Superior (proposed U.S. state)

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Map of proposed State of Superior. Red areas indicate generally accepted areas of Superior, while pink areas are present in some definitions.

The proposed State of Superior (or State of Ontonagon) is the name of a "51st state" proposal involving the secession of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.), and possibly other portions of northern Michigan, and in some proposals, some of the northern counties from the state of Wisconsin as well. The proposal is spurred by cultural differences, geographic separation, and the belief that the capitals in Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin ignore the problems of the "Superior Region." The same area had been referred to as a possible future state named Sylvania by Thomas Jefferson.[1] Named for Lake Superior, the idea has gained serious attention at times, though it is unlikely to ever come to fruition because of the large amount of funding that the area receives from the lower parts of the state, and because of the stronger connections that were cemented between the Upper Peninsula and the rest of the state of Michigan through the completion of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957, which gave the Upper Peninsula a direct highway connection to the rest of the state.[editorializing]

Several prominent legislators, including local U.P. politician Dominic Jacobetti, attempted enacting such legislation in the 1970s, with no success.[2] If only the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were included in the proposed state, it would currently have the smallest population, with its 320,000 residents representing only 60 percent of Wyoming's population, and less than 50 percent of Alaska's.[citation needed] It would rank 40th in land area, larger than Maryland.[citation needed] Its most-populous city, Marquette, has a smaller population than Burlington, Vermont, which has the smallest population of the 50 cities that are the most populous in their respective states.[citation needed]


Efforts to secede and form a new state date back to 1858, when a convention was held in Ontonagon, Michigan, for the purpose of forming a new state combining the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and northeast Minnesota.[3] The new state was to be called either Superior or Ontonagon. The New York Times editorialized:

Unless Congress should interpose objections, which cannot reasonably be apprehended, we see no cause why the new "State of Ontonagon" should not speedily take her place as an independent member of the union.[4]

In 1897, another proposal for creating a State of Superior included areas in the Upper Peninsula along with portions of Wisconsin.[5]

In 1962, an Upper Peninsula Independence Association was founded to advocate for the formation of a State of Superior. A secession bill was submitted to the Michigan Legislature, and 20,000 petition signatures were collected—36,000 short of the number needed—for a ballot referendum on separation.[6]

Efforts continued into the mid-1970s (one bumper sticker suggested naming the 51st state "North Michigan"), with residents of the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin, each resentful of perceived tax drains and other slights from their downstate cousins, joining together to pursue the desired legislation.[7]

Some support for statehood still exists in the region,[8] although no organized movement is currently active.[9]


  1. Trinklein, Michael J. (2010). Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It. Quirk Books. ISBN 978-1-59474-410-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The Dominic J. Jacobetti Collection". Northern Michigan University Archives. Retrieved August 18, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "New state convention". Superior Chronicle. August 3, 1858. p. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "A new state: Ontonagon". The New York Times. April 6, 1858. p. 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "The State of Superior". The Washington Post. October 3, 1897. p. 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Binder, David (September 14, 1995). "Upper Peninsula Journal: Yes, They're Yoopers, and Proud of It". The New York Times. p. A16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "51st State". NBC Evening News. August 8, 1975. Retrieved November 6, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "The U.P. a state of its own?" WLUC-TV, May 1, 2012.
  9. "51st state? Yoopers are talking up secession from Michigan again". Detroit Free Press, May 6, 2012.

Further reading

  • Carter, James L. (1980). Superior: A State for the North Country. Marquette, MI: Pilot Press. ISBN 99947-59-02-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Cox, Bruce K. (2009). Ted & Superior: Ted Albert & the 51st State of Superior. Wakefield, MI: Agogeebic Press. ISBN 978-0-9822390-0-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links