Joe Russell Sutter spent his childhood in Wakefield in the Upper Peninsula. Many of his toys were made in Michigan, by companies such as Wyandotte Toys and the Daisy Manufacturing Company of Plymouth.
As Sutter outgrew his toys, his mother carefully packed them away. He attended college, joined the Navy and practiced law in San Diego, but never parted with his toys. Sutter died in 1999. In 2011, his widow donated his entire collection to the Michigan Historical Museum where many were put on temporary display.
“We are fortunate to have such a unique collection from the Upper Peninsula,” museum historian Barry James said. “The assortment of toys includes story books, comics, games, puzzles, toy guns, sporting goods and musical toys - many in their original packaging.”
Also in the collection are military toys, such as toy soldiers, army trucks, tanks and airplanes.
Through exhibits, outdoor interpretive trails and scenic overlooks, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum tells the story of Michigan’s three iron ranges and the immigrants who helped build modern America. The 23-minute film, “Iron Spirits – Life on the Michigan Iron Range,” presents the colorful story of immigrant and community life in the Upper Peninsula.
Located 9 miles west of Marquette, the museum overlooks the Carp River and the site of the region’s first iron forge. Between 1848 and 1855, the Jackson Iron Company and its successors wrought iron from Negaunee’s famous Jackson mine. From that seed grew an industry that continues today at the Empire and Tilden open pit mines.
The museum entrance is located on US-41E, a mile west of the junction with M-35, in Negaunee Township. Admission is free; donations are encouraged.
The Michigan Iron Industry Museum is one of 11 nationally accredited museums administered by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.