Michigan Social History Books and Articles


The nonfiction books and articles below are on topics in Michigan social history.

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.

 

Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream

Abraham, Nabeel; Shryock, Andrew, eds.
Wayne State University 2000

“Metropolitan Detroit is home to one of the largest, most diverse Arab communities outside the Middle East, yet the complex world Arabic-speaking immigrants have created there is barely visible on the landscape of ethnic America. In this volume, Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock bring together the work of twenty-five contributors to create a richly detailed portrait of Arab Detroit. The book goes behind the bulletproof glass in Iraqi Chaldean liquor stores. It explores the role of women in a Sunni mosque and the place of nationalist politics in a Coptic church. It follows the careers of wedding singers, Arabic calligraphers, restaurant owners, and pastry chefs. It examines the agendas of Shia Muslim activists and Washington-based lobbyists and looks at the intimate politics of marriage, family honor, and adolescent rebellion. Memoirs and poems by Lebanese, Chaldean, Yemeni, and Palestinian writers anchor the book in personal experience, while over fifty photographs provide a backdrop of vivid, often unexpected, images.” -Publisher

Progress of Michigan Women

A brief record of the effort and achievement of women of Michigan in the struggle for equality before the law.

Arthur, Clara B.
Detroit: 1912?

Also see our collections of Books on Women’s History and Articles on Women’s History

Latinos in Michigan

Badillo, David A.
Michigan State University 2003

“This work looks at how Latinos have contributed culturally, economically and socially to many important developments in Michigan’s history. The history of Latinos is one of cultural diversity, institutional formation, and an ongoing search for leadership in the midst of unique circumstances.” -Publisher

Contents:Introduction — Tejanos, Mexican immigrants, and Mexican American communities — Pioneers of Latino Catholicism — Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and other Latinos — Rise of rural and urban activism — Regional migration and the metropolis — contemporary ethnicity and leadership — SIDEBARS: Community redevelopment in southwest Detroit — The UFW, La Lucha, and Michigan — Latino music and culture

“The Vermontville Colony: Its Genesis and History, with Personal Sketches of the Colonists”

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 28, 1900, 197-287

Barber, Edward W.
Lansing: Michigan Historical Commission

“This is a detailed history of the founding and development of Vermontville, Michigan. Under the leadership of a Congregational minister named Sylvester Cochrane, a group of men from Bennington, Poultney, Benson, Orwell and other Vermont communities signed a compact pledging to honor the Gospel and the Sabbath, to provide jointly for certain community services, and to pool their money to purchase land “in the western country.” Arriving in Michigan’s Thornapple River Valley in 1836, the colony gave each member a farm lot of 160 acres and a village lot of ten acres to develop with his family. A church, a school and an academy were also part of the master plan from the outset. Vermontville’s economic growth exemplified that of many small Michigan towns. At first, the settlers were heavily dependent on the Indians for food. In time, they produced enough to feed themselves and to exchange for the other goods and services they needed. A doctor arrived; a store opened; eventually Vermontville had its own weekly newspaper.

Attracted initially by the projected Clinton and Kalamazoo canal, the residents found themselves fully integrated with other Michigan communities as railroad routes proliferated throughout the region. Besides its account of major local events, this work offers thumbnail sketches of Vermontville’s founding citizens.”
-Description from U.S. Library of Congress ‘American Memory‘ website

Books and articles on Politics & Government in historic Michigan

Battle Creek as a Station on the Underground Railway

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 38 (1919) pp 279-285

Barnes, Charles E.
Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society

According to the article, there were two underground railway routes through Michigan toward the Canadian border in SE Michigan. One ran from Indiana through Battle Creek to Marshall and then Jackson, and the other from Ohio through Adrian or Tecumseh. The author states that all the ‘station masters’ were Quakers.

For books on the issue of slavery in Indiana and Illinois, see: Anti-Slavery before the Civil War

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; and
Haviland, Laura S. , A Woman’s Life-Work in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

Amusements in Detroit in Colonial Days

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 38. (1912) pp 324-342

Burton, Clarence M.
Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society

I can’t imagine why the title refers only to “Amusements”. The article is in fact a wide-ranging description of life in Detroit throughout the 18th century.

In Detroit Courage was the Fashion. The Contribution of Women to the Development of Detroit from 1701 to 1951

Crathern, Alice Tarbell
Detroit: Wayne University 1953

In 1951 the City of Detroit celebrated its 250th year. Business and professional women of Detroit set up a committee to gather material on the contribution of women to Detroit life, and they asked Professor Alice Crathern to produce this history. She organized it into the following chapters, showing how women, individually and through their organizations, contributed to the welfare of Detroit’s population, and to civic life.

-Homemakers -For the Children -Educators -For the Sick -Philanthropists -Club Women -Artists -Crusaders -Women in Business, the Professions, and Industry -Women in Public Affairs

Report of the Great Conspiracy Case. The People of the State of Michigan, versus Abel F. Fitch and others …

commonly called the Rail Road Conspirators: tried before His Honor Warner Wing, presiding judge of the Circuit court for the county of Wayne, at the May term, 1851, in the city of Detroit. Containing the evidence, arguments of counsel, charge of the court and the verdict of the jury

Detroit Advertiser and Free Press 1851

This trial was the result of a conflict between the Michigan Central Railroad, who refused to pay full value of farmers’ cattle killed by its trains, and farmers in Jackson county who were accused of having sabotaged the railroad in retaliation. There were initially 50 defendants in southern Jackson county, led by Abel Fitch of Michigan Center. Fitch and a couple of others died in prison during the trial.

See the companion piece “Argument of William H. Seward…” on this webpage. Incidentally, An article about the Underground Railroad in Battle Creek on the “Michigan-Social History” page of this site identified Abel Fitch as the original Jackson ‘station master’.

Collected Newspapers and journals in historic Michigan

“The Dutch Pioneers of Michigan”

Historical Collections Vol 38, 1912, 204-211

D’ooge, Martin L.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

A schism in the National Reformed Church in the Netherlands in the early 19th century led to creation of the “Christian Reformed Church”, later known as the “Seceded Reformed Church”. Members of the new church were persecuted by the government as well as by the established church. In the 1840s some congregations began thinking of emigrating to Java or the U.S. Dr. Albertus Christian Van Raalte and a few followers arrived in NY in 1846, looking for a place to settle his congregation. He selected a site called Hope Haven on the borders of Black Lake, now occupied by Holland, and in 1847 the immigrants from his congregation began arriving. Nearby Zeeland was also started as a colony by another Dutch congregation in 1848, under Rev. C. Van der Meulen.

“The Shanty Boy”, or Life in a Lumber Camp …

Being Pictures of the Pine Woods in descriptions, tales, songs and adventures in the lumbering shanties of Michigan and Wisconsin

Fitzmaurice, John W.
Cheboygan, MI: Democrat Steam 1889

Fitzmaurice was a minister and temperance lecturer who became a journalist in Saginaw Valley in 1870. He spent a winter in the woods to recover from poor health, and in this volume he drew upon his experiences there.

Early Michigan Settlements

Volume 2

Volume 3

Florer, Warren Wahburn
Ann Arbor: Herold 1941

German settlements in Michigan is the theme of all three volumes. Volume 1 covers Washtenaw, Westphalia, Frankenmuth, and the revolutionists of 1848 in Detroit, as well as Saginaw and several German societies in Michigan. Volume 2 appears to contain a lot of material on the Frankenmuth community, and has reprints of many German-language documents and articles. Volume 3 is about German Indian Missions in Michigan.

“War Times in the Copper Mines”

Historical Collections Vol 18, y1892, 375-382

Forster, John Harris
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

The author, a mine manager, describes life in the fledgling mining towns of Houghton and Hancock in the Keweenaw Peninsula throughout the early years of the Civil War. The area was totally isolated for nearly six months each winter. The small community of middle-class Americans – managers, merchants and artisans – coped with the isolation through a very active social life. However, the early years of the war brought financial distress for the miners, who were foreign-born and were often there without families. They engaged normally in a great deal of drinking and fighting among themselves, but when they weren’t paid during much of the first year of the war, they became especially dangerous.

Books and articles on Local, City, and County History in Michigan

“The Great Conspiracy …”

A Chapter from the Early History of Michigan Railroading, Showing the Desperate and Destructive Opposition to the Michigan Central

Historical Collections Vol 31, 1902, 232-238

Gilbert, John
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

This history of the “Great Railway Conspiracy Case” was authored in 1892 by a former employee of Michigan Central Railroad. He explains how opposition to the railway arose in southern Michigan beginning about 1849 among farmers, and the types of actions they took against the railroad. The most frequent attacks occurred in Jackson county, at Michigan Center and Leoni, and these culminated in the burning of a newly constructed depot. In 1851 the railroad’s employees, assisted by a sheriff in Jackson, arrested 36 men, including leader Abel Fitch, and imprisoned them in Detroit. The ensuing trial was followed nation-wide. Other publications about this case can be found on this website.

The People of Michigan

Graff, George P.
Lansing: State Library Services 1974

A collection of articles about Michigan settlers from nearly 50 countries, with bibliographies and articles for each topic.

“Old French Traditions”

Historical Collections Vol 4, 1881, 70-78

Hamlin, M. Carrie W.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

A long-time resident of Detroit collected some of the traditions of the French people there. The article is sub-divided under these headings:

“National Pride” – “New Year’s Day” – “Mardi Gras” – “The Christening of the Bell” – “Des Pains Benits, or Blessed Bread” – “The Home” – “The Wedding Feast”

Also included are copies (in English) of a wedding contract and a deed to a farm.

Michigan Women: Firsts and Founders, Vol II

Harley, Rachel Brett and MacDowell, Betty
Michigan Women’s Studies Association 1995       

(Vol 1 was not found online.) “This volume recognizes the achievements of more than five hundred women who have been the first women (or first persons) in their fields or who have been the founders of movements, programs, organizations or institutions that have benefitted our society…. This volume also celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment. It includes an expanded chronology of Michigan women’s history that highlights Suffrage events, photographs of Suffrage activities, and a Michigan Woman Suffrage Honor Roll that lists by county more than 3,000 women and men who supported the long struggle for women’s right to vote.” -Foreword

Contents: Biographical entries – Photographs of the woman suffrage movement in Michigan – Chronology of Michigan women’s history – Michigan woman suffrage honor roll – List of sources

Jewish Beginnings in Michigan before 1850

Being some notes on residents of the very early days, several biographical notices of more notable citizens between 1840 and 1850, and an account of the beginnings of the immigration of about that time

Heineman, David E.
Baltimore: 1905

Books and articles on The History of Michigan

The Great Railroad Conspiracy; The Social History of a Railroad War

Hirschfeld, Charles
Michigan State College 1953

“The Armenians and Their Grand Rapids Colony”

Publications of the Historical Society of Grand Rapids No. 7, Vol 1, part 7, pp 97-117

Kassabian, N. H., Dr.
Grand Rapids: 1912

Detroit and the Great Migration, 1916-1929

Martin, Elizabeth Anne
Ann Arbor: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan 1993

The story of the swelling migration of African-Americans from the rural south to industrial Detroit.

Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Michigan Economic History

“Slavery Is Detroit’s Big, Bad Secret. Why Don’t We Know Anything About It?”

Deadline Detroit August 27, 2012

McGraw, Bill
Deadline Detroit

“Slavery in Detroit has remained an enormous secret. It is an essential chapter in Detroit’s 311-year story, but it has been pushed back into archives and covered up by decades of neglect and denial. Few people, even well-informed college graduates, know that slavery played a key role in the growth of Detroit, and wealthy Detroiters owned slaves for the first 120 years of the city’s existence.”

“The South Doesn’t Own Slavery”

New York Times Sept 11, 2017

Miles, Tiya
New York Times

“American slavery had no bounds. It penetrated every corner of this country, materially, economically and ideologically, and the unjust campaign to preserve it is embedded in our built environments, North and South, East and West. Detroit is a surprising case in point.”

Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of a Merchant Voyageur in the Savage Territories of Northern America …”

Leaving Montreal the 28th of May 1783 (to 1820)” edited with introduction and notes by John Sharpless Fox, PhD

Michigan Historical Collections Vol 37 (1909-10) pp 508-619

Perrault, Jean Baptiste
Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society

Henry Schoolcraft met Perrault in Sault Ste Marie in about 1830 and asked him to write a memoir of his life in the woods in the fur business. He was employed by the Northwest Company for many years, eventually leaving it for the Hudson Bay company. The narrative contains description of the life of a woodsman in the late 19th century and much about the fur trading business and the extreme practices of the big firms of the day.

Books and articles on education, the arts, journalism, recreation and architecture are in Michigan Cultural History

“The Young Men’s Society (of Detroit)”

Its Foundation and Early Rise; Rise and Progress of the Society; Lists of its Officers; Interesting Reminiscences

Historical Collections Vol 10, 1887, 361-375

Raymond, Francis
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

This history and three attached letters describes the circumstances of the society’s foundation in 1832 and its growth through about 1860. Several young clerks who found very little to do in Detroit, particularly in the winter, conceived of the society as a way to collectively buy books to share and to come together to discuss and debate the serious issues of the day. It gradually grew to a membership of hundreds, and fostered the development of some of Michigan’s most influential citizens.

Finland-Swedes in Michigan

Roinila, Mika
Michigan State University 2012

“Who are the Finland-Swedes? Defined as citizens of Finland with a Swedish mother tongue, many know these people as “Swede-Finns” or simply “Swedes.”. This book … examines the origins of the Finland-Swedes and traces their immigration patterns, beginning with the arrival of hundreds in the United States in the 1860s.” – Book cover

The Germanic Influence in the Making of Michigan

Russell, John Andrew
Detroit: University of Detroit 1927

Lights and Shadows from Pioneer Life

Michigan Historical Collections vol 35 (1907) pp. 184-198

Schettler, Mrs. Eliza M. Scott
Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society

Stories from the author’s childhood while her father worked for the Hudson Bay company on Mackinac Island. Most of the incidents involve the Indians whom they lived among.

Argument of William H. Seward in Defence of Abel F. Fitch and Others Under an Indictment for Arson, delivered at Detroit, on the 12th, 13th and 15th days of September, 1851.

Seward, William H.
Auburn: Derby & Miller 1851

See the companion piece “Report of the Great Conspiracy Case” above on this webpage. Seward, who would later serve as Lincoln’s Secretary of State, represented the defendants.

Collection of Michigan Biographies & Memoirs

“The Fever and Ague, Michigan Rash, Mosquitoes: The Old Pioneers’ Foes”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 300-304

Van Buren, A. D. P.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

The authors describe the symptoms of the fever and ague, which he believed afflicted every early Michigan settler, and discusses various remedies that were used. The Michigan rash was nearly as common, although less serious. Current Michigan residents don’t need to rely on their historical imagination to understand how annoying mosquitoes were.

“Raisings and Bees among the Early Settlers”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 296-300

Van Buren, A. D. P.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

The author says the word “bee” was used to ” … indicate the gathering of the settlers to render gratuitous aids to some neighbor in need” and that it ” … originated in, and was confined to new settlements. It was merely the voluntary union of the individual aid and strength of an entire community, to assist a settler in doing what he was unable to accomplish alone.” He goes on to describe how log houses were built, and a typical community house-raising. He also covers logging bees, rail-splitting, “breaking up” land for plowing, and husking bees.

“What the Pioneers Ate, and How They Fared: Michigan Food and Cookery in the Early Days”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 293-296

Van Buren, A. D. P.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

African Americans in Michigan

Walker, Lewis et al.
Michigan State University 2001

“African Americans, as free laborers and as slaves, were among the earliest permanent residents of Michigan, settling among the French, British, and Native people with whom they worked and farmed. Lewis Walker and Benjamin Wilson recount the long history of African American communities in Michigan, delineating their change over time, as migrants from the South, East, and overseas made their homes in the state. Moreover, the authors show how Michigan’s development is inextricably joined with the vitality and strength of its African American residents. In a related chapter, Linwood Cousins examines youth culture and identity in African American schools, linking education with historical and contemporary issues of economics, racism, and power.” -Publisher

The Negro in Detroit: A Survey of the Conditions of a Negro Group in a Northern Industrial Center during the War Prosperity Period

Washington, Forrester B.
Detroit: Research Bureau, Associated Charities of Detroit 1920

“The Old Log House”

Historical Collections Vol 26, 1896, 644-646

Watkins, L. D.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

A concise description of the construction, interior and furnishings of a typical log house used by early Michigan settlers, and how it functioned for its occupants.

“Dog Teams and Sledges in Michigan”

Stories of the Great Lakes 157-172

Watrous, Edward F.
NY: Century 1907

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

“Yankee Lewis’s Famous Hostelry in the Wilderness”

Historical Collections Vol 26, 1896, 302-307

White, George H.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

William Lewis arrived in Michigan from western New York in 1836, settling at Yankee Springs, 14 miles west of Hastings, where his brother had been developing a farm. Although there were no roads in the area, the site was on a heavily used trail, and the inn that he built had sometimes as many as 100 people overnight. The author describes Lewis’s unique skills as an innkeeper, the features of the inn that made it among the most famous in western Michigan, and the many services Lewis did for travelers in the region. The location of the inn was apparently on S. Yankee Springs Road just south of Gun Lake Rd, in western Barry county.

Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest

Wilkinson, Sook and Jew, Victor, eds.
Wayne State University 2015

“Editors Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew have assembled forty-one diverse contributors to give an intimate glimpse into Michigan’s Asian American communities. Contributors create a fuller picture of these often overlooked groups, including the historical and demographic origins of Michigan’s Asian American communities, experiences in memory and legacy keeping, particular aspects of community culture and heritage, and prospects and hopes for the future”. -Publisher

You can find more works like these at our other ‘Social History’ pages.

Great Lakes Social History

Illinois Social History

Indiana Social History

Ohio Social History

Wisconsin Social History


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