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Shiras saluted with special signage: Project nears its completion, with work to be finished in the spring of 2021

MARQUETTE — After five years, a collaboration with the Shiras Institute, the City of Marquette and a concerned citizen — a two-part signage project for the Shiras Park at Picnic Rocks is almost completed.

The first phase was to have a blue and white city sign made and to have a Michigan Historical Commission Marker. Scott Cambensy, Director of Public Works for the City of Marquette receives a $5,000 check from Judge Cheryl Hill, a board member of the Shiras Institute, toward the project. A dedication will be held in the Spring 2021.

The text of dedication reads:

Side one: George Shiras III (1859-1942) was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He developed an interest in wildlife at the age of 11 when his father took him hunting and fishing near Marquette.

Shiras received his law degree from Yale and practiced law in Pittsburgh. Near the turn of the 20th century, Shiras and his guide, John Hammer, developed innovative flash and camera equipment that allowed them to take photos of wildlife in a natural habitat at night.

Shiras won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900 and the grand prize at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis for his images, several of which were captured in the Marquette area.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote Shiras and asked him to compile his photographs and notes on wildlife behavior into a book. Shiras published “Hunting Wild Life with Camera and Flashlight” in 1935.

Side two:

In addition to photographing wildlife, George Shiras III contributed to its conservation and study. While serving in the U.S. Congress for Pennsylvania (1903-1905), he introduced a bill to protect migratory birds. His concepts became part of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

In 1908 he discovered a new species in Yellowstone National Park, the smallest subspecies of moose in North America. It was named Alces americanus shirasi, or Shiras Moose. He advocated for a 1925 Michigan gun law that prohibited hunting wildlife out of season.

Shiras was a part-time resident of Marquette for most of his life. Included in his philanthropy was the 1931 donation of this land at Picnic Rocks for a public park.

In 1937 he founded the Shiras Institute to fund “beautification, recreation and cultural activities” for the City of Marquette.

He is buried in Park Cemetery.

Some general info:

The City of Marquette contributions were materials, labor and equipment. The Shiras Institute contributions were materials, signs and benches.

Some research involved to have our application accepted by the state to have a historical marker:

≤ Marquette, Michigan was home to George Shiras III; he lived on Ridge Street several blocks from the Shiras Park at Picnic Rocks. He donated the land to the City of Marquette for the park. (Source: Mining Journal Obit, March 25, 1942 Subheading: “His Gifts to City”)

≤ Shiras Park over looks Lake Superior. North Country National Scenic Trail administered by the National Park Service passes through the park, as the Holly Greer Shoreline Bikepath. Shiras was involved with the establishment and expansion of several park properties. (Source: North Country National Scenic Trail, on-line nps.gov.)

≤ Marquette is home to George Shiras III’s papers at Northern Michigan University. In addition, the Longyear Research Library at the Marquette Regional History Center (formerly known as the Marquette County Historical Society) has documents. (Source: Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives, Shiras manuscripts)

≤ Devos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University has 12 original photographs, two Salon prints and 40 inter-negatives (from National Geographic) of George Shiras III.

≤ Shiras Institute is in Marquette

≤ Shiras is buried in Park Cemetery in Marquette

This prominent location of the marker would alert the people of Marquette and travelers on the North Country National Scenic Trail of the importance of George Shiras III to the nation and the state of Michigan.

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