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History of Detroit MI – Histories of Michigan Cities & Regions

Northern Michigan History Book - History of Detroit MI

Histories of Michigan cities & regions, history of Detroit MI. Books and booklets from the 1800s to present-day on cities, counties and regions of Michigan.

County History Collections

Michigan County Histories and Atlases

The Michigan County Histories and Atlases Digitization Project is comprised of nearly 500 titles published before 1925. You can search or browse by title, author, or subject. The collection contains:

– County and Town Histories.
– Biographies. Many of the county histories contain large biographical sections, and there are also individual biographical volumes too.
– Business Directories
– Multi-volume Photo Collections entitled “Art Work” for the Lake Superior region, St. Clair County and Washtenaw County, published in the 1890s.
– Atlases or Plat Books for many counties, often with directories. There are 131 atlases, nearly all published after 1870.

Find maps of historical Michigan at: Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

See the Menu at the top of every page for Directories of Free Online Fiction and NonFiction Books, Magazines, and more, on 400 pages like this at Century Past

Michigan County Histories: A Bibliography

Bureau of Library Services
Lansing: Michigan Department of Education 1970

A list of useful histories for each county in Michigan.

See our Century Past page on Michigan Society to read about immigrants, crime, ethnic groups, women, African Americans, pioneer life, and social issues.

Online County and Town Histories Website – Michigan

This website has links to numerous free online histories and biographical collections published in the late 19th and early 20th century. For Michigan there are over 400 titles. These include biographical collections and histories that are state-wide, regional and county-wide.


Detroit Michigan History Collection

Books free online about Detroit Michigan History.

Souvenir of Detroit

Fully Illustrated, containing a sketch of Detroit’s History, Resources and Points of Interest to Visitors

Alvord & Co.
Detroit: Alvord 1891

Numerous photos.

Yesterday’s Detroit

Angelo, Frank
Wayne State Univ 1989

Detroit Images: Photographs of the Renaissance City

Bukowczyk, John, and Aikenhead, Douglas
Wayne State University 1989

The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922

Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5

Burton, Clarence M. ed.
Detroit: S. J. Clarke. 1922

See the quote from May and Dunbar in the note under Silas Farmer, History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan, on this web page.

Some volume 1 & 2 topics: Tribal distribution at the beginning of the sixteenth century, coureurs de bois, Samuel Champlain, Dollier and Galinee, Treaty of St. Mary’s, Treaty of Upper Sandusky, biography of Cadillac, Detroit under French rule, Ordinance of 1787, law and order in early Detroit, British rule in Detroit, public utilities, fire and police departments, penal and charitable institutions, slavery and underground railroad.

Museums & Historic Sites in the Eastern Upper Peninsula

History of Detroit 1780 to 1850: Financial and Commercial

Burton, Clarence M.
Detroit. 1917

Terming this a “financial and commercial” history seems slightly misleading today. Only a small part of this book is commercial history. Mainly it is a miscellaneous collection of incidents and stories, often very interesting, of Detroit from the 1780s until the mid-19th century. Among the stories of interest are the real estate boom in Detroit during the Revolution, and the effort by a few Detroit residents in the 1790s to buy the entire lower peninsula from the U.S. Government for $5,000.

A Brief History of Detroit in the Golden Days of ’49

Catlin, George Byron
Detroit: Detroit Savings Bank 1921

Detroit sightseeing books

The Detroit Almanac: 300 Years of Life in the Motor City

Detroit Free Press
Detroit: Detroit Free Press 2000

“The most comprehensive reference book ever assembled on the metro area. 648 pages, 18 chapters and more than 1,000 photos and graphics covering southeaster Michigan’s three eventful centuries.” – book cover.

Detroit in its World Setting: A 250-year chronology, 1701-1951

Detroit Public Library
Detroit: Detroit Public Library 1953

“A chronology of events – 1701-1951. One section is on Detroit events; three others deal with the country and the world during these same years. Political events, fads, fancies, popular music, reading of the times and scientific developments are among the subjects covered. A valuable reference tool.”

Echoes of Detroit: A 300-Year History

Cohen, Irwin J.
City Vision 2000

Detroit Today: A Portrait in Color

Cox, D. E.
Altwerger and Mandel 1991

The History of Detroit and Michigan or The Metropolis Illustrated …

Volume 2

A Chronological Cyclopaedia of the Past and Present including a full record of territorial days in Michigan and the annals of Wayne County

Farmer, Silas
Detroit: Farmer. 1889

A large number of county histories were produced in Michigan, beginning at the Centennial of 1876. In the mid-1880s, May and Dunbar note that, “In many cases, the attention in local areas shifted from the county level to the preparation of histories of a city. Towering above all of the productions of this type is Silas Farmer, History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan,1884, which appeared in revised editions in 1889 and 1890. This thousand-page work covers nearly every imaginable topic in truly encyclopedic fashion, with its geographical range, as the title indicates, sometimes stretching well beyond Detroit. Numerous histories of Michigan’s largest city have appeared since Farmer, but none matches it for detail or replaces it as the basic source for the period Farmer covers, although Clarence M. Burton, ed., The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, comes the closest.”
– Willis F. Dunbar and George S. May, Michigan: a History of the Wolverine State, Eerdmans 1995.

See the Michigan histories at: Michigan General History

Detroit Divided

Farley, Reynolds
Russell Sage Foundation 2002

See our Public Domain Audiobooks

The Last Sleigh Ride: A Detroit Folk History

Jones, Robert K.
Burning Viper 2010

Detroit: The Renaissance City

Korab, Balthazar
Thomasson-Grant 1986

Detroit: An American Autopsy

LeDuff, Charlie
New York: Penguin 2013

“An explosive expose of Detroit, icon of America’s lost prosperity, from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff. Back in his broken hometown, LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Once the richest city in America, Detroit is now the nation’s poorest. It is an eerie and angry place of deserted factories and abandoned homes and forgotten people. LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city, and shares an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer.” -Book cover

Directory of the City of Detroit: With its Environs, and Register of Michigan, for the Year 1837..

An epitomized history of Detroit; an alphabetical list of its citizens; a classification of professions and principal trades in the city; every information relative to officers of the municipal government, to public offices and officers, to churches, associations and institutions, to shipping steam boats, stages, &c. Also, a list of the officers of the United States’ Government; the names of the Governor, and members of the Legislature of Michigan, and County officers of the state, &c.

MacCabe, Julius P. Bolivar
Detroit: Harsha 1837

See gazetteers for Michigan at: Michigan Maps, Map Collections & Gazetteers

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story

Maraniss, David
Simon & Schuster 2015

Detroit in its World Setting: A Three Hundred Year Chronology, 1701-2001

Poremba, David Lee, ed.
Wayne State University 2001

In Old Detroit

Stark, George W.
Detroit: Arnold-Powers 1939

A collection of stories about people in Detroit and further afield in Michigan throughout history, by the author of a column in the Detroit News called “Old Timer”.

Forgotten Detroit

Vachon, Paul
Arcadia 2009

All Our Yesterdays; A Brief History of Detroit

Woodford, Frank B., and Woodford, Arthur M.
Wayne State University 1969

Southeast Michigan

The Making of Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor History Collection

The Making of Ann Arbor Website

The top link contains bout 30 books and other documents in a collection at Hathi Trust Digital Library related to the history and development of the Ann Arbor, Michigan community. The second link leads to a website by the same project creators, containing an online collection of texts, maps, postcards, and photo and illustration collections.

History of Monroe County, Michigan: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests

Bulkley, John McClelland
Chicago: Lewis 1913

Topics covered in early Monroe history include the Congress of Indians at St. Mary’s Falls, the Mode of Living of the Indians, Count Frontenac, Joliet, Father Marquette, the Griffin, Surrender of Detroit by General Hull.

Ann Arbor: the First Hundred Years

Stephenson, Orlando Worth
Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce. 1927

Stephenson was a professor at the University of Michigan. This history was done at Ann Arbor’s centennial. Topics mentioned in chapter headings include: the German settlers, private and public schools, the University, business life, fire and water, gas and light, health and sanitation, transportation and communication, YMCA and YWCA.

History of Jackson County, Michigan

Chicago: Inter-state Publishing Co. 1881

De Land’s History of Jackson county, MI; embracing a concise review of its early settlement…

industrial development and present conditions, together with interesting reminiscences, compiled by Colonel Charles V. DeLand, to which is appended a comprehensive compendium of local biography, embracing life sketches of many well-known citizens of the county. Illustrated

DeLand, Charles Victor
Logansport, IN: Bowen 1903

Some topics included in the Table of Contents are: the Great Railroad Conspiracy Case, the Republican Party – History of its origin and organization, newspapers and newspapermen.

Views of Jackson and Vicinity

Portland, ME: Nelson 1900

Photos of Jackson, taken mostly in the 1890s.

Portrait and Biographical Album of Ingham and Livingston Counties, Michigan…

containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the counties, together with biographies of all the governors of the state and of all the presidents of the United States

Chicago: Chapman Bros. 1891

For descriptions by an early settler of Pinckney, Livingston County, see the novels of Caroline Kirkland on: Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction

Pioneer History of Ingham County

Adams, Mrs. Franc L.
Lansing: Wykoop Hallenbeck Crawford 1923

Topics covered are Ingham County Stories of Pioneer Days, and township histories.

Museums & Historic Sites in the Western Upper Peninsula

City in the Forest: The Story of Lansing

Darling, Birt
NY: Stratford House 1950

Southwest Michigan

Grand Rapids Collection

A number of free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Michigan – Grand Rapids”. Be patient as the page loads.

Kalamazoo County Directory with a History of the County from its Earliest Settlement…

Containing descriptions of each Town and Village within the County. Also, the Names of all Persons Residing in the Several Villages in the County. With a New Census of Kalamazoo Village, and all the Villages in the County

Thomas, James M., comp.
Kalamazoo: Thomas 1869

See the 19th century newspapers from southwestern Michigan at: Michigan History Periodicals: Magazines, Historical Journals & Newspapers

“Glimpses of Early Michigan Life in and about Kalamazoo”

Magazine of American History Vol 24, pp 457-464

Gibbs, Mary V.
NYC 1890

Reminiscences of the 1830s.

For a novel set in early Kalamazoo county, see: Cooper, James Fenimore, The Oak-openings; Or, The Bee-hunter on Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction

The Yankee West: Community Life on the Michigan Frontier

Gray, Susan E.
Univ of North Carolina 1996

An academic history of the settlement and development of Kalamazoo County by Yankees, as a local example of a phenomena that was seen throughout much of the state. Michigan “was long known as the “third New England” – the second being New York”.

Labadie’s Souvenir of Picturesque Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo: Labadie 1909

100 pages of photos

An Account of Southwest Michigan and St. Joseph County

Weissert, Charles A., ed.
Dayton: Nathional Historical Association 1924

Among the topics covered in the Table of Contents for Southwest Michigan are included: Indian Life prior to white settlement, Kalamazoo as a center of Indian trails, La Salle’s fort on the St. Joseph River, French influence in the Kalamazoo Valley in the 1690s, conflict between French and Indians in early 1700s, Fur Trade at St. Joseph, Spanish capture of Fort St. Joseph, Michigan in the Black Hawk War, construction of Fort Hogan, Pottawatomi village in Portage township, Titus Bronson founds Kalamazoo.

History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan … (with an appendix–History of Lowell, Michigan)

Baxter, Albert
NY: Munsell. 1891

Dunbar and May said of this city history, “For outstate communities, Albert Baxter, History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, comes close to the high standards of comprehensiveness set by Silas Farmer” [in his History of Detroit, found on this web page]. Willis F. Dunbar and George S. May, Michigan: a History of the Wolverine State, Eerdmans 1995.

Some topics from the Table of Contents: Algonquins and their predecessors, ceding of lands north of Grand River, Indian trade, Dexter colony, Grand River Valley in 1837, government under French and English rule, Northwest Territory, first steamboats, the Holland colony.

The Yesterdays of Grand Rapids

Belknap, Charles E.
Grand Rapids: Dean-Hicks 1922

Some topics from the Table of Contents: Shantytown and wildcat money, pioneers’ winter food, an Indian wedding tour, the first river steamboat, the Fisk Lake Log Tavern, Kent County’s pioneer jail, experience of a volunteer fireman, an old-time doctor.

History of Grand Rapids and its Industries

Volume 2

Goss, Dwight
Chicago: Cooper 1906

Northern Michigan History

History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: containing a full account of its early settlement…

its growth, development, and resources, an extended description of its iron and copper mines: also, accurate sketches of its counties, cities, towns, and villages … biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers

Chicago: Western Historical Co. 1883

For an 1840s account of copper country in the U.P., see: St. John, John R., A True Description of the Lake Superior Country on Michigan Economic History

Souvenir of the Copper Country; Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Houghton: Tyler 1904

100 pages of photos; no text.

Memorial Record of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan, Illustrated

Chicago: Lewis 1895

Links to Museums & Historic Sites in the Michigan U.P.: Museums and Historic Sites in Northern Michigan

Old Fort Mackinac on the Hill of History

Andrews, Roger
Andrews 1938

“A newspaper man’s story of Old Fort Mackinac on the Hill of History at Mackinac Island, and its direct succession to the ancient forts at St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, Michigan. These three forts were for years called “Michilimackinac” and their history is progressively related in the records of those vibrant days beginning nearly three hundred years ago. They all played a dramatic part in the development of the Old Northwest and in the stirring colonial and 19th Century history of our country.” -Author’s acknowledgements

Mackinac formerly Michilimackinac

Bailey, John R. (M.D.)
Lansing: Thorp. 1895

History of Mackinac from the 1630s, when French missionaries first passed through. The volume includes a considerable amount of Native American history in that area.

The Ontonagon Country: The Story of An American Frontier

Jamison, James K.
Ontonagon, MI: Ontonagon Herald 1948

A History of Northern Michigan and its People

Volume 2 Volume 3

Powers, Perry F.
Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company 1912

Late 20th Century historians of Michigan George May and Willis Dunbar recommended this in 1995 in History of the Wolverine State as the only work for most of the counties of the northern half of the Lower Peninsula that, “… is comparable to the Durant-Farmer-Baxter model of county or city history for the southern part of the state”. In other words, they considered this among the best of the local histories written for Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and definitely the best history of this part of the state.

A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and its People

Volume 2 Volume 3

Sawyer, Alvah L.
Chicago: Lewis. 1911

Late 20th Century historians of Michigan George May and Willis Dunbar recommended this in 1995 in History of the Wolverine State as the only work for the upper peninsula that, “… is comparable to the Durant-Farmer-Baxter model of county or city history for the southern part of the state”. In other words, they considered this among the best of the local histories written for Michigan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and definitely the best history of the upper peninsula.

Also see the Michigan histories at: Michigan General History

Links to Museums & Historic Sites in the Michigan U.P.: Museums and Historic Sites in Northern Michigan

“At the Meeting of the Trails: The Romance of a Parish Register”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol VI, 1912-13, 198-217

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

The parish register of the title is for the small church at St. Ignace from 1695 to 1821. The author draws upon the parish register as a source for a cursory history of the community that was based on the Mackinaw trading post, which played a vital role in the life of the region’s Indians and served the French as their western outpost of empire in Canada.

Old and New Mackinac …

with copious extracts from Marquette, Hennepin, La Houtan, Cadillac, Alexander Henry, and others

Van Fleet, J.A. Rev.
Ann Arbor: Courier 1870

For links to tourist booklets from the 1880s and 1890s, see: Vacationing Up-North in the Late 19th Century

Early Mackinac: A Sketch Historical and Descriptive

Williams, Meade C.
Duffield 1912

Originally published 1897. A collection of Indian tales and other information that was gleaned by the author over many years of research on Mackinac Island.

Historic Mackinac: The Historical, Picturesque and Legendary Features of the Mackinac Country …

Volume 2

illustrated from sketches, drawings, maps and photographs, with an original map of Mackinac Island, made especially for this work

Wood, Edwin O.
NY: Macmillan. 1918

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