90 Fascinating Facts About Michigan

Michigan state facts

Michigan state is known for its car manufacturing history and the birth of Motown. Find out what else “The Great Lakes State” is famous for with these fascinating and fun facts about Michigan!

For more fun tidbits about the region, also read these Great Lakes facts.

General Michigan Facts

  • Michigan is a state in the Upper Midwestern region of the United States.
  • It spans 96,716 mi² (250,493 km²), making it the 11th largest state in the nation, between Wyoming and Minnesota is terms of size.
  • The state is slightly larger than the United Kingdom, or half the size of Spain.
  • Michigan is the only state in the nation that is made up of two peninsulas, the Lower and Upper Peninsula, also called Lower Michigan (L.P.) and Upper Michigan (U.P.).
  • The peninsulas are formed by the Great Lakes and connected by the 26,372 ft (8038 m) Mackinac Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.
  • In other words, at no point does Michigan’s land touch that of Canada.
Aerial view looking down on Mackinac Bridge, with land in the distance
Mackinac Bridge connects Upper and Lower Michigan.
  • The state borders four of the five Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie, but not Lake Ontario), as well as Lake St Clair beside Detroit.
  • In fact, there’s no point in the state that’s further than 85 mi (137 km) from any of the Great Lakes.
  • The only Great Lake that is fully in America is Lake Michigan, which lends its name to the state.
  • The state has more freshwater shoreline (3000 mi / 4828 km) than any other state in the US.
  • Michigan has a population of around 10 million people, which makes it the 11th most populous state in the US, between North Carolina and New Jersey in terms of population.
Some buildings reflected in a pond in downtown Lansing
Lansing, the state capital of Michigan
  • The state capital of Michigan is Lansing. With a population of 112,000, it is the 269th largest city in the US. Its metropolitan population is 540,000, making it the country’s 106th largest population center.
  • Detroit is by far the state’s largest city. With 639,000 (metro 4.4 million) people, it is the 27th largest city, or 15th largest metropolis in the country.
  • Michigan was originally inhabited by the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi peoples. Today they make up only 0.6% of the population.
  • The name Michigan most likely came from Mishigamaa, which is an Ojibwe word meaning “large water” or “large lake”. This means the lake got its name before the state did.
  • MI is the abbreviated version of Michigan.
A riverbank with the skyscrapers of Detroit visible on the other side, and a fading blue sky at sunset.
Detroit viewed from across the Detroit River in Canada
  • Michigan residents call themselves Michiganians or Michiganders. Other less common demonyms include Michiganese, Michiganers, Michigines, and Michiganites.
  • Upper Michigan residents sometimes call Lower Michigan Residents “trolls” (because they live “under” the bridge that separates the peninsulas), while LM residents call those in the north “yoopers” (from “U.P.ers”).
  • Michigan’s official state motto is “si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice“, which is Latin for “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”.
  • The state has a few nicknames, including “The Great Lakes State”, “The Wolverine State” (based on the wolverine-like appetite of early French settlers), and “The Mitten State” (it’s not only cold but also the Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten).
  • Tourism slogans for Michigan have included “Great Lakes. Great Times”, “Pure Michigan”, “Playground of a Nation”, “Water-Winter Wonderland”, “Tourist Empire of the Inland Seas”, “The Michigans – the Almost Islands of the Great Lakes”, and “Say Yes to Michigan”.
The state flag of Michigan
The Michigan state flag
  • Michigan’s flag features the state seal on a blue background. The seal has a shield with a man holding a gun by a lake, with a rising sun. The shield is supported by a moose and an elk, with a bald eagle on top. The flag feature three Latin mottos; “Tuebor“, meaning “I will defend”, “E Pluribus Unum“, meaning “Out of many, one”, and the state motto.

Interesting Facts About Michigan

  • Michigan has a Polar-Equator trail, as it sits exactly in the middle of the two, along the 45th parallel.
  • Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan is the largest stadium in the US and the Western Hemisphere by seating capacity. 115,000 people have fit into it, nearly the entire population of Ann Arbor, where it is located.
  • Michigan’s tourism industry is one of the largest in the US, with major draws including hunting and fishing in the forests and lakes of the north, The Henry Ford and other museums, and several casinos. 70% of tourism comes from within the state, so Michiganians really love to holiday.
A white lighthouse on a rocky coast of Isle Royale, Michigan
Isle Royale National Park
  • There is only one national park in Michigan: Isle Royale. It is the largest island in Lake Superior, and closer to Canada’s mainland than the US. It is known for its shipwrecks and unique relationship between resident moose and wolves.
  • No cars are allowed on Mackinac Island. Travel can only be done by bike, horse, or water vessel.
Two horses pulling a cart past a Victorian house on Mackinac Island, Michigan
Horse cart on Mackinac Island
  • There are also 43 national historic landmarks in Michigan, including missions, ferries, automobile factories, theaters, forts, canals, and Ernest Hemingway’s childhood cottage. Lower Michigan has quite a few more than Upper Michigan.
  • Detroit was once considered the automobile capital of the world. In fact, the city was nicknamed “Motor City” because so many cars were made there.
  • Once the most powerful city economically in the country, the city went into sharp decline in the 1990s and 2000s, and declared bankruptcy in 2013. It also leads the nation in crime rates. The city of Flint has suffered a similar fate, not to mention lead contamination in the water supply.
  • The 5-day work week is thanks to the Detroit automotive industry’s labor movement, which resulted in the workers getting two days off from the job.
  • America’s Big 3 car makers (Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis) are still based in Michigan. Around 2 million vehicles (20% of all those made in the US) are still made there annually.
Outer wall of an old, abandoned factory in Detroit, Michigan
An abandoned factory in Detroit
  • Other major companies that started or are based in Michigan include Whirlpool, Kellogg’s, Domino’s Pizza, Gerber (baby foods), Amway, and La-Z-Boy.
  • William E. Boeing, who founded the Boeing aircraft company, was born in Michigan.
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, is home to five of the world’s largest furniture producers.
  • Other things invented in Michigan or by Michiganians include air-conditioned cars, hospital beds, lined roads, optical fibers, and the assembly line.
  • Baby food was first manufactured by Daniel Frank Gerber of Fremont in 1927. Daniel got the idea after his wife asked him to prepare strained food for their youngster.
  • The Kellogg brothers invented Corn Flakes by accident when they were trying to make granola. The brothers were from Battle Creek, Michigan.
A Dutch-style windmill surrounded by a sea of flowers
De Zwaan Windmill, Holland, Michigan
  • Michigan is home to the nation’s only operational and authentic Dutch windmill, called De Zwaan. It is over 250 years old and located in the city of Holland, which has one of the highest concentrations of Dutch people in the US.
  • Battle Creek is considered the cereal capital of the world, while Traverse City is the tart cherry capital of the world and hosts a National Cherry Festival every July.
  • Michigan is one of the nation’s top producers of tart cherries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, and apples.
  • Michigan is the 2nd most diverse state in the nation agriculturally, after California. Besides fruit, it produces dairy, corn, soy beans, cattle, flowers, and much more.
  • The world’s largest limestone quarry is found in Rogers City, Michigan.
  • The lowest temperature to ever be recorded in Michigan was -51°F (-46°C) in 1934 in Vanderbilt, while the highest was 112°F (44°C) in 1936 in Stanwood.
A mosaic of famous musicians from Michigan
Famous Michigan musicians Bill Haley, Diana Ross, Iggy Pop, Anthony Kiedis, Madonna, and Alice Cooper (clockwise from top-left)
  • Motown Records combines the words “motor” and “town”. The company was founded in Detroit in 1959 and produced well-known acts such as Diana Ross, Jackson 5, The Temptations, and Stevie Wonder.
  • Famous musicians from Michigan are Diana Ross, Madonna, Iggy Pop, Kid Rock, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White of the White Stripes, Bill Haley of Haley and the Comets, Alice Cooper, Sonny Bono, the Verve Pipe, and Grand Funk Railroad.
  • The Michigan Marching Band, the official marching band of the University of Michigan, is one of the most famous in the US. Going back to 1898, they perform at all Michigan Wolverines games and many other events.
  • Other celebrities from Michigan include Google co-founder Larry Page, actors Steven Seagal, David Spade, Tom Selleck, Taylor Lautner, Sinbad, and Terry O’Quinn, actresses Christie Brinkley, Sandra Bernhard, and Elizabeth Berkley, and filmmaker Michael Moore.
  • Ben Carson, a surgeon and bestselling author from Michigan, was a candidate for the Republicans in the 2016 presidential election. He has been portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in film.
  • Serena Williams of Michigan was ranked the world’s #1 singles player in tennis for 319 weeks.
A mosaic of famous people from Michigan state
Famous Michiganians David Spade, Sandra Bernhard, Larry Page, Steven Seagal, Christie Brinkley, and Michael Moorer (clockwise from top-left)
  • Michigan has some weird old laws, including a law that declares that women can’t cut their own hair unless their husband gives them permission.
  • In Detroit, it’s technically illegal for men to scowl at their wives.
  • There’s also an old law prohibiting one to buy or sell a car in Michigan on a Sunday.
  • The city of Flint passed a law in 2008 giving police authority to arrest anyone who wears their pants sagging so low as to expose their bare butts or underwear.

Historical Facts About Michigan

  • During the last Ice Age, enormous glaciers carved out the landscape of Michigan and the Great Lakes area.
  • The finding of various whale skeletons in Michigan has sparked debate about whether whales inhabited the Great Lakes or the area was covered by a sea more recently than previously thought.
A sandy beach on Lake Michigan
A beach on Lake Michigan
  • From 1618-1622, French explorer Étienne Brulé became the first European to see Michigan and Lake Superior, travelling through in search of a route to China.
  • The Ojibwe, the largest native tribe in Michigan, had a population of around 30,000 at the time of contact.
  • The first mission was established at Sault Ste. Marie in 1668, followed by Fort Miami at present-day St. Joseph in 1679.
  • The French surrendered Fort Pontchartrain (in modern-day Detroit) to the British in 1760, ending French rule in the region.
  • During the Indian wars of 1763, a 135-day siege of Detroit was led by Pontiac. The Indians had captured all the forts in the state, apart from Detroit.
View of an old British/American fort on Mackinac Island, looking down from the fort and the coast
Fort Mackinac, dating to 1782
  • The Michigan Territory was created in 1805, with the city of Detroit as the seat of government.
  • Michigan joined the Union on January 26, 1837, becoming the 26th state, with Detroit as its capital.
  • The death penalty was abolished in 1846 by the state of Michigan for all crimes other than treason, becoming the first state in the world to do so.
  • The state capital was moved to Lansing in 1847 due to the need for better defence against the British in nearby Canada.
A walking path leading past some trees to the state capitol building of Michigan
The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing
  • In 1879, Detroit became the first city to use phone numbers. In other places you could only call someone by using their name.
  • Henry Ford built his first experimental car in his Detroit home in 1896.
  • The world’s first concrete-paved road was completed in Detroit in 1908. It stretched for one mile.
  • Women were granted suffrage by a state constitutional amendment that was passed in 1919.
  • In the 1920s, some of Detroit’s most iconic buildings were constructed, such as the Fisher Building, Cadillac Place, and the Guardian Building.
  • In 1927, a man killed 38 schoolchildren in Bath, Michigan, the deadliest school massacre in US history.
The top of Guardian building, one of the most iconic in Detroit
Guardian Building, Detroit
  • The first state police radio system in the world was established in 1929 by the Michigan State Police.
  • The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, connecting Detroit to Canada under the Detroit River, opened to automobile traffic in 1930.
  • Native Americans obtained the right to vote in Michigan in 1948.
  • Racial tensions resulted in the eruption of riots in Detroit in 1967, one of the largest and bloodiest in US history. 20 were killed and 1000 injured.
  • The first woman to become governor of Michigan was Jennifer M. Granholm in 2002.
A wolverine snarling with its mouth open and teeth showing
The wolverine is associated with Michigan.
  • The last known living wolverine in Michigan was discovered in Huron County in 2004. It was the first wolverine to be spotted in 200 years. The wolverine was stuffed and mounted after it passed on.
  • The largest oil spill in Midwest history occurred in 2010 after Kalamazoo River’s Pipeline leaked over 800,000 gallons of oil. It took over 5 years to clean the spill.
  • In 2013, Detroit declared bankruptcy.
  • Normally quite reliant on tourist income, Michigan was hard hit by the COVID pandemic.

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