How Long Have Our Hands Been Maps of Michigan?
You know someone is either from or lived in Michigan when they use their hand as a map of the state. I mean, letting someone know you are from "The Thumb" doesn't mean much until you use your hand as a display. When someone asks where Lansing is, you point to the middle of your hand. Odd yes, but it's a Michigan thing for sure. Even Bloomberg found this whole concept impressive enough to devote time to it.
So was it always a hand map thing? When did Michigan become "The Mitten"? Was it just cool hip-hop slang that the kids used to say and it stuck?
Michigan maps have changed quite a bit since Google and satellites came into play. A map from the early 1700s had our state looking like an arrowhead. The mid-1800s had people describing it as an open-mouthed shark. 1891 is the first time the mitten term is used. Henry Ford referenced the, "thumb of the mitten," but not the whole state.
The Michigan State Cyclopedia lists it as "The Mitten State" in 1901. To be fair, it also refers to the state as "The Wolverine State" and "The Summer State." Not sure about that last one given we only get about 3 good months of summer weather per year.
Here in Lansing, we Spartans are very happy that "The Wolverine State" didn't stick. Needless to say, there is significant history to the name. The hip-hop slang is cool and let's be honest, so is the whole hand map. The state of Virginia tries, but Michiganders have the hand map thing down to a science.
Next time someone asks you where you're from, you will probably show them your hand. If you are really good, you can show them both and map out the Upper Peninsula too!