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Michigan (MI) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Michigan is bounded on several sides by four of the five Great Lakes, giving it the longest freshwater boundary of any administrative entity in the world. It consists of two gigantic peninsulas on either side of Lake Michigan. In addition, its landscape is known for its many smaller lakes and waterways.
Counties and Regions: Michigan has 83 counties, and is most easily divisible into the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula is generally distinguished into two regions, the Copper County region and the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula can be subdivided as follows:
- Central Michigan
- Detroit Metropolitan Area (Southeast Michigan)
- Flint/Tri-Cities Area
- Northern Michigan (technically south of the Upper Peninsula)
- Southern Michigan
- West Michigan
Population: With just about 9.8 million people, Michigan is one of the ten most populous states in the nation, although it has been losing residents over the last several years due to a depression of the manufacturing industry.
Major Cities: Detroit is probably Michigan’s most important city, known throughout the world as the former heart and soul of the automotive industry. Grand Rapids, the second-largest city, sits at the center of another large metropolitan area. The state capital, Lansing, is the fifth most populous city in Michigan.
Story Behind the Name: The name “Michigan” is a French adaptation of a Native American phrase that meant “large lake,” almost certainly referring to one of the nearby Great Lakes.
History and Colonization: In the seventeenth century, as part of their exploration efforts in the northern half of the North American continent, French explorers came to modern-day Michigan and began to trade with the many native tribes that lived there. Unlike what happened in some other areas of what would later become the American Midwest, the French set up several forts in the area to ensure control over water trade routes around the Great Lakes. Still, European settlement of the region remained very low. France eventually lost its claim on the land to the British in 1763, following the Seven Years War.
The British, in turn, lost most of Michigan’s territory to the United States at the close of the American Revolution. Some of the northern parts of Michigan, however, remained in British hands for several more decades.
Settlers flocked to Michigan, which was rich in natural resources. There was a brief disagreement over a strip of land that ended up becoming a part of the state of Ohio, but Michigan was given the northern peninsula as a consolation before it was admitted as a state in 1837. This turned out to be a good bargain in the long term, as that part of the peninsula turned out to have deep mineral deposits. Mining was a key industry in nineteenth-century Michigan, in addition to logging and water shipping on the Great Lakes.
The twentieth century brought a new industry for which Michigan is now the most recognized: the invention of the automobile. This created a huge boom in manufacturing jobs that carried on for decades, making the state a center of population and commerce in the Midwest. The blue-collar culture that this created became an active part of the Labor Movement, and remains so to this day. Michigan was hit hard as the automotive industry began to decline in the 1980s and onwards, but it has expanded into the agricultural and tourist industries in an attempt to offset this effect.