The former governors of Michigan are turning out to be a surprising fount of quirkily evocative lists. (What does Jennifer Granholm have in store for us in later years?) Soon after coming across the existentially curious Indian questionnaire of 1820s territorial governor Lewis Cass, I tracked down a book called The Iron Hunter by Chase Salmon Osborn, who was, among many other things, the governor of Michigan from 1911 to 1913. The place I first heard of it (I think the 1941 WPA guide) called the book "as indigenous to Michigan as the Northern Spy Apple" but said no more, and so of course I had to take a look for myself. The Iron Hunter turns out to be a memoir, written in 1919 when Osborn still had 30 active years remaining, and Osborn himself--not least by his own account--turns out to have been a memorable character: a newspaperman, iron prospector, and, on a number of occasions, politician, who, if Wikipedia is to be believed, adopted his 37-year-old secretary with his wife and years later, after his wife's death, annulled the adoption so he could marry his former daughter (named Stellanova Brunt!) two days before he died at age 89.
I couldn't find The Iron Hunter in a local library (although it looks to be in print thanks to a 2002 edition from Wayne State University Press), but I did find its full, public-domain text in Google Books. The book itself, from what I've sampled, is a rambling and endearingly (and understandably) self-fascinated memoir, which jumps from passion to passion rather as you imagine the man himself did. (It begins with an account of how, as a young newspaperman in Florence, Wisconsin, he helped run out the dirty gang led by "Old Man" Mudge that had made the iron-country town a "metropolis of vice.") But the true vein of genius in the book can be found in the table of contents, where the chapter titles feature a discursive and inflated style that would be right at home in Tristram Shandy, but whose hyperbolic humor is never quite matched by the main text of the book itself.
A large fraction of the 40 chapter titles are worthy of note, but since it's been a while (much longer than two weeks) since I posted a new Fortnightly Firmament, I thought I'd choose my favorite ten to feature, which I think are enjoyably self-explanatory enough that I don't need to say more, although I do provide direct links to the chapters in Google, in case you want to read further:
- Chapter XX: Into the Heart of the Arctic Lapland Where the Mysteries Are Attuned to the Muffled Footfalls of Silence
- Chapter XXXIV: Fighting for the Life of Michigan Against the Human Bloodsuckers That Subsist on Society Everywhere
- Chapter XXV: Sir Donald Mann Proposes to Use Double-Bitted Axes as Weapons in a Duel with a Russian Count
- Chapter XIX: Great Lean Outcropping of Iron Ore Unseen Under the Very Eyes of the World
- Chapter VIII: Married on Credit I Give My Bride a Five Cent Bouquet and We Take a Wedding Trip on a Street Car
- Chapter XIV: My Association with Hazen S. Pingree Plunges Me Into Politics Deeper Than Ever
- Chapter XII: I Am Used as a Political Fulcrum by Jay Hubbell to Pry Out Sam Stephenson
- Chapter XI: Charmed by the Beauty of Sault De Sainte Marie and Fascinated by its Environs I Choose It as a Home for Life
- Chapter XXXIX: Many People of Michigan Again Urge Me to Take Up the Gonfalon for Better Things in the State
- Chapter XXXVIII: I Discover Another Great Iron Ore Range That Will Some Day Help to Supply the World