Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Challenge Accepted Wins Historical Society of Michigan Book Award

On stage accepting the award

MSU-Press display with Challenge Accepted at the Conference

Book award from Historical Society of Michigan

Historical Society of Michigan's Gold Seal Book Award on Challenge Accepted cover

As some of you may have already heard, Challenge Accepted, published by Michigan State University Press, won a Historical Society of Michigan 2010 book award (along with Larry Lankton's book Hollowed Ground.)

Although an author's name is on the front cover, as I have come to find out, a book is a very collective undertaking and Challenge Accepted was certainly such a collective undertaking.

To all of you that have advised, edited, translated, helped, employed, funded research, or have shown an interest in the work...I would like to offer a big thank you for your efforts and work.

I don't see the award so much as an individual thing (though I must begrudgingly admit I was pretty excited), rather I see it as recognition of: the great amount of work done by MSU-Press, the important place of Copper Country history in Michigan, Michigan Tech's outstanding record of scholarship, and the Finnish American working class contribution to the building of Michigan.

The award was quite a surprise, a very welcome surprise, which would never have occurred without the help and support from you folks.

For reference, the Historical Society of Michigan announcement of the award listing Larry Lankton's Hollowed Ground and Challenge Accepted is pasted below:

Society Presents 2010 State History Awards in Frankenmuth

FRANKENMUTH—The Historical Society of Michigan presented its 2010 State History Awards at the 136 th Annual Meeting and State History Conference held October 15-17 in Frankenmuth. The awards were presented at the annual awards reception and banquet on Friday evening. The State History Awards are the highest recognition presented by the state’s official historical society.

Fifteen awards were presented this year in a variety of categories including Publications: University and Commercial Press, Publications: Private Printing, Media, Communications, Educational Programs, Restoration/Preservation, Distinguished Volunteer Service, Special Programs and Events, and Lifetime Achievement.

Four books were recognized with State History Awards in the Publications: University and Commercial Press category.
The first, Larry Lankton’s “Hollowed Ground” published by Wayne State University Press, chronicles a key part of the Upper Peninsula’s history in recent times—the copper mining industry. The volume concentrates on the beginnings of the three major corporations that came to dominate the industry by 1900, the various mines and the company towns that grew up around them, miner/management relations, and the decline of the major corporations ending with the White Pine mining operation near Ontonagon.
The second book to receive a State History Award in this category was Charles K. Hyde’s “Storied Independent Automakers” published by Wayne State University Press. In this text, Hyde explores the history of the Nash and Hudson car companies which eventually merged in 1954 to form the American Motors Company. More than 90 color photos of restored automobiles as well as brochures, period literature, factory photos, and road test information appear in this volume.
Paul Taylor’s “Orlando Poe: Civil War General and Great Lakes Engineer” published by Kent State University Press was the third recipient in this category. “Orlando Poe” chronicles the life of one of the most influential and yet unrecognized soldiers of the American Civil War. Poe commanded the 2 nd Michigan Infantry during the Peninsular Campaign, and the Civil War era serves as a backdrop for the book. Taylor also documents Poe’s post-war career, in which he supervised the design and construction of numerous lighthouses as well as the largest shipping lock in the world at Sault Ste. Marie.
The fourth book to receive an award in the University and Commercial Press category was Gary Kaunonen’s “Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in Michigan’s Copper Country” published by Michigan State University Press. As Kaunonen noted in his work, Finns were the largest single ethnic classification in the copper mines and were often treated like the lowest rung of the ethnic ladder. Strong personalities often competed and conflicted in their goals and methods and followings. This volume is a worthy addition to the study of Pre-World War I Copper Country and Michigan history.
The Historical Society of Michigan, which administers the State History Awards, is the state's oldest cultural organization. Founded in 1828 by Lewis Cass and Henry Schoolcraft, it is an independent non-profit dedicated to the preservation and presentation of Michigan's historical

Monday, September 27, 2010

Challenge Accepted and Finns in Michigan Review in Journal of Finnish Studies

Above is a dual review of Finns in Michigan and Challenge Accepted by Hilary Joy Virtanen of the University of Wisconsin Madison's Folklore PhD program. Hilary wrote the review for the Journal of Finnish Studies' Summer 2010 edition. A big thank you to the Journal of Finnish Studies and Hilary for reviewing and publishing the review on the books. Click on the images to enlarge, and the top image is the first page of the review, middle image second page of the review, and bottom image is the final page of the review.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Challenge Accepted Chosen by AAUP as a Book for Understanding

Challenge Accepted was chosen by the Association of American University Presses as a "Book for Understanding" the mining industry. The "Books for Understanding" program, which features publications that present "scholarship beyond the headlines," was created by the AAUP to present the public with free and easy to use bibliographies of published materials on various topics.

A big thank you to the AAUP for recognizing Challenge Accepted.

Following is a link to the "Books for Understanding" web page:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Challenge Accepted Presentation and Book Signing in the Local News

The talk and book signing at Michigan Tech is getting a lot of press, even outside of the Houghton/Hancock area. From Marqutte, Michigan's Mining Journal:

"Based in Hancock, the Tyomies Publishing Company rallied strikers and their families during the 1913-14 copper miners' strike. This image from the Keweenaw Digital Archives was taken in February 1914 near the end of the Copper Country's most violent labor strike. Author Gary Kaunonen will give a presentation at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the JR Van Pelt and Opie Library's East Reading Room at Michigan Tech University. He also will sign copies of his books: the latest, "Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America In Michigan's Copper Country," explores the politics and culture of the working class Finnish immigrants who made a stand against the mining companies. The book presents an in-depth look at how members of the Finnish immigrant working class gambled the success of early efforts by participating in the bitter and bloody 1913-14 copper miners' strike. The nine-month struggle between organized labor and the mining companies culminated in the tragic events at Italian Hall. Kaunonen examines the events of the 1913-14 Strike and Italian Hall using often-overlooked proletarian Finnish immigrant sources. A limited number of copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event. For more information, visit, or call 487-2505."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Presentation and Book Signing

From the Michigan Tech Archives blog at:

Archives Features Talk & Book Signing by Local Author Gary Kaunonen
The Michigan Tech Archives hosts local author Gary Kaunonen for a presentation and book signing in the JR Van Pelt & Opie Library’s East Reading Room on Tuesday, August 17 at 4 p.m.

In his latest book, Challenge Accepted: a Finnish immigrant response to industrial America in Michigan’s Copper Country, published by Michigan State University Press, Kaunonen tells the story of the Finnish immigrant challenge to the historic social order. He explores their clash with Copper Country industrialists by examining the written record and material culture of the Finnish immigrant working class through analysis of buildings, cultural institutions, and publication of print media.

Challenge Accepted takes an in-depth look at the way a portion of the Finnish immigrant working class gambled the success of early organizational efforts by participating in the bitter and bloody 1913-14 copper miners’ strike. This nine-month struggle between organized labor and the mining companies culminated in the tragic events at Italian Hall. Kaunonen examines the events of the 1913-14 Strike and Italian Hall using often-overlooked proletarian Finnish immigrant sources.

Kaunonen suggests that the most noteworthy accomplishment of these Finnish immigrants in the Copper Country was that as a largely unskilled group of immigrant laborers, newspaper employees, and radical “hoboes,” they had a very considerable impact on the history of a place dominated by powerful mining companies and the men who ran those companies. This was truly remarkable, a challenge accepted by a proactive segment of the Finnish immigrant working class to have a say in their own working conditions. Embedded in this study of ethnic political-labor history is also a story of division and decline that ultimately fractured a working class movement dedicated to solidarity. This demise is significant when recounting the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the American labor movement in the early twentieth century.

Gary Kaunonen is a social and labor historian currently working on a PhD at Michigan Tech. He received a Master’s in Industrial History and Archaeology from Michigan Tech in 2007, and for a while worked as an archivist at the Finnish American Historical Archive at Finlandia. Kaunonen studies the history of the UP’s Finnish immigrant population, and the interaction between Finns and American industry. Both of his grandfathers worked in the iron mines of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, and Kaunonen himself charged blast furnaces and operated a bull-ladle before turning to academics. His first book, also published by Michigan State University Press, is called Finns in Michigan.

Limited copies of Kaunonen’s latest book, Challenge Accepted, will be available to purchase at the August 17 event at the JR Van Pelt & Opie Library at Michigan Tech.

For more information, call the Archives at 487-2505.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Challenge Accepted "Picked" by Jim Agnew

I got a letter from the good folks at Michigan State University Press letting me know that Challenge Accepted has been featured in Jim Agnew's Literary World in his "Daily Picks" section of books.

Agnew is a book reviewer and according to his web site at, "Jim also is a world-class literary researcher whose clients have included Vincent Bugliosi, Dan Moldea, Bill Zehme, Gus Russo, Bill Kurtis, Jonathan VanMeter, the late Bill Roemer, Nick Pileggi and Nick Tosches. The late Pulitzer Prize award winning columnist Mike Royko referred to Agnew as " the finest researcher of crime in America." He has been profiled in the Chicago-Sun Times, The Chicago Reader and a chapter in the Nick Tosches Reader (DaCapo)."

Thank you Mr. Agnew.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Finn Hall Band at Hanka Homestead

View of Hanka Homestead looking south: savu sauna left, house center, barn complex on right

Been a while since the last post, but really enjoying the beautiful Keweenaw summer. Been out berry picking (the wild blueberries are incredible this year), fishing, playing some league softball, and just generally getting out and having a great time. Festivals are abundant and everything from the pasty to the strawberry is celebrated this time of year, as fellow residents of the Keweenaw try to pack as much activity into the warm summer before the snow begins to fly.

Also, there is a FinnGrandFest occurring in the Canadian Soo this year. The event is a coming together of Finns from the United States and Canada, and promises to be a great time.

As part of all this great summer activity, a really unique experience is coming up quickly. On Monday, August 2 from 6-9, (the Monday after FinnGrandFest ends) Finn Hall Band and the Finnish American comedy troupe Nyt Naura are going to be performing a live, outdoor concert at Hanka Homestead in Michigan's beautiful Copper Country. Hanka is calling it, "Music in the Meadow," and the event promises to be a great event.

Finn Hall Band is one of the last actual Finnish folk music groups left in the U.S. Reflecting the incredible history of music in the Finnish American working class, Finn Hall Band echoes the cultural history of the important place hall culture occupied in Finnish American lives.

Hope to see some of you there. For directions to, and information on Hanka Homestead, please visit:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

FinnForum IX: A Conclusion

FinnForum IX came and went and as anticipated it was a great conference. Met some folks I had only known through email, met and talked union with a Canadian Fellow Worker, reconnected with a Finnish friend, heard some really great presentations on Finnish, Finnish American (U.S.), and Finnish Canadian labor history, hung out on Bay St. a bit, and had mojakka at the world famous Hoito...all in all the perfect time.

Above are some images from the trip. Doors of the famous Hoito and a current photo of the Finnish Labour Temple.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the conference was the amount of labor history scholarship, and that this scholarship came from people I've read and admired for some time, and also from some really good younger scholars.
Also, really exciting to see that the Labour Temple was receiving some attention in the restoration department for its 100th birthday. The building is such an incredible cultural artifact, and still maintains its function as a hall and meeting place today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Journal of Finnish Studies

Update on the Journal of Finnish Studies Summer issue, which is coming together nicely:

Included in the issue are articles relating to Finn halls and the music of Finns in the Industrial Workers of the World from Jim Leary and Aaron Goings; in addition to those from Leary and Goings are articles from Tim Frandy and Hilary Joy Virtanen, which analyze the significance of song in the Finnish American working class; and lastly Paul Niemisto looks at the material culture of sheet music in the Finnish American community. Pekka Gronow penned the Conclusion, and I wrote the Foreword concentrating on an idea of working class theory that I've been developing for a while now.

All of the articles are in and are going out for peer review. Jim and Hilary have been doing great work getting the edition together and three out of the five contributors have tapped into a great recordings from 1938 fieldwork done by Alan Lomax in the Finnish American community surrounding the Lake Superior area.

The "Lomax Recordings" are a treasure trove of ethno-musical history regarding the culture of Finnish Americans...and this issue of Journal of Finnish Studies chronicles how this musical culture, through song, was expressed in the Finnish immigrant and Finnish American working class.

Look for this issue soon, it is going to be good. Subscription information for the Journal of Finnish Studies at:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

FinnForum IX Update

The Wage Slave's masthead from 1908. From Michigan Tech's Copper Country Historical Archive in the Garden Level of the JRVP Library.

FinnForum IX is quickly approaching (May 26-27, 2010). Thought I'd post an explanation of my conference paper topic, which is tentatively titled "Forging a Unique Solidarity: Finnish Immigrant Socialists and the Early 20th Century Socialist Party of America":

Finnish immigrants are often thought of as clannish outsiders in the Socialist Party of America’s (SPA) Finnish language federation, but research into early Socialist Party of America sources reveals the immersion of Finnish immigrant leaders and rank-and-file into the greater U.S. socialist movement. The prominence of Finns in the U.S. socialist movement is displayed in English language print media dated 1908, which announces creation of the Finnish Translator's Office located in the Chicago, Illinois, national headquarters of the Socialist Party of America. The success of this office in converging “two proletarian worlds” is demonstrated by the 1914 election of three Finnish immigrants to prominent posts in the Socialist Party of Michigan.

Additionally, the integration of the Työmies Publishing Company's presses and staff while in Hancock, Michigan, for use by English language media such as the Wage Slave (the newspaper of Michigan's state Socialist Party), and the Miner's Bulletin (the newspaper of striking workers during the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Miners' Strike) demonstrated the uniting of resources between Finnish immigrant socialists and their U.S. counterparts. Työmies also published Finnish translations of English language books, translated and published English labor songs in Finnish language songbooks, and translated English language material for periodicals and newspaper articles. Perhaps the most prolific of U.S. media influences was the work of American socialist cartoonists such as Art Young and Ryan Walker. However, the move to join the U.S. socialist and labor movement occurred while Finnish immigrants made a strident attempt to maintain a sense of ethnic identity through media forms and the treasured Finn Hall culture.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Challenge Accepted #3 in Michigan Hot New Releases

Continued good news for Challenge Accepted as the book's history finds an audience. Amazon lists Challenge Accepted as the #3 Hot Release in Michigan-themed books. Again, big thanks go out to those who have purchased a copy of the book...Finnish immigrants involved in the historic American labor and political movement have an incredible story to tell, and I'm happy that there is a receptive audience open to reading such history. As a state Michigan has an incredible labor history and the Finnish immigrant contribution is one element of this storied working class history.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Big Thank You--Kiitos Paljon

Challenge Accepted has been doing really well in its early release on It is the #2 book in Finland, and is the #5 book in Michigan. A huge "thank you" in English and "kiitos paljon" in Finnish to those who have bought the book.

Though the official release date is May 1, the International Labor Day, the book has been out for about two weeks now. Links to ordering information at and Michigan State University Press are on the left-hand column of this blog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Challenge Accepted Now In Stock

Images from Challenge Accepted depicting the staff of the TPCo and an English language ad for the company's printing and bookbinding business, both the images date to 1912.

Challenge Accepted is now in stock and on-line. Ordering can be done through Michigan State University Press' web site at: or
or on Amazon at:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Finnish North American Literature Association

A great site and supporter of authors with Finnish American heritage is FinNALA or the Finnish North American Literature Association. Dr. Beth Virtanen hosts the site, and maintains the site as an informational clearing house for all things written with Finnish North American context. There are hundreds of author listings and biographies on the site, below is a link to mine, but be sure to check out others as well. The FinNALA site is a great source of information:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Challenge Accepted in MSU-Press Spring Catalogue 2010

Click on image to enlarge

Challenge Accepted's description page in the Michigan State University Press Spring 2010 catalogue. A link to the catalogue's on-line pdf:

Finn Forum IX--2010

Image of Finnish Labour Temple, Thunder Bay, Ontario, ca. 1910

A great opportunity for Finnish immigrant and Finnish American history: Finn Forum IX being held on the campus of Lakehead University in beautiful Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. This cultural studies and history conference is being held May 26-27, 2010.

I have been given the chance to present at the conference and am really excited to head north of the U.S. border. Thunder Bay, in itself, is an exciting place for Finnish immigrant and Finnish American history. There is a strong labor tradition in Thunder Bay, which includes the incredible Finnish Labour Temple (which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary), the amazing Hoito Restaurant, and of course, historic Bay Street.

I have relatives in Thunder Bay, and when my grandpa Neal was still alive, we'd head to Thunder Bay some summers to visit. We'd always have to stop at the Hoito, and if memory serves right, it was family style dining. We had an old bachelor lumber-jack relative who lived in an apartment on Bay Street, which is where the old jacks congregated and ate at the Hoito because the food was good, the price great, and the portions big. Good memories.

More details on the presentation later and for information about Finn Forum from Lakehead University's web site: Also, web page about the Labour Temple and Hoito: