Written By: Kevin White, HESAL Research Associate working on the "Michigan Miners at Home and Work" Project
Looking at mining company records can be a much more difficult process than you might think. Often as I am reading the data recorded on employee cards (birthdays, birth place, name, and nationality of family members), it never crossed my mind that some of that data could be wrong. Every now and again I might find addendums that were added to the employee cards, such as an update on the card when a miner gets married, but it is very unusual to see sweeping changes like those found on the employee card of one Kamel Ally.
When I initially started working to transcribe this card, I thought that there had perhaps been a miscommunication between the employee and the Calumet & Hecla clerk that had filled out the employment card. It wouldn't be the first time that something like that had happened. However, continuing to read through the card eventually brought to light a situation that was unlike any I had found before.
Transcription of Note: "Regarding the record of Carl Ally. On May 31, 1917 the man called and stated that when he entered our service in May 1915 he gave incorrect information in order to conceal his nationality. He is a Turk and claims to have had trouble securing and holding a job on that account. See the record shown in Red on reverse side is correct."
Ally had intentionally falsified his information when applying for work at Calumet & Hecla. While this deceit alone made the card stand out from the others, my interest was further compounded when I found the reason he had lied: to achieve equal employment opportunity. At first glance at this information is interesting, and represents an anomaly among many of the other employment cards being reviewed and digitized for the Mapping Miners at Home and Work project, however I learned so much more by taking a deeper look at what this information meant.
First off, this card provides compelling evidence of a history of employment discrimination against Turkish people. At the time when he applied for the job, ethnic tensions were high around the world. Discussing the topic with Emily Riippa, one of the archivists at the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library at Michigan Technological University, she mentioned that at the time Mr. Ally began working with Calumet & Hecla in 1915, World War One was entering its second year of fighting. During 1915, America had yet to enter the war, however the Ottoman Empire (the homeland of the Turks) had allied itself with Germany. While at the time America was not involved in the war, as a nation people had begun to recognize the Germans and other Central Powers (including the Ottoman Empire) as hostile powers. It is quite possible that this was the reason he may have lost his previous job, and as such when he was applying for his position at Calumet & Hecla, he chose to hide this information.
However, as the war progressed and America sided with the Allied Powers, hiding the fact that one was from a hostile nation would become riskier. This is compounded by the fact that the copper mines in the Keweenaw were a key asset in America's war-time production. Emily believes that it is quite possible for him to have revealed this information in order to protect himself from being suspected as a spy for the Central Powers. I believe he may have also done it as a sign of good faith toward the higher-ups at Calumet & Hecla. It was mentioned on his employee card that he had previously been dismissed from work due to being "disobedient". While this (like many things on the employee card) is vague, it is quite possible that he had been discharged due to working with union lobbyists or strikers, which were people who would have been seen as disobedient to the higher-ups at C&H. He may have revealed his true national origins alongside agreements to not work with those groups in order to get his job back at C&H, where he ended up working until early 1918.
Mr. Ally's employee card gives us just a small glance into what the life of a Turkish immigrant might have been like in the United States. There were many Turkish immigrants who arrived in the country in the early 1900s similar to Mr. Ally, and their stories echo similar discrimination. Many Turks immigrated prior to World War I and adopted Christian names (such as Carl, as opposed to Kamel) in order to try and assimilate into the predominantly Christian America and avoid persecution and discrimination. Many Turkish people also chose to immigrate back out of America after the Republic of Turkey was formed in 1922. But it appears that Mr. Ally decided to stay in America despite discrimination he had suffered in the past, as can be seen by Mr. Ally's participation in the American census (thanks again to Emily for finding that!). It is also worth noting that he did continue to use the name Carl on these later documents, perhaps to assimilate into American life.
American government and industrial powers bred suspicion and distrust during WWI. The neighboring Quincy Mining Company posted this notice in 1918 printed in six different languages instructing citizens and non-citizens alike to follow orders and avoid the appearance of treason. HAER MICH, 31-HANC, 1-278, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.mi0086.photos.089087p/
Upon reviewing Mr. Ally's card, another question comes to mind: how many other people falsified their information? It is highly unlikely that Mr. Ally was alone in his scenario, and there were likely additional employees who chose to change their names and nationalities in order to avoid discrimination. Many of those documents may never have been rewritten or marked. It reminds me that data should not just be taken at face value. I am studying computer science as my major, and I am used to dealing with data sets with thousands of entries. But seeing things like this reminds me that every data point has a story and a person behind it. The data we collect from the Mapping Miners at Home and Work project can be used not only to help us create an overarching view of history in the Keweenaw, but also to bring to light the lives of the individuals who made it what it is today.
Recently, James Juip, Senior Research Associate here in the HESA Lab, has undertaken the task of cleaning up the City Directory data that makes up much of the historical records currently available in the Explore App. His work will make it easier to read and understand information about historical people by removing "Null" entries and expanding the shorthand found in the directory to full occupation titles. For example, "lab" was the shorthand used for "laborer", and "clk" was the shorthand for "clerk". These two jobs are among the five most common jobs in the City Directory, along with Miner, Student, and Trammer.
In addition to finding and cleaning common jobs, James also found several unusual professions listed in the directories. Some of our favorites include:
Among these unusual professions were also the jobs of Huckster, Clairvoyant, Broom Maker, Traveler, Scissor Grinder, and Sauerkraut Manufacturer. What interesting historical jobs do you know of or can you find in the Keweenaw?
Building Use Classification Handbook
The Department of Geological and Mining Engineering Sciences (GMES) is happy to announce that Master's student Daniel J. Lizzadro-McPherson's talk, Remapping the Keweenaw Fault and Discovery of Related Structures in Michigan's Historic Copper District, was awarded the Best Graduate Oral Presentation from the Geological Society of America's 2020 North-Central Section Meeting, held online this past May. The talk was featured in the Unique Geology and Geoheritage of the Lake Superior Region Session led by Erika Vye, William Rose, Jim Miller, and James DeGraff. Lizzadro-McPherson presented on the history of mapping the Keweenaw Fault and the current remapping efforts aimed at understanding this complex fault system in northern Keweenaw County. For more information about this project or to receive a link to the virtual presentation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
HESAL Post-Doctoral Researcher Dan Trepal recently co-authored an article with HESAL director Don Lafreniere and Jason Gilliland (University of Western Ontario) titled "Historical Spatial-Data Infrastructures for Archaeology: Towards a Spatiotemporal Big-Data Approach to Studying the Postindustrial City" in the journal Historical Archaeology. This article discusses the ways in which big-data GIS infrastructures for historical research, such as that underpinning the Keweenaw Time Traveler, can be useful for archaeologists who study historical cities. Archaeologists excavating urban sites are expert at revealing hidden aspects of day to day life at small scales. The paper uses examples, including several from the Time Traveler, to show how using historical big-data in a GIS-based digital infrastructure sources allows archaeologists to place their evidence of day to day life in a broader context built from many thousands of individual pieces of historical information. When combined, the archaeology and historical big data give us new perspectives on past people, places, and things that may be impossible to see when using one kind of evidence alone.
Everyone here at the Keweenaw Time Traveler would like to congratulate Antonia Burich for all of her hard work on the "Document Building Use" app. Antonia is our most dedicated citizen historian, having classified thousands of buildings! She classified 11,654 buildings for our May 2020 giveaway. Thank you Antonia for all of your commitment to the Keweenaw Time Traveler. Your work is an invaluable addition to the historical data we hope to share with the world.
The Keweenaw Time Traveler was recently awarded a Heritage Grant from the Advisory Commission of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Funds will go towards improving the online interface in the Explore App so you can more easily find information and stories. In addition, more data sources will be made available in the Time Traveler, including census and historical school records. A big thank you to the Keweenaw National Historical Park and our collaborators at the Michigan Tech Archives for helping to make it even easier to explore the history of the Copper Country. Check back in to our blog in the coming year for more improvements!
Congrats to HESAL Research Associate Tim Stone for winning two awards at the 2020 Department of Social Sciences Graduation Celebration:
Tim was awarded the 2020 Department Scholar award for his ongoing research and scholarship on historical children's health in industrial communities.
Tim was a co-winner of the Community-Based Research Prize for his work on the 2019 Safe Routes to School Project.
Watch the ceremony below.
Is boredom building in your house? Pass the time with the Keweenaw Time Traveler! You can explore old maps of the Copper Country and transcribe hand-written details about the historic buildings you find. The information that "Citizen Historians" like you provide goes straight into the Explore App, where anyone can explore individual information about Copper Country residents from early twentieth-century city directories and business directories. Use the "Document Building Use" app and the "Transcribe the Map" app to help add data. The "Document Building Materials" app has already been completed—Thank you! To read more about these apps and how Citizen Historians have helped the Keweenaw Time Traveler, check out an earlier blog post.
This April we have relaunched #TuesdayUseDay and #TranscriptionThursday on Facebook and Twitter, and have seen an increase of up to 608 new transcriptions in one week! This work is providing valuable information that researchers and the public can use to understand the historic Copper Country's people and places. With transcription numbers skyrocketing, we want to challenge you to transcribe or document buildings in order to win Keweenaw Time Traveler prizes! If you transcribe 100 buildings we will send you a Keweenaw Time Traveler themed magnet, and if you transcribe 200 buildings we will send you a Keweenaw Time Traveler themed mug. Just send us a screenshot on Facebook or email email@example.com to claim your prize. This Citizen Historian Giveaway will end on Thursday, May 28.
Please note that the building counter will reset if you navigate away from the page. You can take screenshots of the counter as you go and send them once they add up to 100. Additionally, any prizes won will be disinfected before being mailed. Feel free to ask for more information when sending your screenshots.
Have you filled out the 2020 Census yet? The Census provides important information for funding your community's future by providing certain population statistics. But the Census can also be an important tool for studying the past. Here at the Keweenaw Time Traveler, researchers have been working to map census records from 1870 to 1940 to the exact house where people were living. These records should be available to the public on the Explore App by the end of 2020!
You can visit our YouTube channel to learn more about how we are mapping historical census data. Researchers at the Keweenaw Time Traveler have used census data in a variety of projects, including the Francophone Migration Project and the Historical Children's Health Project. Census data provides rich household information as well as allowing us to connect multiple primary sources across time and space. How have you used the Census?