michigan history has now been replaced by the football rivalry between the state’s two college teams and The Ohio State University.

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Once known for mining and logging, the Upper Peninsula is now more of a hub for tourism including camping, boating, fishing, snowmobiling, hunting and hiking – while the lower peninsula is involved in manufacturing, the auto industry, forestry, agriculture and high tech.

Even before the problems with Ohio, Wikipedia reports that Michigan traded hands between the French and British and was “occupied by a succession of Native American tribes over thousands of years.”

In addition to being the home of the white pine (state tree), trout (state fish), white-tailed deer (state game mammal) and the Petoskey Stone (state stone), Michigan also claims the following celebrities as being from Michigan: Serena Williams, Magic Johnson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Henry Ford, Alice Cooper, David Spade, Kate Upton, Kristen Bell, Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds, Ben Carson, Christie Brinkley, Iggy Pop, Taylor Lautner, Bob Seger, Smokey Robinson, Lily Tomlin, Kid Rock, Dean Cain, Ted Nugent, Robert Wagner, and Elizabeth Berkley.

With the many things that Michigan has to offer, today’s birthday is certainly cause to celebrate the land, water and people who make the state a great place to live.

As the state anthem of Michigan, My Michigan, says in their 1902 lyrics…

The whisper of the forest tree,

The thunder of the inland sea,

Unite in one grand symphony

Of Michigan, my Michigan.