Tag Archives: douglass houghton

Memoir of Douglass Houghton by Alvah Bradish: a short review

An odd book. The 70-page memoir is essentially useless, but the appendix contains summaries of Houghton’s geological survey work, including a long excerpt from his fourth (1840) report to the Michigan legislature, which is fascinating. Houghton’s fourth report was a masterpiece of synthesis, summarizing the field notes of his team into a coherent and generally readable explanation of what they’d seen. Wonderful stuff. There are clues in other work excerpted here that Houghton could manage this sort of masterwork pretty much at will. Doubtless that’s the reason he was so widely admired. It’s a tragedy that he died so young.

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Michigan’s Superior Boundary

I find from Google that the “last touches” wording is from the federal law establishing the (prospective) state’s boundary as a result of the Toledo War, and that it is repeated early in the 1850 State Constitution. (I also see that current Michigan AG Mike Cox quoted the phrase in a 2004 opinion.) It looks like Houghton didn’t expect a fully literal interpretation of the boundary to stand. He was right in that Michigan evidently doesn’t “own” the last few miles of Minnesota’s North Shore, nor the aforesaid rocky islands–but Isle Royale remains part of Michigan, regardless of its proximity to Minnesota. And Ontario.

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