Author distills U.P. history, prohibition era
DETROIT — A retired Northern Michigan University professor has compressed nearly a half-century of research and interviews into a book about Upper Peninsula history — and another tome distills tales of prohibition along the state’s northern border with Canada.
Russell Magnaghi said his “Upper Peninsula of Michigan: A History” seeks to synthesize much of what he taught and numerous interviews he conducted in a way that would appeal to a general audience — a point underscored by the flannel-patterned book cover that pays homage to the shirts “that a lot of people in the U.P. wear.”
The history volume explores Native American experiences, colonial-era fur trading and U.S. wars, and highlights historical figures. They include Canadian immigrant Dr. Nancy Rodgers-Chenoweth, who installed one of the first X-ray machines in the U.P. Another is Dr. William Beaumont, a 19th century surgeon-physician at the fort on Mackinac Island, who made major advances in the study of digestion and gastroenterology through the treatment of and tests on a man who had been accidentally shot in the stomach.
The other new book is “Prohibition in the Upper Peninsula: Booze and Bootleggers on the Border.” The book examines bootlegging and rum-running on the Great Lakes during prohibition imposed from 1918 to 1933 and the tensions that led up to it. It follows his 2015 book: “Upper Peninsula Beer: A History of Brewing Above the Bridge.”
Magnaghi, who came from California to the Marquette school in the late 1960s and taught history until retiring in 2014, said he was “excited” to learn about the Upper Peninsula’s history. While he finds a strong sense of “Yooper” pride and identity among today’s inhabitants, he encountered many in his early days who thought the region was a backwater of little interest.
“That’s my whole focus: The U.P. is not an isolated area to be ignored,” Magnaghi told The Associated Press by phone last week before a book-signing event in Marquette. “It played a major role in all aspects of American history.”