Michigan Economic History


A variety of topics in Michigan economic history are covered in the nonfiction books and articles below, such as commerce, industry, transportation and farming. See the right column for more info about this website.


Report of the Directors of the Michigan Central Railroad Company to the Stockholders…

Boston: Eastburn’s Press 1854
Go to Book

(title continued) “… together with the reports of the Treasurer and Superintendent. June 1854”

This report of about 35 pages contains financial reports; a report from the Directors that remarks on operations of each of the various lines, describing any issues experienced; the Treasurer’s Report, and the Superintendent’s Report about equipment, buildings, engines, machinery, track and other assets. At the back of the report is a collection of Tables showing passengers, passenger earnings, various kinds of freight and earnings therefrom, a list of all stations, and expenses by category.

Michigan railroad history, Michigan Central Railroad

Cornflake Crusade

NY: Rinehart 1957
Carson, Gerald Go to Book

This extensively-researched popular history chronicles how Battle Creek, Michigan, became both a health center and the place where America’s breakfast cereal industry developed at the turn of the century. Carson tells how Battle Creek first hosted a famous sanitarium run by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), under the initial sponsorship of the Seventh-Day Adventists, and featuring water cures, vegetarianism, exercise, and sexual abstinence. Kellogg, raised in an Adventist family, later parted company with that denomination over religious differences. His sanitarium encouraged other experimental medical enterprises, transforming Battle Creek into a place where entrepreneurs began to produce “healthy” foods such as crackers, coffee substitutes, and, especially, cereals. Charles W. Post, a disgruntled former Kellogg patient who practiced briefly as a healer himself, achieved early success manufacturing and marketing these new products. By standardizing sizes and recipes for such foods as Grape Nuts and Postum, and combining mass distribution methods with aggressive advertising techniques, Post achieved spectacular success with consumers and paved the way for a host of competitors.
– Library of Congress American Memory website

Food industry and trade, Prepared Cereals, Michigan industrial history

Michigan Economic History

The Road is Yours; The Story of the Automobile and the Men Behind It

NY: Greystone 1951
Cleveland, Reginald M. and Williamson, S. T.Go to Book


The Trail of the Lonesome Truck

Detroit: Packard Motor Car Company 1911
Fishleigh, W. T.Go to Book

(title continued) ” … A vivid recital of the unprecedented journey made by a three-ton Packard, the first heavy-duty motor vehicle to cross the continent on its own power.”

With photos.

Ford Factory Facts

Detroit: 1915
Ford Motor CompanyGo to Book

A 60-page public relations booklet providing a tour of a plant and the company, with numerous photos.

See also: Arnold, Horace Lucien and Faurote, Fay Leone, Ford Methods and the Ford Shops (1915) in Section 629.2 Motor vehicle engineering in Airplanes, Autos & Motorcycles
Gibson, Charles R., The Romance of Modern Manufacture; a Popular Account of the Marvels of Manufacturing in Section 670 Manufacturing in Manufacturing, Chemicals, Textiles & Handicrafts

Michigan auto industry

A Visit to the River Rouge Plant

Detroit: Ford Motor Company 1937
Ford Motor CompanyGo to Book


“Early Settlement of the Copper Regions of Lake Superior”

Historical Collections Vol 7, 1886, 181-192

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Forster, John HarrisGo to Article


“Life in the Copper Mines of Lake Superior”

Historical Collections Vol 11, 1888, 175-186

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Forster, John H.Go to Article

Drawing from his own experience, the author provides a non-technical description of the life and work of pioneer miners who arrived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the region’s early days, and the slow and strenuous process of developing a mine and supporting town. He also compares some of the processes of the pioneer miner to the ‘modern’ mining techniques at the time of writing, in the 1880s.

“The Early Railroads of Southern Michigan”

Michigan Historical Collections vol. 38 (1919) pp 498 – 501

Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society
Frost, ClarenceGo to Article

Describes the first roads and early railroads. The first major road was the Chicago turnpike from Detroit, built from 1825-30, and the first railroad in SE Michigan was completed from Port Lawrence (Toledo) to Adrian in 1836. This Erie & Kalamazoo line had wooden rails and, at first, horse-drawn coaches.

For more books on railroads in U.S. history, see: Section 385 Railroad transportation in Commerce, Communications & Transportation and Sections 625.1 Railroad engineering & 625.2 Rolling stock, Operations in Engineering – Mechanical, Electric, Civil & more

Michigan railroad history

“Forestry in Michigan”

Michigan Historical Collections vol. 35 (1907) pp. 176- 180

Lansing: The Michigan Historical Society
Garfield, Charles W.Go to Article

The author of this sharp criticism of the forestry industry in Michigan writes, “It is the next fellow [after the pioneers who arrived to farm] that I criticize, the man that gathered where he had not strewn, the lumberman that cut ruthlessly, and with the hand of vandalism, into this wondrous wealth of Michigan and left as his legacy little to stand for the wealth he swept away except a desolate landscape and a crop of millionaires.”

See also:Pinchot, Gifford, A Primer of Forestry in Section 634.9 Forestry on Agriculture, Forestry, Gardening & Animals
Hotchkiss, George Woodward, History of the Lumber and Forest Industry of the Northwest in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Forests and forestry, Michigan lumber industry

History of Medicine and Surgery in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids?: 1891?
Graves, Schuyler C., M.D.Go to Book


When Beaver was King

Detroit: Wayne University 1951
Hamil, Frederick Coyne Go to Book

A light, brisk overview of the fur trade, which dominated the economy of New France when Michigan was under French rule.

For works on the “Indian trade”, or fur trade, see:
– Adams, J. A., “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History
;
Stevens, Wayne E., “The Organization of the British Fur Trade 1760-1800″ in “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History;
Johnson, Ida Amanda, The Michigan Fur Trade in Michigan Economic History;
Turner, Frederick Jackson, The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin; a study of the Trading Post as an Institution in Wisconsin Economic History;
Way, Royal B., “The United States Factory System for Trading with the Indians, 1796-1822″ in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Fur trade

Michigan economic history

Vein of Iron; The Pickands Mather Story

Cleveland: World 1958
Havighurst, WalterGo to Book

Pickands Mather & Co. was founded in 1883 to mine iron ore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and went on to become a major company with interests in mining, ore processing, dock management and steamships around the Great Lakes.

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

Michigan State College 1953
Hirschfeld, CharlesGo to Book


Transactions of the State Agricultural Society, with reports of County Agricultural Societies, for 1850

Lansing: Ingals 1851
Holmes, J. C. Secretary Michigan State Agricultural Society Go to Book

This is of interest partly for the way it shows how government at all levels in Michigan, from the state’s earliest days, promoted a scientific approach to agriculture by Michigan farmers. Through local societies, county and state fairs, and various modes of education, the most advanced practices of the day were collected, discussed and disseminated. Participation was open to anyone.

Agricultural history

“The Epidemic of 1848 in Shiawassee County”

Historical Collections Vol 28, 1900, 506-511

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Huggins, AndrewGo to Article

The author recalled when the villages of Corunna and Owosso were hit by an epidemic of a disease unknown at the time. He describes the efforts of doctors and residents to diagnose it and find remedies.

“History of Asylums for the Insane in Michigan”

Historical Collections Vol 13, 1889, 292-307

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Hurd, Henry M.Go to Article

“The establishment of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, at Kalamazoo, was the outcome of a philanthropic movement for the relief and care of the insane, inaugurated by Dorothea L. Dix, then of Boston, whose life was consecrated to humanitarian work.” Prior to this movement, there were no public institutions dedicated for the care of people with serious mental illness. 1848 Gov. Ransom recommended establishment of a hospital for the insane and an asylum for the deaf and dumb. It was not until 1853 that a site was finally chosen and work begun, about one mile from the village of Kalamazoo. The asylum for the deaf and dumb was meanwhile established in Flint. This article mainly focuses on work by the state legislature to found the Kalamazoo asylum, and three later asylums for the insane in Pontiac, Traverse City and Ionia.

Story of the Grand Rapids Strike

Irwin, R. W.Go to Book

Subtitle: “Address delivered at the Semi-Annual Meeting of the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers held at Indianapolis, Dec. 6 and 7, 1911”
This is about a city-wide strike of furniture workers in 1910. Grand Rapids had 9,000 workers in 53 furniture factories at the time, according to the author.

For more on the furniture industry, see the histories of Grand Rapids at: History of Michigan Cities, Counties & Regions

Also see: Mitchell, John, Organized Labor, its Problems, Purposes and Ideals, and the Present and Future of American Wage Earners in Section 331 Labor economics in Political Science, Economics, Labor

Grand Rapids furniture industry, Michigan labor history

The Michigan Fur Trade

Lansing: Michigan Historical Publications 1919
Johnson, Ida Amanda Go to Book

This is a much more thorough study of the Michigan fur trade than the work by Hamil on this page. The book first explains the background on French development of the North American trade, and the establishment of early Michigan posts in Sault Ste. Marie, Michilimackinac, and Fort St. Joseph. Founded in 1701, Detroit becomes “The Great Depot of Trade”. The British take over Michigan and its fur trade in the 1760s, and continue to dominate both into the 1790s, even though Great Britain had formally surrendered Michigan to the U.S. in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783. When the British finally departed the fur trade was continued for decades by American companies like John Jacob Astor’s.

For works on the “Indian trade”, or fur trade, see:
– Adams, J. A., “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History
;
Stevens, Wayne E., “The Organization of the British Fur Trade 1760-1800″ in “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History;
Turner, Frederick Jackson, The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin; a study of the Trading Post as an Institution in Wisconsin Economic History;
Way, Royal B., “The United States Factory System for Trading with the Indians, 1796-1822″ in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Fur trade

“An Historical Sketch of Internal Improvements in Michigan, 1836-1846”

Publications of the Michigan Political Science Association Vol. IV No. 1 July 1900

Michigan Political Science Association
Keith, Hannah EmilyGo to Article

48-page paper published as a booklet.

The Battle Creek Sanitarium; History, Organization, Methods

Battle Creek: 1913
Kellogg, John Harvey, M.D.Go to Book

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was founded in 1866 by a group of Seventh-day Adventists to implement revolutionary dietary and health principles, and became famous worldwide in the late 19th century for its water and fresh air treatments, exercise regimens and diet reform. This informational booklet, containing numerous photos, was authored by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, Director for 65 years. The Sanitarium and Dr. Kellogg were portrayed in the 1994 comedy film “The Road to Wellville”, starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Broderick, and Bridget Fonda.
C.W. Post, who had been a patient at the Sanitarium in 1891 and became fascinated by the health foods found there, established the Post cereal company in Battle Creek. Dr. Kellogg’s younger brother, who worked at the Sanitarium for many years, founded the Kellogg’s cereal company.

Michigan medical history

A Little Journey to the Home of Kellogg’s Toasted Corn Flakes

Battle Creek: Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company 1916
Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake CompanyGo to Book

Subtitle: “which is also the home of other good things to eat”.
35-page promotional publication with numerous photos of the plant.

Michigan industrial history, Cereal industry

Motor Memories; A Saga of Whirling Gears

Detroit: Alved 1947
Lewis, Eugene W. Go to Book

The early history of Detroit autos, and the men who built them.

Lumber Bibliography of Michigan

East Lansing: Michigan State University 1961
Lloyd, William B.Go to Book


Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Michigan Dairying

Lansing: American Dairy Association of Michigan 1955
Lucas, P. S.Go to Book

A 45-page booklet, including many illustrations.

Michigan Airports

Lansing?: 1944
Michigan Board of Aeronautics Go to Book


Medical History of Michigan Volume 1

Minneapolis: Bruce. 1930
Michigan State Medical Society Go to Book

Some chapter headings: The American Indian: His Mentality, Manners, Morals and Medicine, Physicians with the Early Explorers and Adventurers, Eighteenth Century Michigan Physicians, Pioneer Physicians – Types and Anecdotes, Medical Education in Michigan, Some Medical Men and Methods of Yester-year, Prevailing Diseases and Epidemics.

Also see:
– Dittrick, Howard, “The Equipment, Instruments and Drugs of Pioneer Physicians of Ohio” in Ohio Economic History
;
Juettner, Otto, Daniel Drake and his Followers: Historical and Biographical Sketches, 1785-1909 in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Kemper, G. W. H., A Medical History of the State of Indiana in Indiana Economic History;
Zeuch, Lucius H., M.D., compiled, History of Medical Practice in Illinois in Illinois Economic History;
Frank, Louis Frederick (Dr.), The Medical History of Milwaukee: 1834-1914 in Wisconsin Economic History

Michigan medical history

Michigan Economic History

Kilowatts at Work; A History of the Detroit Edison Company

Detroit: Wayne State University 1957
Miller, Raymond C.Go to Book


The Menominee Iron Range …

Milwaukee: Swain & Tate 1891
Nursey, Walter R.Go to Book

(title continued) “… its cities, their industries and resources, being a sketch of the discovery and development of the great iron ore beds of the North, situated within portions of the States of Michigan and Wisconsin south of Lake Superior : submitted as a hand-book for the information of those seeking a profitable field for labor and investment. With maps and illustrations.”

On the page facing the title page is written, “A business invitation to the Menominee Iron Range Addressed to You, from the Lumberman and the Miner. ” Despite the book being aimed at attracting investors, it appears to be a substantive history and description of the mining region. Chapter headings are:

-The Menominee River Country – the Old and the New
-The Menominee Iron Range – Discovery and Development
-The Ore and the Iron of the Menominee – Comparative and Affirmative
-The Iron Mines of the Menominee Range – Facts and Fancies
-The Cities and Towns of the Range – Their Industries and their Resources
—Norway
—Iron Mountain
—Florence
—Crystal Falls
—Iron River

Iron Mines and mining, Menominee Range

Report of the Directors to the Stockholders of the Pewabic Mining Company. Issued May 10, 1859

Boston: Rand & Avery 1859
Pewabic Mining CompanyGo to Book

The Pewabic company operated three copper mines in Houghton County, on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Northern Michigan.

Copper mines and mining, Michigan mining history

History of the Navigation of the Great Lakes

Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1911
Plumb, Ralph Gordon Go to Book

In 1911 the Congressional Committee on Railways and Canals had recently reviewed several proposals for canals connected to the Great Lakes that would create new or shorter waterways to enhance commerce. The chairman of the Committee authorized the printing of this 80-page early history of Great Lakes navigation as a part of the committee’s records, presumably because it covered previous attempts to build canals, and efforts to otherwise improve Great Lakes waterways and port facilities. Chapter headings are:

-The Beginnings
-The Era of Expansion and Development
-The Age of Steel
-The History of Lake Superior
-The United States Harbor Improvements on the Lakes
-Canadian Harbor Improvements on the Lakes
-The Lighthouse, Life-Saving, and Revenue-Cutter Systems
-Disasters on the Lakes
-Marine Employers’ and Employees’ Organizations
-Economic Effects of the Great Lakes

For works on boats and shipping, see: Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

Also see books on ships and seamanship in: Section 387 Water, air, space transportation in Commerce, Communications & Transportation, and Section 623.8 Nautical engineering and seamanship in Engineering

The Turning Wheel; the Story of General Motors through Twenty-five years, 1908-1933

NY: Doubleday, Doran 1934
Pound, Arthur Go to Book


The City Built on Wood: A History of the Furniture Industry in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1850-1950

Ann Arbor: Edwards 1955
Ransom, Frank EdwardGo to Book


Michigan Iron Mines

Michigan Dept of Conservation 1957
Reed, Robert C.Go to Book


When Pine was King

Ann Arbor: Reimann 1952
Reimann, Lewis CharlesGo to Book

A light and entertaining popular history of the timber industry in the upper peninsula.

See also: Hotchkiss, George Woodward, History of the Lumber and Forest Industry of the Northwest in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region
Pinchot, Gifford, A Primer of Forestry in 634.9 Forestry in Agriculture, Forestry, Gardening & Animals

Lumbering, Lumber camps, Frontier and pioneer life Upper Peninsula

“The Fur Traders of the Grand River Valley”

Publications of the Historical Society of Grand Rapids No. 2, Vol. 1, Part 2

Grand Rapids: Historical Society 1907
Richmond, Rebecca L.Go to Article

For works on the “Indian trade”, or fur trade, see:
– Adams, J. A., “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History
;
Stevens, Wayne E., “The Organization of the British Fur Trade 1760-1800″ in “The Indian Trader of the Upper Ohio Valley” in Ohio Economic History;
Johnson, Ida Amanda, The Michigan Fur Trade in Michigan Economic History;
Turner, Frederick Jackson, The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin; a study of the Trading Post as an Institution in Wisconsin Economic History;
Way, Royal B., “The United States Factory System for Trading with the Indians, 1796-1822″ in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Fur trade, Grand River Valley economic history

A Trip Through the Most Modern Salt Plant

Manistee, MI: Ruggles and Rademaker 1924
Ruggles and RademakerGo to Book


Michigan Economic History

A True Description of the Lake Superior Country …

NY: Graham 1846
St. John, John R.Go to Book

(title continued) “… its rivers, coasts, bays, harbours, islands and commerce, with Bayfield’s chart (showing the boundary line as established by joint commission) also a minute account of the copper mines and working companies. Accompanied by a map of the mineral regions; showing, by their no. and place, all the different locations: and containing a concise mode of assaying, treating, smelting, and refining copper ores”

This book was written in the early part of the era of copper mining in the upper peninsula. It was intended as an effort to map and describe the locations of mines and mineral deposits in the region where they exist. The first portion of 50 pages or so is mainly a travelogue, describing the route to the copper country along Lake Superior shores, the geography of the region where the mines are located, and the harbor towns.

“This descriptive discussion of the Lake Superior country emphasizes geographical features and is directed primarily towards those interested in locating and exploiting the region’s mineral deposits of copper and iron. Nevertheless, it is written as a travel narrative, with the author progressing along the shoreline areas, noting their scenic beauties and providing anecdotes and opinions along the way. The reader is told what to wear and what transportation facilities and amenities will be found en route. The book lists mining companies already functioning in the area and gives information about their management and the nature of their operations. Among other information, there is also a glossary of mining terms, a list of grantees, a short vocabulary of French and local Indian words, and a list of steamship and sailing vessels.”
-Library of Congress American Memory website

Also see the histories of Northern Michigan at: History of Michigan Cities, Counties & Regions

Links to Museums & Historic Sites in the Michigan U.P.: Thinking of Visiting Northern Michigan?

Copper mines and mining, Lake Superior region, Description and travel

Detroit: An Industrial Miracle

Detroit: Detroit Directory of Business and Industry 1951
Stark, George W.Go to Book


Miracle Bridge at Mackinac

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1957
Steinman, David BarnardGo to Book


The Studebaker Automobile Book

Detroit: Studebaker 1914
The Studebaker Corporation of AmericaGo to Book

Studebaker’s catalog of new cars for 1914.

“The Wild Cat Banking System of Michigan”

Historical Collections Vol 5, 1884, 209-222

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Utley, H. M.Go to Article

The author provides a brief background history of banking and finance in Michigan as it existed before President Andrew Jackson revoked the charter of the Bank of the United States, which contributed to a sudden financial crisis throughout the country in 1836-7. In response to the depressed economy, the Michigan state legislature passed an 1837 act that made it possible for anyone who wished to do so to transact “banking business”. The author then addresses the history of the “Wild Cat Banks” that were enabled by the Act; explaining their financial operations and describing some spectacular frauds.

The History of Dentistry in Michigan

Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 1925
Vedder, Francis B., DDS Go to Book


Beard’s directory and history of Marquette County [Mich.] with sketches of the early history of Lake Superior, its mines, furnaces, etc., etc.

Detroit: Hadger & Bryce 1873
Walker, Charles Irish Go to Book

Of interest mainly for the essays within it. They are:

“The Early History of Lake Superior. Sketch of the early explorations, with a notice of the missionaries and their labors” by C. I. Walker. Pp 165-200.
” A Sketch of some of the Mines and Furnaces of Lake Superior” anonymous. Pp 201-240.

Appendix: “A Stranger’s Impression of Marquette County”pp I-XIII.

Copper mines and mining, Lake Superior region, Description and travel

Michigan Economic History

Wendell’s History of Banking & Banks & Bankers of Michigan …

Detroit: Winn & Hammond 1902
Wendell, EmoryGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

(title continued) “… A concise history of banking operations from the earliest time to the present, with detailed accounts of Michigan banking history & law, & sketches of leading banks & bankers of the state as they are at the opening of the twentieth century.” 2 volumes

In the Preface, the author wrote that, “It has been the aim to give, in the first twenty chapters, … a concise and comprehensive account of the most important facts and incidents of banking history in Europe and in the United States. The rest of the work is devoted chiefly to the history of bank legislation in Michigan, to an account of Michigan banks as they are at the opening of the twentieth century, and to brief biographical sketches of men who have been prominent in this useful field of finance.” Chapters on Michigan banking are:

Volume 1
-The Detroit Banks
-Bank Legislation as it Now Stands

Volume 2
-Early Banking in Michigan
-The Wild-Cat Banks
-Foundation of the Modern System
-The General Banking Law of 1888
-Operation of the General Banking Law
-The Business of Trust Companies
-The Banks and Financial Crises
-The Grand Rapids Banks
-The Saginaw Banks
-The Banks of the Bay Cities
-Banks in other Cities and Towns

Banks and banking, Michigan financial history

“The Early History of the Furniture Industry in Grand Rapids”

Publications of the Historical Society of Grand Rapids No. 5, Vol. 1, Part 5

Grand Rapids: Historical Society 1909
Widdicomb, WilliamGo to Article

Also see: Wells, Percy A., & Hooper, John, Modern Cabinet Work, Furniture and Fitments in Section 684 Furnishings & home workshops in Manufacturing, Chemicals, Textiles & Handicrafts

Michigan industrial history, Grand Rapids furniture making

“The Public Domain, its Surveys and Surveyors”

Historical Collections Vol 27, 1897, 306-323

Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society
Woodard, C. S.Go to Article

This article begins with the historical background of the Ordinance of 1785, which provided the basis for surveys of public lands in the Northwest Territory. The author goes on to describe in detail the actual work of surveying by teams, including the practical problems they encountered in making and documenting accurate surveys. In addition he describes how the survey teams managed to live in the wilderness as they did their work. Although there is no profile of the author, he clearly was very familiar with the life and work of surveyors.


We have many more books from the late 19th and early 20th centuries on topics such as manufacturing, engineering, agriculture, business management, transportation and home economics. Visit the Subject Catalog on our Century Past Free Online Library.


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