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Charles H. Varnum papers

Identifier: MSS-076

Scope and Contents Note

The collection is comprised of political papers and office materials created by Charles H. Varnum and office staff during his time in the Michigan House of Representatives. These papers include correspondence, reports, financial materials, questionnaires, news clippings and advertisements, photographs, plaques, indices, film reels, audio cassettes, speeches, project files, campaign materials, and publications from 1964-1988. These papers document his work as a Michigan Representative and as a member of the Michigan Education Association, Upper Peninsula Legislative Council, Republican State Central Committee, Appropriations Committee, and a Sub-Committee on Mental Health. Large areas of focus within the collection include legislation and reports on mental health abuse and layoffs, Michigan labor, education, and environmental issues concerning mining, pollution, and fish and wildlife regulation.

Record Series I. Legislative, 1966-1982. 29 Cubic Feet (1122 Folders). This record series is arranged into two subseries: State; and District and Upper Peninsula.

The State subseries includes correspondence, news clippings, reports, project files, and legislation on various topics. These topics include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), appropriations, economy, education, energy, environment and pollution, gambling, housing, industry, state issues, labor, law enforcement, licensing and regulation, liquor control, lobbyists, mental health, public health, retirement, senior citizens, social services, taxes, transportation, the Treasury Department, and veteran affairs. Areas of focus within the subseries include education, mental health, labor, abortion, capital punishment, Equal Rights Amendment, euthanasia, gun control, students protest on race and the Vietnam War, and environmental issues.

The District and Upper Peninsula subseries includes correspondence, news clippings, reports, proposals, project files and legislation on various issues and subjects relating to the Upper Peninsula and its counties. Topics covered include agriculture, appropriations, Central U.P. Planning and Development Region (CUPPAD), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), economy, education, energy, environment, historic preservation, housing, Native Americans, industry, regional issues, labor, law enforcement, mental health, municipalities, public health, retirement, senior citizens, social services, taxes, transportation, Upper Peninsula Committee for Area Progress, utilities, and military and veteran affairs. Topics specific to a certain county were organized by and listed under county name. Counties included in this subseries are Alger, Charlevoix, Chippewa, Delta, Emmet, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, and Schoolcraft. Main areas of focus within the subseries include legislation on education, mental health layoffs, Kinchloe Airforce Base closure, education legislation, statehood of the Upper Peninsula, and environmental issues.

Record Series II. Constituent Correspondence, 1967-1982. 1 Cubic Foot (29 Folders).

This record series includes correspondence with Varnum on topics such as colleges and universities, consumer complaints, Department of Corrections (parole and release), employment, environment, settling of estate, insurance claims, mental health, property sales taxes, retirement, Secretary of State (license, titles, plates), social services, taxes, transportation, and veteran and military affairs. The correspondence consists of complaints, thank-you notes, and inquiries.

Record Series III. Personal, 1964-1988. 8 Cubic Feet (268 Folders). This record series is arranged into 3 subseries: Biographical, Campaign, and General Political Activities.

The Biographical subseries includes personal correspondence and information on awards, commendations, and honors. The Campaign Subseries includes reports, advertisements, financial information, voter records, election candidate information, and other campaign materials. The General Political Activities subseries includes correspondence, financial records, reports, meeting information, press releases, publications, speeches, and other business materials.

Record Series IV. Audiovisual, 1966-1984. 4 Cubic Feet (8 Folders, 36 Items). This record series is arranged into 3 subseries: Reel-to-Reel, Audio Cassette, and Photographic.

The Reel-to-Reel subseries includes recordings of interviews, news reports, hearings and testimonies, speeches, and campaign jingles and endorsements. The Audio Cassette subseries include recordings of dedications, house floor speeches, and hearings and testimonies. The Photograph subseries include photographs of Charles Varnum from 1968-1981. The photographs include personal photographs of himself and his family as well as Varnum at various events and with various people. Some important people include Governor William Milliken, and Representative Louis Cramton.

Record Series V. Indices, 1972-1974. 2 Cubic Feet. This record series is arranged into 2 subseries: Subject and Name.

The Subject Index subseries lists various issues and how Varnum responded to them. Topics range from house bills and laws to services, councils, issues, and complaints. Filing is alphabetically organized by subject name and is in its original order. The Name Index subseries organized by correspondent's last name, lists the issue or reason on which they corresponded and the date of correspondence. Filing arrangement alphabetically organized by last name and is in its original order.

Record Series VI. Oversized Material, 1964-1987. 2 Cubic Feet (58 Items).

The Oversized Material record series includes various materials ranging from plaques and certificates to oaths of office and photographs. The certificates include certificates of election, house resolutions, oaths of office, and certificates in honor. The plaques consist of honors or awards of which the majority is awarded to Northern Michigan University and the photographs document various events Varnum attended and the important people he met. Some important people in these photos include Ellwood Matson, Bob Dole, Ted Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Hubert Humphrey and State of Michigan House of Representatives members.


  • 1964-1988
  • Majority of material found within 1966 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access Note

No restrictions. Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use Note

Northern Michigan University owns the copy right to personal documents authored by Varnum. For reproduction of these items in the collection beyond fair use there is a commercial publication fee, see archivist for more information.

Biographical Note

Charles H. Varnum was born on July 9, 1933, in Jonesville, Michigan and graduated from Jonesville High School. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War (1951-1954) and then attended Ferris Institute and Hillsdale College. At Hillsdale, Varnum was the president of the union and a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He graduated from Hillsdale in 1959 with a B.A. degree and then later completed post-graduate work at Northern Michigan University. Varnum was married to Shelly McNally in 1958 and had two children Barbara and Mitchell. From 1959-1966 he taught math and social studies, and coached football, golf, and basketball at Manistique High School. In 1966 he was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives 107th District. As a house representative, he was a member of the Appropriations Committee and of a Sub-Committee on Mental Health. He served in the House until 1983. Other civic services included service on the City Council and Mayor Protem of Manistique, Schoolcraft County Board of Supervisors, member of the Republican State Central Committe 1960-1965, Vice-Chairman of the Upper Peninsula Legislative Council, member of the 11th Congressional District Executive Committee, Chairman of the Schoolcraft County Republican Party, member of the Michigan Education Association, V.F.W. Post 4420, Rotary Club Manistique, Elks Club, Manistique Teachers Association, 1965 Junior Chamber of Commerce "Young Man of the Year," and the Michigan State Athletic Board of Control via appointment by the governer. Varnum died in 1999.


46 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

This collection is organized into five series. Series I. Legislative, Subseries; 1. State, 2. District and Upper Peninsula; Series II. Constituent correspondence; Series III. Personal, Subseries; 1. Biographical, 2. Campaign, 3. General political activities; Series IV. Audiovisual, Subseries; 1. Reels, 2. Audio Cassettes, 3. Photographs; Series V. Indices, Subseries; 1. Subject, 2. Name; Series VI. Oversized Material.

Indices are arranged alphabetically by subject or last name of individual. Filing is in original order.

Custodial History Note

The collection was donated by Varnum's wife, Shelly Varnum.

Related Archival Materials

Researchers may also be interested in the following related collections: Dominic J. Jacobetti papers, MSS-078; Pat Gagliardi papers, MSS-060; James J. Goulette papers, MSS-017; and Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company records,

General Physical Description Note

This collection consists of photographs, reels, cassette tapes, plaques, and paper documents.

Charles H. Varnum papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Repository

Harden Learning Resources Center 126
1401 Presque Isle Ave
Marquette 49855 United States
906-227-1333 (Fax)


This collection guide includes collections from member organizations of UPLINK (the Upper Peninsula Digital Network) as well as the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives. UPLINK collections document the history of the Upper Peninsula broadly, while the Central UP & NMU Archives focuses on such topics as Northern Michigan University history, the local iron mining industry, and the politics, economics, religion, environment, and culture of the Central Upper Peninsula region.

These finding aids will give you an overview of the contents and context of each collection. Finding aids only exist for collections that each organization has shared with UPLINK or (in the case of the NMU Archives) for processed collections. For a more comprehensive list of collections that might help with your research, please contact the relevant heritage organization(s) directly.

Northern Michigan University
1401 Presque Isle Ave. • Marquette, MI 49855-5301 • 906–227–1000
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