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Mackinac Island: Historical Photos and Memorabilia

Every year, the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau receives old postcards, film slides, newspapers, tickets, brochures and even full sets of collectibles from beloved visitors and fans.

These items are generally sent after a spring cleaning or when a loved one passes away and the new beneficiary wants to gift the historical materials or photos back to Mackinac Island.

It’s always a joy to see these beloved items and to know that at some point in time, that person was on Mackinac Island and the experience left an impression for a lifetime.

The notes, items, and kind words continue to show that Mackinac Island is a cherished destination for so many, so appreciated that Travel + Leisure named Mackinac Island the #1 Best Island in the Continental US.

People talk about the beauty, the history, the endless water, the people, the horses and how it truly is like stepping back in time. It’s as if Mackinac Island continues to change, just like any place, but so much of it stays the same.

Map of nine historical sites on Mackinac Island

Like how a 1970 film slide sent to the Tourism Bureau features an elaborate, enclosed carriage being pulled by two larger than life horses and a straight-backed driver with a red top coat and black top hat. The scene driving down Main Street with Benjamin of Mackinac and Chippewa Hotel in the background is one you’ll see every day during tourist season still today.

Out of all the highlights that make Mackinac Island so special, the following four themes seem to have been shared and continue to be shared over the generations:

Two pages of an old pamphlet hailing Mackinac Island as "the cool beauty spot of the world"

NATURAL BEAUTY ON MACKINAC ISLAND

For centuries people have escaped to Mackinac Island to rest, recharge and rejuvenate. Rightfully so. Natural beauty abounds, there are 70+ miles of trails to explore, and Mackinac Island is 80% State Park. The beauty of Mackinac Island has been captured and shared for generations and it’s something that continues to draw people to this little, Northern Michigan island today.

Some of the old items shared with the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau label the island as “the cool beauty spot of the world” and tout scenery so amazing that “you have to see it to believe it.”

An old postcard showing horse-drawn carriages go past the Mackinac Island Post Office on Main Street

HORSES ON MACKINAC ISLAND

Horse is King here on Mackinac Island, and it’s been that way since 1898 when the City banned motor vehicles. Horses not only give tours, they also provide taxi transportation, move freight, food & beverage and building materials, and help deliver Amazon packages! The photos of folks enjoying a carriage ride on Mackinac Island from 100 years ago can be seen every day in real life here on the Island still today!

An old Historic Guidebook to Mackinac Island's Fort Mackinac sold for 25 cents

HISTORY OF MACKINAC ISLAND AND FORT MACKINAC

History runs deep on Mackinac Island and it’s as if Fort Mackinac is the fulcrum. A Revolutionary Era Fort with 14 original buildings, live demonstrations, exquisite exhibits, and jaw-dropping views, Fort Mackinac continues to be a highlight when visiting Mackinac Island. It doesn’t stop there with the military though. Mackinac Island’s history runs deeper, especially for its significance for Northern Michigan’s Indigenous Peoples, the center location of the fur trade, a rich fishing industry, and of course a destination Island.

An old newspaper ad for a 7-day Lake Cruise with stop at Mackinac Island for $59

CRUISE SHIPS, SAIL BOATS, AND FERRIES TO MACKINAC ISLAND

Cruise ships, sail boats, and ferries oh my! Water has been a central part of the Mackinac Island story since the beginning when Indigenous Peoples ventured to the Island each year with canoes and it’s easy to see why. The teal-blue water of Lake Huron stretching endlessly in all directions is a sight to be seen…and Mackinac Island just so happens to offer some of the best views around!

Take a look below at more historic items people have shared with us over the years! And if you have any old artifacts from Mackinac Island, feel free to send them to the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau and we’ll be sure to find the best home for whatever you have!

 

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