Faculty and students from the Historical Environments Spatial Analytics Lab were well represented at the annual meeting of the Social Science History Association in Chicago this past week.
Tim Stone and Don Lafreniere presented "Built Environment Determinants of Childhood Health in the Early 20th Century City." The paper uses data from the Copper Country Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure (The back end of the Keweenaw Time Traveler) to follow 1600 students in Calumet and Laurium through their daily journey to school and measure the potential risk from industrial activities in the region.
Gary Spikberg, Robert Pastel, and Don Lafreniere presented "A Semiautomated approach to Creating Record Linkages and High Resolution Geocoding Across Historical Datasets." This paper outlines the algorithms used to parse and map local city directories. Read more about them here.
Dan Trepal and Don Lafreniere presented "Understanding Cumulative Hazards in a Rustbelt City: Integrating GIS, Archaeology, and Spatial History." This paper presents a methodology for modelling industrial hazards across a city. It utilized data from the Imagining London Project
Director Don Lafreniere presented "Socio-Spatial Mobility and Urban Environments in the 19th Century City" and participated as a panelist discussing challenges and lessons learned in multi-year historical GIS projects.
See our new StoryMap about the Calumet Colosseum at:
The former mining town of Calumet is a prominent place within the Keweenaw Time Traveler. Recently Calumet’s indoor hockey rink, the Calumet Colosseum, was voted Kraft Hockeyville USA 2019. This annual competition recognizes important community hockey rinks across the USA and the finalists are nominated largely based on the strength of their “community story.” Each year’s winner receives $100,000 in rink upgrades and plays host to an NHL preseason match. This year, the Detroit Red Wings will play the St Louis Blues on September 26th – in the Calumet Colosseum!
So what makes the Calumet Colosseum’s story special enough to win a national competition? For starters, it is the oldest indoor hockey rink in the United States that is still in use, with the first puck having dropped way back in 1913! But that’s just the beginning. To help share the Colosseum’s story, the Keweenaw Time Traveler Team has built an interactive StoryMap to take a deeper dive into the Colosseum’s long history.
The KeTT team has pored over the collection of historical resources in the Keweenaw Time Traveler – historical maps, city directories, and other records – to shed light on the early years of the Colosseum, and the town of Calumet’s long association with hockey. Despite being located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, far from today’s NHL teams, the Colosseum is no stranger to professional hockey. In fact, in 1905 the very first professional hockey league season ever played in the USA was won by a team from Calumet!
But the most important part of the Colosseum’s story is the role it played, and continues to play, in the community. Thousands of professional, amateur, high school and collegiate players have passed through its doors over the last century, and many thousands more spectators have come to see them play. We couldn’t possibly capture all of those stories in this StoryMap – but YOU can help us share the Colosseum’s story by sharing your own memories of this historic rink in the Keweenaw Time Traveler. Just go to the Keweenaw Time Traveler’s Explore app and click the “Share a Story” button to get started. Let’s show the world why there is no place that deserves the title “Hockeyville USA!” better than Calumet and the Colosseum!
(Today's blog post goes behind-the-scenes and features one of our Time Traveler Team members describing one of the many projects we've undertaken to expand the Keweenaw Time Traveler!)
Hi, my name is Charles and I’m one of the new research associates working on the Keweenaw Time Traveller. I’m a fourth-year anthropology student at Michigan Tech and this summer I’ve been mainly working on adding story points to the Keweenaw Time Traveler from historic sources. These help to give additional context to areas and buildings. So far, most of these stories have been from the National Park Service (NPS) which has done a terrific job of recording the past. For example, the article “Windows Into the Past” from the NPS website listed a number of locations in Calumet, formerly the town of Red Jacket, their addresses, and a small blurb about the history of the site. These are perfect for adding to the Time Traveler as the information is well researched and can somewhat easily be linked to specific places.
Now, for those who have used the Time Traveler, adding this information might seem like an easy task, given that it’s just finding an address and adding a story point. However, there’s a lot more to it than one may think. It’s a lot like detective work, using clues to find the exact location of a story. One of the biggest issues is actually finding the right address.
Compare these two pictures from the 200 block on Main Street Calumet, one from 1900 and the other from 1917. As you can see the numbering systems are entirely different! This makes putting down a story point difficult, though not impossible. This is where the detective work comes in. For one, reading the location’s story gives some good indicators, as it can show what the building was used for and when it was built. The historical maps help in this regard, as they often tell what a building was used for and you can change the year in the Time Traveler to get close to the date when it was built. Additionally, Google Maps street view is a big help. Each location listed in the NPS article has a picture of the building attached, which can be compared to buildings in street view.
While not all of the architectural features remain, such as the storefront above, larger features like columns and crenellations remain and can confirm a building's location and identity. This helped locate a number of buildings, although if major renovations happened or if the place got torn down it was a lot less help.
Finally, sometimes the description of locations would include who lived or owned the building. Using the Time Travellers ‘people’ search tool, it was easy to see who lived where and when, and then compare that with the story attached to the location. This cracked some of the tougher mysteries of location which didn’t have an address attached. Oftentimes, the owners of buildings would have their stores on the bottom floor while the families private residences would be on the upper ones. So by searching for a family name, you could find the buildings they owned rather easily.
Hopefully, going forward, regular contributors to the Time Traveller can use these same methods to add stories from other historical databases. It made it quite easy for me to add story points and learn about the historical context of the area. One of my favorite locations was the Lake Superior Produce building, which supplied Calumet with a good deal of its food in the early 1900s. The building and most of the surroundings are no longer there, and it’s interesting to see how much of the landscape of the town changed in 100 years. That’s all from me so far! I hope these techniques inspire other fellow time travelers to add some more stories about hard to find places!
In blog posts one and two, we described business directories and the methods we used to incorporate them into the historic spatial data infrastructure which enables the Keweenaw Time Traveler’s Explore app. In this post, we want to focus on the recently-added 1917 Houghton County business directory and demonstrate ways we use it for outreach and research. Specifically:
What separates business directories from city directories?
Business directories were not separate documents from city directories. The business directories were a sub-section of the larger city directory. In the Polk & Co. County Directory for 1917, city directories containing personal listings appear first, the business directory is second, and a farmer directory is third.
Many of our older Citizen Historians are familiar with phonebooks; our younger Citizen Historians possibly not. This same arrangement was used through the twentieth century in phonebooks. In phonebooks, residential information was listed at the front of the book in the white pages with businesses listed in the yellow pages and government offices listed in the blue pages. Yes, the pages were actually white, yellow, and blue enabling people to quickly navigate hundreds of pages. If you were looking for a mechanic, you might check in the category for “Automobile-Auto Repair.” We might also see category listings for "Mechanics" as their skills were not confined to automobiles.
Here’s an example of a business directory listing from the Keweenaw Time Traveler:
In the example above, Ruppe P & Sons ran a department store in the Village of Calumet in 1917. During this period, small businesses specializing in a single industry still existed. Women might go to a milliner to obtain a hat and then take their children to a confectioner for something sweet. Because Ruppe P & Sons sold many kinds of goods, they needed to advertise in multiple categories including:
Polk directories were printed bi-annually and could not be edited until a newer directory was developed two years later. This made listing in multiple categories both a necessity and a careful strategy for business owners. For younger Citizen Historians, imagine your favorite shop. Now, think about the different services they offer. What categories would they need to advertise within to make potential customers aware of all the services they offer?
How can we use business directory listings to delve into Copper Country history?
During our Copper TRACES programming, we use business directories and maps. We refer to ourselves and our fourth graders as detectives. We use these archival materials in ways they were never intended to be used, and we guide our Junior Detectives as they uncover historical clues.
The business directories are one of our clues, allowing us to better understand what took place within a building's walls. Sanborn fire insurance plans provide a great deal of information about our historic cities, but they cannot list every activity housed in a building. Business directories can help flesh out the story.
Using the geolocated business directories, we can identify some of the building's other uses:
Can our junior detectives answer all of these questions with the information available?
No, they cannot. The goal is to teach them how to get inspired by mapped archival records and develop questions we previously did not think to ask.
How can you access the business directory?
The 1917 Polk & Co. Houghton County Directory is already incorporated within the Keweenaw Time Traveler. When you select a building on the map, it will be outlined in red.
For buildings with multiple entries, the important thing to remember is that they are not duplicates. Each entry comes from a different category in the business directory and can be selected individually to see all of the records. You can confirm the category by viewing Details and the Source as Business Directory 1917.
Lessons from building the Keweenaw Time Traveler explored in a new publication in Journal of Community Heritage & Archaeology
HESAL Post-Doctoral researcher Dan Trepal, KeTT co-director Sarah Fayen Scarlett, and director Don Lafreniere have just published an article proposing that community-driven digital geospatial projects like the Keweenaw Time Traveler can help develop a sustainable compromise between protecting community heritage values and fostering economic development and regeneration in postindustrial communities.
This paper grew out of presentations given by Trepal and Scarlett at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual conference in New Orleans in January 2018. Thanks to Kaeleigh Herstad @RustBeltAnthro for co-organizing that panel and co-editing this special issue.
If you are connected to a research library you can access the paper here. If not, contact us for a copy!
HESAL Director Don Lafreniere recently co-authored an introductory article to a special issue on historical crowdsourcing in the journal Historical Methods.
You can read the paper "Working with the public in historical data creation" here.
HESAL Post-Doctoral Researcher Dan Trepal and Director Don Lafreniere recently published an article titled “Understanding Cumulative Hazards in a Rustbelt City: Integrating GIS, Archaeology, and Spatial History” in the journal Urban Science.
The article explores how researchers can use the same technology that underpins projects like the Keweenaw Time Traveler to understand the cumulative impact of industrial activity within modern postindustrial cities. This project examines the city of London, Ontario from the 1880s to the present. HESAL researchers drew on hundreds of historical maps and other records to digitally reconstruct a city’s historical built environment across 130 years of industrialization and deindustrialization. This reconstruction allowed us to identify ‘hotspots’ where industrial hazards may remain, even when hidden by later development.
This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series introducing the new historical business directories that you can explore in the Keweenaw Time Traveler.
Last week, we discussed general information on historic city and business directories. This week, we want to shift our focus to specific historic directories and how our team mapped residents in the Keweenaw Time Traveler Explore App.
What Copper Country directories exist, and where can you read them?
Our directories were published by two different printers. The earliest set of records are A. H. Holland’s Handbook and Guide to Hancock & Houghton, Michigan which was published for 1887-1888.
By 1895-1896, R. L. Polk and Company began publishing their Houghton County Directory, replacing Holland, and continued publishing through 1939.
The University Archives and Historical Collections, housed in the Van Pelt and Opie Library’s Garden Atrium at Michigan Technological University, maintains the following collection of City Directories :
Who was R. L. Polk?
Ralph Lane Polk was born on September 12, 1849 in Ohio and later educated in New Jersey. He became a successful publisher in Detroit, Michigan specializing in city business directories and state gazettes (Herringshaw 1914).
Herringshaw, Thomas William. Herringshaw’s National Library of American Biography: Contains Thirty-Five Thousand Biographies of the Acknowledged Leaders of Life and Thought of the United States; Illustrated with Three Thousand Vignette Portraits ... American Publishers’ Association, 1914.
The records within the Keweenaw Time Traveler are not static collections. We constantly discover new records for inclusion in the databases, and we constantly revise our understanding of the past as we incorporate these sources. We maintain a list of archival collections included in the Time Traveler databases.
How did we map the directory entries?
A single directory could easily exceed 1,200 pages, and preparing each for inclusion in the Time Traveler was a multi-step process requiring a great deal of time, money, and expertise.
1. Digitization - The scanning of pages into digital form and performing optical character recognition (OCR)
2. Cleaning data - Adjusting text files prior to parsing such as putting multiple line addresses into a single line
3. Parse directory data - Parsing means analyzing a string of symbols to conform to the rules of formal grammar which enables a program to understand an address format
4. Perform automated geocoding - Automated geocoding is the computerized process of converting addresses into x, y coordinates for mapping
5. Perform manual geocoding - Manual geocoding is the review of our matches for accuracy
Team members including Gary Spikberg, Ankitha Pille, Elijah Pass, Dr. Robert Pastel, and Dr. Don Lafreniere presented a poster at the 2017 Society of Industrial Archaeologists Conference explaining the methodology used to include directories within the Time Traveler. The poster is available for download in a high quality pdf here.
As useful as OCR is, it is not perfect. Each entry was reviewed although directories contain millions of characters making it difficult to locate obscure OCR errors.This is the reason you will occasionally find a strange character in an entry such as the number “1” in place of the letter “I.” Our Citizen Historians help make the Time Traveler better by finding these errors during their research. Please email us any records which you find containing strange characters. By providing detailed information, or even a screen capture of the overall entry, you help us correct these rare OCR issues.
Matching years for Sanborn maps and historic directories insured the same address sequences were used. Visitors will encounter different addresses for the same house depending on the map year, and it was important to avoid false-positive address matches as we developed the Time Traveler databases. Below is an example of how we match a 1917 business directory record to the historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Plan for Calumet in 1917.
The process is full of challenges. Addresses listed in a directory might be incomplete or omitted which meant there were instances when we could not confidently associate a person with a building. When that happened, we used the closest intersection or street based on the information listed in the directory. An address listed in the middle of the street means we lackied a complete enough address to connect someone with a specific building.
Preparing the directories for the Time Traveler represented one of our biggest expenses. It took more than 10 months to prepare these archival records for your use. The scanning, OCR, geolocating, quality inspection, and documentation all required extensive work. The process was a labor of love with plenty of challenges and lessons learned as we developed work flows and best practices. Through it all, we continually strove to build a Time Traveler which our communities would be proud of. We want to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities and Michigan Technological University's Department of Social Sciences for the financial support in building the Keweenaw Time Traveler.
What is next?
In post 3, we will give more details on the most recent records we added to the Time Traveler, business directories! We will also include examples of questions we might ask to critique our archival records.
This is part 1 of a 3-part blog series introducing the new historical directories that you can explore in the Keweenaw Time Traveler.
Which historical records go into the Keweenaw Time Traveler? What does it take to add them? What are the pros and cons of each record? There is no such thing as a perfect historical document. We know visitors to the Keweenaw Time Traveler use data to answer a variety of questions, and many of our Citizen Historians are researching their families within the Copper Country.
Those of you researching your families understand how often you need to play detective when examining old records such as the US Census. The name might be similar in multiple documents while the location or age does not match. The Keweenaw Time Traveler team does the same kind of detective work, but we get some help from our databases. By combining archival records with historic maps, we can check and double-check that we are placing the right person at the right location. The more information that gets added to the Keweenaw Time Traveler, the more confidence we can all be about its accuracy.
What were city directories?
It might be easier to start by saying what they weren’t. Historic city directories were not phone books. Telephones were not commonplace in American homes until the 1920s. Before phone companies existed, directories were privately published. Polk & Co, a national company published many of the Copper Country directories. In other cities, local printers developed their own directories as a side project as a means of earning advertising profits. With different printers creating directories, we see various publishing schedules. Some cities, like Detroit and Toronto, had yearly updates. Less populated areas might see updates only every few years depending on printers and the potential for profitability. Businesses purchased space featuring their business information in a prominent advertisement or pay to have special formatting to capture the eye of readers, similar to how websites today pay to appear first in search results.
What did they contain if there were no phone numbers?
While the information published varied by printer, most directories list the head of household’s name, their occupation, followed by addresses for both their residence and place of employment. In Polk & Co’s Houghton Directory, the information is limited to name, occupation, and residence. While we use the phrase city directory, many directories expanded to include rural areas by the 1860s. When a directory only listed a residential address, the head of household might be retired or not working. If only an occupational address was listed, the canvassers were unable to confirm a person's residence prior to publication. Women were included in directories when they maintained an occupation or were heads of household.
There are a great deal of abbreviations used by printers to explain the dense information found within each entry. Before using any directory, take the time to read over the abbreviations and become familiar with what is, and isn't, explained. Many common names are abbreviated which can require some additional detective work. Printers also abbreviated occupations to conserve space.
How did the printers get their information?
To prepare a new edition of a directory, printers sent out canvassers with the old edition of the directory broken down by an area. These individuals then went door to door verifying the occupants’ information. Canvassers made at least three attempts but would also resort to checking with neighbors for occupant information. The Toronto Star published a wonderful article in 1913 explaining how the Toronto City Directory was updated and published. The article provides a wealth of information on the canvassing methods, enabling you to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of it as an archival resource.
In Part 2 of our blog posts, we will explore the specific City Directories we used within the Keweenaw Time Traveler Explore app, and we will discuss the Business Directories we recently completed mapping.
This is a perfect time to browse your community and see how it has changed during the last 100 years. These directories are all available so go explore and see what you find!
A few of our favorite additional resources on directories...
Ancestry.com- “5 Tips for Getting the Most from City Directories.”
Amy Johnson Crow maintains a website on genealogy, and she presents an explanation of farm directories specific to New York Counties. While these directories are dramatically different from the Polk City Directories for the Keweenaw, they demonstrate the variety in appearance and information.
The Library of Congress maintains an extensive collection of historic directories. These directories are not available on-line, but some general information is available on their bibliographic guide.
HESAL Research Associate Rose Hildebrandt (2nd from right) has joined 11 other students as a fellow of the 2019 National Science Foundation Spatial Models and Electoral Districting Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site.
The Spatial Models and Electoral Districting REU is focusing on the complexities of redistricting electoral districts after the 2020 census. You can read more about the REU at their website.