Leap into these 29 Obscure Facts about Michigan

As the childhood, adulthood or industrial homes of leaders of the greatest technological advances of last century, we Michiganders have a long history of being number one. And as the only state in the country with two peninsulas, we also like getting a little extra. To celebrate the one extra day of February we get each Leap Year, guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten has put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is the first, best or only of its category.

Every four years, a Leap Year provides us the fortune of one extra day to enjoy the great things we love about Michigan. Unfortunately, that day happens in the cold, shortened daylight of February, so I’ve put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is first, best or the only – to help you get through each day with a little more Pure Michigan pride as we wait for spring:


Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Novak

1. The first permanent European settlement in Michigan was Sault Ste. Marie in 1668.
2. The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit is the busiest international border crossing in North America.
3. Michigan State University in East Lansing was the nation’s first land-grant institution and first agricultural college.
4. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor features the top graduate programs in Health Care Management, Social Work and Nuclear Engineering.
5. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti was the first in the nation to introduce a four-year curriculum for teacher education.
6. Kellogg’s, originally the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, produced the first flaked breakfast cereal.
7. The St. Clair River Tunnel from Port Huron to Sarnia, ON was the first underwater railroad tunnel built in North America.
8. Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company, which later became Gibson Guitar Corp., was founded in Kalamazoo.

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

9. The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing was the first organization dedicated to women’s history in the nation.
10. M-185 on Mackinac Island is the only highway in the nation where motor vehicles are banned.
11. De Zwaan, brought to Holland as a way for the city to pay homage to its heritage, is the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the U.S.
12. The Nordberg Steam Hoist, located at the Quincy Mine in Hancock, is the largest steam-powered hoist engine ever built.
13. Although Traverse City no longer holds the record for world’s largest cherry pie, it does still have the world’s largest cherry pie tin.
14. Grand Rapids was named the #1 U.S. travel destination in 2014.
15. United Auto Workers’ first sit-down strike, starting at GM’s Fisher #1 plant in Flint, gave the union legitimacy and leverage just a year after its founding.
16. The nation’s largest indoor-outdoor museum complex, which features entertainment as well as American history, is The Henry Ford in Dearborn.
17. Until the Fountains of Bellagio, the Grand Haven Musical Fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world.
18. The world’s largest tire is the 80-foot tall Uniroyal landmark along I-94 in Allen Park.

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

19. Bronner’s in Frankenmuth is known nearly all the way up and down I-75 as the world’s largest Christmas store.
20. Although many places claim to be his hometown, the first published story about Paul Bunyan appeared in the Oscoda Press in 1906.
21. Magic capital of the world and home to Abbott Magic Company and FAB Magic, Colon is the world’s largest manufacturer of magic supplies.
22. Green Meadow Farm in Elsie is one of the largest dairy operations in the state and at times had the largest Holstein herd in the world.
23. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Saugatuck Chain Ferry is the only hand-cranked chain ferry still operating in the country.
24. The northern-most part of Michigan is the island of Isle Royale, which is the least-visited of the U.S. National Parks.
25. Northern Michigan is rich with limestone, and the world’s largest limestone quarry is Rogers Quarry in Rogers City.
26.The cement plant in nearby Alpena, originally Huron Portland Cement Company and now owned by Lafarge, was once the largest in the world.
27. Between those two cities is Presque Isle, home to the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

28. At 31 feet high and 22 feet wide, Cross in the Woods in Indian River is the largest crucifix in the world.
29. The world’s largest weathervane can be found in Ellenwood Park in downtown Montague.

Congratulations! You’re now one month (plus one day) closer to Opening Day, Red Wings playoffs, warm Great Lakes beaches, or however you celebrate spring in your part of the state.

What makes your Pure Michigan city singularly unique? Let us know in the comments!

IMG036-3smJoel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival. He is on the social media team at Identity, and his experience includes work with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.

One thought on “Leap into these 29 Obscure Facts about Michigan

  1. 30. Only king crowned in the USA was James Strang of the Beaver Island Mormon colony.
    31. Only Michigan city governed under four different countries is Niles.
    32. Grand Junction is the blueberry capital of the world.
    33. Benton Harbor was home to the largest open air fruit market in America for decades.
    34. The largest appliance manufacturer in the world is headquartered in Benton Harbor (Whirlpool).

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