First Lady Betty Ford, author Bruce Catton, Ty Cobb, Madonna, Sojourner Truth, George Armstrong Custer, Diana Ross, Erik Prince, Thomas Edison, President Gerald Ford, Henry Ford, Aretha Franklin, Lee Iacocca, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Berry Gordy, Laura Haviland, Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Louis, Father Jacques Marquette, Larry Page, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Governor Lewis Cass, and Governor George Romney. Plus many more individuals, and a number of ‘collective’ biographies.
About 80 free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Michigan Biography”. Some titles are: Historic women of Michigan, the governors of Michigan, First ladies of Michigan, the life & times of Kalamazoo’s Al Connable, Benny Friedman and the transformation of football, Thirty-three years among the Indians : the story of Mary Sagatoo, the story of Anna Howard Shaw, The rise and fall of the Dillinger gang, the real-life reggae adventures of Doctor Dread, The journey of John Engler, Michigan’s Rock & Roll legacy, Fred Meijer, Running the Crim : stories from the coolest race in Michigan, Voyageurs, lumberjacks, and farmers, Romney : a political biography on Mitt Romney’s dad, The great book of Detroit sports lists, The Magic : Earvin Johnson, the story of Justin Bieber’s mom, The heart of a priest : Father Fred’s life and ministry, Tom Brady : never-quit quarterback, Sports great Derek Jeter, Dave Bing : a life of challenge, Madonna : entertainer, Gerald R. Ford, Young Jerry Ford : athlete and citizen, Kellogg’s, The original Battle Creek crime king : Adam “Pump” Arnold’s vile reign.
‘Collections’ take longer to appear on your screen than single books. On a phone, only about 25 books in a collection may appear.
Angell, James Burrill
NY: Longmans, Gree 1912
President of the University of Michigan for 38 years and a “man of national affairs”.
Angell, James Burrill (1829-1916)
Detroit: Detroit Library Commission 1928
Vol. 1: 1747-1795
Vol 2: 1796-1820
John Askin was a young British merchant engaged in the Indian trade in Albany, NY when he ventured into the Northwest soon after British forces won it from France in 1760-61, during the French and Indian War. In 1764 he began conducting a successful Indian trade from Mackinac, where he was also appointed as Commissary for the British army post there. In 1780 he was forced to leave Mackinac through a falling-out with the new commander, so he moved his family and business to Detroit. He remained in Detroit until 1802, moving across the Detroit River to a farm near Windsor soon after Detroit was transferred to American control.
Editor Milo Quaife writes in his introduction that Askin’s papers are of great importance not only because he was a leading merchant in Mackinac and then Detroit, but because he was close friends with other leading citizens of both the Northwest and British Canada. These two volumes contain a selection of Askin’s surviving papers, which unfortunately includes relatively little from before 1880.
Askin, John (1739-1815)
Wisconsin Historical Collections Vol 14, 17-64, 1898
Baird, Elizabeth T.
Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Elizabeth Therese Fisher Baird was born at Prairie du Chien in 1810, the daughter of fur trader Henry Munro Fisher. She spent much of her youth on Mackinac Island, where she was married to Henry S. Baird at age 14 in 1824. She and her husband, a young lawyer, immediately departed for Green Bay, where she lived until her death in 1890.
Elizabeth Baird published a series of articles about her memories in the Green Bay State Gazette from 1886 to 1887. Those articles were reproduced in condensed and edited form in two articles in the Wisconsin Historical Collections. This is the first of that pair; the second is “Reminiscences of Life in Territorial Wisconsin”, found on the Wisconsin Biographies and Memoirs page of this website. A third article, “Indian Customs and Early Recollections” had been previously published in Wisconsin Historical Collections in 1882. That is also found on the Wisconsin Biographies and Memoirs page.
At the beginning of this article are portraits of Elizabeth Baird and her mother.
Baird, Elizabeth T. (1810-1890)
Bingay, Malcolm W.
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1949
A former newspaperman recalls his life in Detroit.
Bingay, Malcolm W. (1884-1953)
Orcutt, William Dana
Longmans, Green 1917
Julius Caesar Burrows (1837-1915) moved to Michigan from Ohio in 1860 after completing the bar, and began practicing law in Kalamazoo. He served in the Civil War as a Captain, then returned to Kalamazoo where he was prosecuting attorney for Kalamazoo county for several years. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1872, where he served most of the years until 1895, when he was elected as a U.S. Senator. He served in the Senate until 1911.
Burrows, Julius C. (1837-1915)
Brown, Henry D. et al
Detroit Historical Society 1976
Cadillac, Antoine Laumet de Lamothe (1658-1730)
McLauglin, Andrew C.
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1891
Cass served as U.S. Congressman from Ohio, military colonel and brigadier general in the War of 1812, Governor of Michigan Territory, Secretary of War, U.S. Ambassador to France, U.S. Senator for Michigan, Democratic nominee for President, and U.S. Secretary of State. The author was a professor at the University of Michigan, and most of the content of the book is based on the written record. However, a number of Cass’s friends and political foes were still living in the 1880s when this book was being researched and they provided considerable input.
Cass, Lewis (1782-1866)
Read full length books online free at our main fiction page
Smith, W. L. G.
NY: Derby & Jackson 1856
Lewis Cass’s long public career included service as Michigan’s Territorial Governor, and as Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson. This biography by W.L.G. Smith was published during Cass’s lifetime, while he was a U.S. Senator. Also see the biography of Cass by Andrew McLaughlin, on this page.
See also related works on this site: political history of Michigan on Michigan History: Politics & Government
Cass, Lewis (1782-1866)
Bruce Catton, whose name is identified with Civil War history, grew up in Benzonia, Michigan, probably the only town within two hundred miles, he says, not founded to cash in on the lumber boom. In this memoir, Catton remembers his youth, his family, his home town, and his coming of age.
With nostalgia, warmth, and humor, Catton recalls it all with a wealth of detail: the logging industry and its tremendous effect on the face of the state, the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic who first sparked his interest in the Civil War, the overnight train trips on long-gone “sleepers,” the days of great resort hotels, and fishing in once clear lakes.
Although he writes of a time and place that are no more, his observations have implications that both underline the past and touch the future.
Catton, Charles Bruce (1899-1978)
Paul Clemens grew up in the northeast corner of Detroit, just south of the city’s famed 8 Mile border. Born the year Detroit’s first black mayor was elected—the legendary Coleman Young—Clemens’s moving and affectionate memoir traces his own growth to maturity against the background of the city’s long decline during Young’s twenty years at the helm.
Made in Detroit describes what it was like to grow up white and working class in a city that had become emblematic of white flight and urban decay. Clemens writes with passion and unflinching honesty about the crime and the prejudices, both black and white, that marked his days in Detroit, and about the linguistic confusions that attend being a minority in a city where minorities are the majority. This is a story about being caught in the middle: about being white in a black city, urban in suburban America, blue collar in an increasingly obsolete Rust Belt, and Catholic in a place where churches close at an unprecedented pace. Sparing no one—including himself—Clemens depicts with raw authenticity and redemptive grace the realities of one city’s, and one family’s, recent history.
NY: Barnes 1956
Cobb spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers; the last six as player-manager. He was known for his surly temperament and extremely aggressive playing style, described by the Detroit Free Press as “daring to the point of dementia”. He set some 90 Major League records during his career, including a career batting average of .366. In 1999 the editors of “The Sporting News” ranked Cobb 3rd on their list of “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players”.
Cobb, Tyrus Raymond “Ty” (1886-1961)
Six Months among Indians, Wolves and other Wild Animals, in the Forests of Allegan County, Michigan in the Winter of 1839 and 1840
Cook, Darius B.
Niles, MI: Cook 1889
A colorful and lively writer, Cook combines a narrative of his sometimes-harrowing six-month stay with a Pottawatamie Indian tribe in southwestern Michigan with a variety of stories he heard from them.
Cook, Darius Burgess (1815-1901)
The study of two great demagogues in American history–Huey P. Long, a first-term United States Senator from the red-clay, piney-woods country of nothern Louisiana; and Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic priest from an industrial suburb near Detroit. Award-winning historian Alan Brinkely describes their modest origins and their parallel rise together in the early years of the Great Depression to become the two most successful leaders of national political dissidence of their era.
Winner of the American Book Award for History
Coughlin, Charles Edward (1891-1979)
Wert, Jeffrey D.
Simon & Schuster 1996
George Armstrong Custer has been so heavily mythologized that the human being has been all but lost. Now, in the first complete biography in decades, Jeffry Wert reexamines the life of the famous soldier to give us Custer in all his colorful complexity.
Although remembered today as the loser at Little Big Horn, Custer was the victor of many cavalry engagements in the Civil War. He played an important role in several battles in the Virginia theater of the war, including the Shenandoah campaign. Renowned for his fearlessness in battle, he was always in front of his troops, leading the charge. His men were fiercely loyal to him, and he was highly regarded by Sheridan and Grant as well. Some historians think he may have been the finest cavalry officer in the Union Army.
Jeffry Wert carefully examines the events around the defeat at Little Big Horn, drawing on recent archeological findings and the latest scholarship. His evenhanded account of the dramatic battle puts Custer’s performance, and that of his subordinates, in proper perspective.
From beginning to end, this masterful biography peels off the layers of legend to reveal for us the real George Armstrong Custer.
Custer, George Armstrong (1839-1876)
Urbana: University of Illinois 1950
An autobiographical account of pioneer life in the Grand River Valley at about the time of the Civil War.
Davenport, Eugene (1856-1941)
Smith, Richard Norton
Simon and Schuster 1982
Thomas Dewey was born and raised in Owosso, MI, where his father owned and published the local newspaper. Dewey graduated from high school there, and then earned a B.A. at the University of Michigan. Following that he went to law school at Columbia University, completing his degree there in 1925. For a number of years he pursued a highly successful career as a prosecuting attorney in New York, until in the late 1930s he was able to use the celebrity he gained there to become a nationally known political figure. In 1942 he was elected governor of New York, and in 1948 he won the Republican nomination for President. He lost a close election later that year to incumbent Harry Truman.
Dewey, Thomas E. (1902-1971)
Weisberger, Bernard A.
Little, Brown 1979
Recounts the accomplishments and misfortunes of the daring and original entrepreneur who formed General Motors in the early 1900s, founded and lost Durant Motors after his final break with GM, and died nearly penniless in 1947.
Durant, William Crapo (1861-1947)
Stross, Randall E
Three Rivers Press 2007
At the height of his fame Thomas Alva Edison was hailed as “the Napoleon of invention” and blazed in the public imagination as a virtual demigod. Starting with the first public demonstrations of the phonograph in 1878 and extending through the development of incandescent light and the first motion picture cameras, Edison’s name became emblematic of all the wonder and promise of the emerging age of technological marvels.
But as Randall Stross makes clear in this critical biography of the man who is arguably the most globally famous of all Americans, Thomas Edison’s greatest invention may have been his own celebrity. Edison was certainly a technical genius, but Stross excavates the man from layers of myth-making and separates his true achievements from his almost equally colossal failures.
The Wizard of Menlo Park reveals not only how Edison worked, but how he managed his own fame, becoming the first great celebrity of the modern age.
Edison, Thomas Alva (1847-1931)
“The subject of this book is larger than life: Edison the Myth, Edison the Hero. It traces the transmutations of Edison’s image in the eyes of his countrymen as the ideal embodiment of American values and virtues: hard work, perseverance, the gospel of technological progress, the mythology of the self-made man, individualism, optimism, practicality mingled with idealism. . . Sifting through the layers of myth, the author finds that “the man who remains is finally greater than the myth. Edison can now be seen as the real and symbolic figure who led us from the First into the Second Industrial Revolution in which communication overtook transportation and the consumer outstripped the producer in status.” -Book jacket
Edison, Thomas Alva (1847-1931)
Life and Adventures of William Filley, who was stolen from his home in Jackson, Mich., by the Indians, August 3d, 1837
And his safe return from captivity, October 19, 1866 after an absence of 29 years
Filley, William and Ballard, James Z.
Chicago: Filley & Ballard 1867.
A dramatic story, that one reviewer called ‘fraudulent’.
Filley, William (1832-1900?)
Greene, John Robert
University Press of Kansas 2004
First Lady Betty Ford will long be remembered for her active support of the Equal Rights Amendment, her struggles with breast cancer and substance abuse, and her later involvement with the addiction treatment center that bears her name. But perhaps more than these, Betty Ford will stand as a paragon of candor and courage, an outspoken woman whose public positions did not always conform with those of her husband.
An independent, free spirit who regularly ranks among the most-admired First Ladies, Betty Ford is considered by many to be the most outspoken since Eleanor Roosevelt: she spoke her mind publicly and frequently, sometimes sending the president’s political advisors running for cover. This is the first book to address the successes and failures of her advocacy, the effect of her candor, and the overall impact of her brief tenure as First Lady.
Greene concludes that, while Gerald Ford wanted to restore an aura of honesty to the presidency, in many ways it was his wife who accomplished this instead. His book, the first to draw upon her papers at the Ford Library, captures her courage and candor and tells why she will always be remembered—for who, not what, she was.
Ford, Elizabeth “Betty” Anne (1918-2011)
When Gerald R. Ford entered the White House in August 1974, he inherited a presidency tarnished by the Watergate scandal, the economy was in a recession, the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, and he had taken office without having been elected. Most observers gave him little chance of success, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon just a month into his presidency, an action that outraged many Americans, but which Ford thought was necessary to move the nation forward.
Many people today think of Ford as a man who stumbled a lot–clumsy on his feet and in politics–but acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley shows him to be a man of independent thought and conscience, who never allowed party loyalty to prevail over his sense of right and wrong.
Brinkley draws on exclusive interviews with Ford and on previously unpublished documents (including a remarkable correspondence between Ford and Nixon stretching over four decades), fashioning a masterful reassessment of Gerald R. Ford’s presidency and his underappreciated legacy to the nation.
Ford, Gerald R. (1913-2006)
“Henry Ford spent most of his life making headlines – good, bad, but never indifferent. Both a technological genius and a worldwide folk hero, Ford was the creative force behind an industry the size and scope of which had never been seen before … Ford was indeed a brilliant, contradictory, and controversial man, and this thorough biography, rather than taking a moral position for or against him, wisely tells his story as a story by reporting the fascinating events of his life and letting the facts speak for themselves.” – Book jacket
Ford, Henry (1863-1947)
How a Farmer Boy Rose to the Power that Goes with Many Millions Yet Never Lost Touch with Humanity, as told to Rose Wilder Lane
Ford, Henry and Lane, Rose Wilder
NY: Jones 1917
“A very human book. If it were just plain fiction it could not interest one more. . . . To read it is to get a new realization of what work means, what persistence will do, on what efficiency must build, and of the tremendous power in unselﬁsh will.”
“The platitudinousness and naiveté, the well-meaning but sophomoric approach to a problem that are revealed in Mr Ford’s utterances on all subjects not relating to engineering are almost incredible. Such intellectual infantilism would be impossible in any grown man in any other civilized country — as would Miss Lane’s ecstatic admiration of it. But the story of Henry Ford does not end there. Against his contempt for the amenities of life and the ﬁner cultural satisfactions may be set his hatred of poverty and wretchedness. In that balance, who can say that the admiration of Miss Lane is misplaced?”
– The Book Review Digest
– Ford, Henry, My Life and Work in Century Past Biographies: D, E & F
Ford, Henry (1863-1947)
Public Affairs 2001
How and why did this quintessential American folk-hero and pioneering industrialist become one of the most obsessive anti-Semites of our time-a man who devoted his immense financial resources to publishing a pernicious forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion? Once Henry Ford’s virulent media campaign against the Jews took off during the ‘anxious decade’ following World War I, how did America’s splintered Jewish community attempt to cope with the relentless tirade conducted for ninety-one consecutive weeks in the automobile manufacturer’s personal newspaper, The Dearborn Independent? What were the repercussions of Ford’s Jew-hatred extending deeply into the 1930s? Drawing upon previously-uncited oral history transcripts, archival correspondence, and family memoirs, Neil Baldwin answers these and other questions.
Contents: McGuffeyland — The great questions — Tin Lizzie — The Christian century — Working man’s friend — “I know who caused the war” — The Bolshevik menace — Exit Mr. Pipp — The Jewish question — Retaliation — The Talmud-Jew — Heinrich Ford — Sapiro v. Ford — Apology — Apostle of amity — The chosen people — “I am not a Jew hater” — Hitler’s medal — The radio priest — Transitions
Ford, Henry (1863-1947)
Franklin, Aretha and Ritz, David
Her soulful, soaring voice has earned her mythic status. Now, in her own moving words, the woman behind the myth is revealed. The result is a captivating self-portrait of one of this century’s most fascinating artists, an Aretha Franklin as real as the songs she sings.
For the first time anywhere, Aretha tells her story–the glorious triumphs as well as the heartbreaking pain. With refreshing candor, Aretha tells it like it is, the way she sees it, the way she lived it.
A child prodigy of the golden age of gospel, the daughter of a world-famous preacher, Aretha was the anointed successor to Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward. But her father had a broader vision and helped Aretha enter the field of pop and jazz.
In Aretha: From These Roots, the singer gets up-close and personal. In rich detail, she paints a vivid picture of a Detroit long gone: the storefront churches, the basement parties, the explosive R&B shows. She documents her life as a single teenage mother, working to balance home life with career, coping with two challenging marriages and, later, romantic relationships that were the source of both tremendous joy and unforeseen heartache.
Aretha emerges as a triumphant woman of rare wit, willing to share with us her passion for great music, great food, and great love affairs. Her book does more than illuminate some of the most exciting songs ever sung; it lets you into the heart and mind of the mesmerizing woman who sang them.
Franklin, Aretha Louise (1942-2018)
Gallery, Douglas C.
Philadelphia: Dorrance 1962
“Looking back in laughter at boyhood days in Caro, in the “Thumb.””
Gallery, Douglas C. (1904-1991)
If you love the music of Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, or Smokey Robinson, you will love Berry Gordy’s life story. Founder of Motown, Gordy was instrumental in launching the careers of these and many other popular musicians, singers and songwriters.
In this candid autobiography, Gordy gives an authentic personal account of his career—from the inception of his label, founded with $800 borrowed from his family, to the development of an entertainment empire sold to MCA for $61 million. Along the way, Gordy and his artists faced racism and both personal and professional challenges—and overcame them to leave an indelible mark on American popular culture.
Gordy, Berry Jr. (1929- )
Woodford, Frank B.
Detroit: Wayne State University 1962
Groesbeck completed a law degree at University of Michigan in 1893 and then established a law practice in Detroit. He entered Michigan state politics in 1912, becoming the state’s Republican party chairman. After losing a 1914 primary race for Governor in 1914, he succeeded on his next try in 1920, spending six years as governor.
Groesbeck, Alex J. (1873-1953)
Bush, Karen Elizabeth
Wayne State University 2001
First Lady of Detroit is the spirited tale of an adventurous girl who grew up to commission and equip her own expedition to le Detroit, joining her husband there in the fall of 1701 — less than a dozen weeks after Fort Pontchartrain was carved out of the Michigan wilderness.
Born in 1671, Marie-Therese Guyon was educated in Quebec by Ursuline nuns. Although she was schooled to be a lady, her life was filled with excitement. She married the dashing and ambitious Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac just a month after they met. They would have thirteen children. Marie Therese took life in stride — whether it included fire, an escape into the forest, kidnapping by a Spanish privateer, or just the need to purchase supplies for her husband’s troops.
The author interweaves vivid historical detail with entertaining dialogue and clever storytelling as she re-creates the life of this remarkable woman. To aid her audience, she has added notes explaining how the story was created from available historical facts. First Lady of Detroit is designed to appeal to older children, but readers of all ages are sure to find this a fascinating look at life in Nouvelle France.
Guyon, Marie-Thérěse (1658-1730)
Danforth, Mildred E.
NY: Exposition 1961
Also see Haviland’s memoirs on this web page.
Haviland, Laura S. (1808-1898)
Haviland, Laura S.
Cincinnati: Walden & Stowe 1882
Autobiography of a leader of anti-slavery activities in Michigan. She helped found the “Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society” in 1832, and founded the “Raisin Institute” in Lenawee County in 1837, which brought together African American and white children for vocational training. She later became very actively engaged in the Underground Railroad, even traveling in the south at great personal risk to help slaves escape to Canada.
For biographies of people in the American abolition movement, see:
– Swift, Lindsay, William Lloyd Garrison in Century Past Biographies: G & H;
– Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
– Coffin, Levi, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad in Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
– Washington, Booker Taliaferro, Frederick Douglass in Century Past Biographies: D, E & F;
Haviland, Laura S. (1808-1898)
Oxford Univ 1948
A first-person account about life among the early settlers of a community at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, in the 1870s and 1880s.
Sloane, Arthur A.
Arthur Sloane, as a Harvard graduate student, first met Jimmy Hoffa in 1962 and he has been fascinated by this powerful and contradictory figure ever since. Now, nearly three decades after that first encounter, Sloane has written the only comprehensive biography of the late Teamster leader, having been provided full access to Hoffa’s family, friends, and professional associates.Hoffa is a rich and colorful portrait of one of the most influential figures in American labor. It covers in considerable detail all the facets of Hoffa’s remarkable life and death: his rise to total dominance over the largest, strongest, and wealthiest union in American history; his near-Victorian personal habits; the legal problems that plagued his later years; and, of course, the shadowy events surrounding his presumed Mafia murder in 1975.
Hoffa, James Riddle (1913-1975)
Historical Collections Vol 39, 1915, 127-134
Allen, Rolland C.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
A short biography of Houghton, a medical doctor and geologist who was a leader in science in Michigan in the 1830s and early 1840s. Among his contributions were geological surveys of the state; most importantly in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Houghton, Douglass (1809-1845)
Howe, Frances R.
Columbus: Nitschke Bros. 1907
The French homestead was also a trading post, established in 1824 on the Calumet River near present-day Chesterton, IN by the author’s grandfather. The author’s mother and her sister were sent to the Detroit area for education, where part of this story takes place.
Howe, Frances Rose (1851-1917)
Hulbert, William Davenport
Lansing: Historical Society of Michigan 1949
“Colorful saga of the land-looker, timber-cruiser, and logger who chewed through Michigan’s pine wilderness.”
Hulbert, William Davenport (1868-1913)
He’s an American legend, a straight-shooting businessman who brought Chrysler back from the brink and in the process became a media celebrity, newsmaker, and a man many had urged to run for president.
The son of Italian immigrants, Lee Iacocca rose spectacularly through the ranks of Ford Motor Company to become its president, only to be toppled eight years later in a power play that should have shattered him. But Lee Iacocca didn’t get mad, he got even. He led a battle for Chrysler’s survival that made his name a symbol of integrity, know-how, and guts for millions of Americans.
In his classic hard-hitting style, he tells us how he changed the automobile industry in the 1960s by creating the phenomenal Mustang. He goes behind the scenes for a look at Henry Ford’s reign of intimidation and manipulation. He recounts the miraculous rebirth of Chrysler from near bankruptcy to repayment of its $1.2 billion government loan so early that Washington didn’t know how to cash the check. (This autobiography was a huge bestseller).
Iacocca, Lido Anthony (1924 – )
Jay, Charles J.
Trenton, N.J.: Sharp. 1874
A long-time newspaperman arrives in Northern Michigan and portrays his new life. Quite entertaining.
Jay, Charles J. (?-?)
Random House 1992
He’s faced challenges all of his life, but now Magic Johnson faces the biggest challenge of all, his own brave battle with HIV. In this dramatic, exciting, and inspirational autobiography, Magic Johnson allows readers into his life, into his tirumphs and tragedies on and off the court. In his own exuberant style, he tells readers of the friends and family who’ve been constant supporters and the basketball greats he’s worked with. It’s all here, the glory and the pain the character, charisma, and courage of the hero called Magic.