Biographies & Memoirs of People from Michigan

Books on the lives of well-known people from Michigan, and of lesser-known people of interest.

A few of the people here: First Lady Betty Ford, 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, Walter Reuther, and Governor George Romney.

Go Down to Collective Biographies

Michigan Biography Collection

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.

The Reminiscences of James Burrill Angell

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)

The John Askin Papers, edited by Milo M. Quaife

Volume 2

Askin, John
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)

“Reminiscences of Early Days on Mackinac Island”

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)

Of Me I Sing

Bingay, Malcolm W.
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1949

A former newspaperman recalls his life in Detroit.

Bingay, Malcolm W. (1884-1953)

Burrows of Michigan and the Republican Party; a Biography and a History, Vol 1

Vol 2

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)

Cadillac and the Founding of Detroit

Brown, Henry D. et al
Detroit Historical Society 1976

Cadillac, Antoine Laumet de Lamothe (1658-1730)

Lewis Cass

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.

See also related works on this site: political history of Michigan on Michigan History: Politics & Government

For biographies and memoirs of early 19th century governors in the Great Lakes states, see:
– Edwards, Ninian Wirt, History of Illinois, from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards in Illinois History Politics & Government
St Clair, Arthur and Smith, William H., ed., St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Esarey, Logan, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison in Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Alvord, Clarence W. ed., Governor Edward Coles in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Reynolds, John, My Own Times, Embracing also the History of my Life in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Hemans, Lawton Thomas, Life and Times of Stevens Thomson Mason in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;

Cass, Lewis (1782-1866)

Fifty Years of Public Life. The Life and Times of Lewis Cass

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)

Waiting for the Morning Train; An American Boyhood

Catton, Bruce
Doubleday 1972

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)

Made in Detroit

Clemens, Paul
Doubleday 2005

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.

An Informal Biography of Ty Cobb: The Tiger Wore Spikes

McCallum, John
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)

Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin & the Great Depression

Brinkley, Alan
Vintage 1983

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)

Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer

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)

Timberland Times

Davenport, Eugene
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)

Thomas E. Dewey and His Times

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)

The Dream Maker: William C. Durant, Founder of General Motors

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)

The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

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)

Thomas Alva Edison: An American Myth

Wachhorst, Wyn
MIT 1981

“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?)

Betty Ford: Courage and Candor in the White House

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)

Gerald R. Ford

Brinkley, Douglas
Thorndike 2007

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: The Wayward Capitalist

Gelderman, Carol
Dial 1981

“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)

Henry Ford’s own Story

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)

Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate

Baldwin, Neil
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)

Aretha: From These Roots

Franklin, Aretha and Ritz, David
Villard 1999

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)

The First Twenty Years

Gallery, Douglas C.
Philadelphia: Dorrance 1962

“Looking back in laughter at boyhood days in Caro, in the “Thumb.””

Gallery, Douglas C. (1904-1991)

To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown: an Autobiography

Gordy, Berry
Warner 1994

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- )

Alex J. Groesbeck; Portrait of a Public Man

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)

First Lady of Detroit: The Story of Marie-Thérěse Guyon, Mme. Cadillac

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)

A Quaker Pioneer: Laura Haviland, Superintendent of the Underground

Danforth, Mildred E.
NY: Exposition 1961

Also see Haviland’s memoirs on this web page.

Haviland, Laura S. (1808-1898)

A Woman’s Life-Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Haviland

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)

The Land of the Crooked Tree

Hedrick, U.P.
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.
MIT 1991

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)

“Dr. Douglass Houghton”

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)

The Story of a French Homestead in the Old Northwest

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)

White Pine Days on the Taquamenon

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)

Iacocca: An Autobiography

Iacocca, Lee
Dell 1984

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 – )

My New Home in Northern Michigan and other Tales

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. (?-?)

My Life

Johnson, Earvin
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.

Johnson, Earvin Jr. (1959-)

Albert Kahn: Builder of Detroit

Matuz, Roger
Wayne State University 2002

Albert Kahn was an architect at the dawn of the automobile age, when the Motor City came into its own. This biography tells young readers how he overcame numerous disadvantages to make an indelible mark across the skyline of Detroit with skyscrapers, factories, hospitals and theatres.

Kahn, Albert (1869-1942)

Between the Dying and the Dead: Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s Life and the Battle to Legalize Euthanasia

Nicol, Neal and Wylie, Harry
University of Wisconsin 2006

Dr. Jack Kevorkian the enigmatic and intrepid physician dubbed Dr. Death has for years declined public interviews about his life and the events that led him to be a vehement advocate of doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. But here, finally, is his own life story, as told to Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie. Dr. Kevorkian gained international notoriety in the 1990s for his passionate advocacy of choice for terminal patients, who have increasingly won the right to decide the time, place, and method of their own death in several western countries.
In 1998, he assisted Thomas Youk, a terminally ill patient suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, with a lethal injection that was broadcast on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Immediately thereafter, Kevorkian was arrested, charged with second-degree murder, tried, and sentenced to 10-25 years in Michigan’s maximum-security prison system. Today, Dr. Kevorkian is in his late seventies and in failing health himself. He shares an eight-by-twelve-foot cell with another inmate in the Thumb Correctional Facility at Lapeer, Michigan. The unique story Prisoner Number 284797 shares far exceeds the battle to legalize euthanasia and end human suffering for terminal patients.

Kevorkian, Jacob (1928-2011)

Ring Lardner: A Biography

Elder, Donald
NY: Doubleday 1956

This is more than a biography of the great humorist from Niles, Michigan. In a penetrating full-length portrait, Donald Elder has explored Ring Lardner’s whole world—the vibrant and inventive times in which he lived, the unforgettable people who surrounded him, and the impudent words that came from his typewriter.
At the height of Lardner’s fame in the middle twenties he was known simultaneously as a baseball reporter unlike any the world had ever seen; a newspaper columnist part gadfly and part reporting etymologist; a writer of short stories as rich in native, idiom as they were polished in execution; and as a humorist who deplored the telling of “stories” as such. Whenever anyone said. “Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “Ring would never hesitate to say, “Stop.”
Mr. Elder, who grew up in Ring Lardner’s hometown, has included liberal selections from Lardner’s writing all through the book, and there is a complete listing of all his published work at the end. Four years of meticulous research went into the writing of this valuable and entertaining appreciation of Ring Lardner’s career.

Lardner, Ringgold “Ring” Wilmer (1885-1933)

Joe Louis: Heavyweight Champion

Jakoubek, Robert E.
Chelsea House 1990

A biography of Joe Louis describing his youth in a Detroit ghetto, his rise to heavyweight champion and major sports hero, and his role in destroying the myth of racial inferiority. (Real name: Joseph Louis Barrow)

Louis, Joseph (1914-1981)

Joe Maddy of Interlochen

Browning, Norma Lee
Chicago: Regnery 1963

“In 1924 Maddy was invited to Ann Arbor to be the supervisor of music in public schools and the Music Department head for the University of Michigan, where he developed one of the few conducting courses in the country… In 1928 Maddy formed the National High School Orchestra and Band Camp, incorporated as the National High School Orchestra Camp on July 6, 1927. The camp exists today as the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and has spawned several complementary entities including Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen College of the Creative Arts and Interlochen Public Radio in Interlochen, Michigan”. -Wikipedia entry for Joseph E. Maddy

Maddy, Joseph Edgar (1891-1966)

Madonna: An Intimate Biography

Taraborrelli, J. Randy
Simon & Schuster 2001

In Madonna: An Intimate Biography, author J. Randy Taraborrelli’s scrupulously researched and completely balanced unauthorized biography of one of the world’s most celebrated entertainers, the reader is allowed to draw his or her own conclusions. Indeed, the portrait bestselling author Taraborrelli paints here is of a truly complex woman, one who is driven and determined to succeed at any cost, yet who displays remarkable vulnerability when it comes to matters of the heart.
Madonna: An Intimate Biography is a truly explosive and definitive account of the life of an entertainer who is undoubtedly one of the most popular, trendsetting figures of our time. Full of amazing disclosures about her private life and public career, New York Times bestselling author J. Randy Taraborrelli’s latest work reveals Madonna in a new — and surprisingly inspiring — way. Not only a feast for fans, this book is great entertainment for anyone who enjoys a remarkable story, stirringly told.

Ciccone, Madonna Louise (1958-)

Father Marquette

Thwaites, Reuben Gold
NY: Appleton 1902

Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) was a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan’s first European settlement, Sault Ste. Marie, and later founded St. Ignace, Michigan. In 1673 Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to explore and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River.

Reuben Gold Thwaites was a noted historian and a director of the Wisconsin Historical Society. He carried out extensive research on Father Marquette as well as other French Jesuits in North America, compiling a 71-volume collection of Jesuit documents called The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. See the link to that collection, which is available online in translation, on the Explorers and Travelers in Great Lakes History page of this website.

Marquette, Jacques (1637-1675)

Life and Times of Stevens Thomson Mason, the Boy Governor of Michigan

Hemans, Lawton Thomas
Lansing: Michigan Historical Commission 1920

Stephens T. Mason was appointed acting Territorial Secretary (of Michigan Territory) at age 19 and acting Territorial Governor in 1834 at age 22. He was elected Governor of the newly-established state in 1835 and served until 1840. Mason died of pneumonia in New York in 1843, where he had started building a law practice after leaving Michigan politics. Mason’s sister was still alive when the author was researching this book, and she provided most of the details about Mason’s family origins in Kentucky, his boyhood, and his personal life. The political history in the book, which is almost entirely limited to the 1830s, was the product of years of research by the author. The volume contains about 70 illustrations, including portraits of many people prominent during that era.

Some of the chapter headings are:

-The Boundary Dispute with Ohio
-The Constitution of 1835
-Organizing the State Government
-Financial Difficulties and the Election of 1837
-Governor Mason’s Second Term
-The Patriot War
-Banks and Banking
-Internal Improvements and the Five Million Dollar Loan
-“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”

See also related works on this site: political history of Michigan on Michigan History: Politics & Government

For biographies and memoirs of early 19th century governors in the Great Lakes states, see:
– Edwards, Ninian Wirt, History of Illinois, from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards in Illinois History Politics & Government
St Clair, Arthur and Smith, William H., ed., St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Esarey, Logan, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison in Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Alvord, Clarence W. ed., Governor Edward Coles in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Reynolds, John, My Own Times, Embracing also the History of my Life in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
McLauglin, Andrew C., Lewis Cass in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

Mason, Stevens T. (1811-1843)

One Woman’s Work for Farm Women; the Story of Mary A. Mayo’s Part in Rural Social Movements

Buell, Jennie
Boston: Whitcomb & Barrows 1908

“Mary Anne Mayo was a pioneer woman born in a log cabin in Calhoun County, Michigan. She believed
passionately in the need for education for farm women. Becoming active in the Patrons of Husbandry, more commonly known as the Grange, she used this organization as a forum from which she voiced her concerns about education for women in a time when women did not speak in public. She traveled widely, conveying the importance of education for women, and especially rural women. She worked to improve the facilities for women’s education at institutions of higher learning… Her concern for the well-being of women and children led to the idea of the “Fresh Air Outing Program,” designed to give poor children from the city, working women, and mothers with babies, a two-week outing in the country in the summer. More than 1000 people participated in the program from 1895 to 1900.” – “Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame” website.

See also: Paine, Arthur Elijah, The Granger Movement in Illinois in Illinois Economic History

Mayo, Mary Anne Bryant (1845-1903)

Alfred Street

McLauchlin, Russell
Detroit: Conjure House 1946

Nostalgic reflections about boyhood on a quiet neighborhood in Detroit at turn of the 20th century. The articles first appeared in the Detroit News, apparently in the early 1940s.

McLauchlin, Russell Jaehne(1894-1975)

Pioneer Recollections; Semi-Historic Side Lights on the Early Days of Lansing

Mevis, Daniel S.
Lansing: Smith 1911.

The author’s recollections of his youth in Lansing as it was becoming the state capital. The volume is made up entirely of lively and unusual anecdotes. The book contains a photo of Chief Okemos at the age of 119(!).

Mevis, Daniel Stafford (1837-?)

The Bark Covered House or, Back in the Woods Again

Being a graphic and thrilling description of real pioneer life in the wilderness of Michigan. (illustrated)

Nowlin, William
Chicago: Donnelley & Sons 1937

This memoir was originally written in 1876, and vividly describes the struggle of Nowlin’s parents to carve a living out of the wilderness in Michigan after their arrival in 1834 in the place that would later be within the city limits of Dearborn. The narrative begins with the family’s trip from New York on the Erie canal and then a harrowing cruise on a steamboat from Buffalo to Detroit. Historian Milo Quaife supplemented the narrative with footnotes providing additional background information of interest.

Nowlin, William (1821-1884)

The Iron Hunter

Osborn, Chase S.
NY: Macmillan 1919

“Originally published in 1919, The Iron Hunter is the autobiography of one of Michigan’s most influential and flamboyant historical figures: the reporter, publisher, explorer, politician, and twenty-seventh governor of Michigan, Chase Salmon Osborn (1860-1949). Making unprecedented use of the automobile in his 1910 campaign, Osborn ran a memorable campaign that was followed by an even more remarkable term as governor. In two years he eliminated Michigan’s deficit, ended corruption, and produced the state’s first workmen’s compensation law and a reform of the electoral process. His autobiography reflects the energy and enthusiasm of a reformer inspired by the Progressive Movement, but it also reveals the poetic spirit of an adventurer who fell in love with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after traveling the world.” -Publisher

Osborn, Chase Salmon (1860-1949)

Google Speaks: Secrets of the World’s Greatest Billionaire Entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page

Lowe, Janet
John Wiley & Sons 2009

Written by bestselling author Janet Lowe, this book offers an engaging look at how Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, transformed their vision of a better Internet search engine into a business colossus. Lowe discusses the values that drive Brin and Page—for example, how they both live fairly modest lives, —and details how they have created a culture that fosters fun while, at the same time, keeping Google at the forefront of technology through relentless R&D investments and imaginative partnerships with organizations such as NASA.
In addition to examining Google’s breakthrough business strategies and new business models—which have transformed online advertising and changed the way we look at corporate responsibility and employee relations—Lowe explains why Google may be a harbinger of where corporate America is headed. She also addresses controversies surrounding Google, such as copyright infringement, antitrust concerns, and personal privacy and poses the question almost every successful company must face: as Google grows, can it hold on to its entrepreneurial spirit as well as its informal motto, “Don’t do evil”?
What started out as a university research project conducted by Sergey Brin and Larry Page has ended up revolutionizing the world we live in. Google Speaks puts these incredible entrepreneurs in perspective and shows you how their drive and determination have allowed them to create one of today’s most powerful companies.

Page, Lawrence Edward (1973 – )

C. W. Post; The Hour and the Man. A Biography with Genealogical Supplement

Major, Nettie Leitch
Washington: Judd & Detweiler 1963

The man who founded Post cereals after visiting John Harvey Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium for treatment for stomach problems. His first cereal was “Grape-nuts” and his second was “Post Toasties”; similar to the nearby Kellogg’s company’s “Corn Flakes”. When Post died in 1914 he left his 27-year-old daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post, the company and one of the largest fortunes of the early 20th century.

Post, Charles William (1854-1914)

American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post

Rubin, Nancy
Villard 1995

American Empress is a sweeping history of the dramatic life of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of breakfast-cereal magnate C. W. Post. As a young girl growing up in the Midwest, Marjorie Post helped glue cereal boxes in her father’s barn, later became a board member of his company, wed a diplomat and by late middle age was widely acknowledged as the unofficial “Queen of Washington, D.C.” The glamorous and warm-hearted Mrs. Post was also mother to actress Dina Merrill. Throughout her life, she gave generously to hundreds of civic, artistic and philanthropic causes, among which were the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Ballet and the Kennedy Center. By virtue of her brains, beauty and great wealth, Mrs. Post was a woman well ahead of her era, whose natural business acumen created the frozen foods industry and transformed the Postum Cereal Company into the General Foods Corporation.

Post, Marjorie Merriweather (1887-1973)

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Scahill, Jeremy
Nation 2007

Meet Blackwater USA, the private army that the US government has quietly hired to operate in international war zones and on American soil. Its contacts run from military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House; it has a military base, a fleet of aircraft and 20,000 troops, but since September 2007 the firm has been hit by a series of scandals that, far from damaging the company, have led to an unprecedented period of expansion.
Erik Prince, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blackwater, was born and raised in Holland, MI, graduating from Holland Christian High School and earning a B.A. from Hillsdale College. His father had founded and managed an auto parts manufacturing company in Holland.

Prince, Erik (1969- )

Between the Iron and the Pine. A Biography of a Pioneer Family and a Pioneer Town

Reimann, Lewis C.
Ann Arbor: Reimann 1951

Lewis Reimann was the son of German immigrants who ran a boarding-house for miners and loggers in the Iron River district of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This book consists of the author’s recollections with anecdotes and historical commentary about the region. Reimann conveys a sense of the occupational lifestyles and multiple ethnicities of Iron River’s inhabitants and deals in some detail with its folklore, material culture, foodways, and memorable local characters. He devotes a special chapter to Carrie Jacobs Bond, the genteel doctor’s wife who left the area after her husband died and became a noted composer of songs.
– Library of Congress American Memory website

Reimann, Lewis Charles (1890-1961)

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor

Lichtenstein, Nelson
Basic 1995

Walter Reuther, the most imaginative and powerful trade union leader of the past half-century, confronted the same problems facing millions of working Americans today: how to use the spectacular productivity of our economy to sustain and improve the standard of living and security of ordinary Americans. As Nelson Lichtenstein observes, Reuther, the president of the United Automobile Workers from 1946 to 1970, may not have had all the answers, but at least he was asking the right questions.
The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit vividly recounts Reuther’s remarkable ascent: his days as a skilled worker at Henry Ford’s great River Rouge complex, his two-year odyssey in the Soviet Union’s infant auto industry in the early 1930s, and his immersion in the violent labor upheavals of the late 1930s that gave rise to the CIO. Under Reuther, the autoworkers’ standard of living doubled.

Reuther, Walter Philip(1907-1970)

Journal of Major Robert Rogers

Rogers, Robert. Clements, William L., ed.
Worcester: The Society 1918

Robert Rogers was a frontiersman in New Hampshire at the beginning of the French and Indian War, when he began recruiting volunteers to serve as soldiers in new military companies that were soon being called “Rogers’ Rangers”, as he commanded them. Rogers and his rangers went on to fame in a number of actions against the French, and also led an attack against Pontiac at Detroit in 1763 to relieve the siege of Detroit.

In 1766 Rogers was given command of Fort Michilimackinac, at the northern tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan. In that position Rogers tried to put into play his own plan for establishing improved relations with the Indians in the region, but he had strong opposition from other British commanders. In 1767 Rogers was arrested and charged with treason. Although eventually acquitted, that essentially ended his military career. This journal covers the period of his command at Fort Michilimackinac.

Rogers, Robert (1731-1795)

The View from the Dugout: The Journals of Red Rolfe

Anderson, William M.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 2006

Baseball players as a rule aren’t known for documenting their experiences on the diamond. Red Rolfe, however, during his time as manager of the Detroit Tigers from 1949 to 1952, recorded daily accounts of each game, including candid observations about his team’s performance. He used these observations to coach his players and to gain an advantage by recording strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of opposing players and managers. Rolfe’s journals carry added value considering his own career as an All-Star Yankee third baseman on numerous world champion teams, where he was a teammate of Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.
Today, in the era of televised broadcasts, networks often wire a manager so that viewers can listen to his spontaneous comments throughout the game. Red Rolfe’s journals offer an opportunity to find out what a manager is thinking when no one is around to hear.

Rolfe, Robert Abial “Red” (1908-1969)

Romney’s Way: A Man and an Idea

Harris, T. George
Prentice Hall 1968

George Romney built an unconventional political career that inspired and moved many, including his son Willard Mitt Romney. Romney’s Way: A Man and An Idea is George Romney’s story, from his Mormon upbringing, through his journey as a maverick industrialist to his place in Republican leadership in Democratic Michigan. In 1966, T. George Harris took a five-month leave as senior editor at Look magazine to study Romney, his successes and failures and his innovations. Moving freely through Romney’s past and present, Romney’s Way explores the dominant theme of his life: With workers, executives, consumers, parents, taxpayers, party members and the poor, he sought to give people control of the forces that impinged upon their lives. He believed he lived in an age that assumed that all citizens must be part of an inert if affluent mass. Romney instead had a practical vision of how participatory democracy can work for everyone.

Romney, George Wilcken (1907-1995)

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: the Story of Diana Ross

Haskins, James
Dial 1980

A portrait of Ross’s rise to fame describes her Detroit girlhood and adolescence, her success with the Supremes, and her development as a solo performer and reveals her struggle to balance personal and professional commitments.

Ross, Diana (1944- )

Wah Sash Kah Moqua, or, Thirty-three years among the Indians

Sagatoo, Mary
Boston: White: 1897

The author was born and raised in Boston, where she met and married a man who was half-Chippewa. He died soon after they returned to his home near Bay City, Michigan, but she stayed on and married another Chippewa from his tribe two years later.

Sagatoo, Mary (Henderson) (1837-1914)

Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers

with brief notices of passing events, facts, and opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842

Schoolcraft, Henry R.
Philadelphia, Lippincott. 1851

“This is the autobiographical account of an explorer, government administrator, and scholar whose researches into the language and customs of the Chippewa and other Native American peoples of the Great Lakes region are considered milestones in nineteenth-century ethnography”. – American Memory Project.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864) left the family glass-making business in New York at the age of 25 to explore the western frontier. In 1818 he and a companion traveled into frontier Missouri, where he employed his interest in geology and mineralogy to write A View of the Lead Mines of Missouri. The expedition and publication brought him to the attention of Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who recommended him to Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass, who in turn invited Schoolcraft along on the 1820 Cass Expedition. That expedition traveled nearly 2,000 miles along Lake Huron and Lake Superior, down the Mississippi River, and back to Detroit. Schoolcraft chronicled the expedition in a book, which can be found on the Michigan-Explorers & Travelers page of this website.

Schoolcraft was a prolific writer on a number of subjects, and also participated in more expeditions. In 1822 he was appointed the first U.S. Indian Agent, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He married the daughter of an Ojibwa chief there, who helped teach him the Ojibwa language and assisted him in his ethnological studies of Native Americans. The couple moved to Mackinac Island in 1833 and remained there until 1840. Among his numerous accomplishments, he named many of Michigan’s counties. He created Indian-sounding county names by combining syllables from Native American languages.
– Wikipedia was used as a source for this note.

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe (1793-1864)

Lucinda Hinsdale Stone; Her Life Story and Reminiscences

Perry, Belle McArthur
Detroit: Blinn 1902

This is a collection of reminiscences of and about Lucinda Hinsdale Stone (1814-1900), one of Michigan’s foremost spokespersons for coeducation and equal educational rights for women during the late nineteenth century. Born in Hinesburg, Vermont, she received a classical education as the first female graduate of Hinesburg Academy. After teaching at Burlington Seminary and, later, as a private tutor on a Mississippi plantation, she married James Andrus Blinn Stone, a Baptist minister. In 1843, Lucinda Stone took over a fledgling branch of the University of Michigan in Kalamazoo. There she began to teach women through a separate female department until she resigned in 1863 in a controversy over exposing students to literature considered inappropriate for ladies. She continued to teach most of her students out of her own home and eventually escorted women on guided study tours of Europe. As part of her efforts to educate women, she helped found the Ladies Library Association of Kalamazoo. In 1873, influenced by various New England women’s clubs, she organized the first full-fledged women’s club in Michigan. There are few details here about her later life, but there are abundant testimonials about her importance as a public speaker, journalist, and charter member of the Michigan Woman’s Press Association. The book also includes abundant excerpts from Stone’s writings about eminent people she encountered abroad and at home.
– Library of Congress American Memory website

For works about leading American women of the 19th century, see:
– Adams, Elmer Cleveland and Foster, Warren Dunham, Heroines of modern progress in Century Past Collective Biography A – F
Parkman, Mary Rosetta, Heroines of service in Century Past Collective Biography G – P;
Worthington & Co. , Our Famous Women in Century Past Collective Biography Q – Z

Stone, Lucinda Hinsdale (1814-1900)

Some Notes of Her Personal Recollections

Tripler, Eunice H.
NY: Grafton Press 1910

This book was written by Eunice H. Tripler’s (1822-1910) son-in-law, Louis A. Arthur, from his notes of conversations with her. The story begins with her father as a young soldier being taken prisoner when Fort Detroit was surrendered to the British in the War of 1812. Eunice was born in Washington DC, while her officer father was stationed at the War Department. During the chapters covering Washington, as throughout the entire book, there are many remarks and anecdotes about prominent people, and also numerous random observations of the details of ordinary life in an upper-class household. In 1836 the family returned to Detroit, and in 1841 she married an army doctor, Charles S. Tripler. They lived in Detroit for many years, with Eunice remaining there when the doctor was deployed during the Mexican War and the Civil War.

Tripler, Eunice H. (1822-1910)

Soujourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend

Mabee, Carleton
New York University 1993

Sojourner Truth was born a slave near the Hudson River in Ulster County, New York, in the late 1700s. Called merely Isabella as a slave, once freed she adopted the name of Sojourner Truth and became a national figure in the struggle for the emancipation of both blacks and women in Civil War America.
Despite the discrimination she suffered as both a black and a woman, Truth significantly shaped both her own life and the struggle for human rights in America. Through her fierce intelligence, her resourcefulness, and her eloquence, she became widely acknowledged as a remarkable figure during her life, and she has become one of the most heavily mythologized figures in American history.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning biographer Carleton Mabee unearths heretofore-neglected sources and offers valuable new insights into the life of a woman who, against all odds, became a central figure in the struggle for the emancipation of slaves and women in Civil War America.

Truth, Sojourner (c. 1797-1883)

Petticoat Surgeon

Van Hoosen, Bertha
Chicago: Peoples Book Club 1947

Autobiography. The author graduated from the University of Michigan Medical school in 1892 and spent her medical career in Chicago. She gradually became an outspoken feminist who opposed the medical establishment’s discriminatory treatment of women, becoming in 1915 the first president of the American Medical Women’s Association.

Van Hoosen, Bertha (1863-1952)

Albertus C. Van Raalte, and His Dutch Settlements in the United States

Hyma, Albert
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1947

“Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte is the unquestioned leader of mid-nineteenth century Dutch immigration to Western Michigan, as well as the founder of what eventually became the City of Holland, Michigan….Van Raalte was a minister in the Dutch Reformed church in the Netherlands prior to his emigration to America. The Dutch Reformed Church [DRC] was essentially the national church in the Netherlands during the early nineteenth century…. Within three years of the arrival of [Van Raalte and] the first group of 53 Dutch immigrants, the Dutch population in Western Michigan expanded to 5000.” – New Netherland Institute website

Van Raalte, Albertus Christiaan (1811-1876)

Mary Austin Wallace: Her Diary, 1862: A Michigan Soldier’s Wife Runs Their Farm

McCune, Julia, ed.
Lansing: Michigan Civil War Centennial Commission 1963

This 20-page booklet consists of daily extracts from 24-year-old Mary Wallace’s diary after her husband enlisted. Interesting for the wide diversity of problems and tasks she mentions.

Wallace, Mary Austin (1841-1921)

The Autobiography of David Ward

Ward, David
NY. 1912

A literate life story apparently written for Ward’s children. Ward arrived in Michigan as a teenager in 1836 with his family. For nearly 10 years he taught school and worked at other odd jobs while pursuing a medical degree. Instead of becoming a doctor he emerged as a very successful lumberman. He describes his career in detail and doesn’t hold back in expressing his views of certain relatives and business acquaintances.

Ward, David (1822-1900)

A Child of the Sea; and Life among the Mormons

Williams, Elizabeth Whitney
Brooklyn: Jewett 1905

“This is the vivid memoir of a mid-nineteenth-century girlhood spent mostly on the islands of Lake Michigan and the onshore communities of Manistique, Charlevoix, Traverse City, and Little Traverse (now Harbor Springs), written by a woman who grew up to be a lighthouse keeper on Beaver Island and in Little Traverse. Williams was brought up Catholic by a French-speaking mother and an English-speaking father who was a ship’s carpenter for entrepreneurs engaged in the mercantile trade to and from these rapidly developing settlements. Williams depicts cordial, even intimate, relationships between her family and the Indians who lived nearby, and describes the courtship and arranged marriage of an Ottawa chief’s daughter who lived with her family for an extended period. The major portion of the book, however, is devoted to her eye-witness recollections of James Jesse Strang’s short-lived dissident Mormon monarchy on Beaver Island, amplified by stories she heard from disillusioned followers. Strang was expelled from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after disputing Brigham Young’s right to succeed Joseph Smith. Eventually he and his own loyal followers settled on Beaver Island and attracted a stream of new converts; at their demographic peak, the “Strangites” numbered 5,000 strong. Strang saw himself as a prophet and believed the rules he tried to establish were in accord with divine revelations. Williams describes the mounting tensions between Strang’s followers and the “gentile” residents who fled the island as Strang’s influence grew; incidents connected with Strang’s assassination by two former followers; and the ensuing exodus of most Strangites from Beaver Island. She later moved back there with her family, as did many of the earlier inhabitants.”
– Description from the U.S. Library of Congress American Memory website.

Williams, Elizabeth Whitney (1844-1938)

“Personal Reminiscences” Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Historical Collections Vol 8, 1886, 233-59; Vol 9, 1886, 166-72; Vol 10, 1888, 137-42; Vol 10, 1888, 142-47

Williams, Ephraim S.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

Ephraim Williams (born 1802) of Flint, MI relates the family’s history in Michigan, beginning with the arrival of his father, Major Oliver Williams, in Detroit in 1808, where he established a mercantile business. Major Williams brought his family, including young Ephraim, from Massachusetts in 1815. In 1819 he bought land near Saginaw and they became pioneer farmers in that area. In addition to farming, the father and sons began trading with the Indians, and over the years established trading posts. These memoirs include many details about their contacts with the Indians as well as anecdotes about travel, hunting, recreation etc. in Michigan in the early years.

Williams, Ephraim S. (1802-1890)

Soapy: A Biography of G. Mennen Williams

Noer, Thomas J.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 2006

In this first complete biography of G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, author Thomas Noer brings to life the story of one of the most controversial and colorful politicians in twentieth-century American politics and a giant in the Michigan Democratic Party.
In 1948, winning a stunning upset, Williams became Michigan’s second Democratic governor since the Civil War and was reelected five times. He served under Kennedy and Johnson as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, briefly held the post of U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, and was a member of the Michigan Supreme Court from 1970 to 1986, serving as Chief Justice in his last term.
Sporting his instantly recognizable trademark green and white polka-dot bow tie, Williams was a flamboyant character. He was also known for his energetic campaign style: he could say “hello” in seventeen languages, would shake hands with as many as five thousand factory workers a day, and made seemingly endless diplomatic trips to Africa. All of this captured the attention of the media and the public and made Williams into a celebrity.
The fascinating story of a complex and complicated man, Soapy will introduce one of the great American political figures of the twentieth century to a new generation of readers.

Williams, Gerhard Mennen “Soapy”(1911-1988)

“Hurry Up” Yost in Story and Song

Lawton, J. Fred
Ann Arbor: Edwards 1947

“Fond reminiscences of the almost legendary football coach at Ann Arbor.” Yost was the football coach at U of M from 1901-1923 and 1925-1926. While he was coach, Michigan won six national championships, ten Big Ten titles, and amassed a record of 165-29-10.

Yost, Fielding Harris (1871-1946)

Collective Biographies

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940

Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress

This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories. They chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, grueling factory work, and the immigrant experience.
– From the Collection’s Website.

American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men: Michigan Volume

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Barnard, F. A.
Cincinnati: Western Biographical 1878

These contain quite detailed biographies – often more than 500 words – of prominent people living in Michigan at the time of publication in the late 1870s. There are full indexes in the back of each volume.
Vol 1 – First Congressional District
Vol 2 – Second Congressional District
Vol 3 – Fourth & Sixth Congressional District
Vol 4 – Fifth Congressional District
Vol 5 – Seventh & Ninth Congressional Districts

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

Cyclopedia of Michigan: Historical and Biographical

Comprising a synopsis of General History of the State, and Biographical Sketches of Men who have, in their various spheres, contributed toward its development. Illustrated with steel-plate portraits

NY: Western Publishing 1900

A 22-page history of Michigan is followed by a chapter entitled “Material Development” providing information about economic activity at the end of the 19th century, and containing many demographic and economic tables and statistics. The biographies begin on page 69, in alphabetical order.

See also related works on this site: histories of Michigan on Michigan General History

“Detroit Rulers: French Commandants in the [Michigan] region from 1701 to 1760”

Historical Collections Vol 34, 1905, 303-340

Burton, Clarence M.
Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society

This paper contains brief biographical sketches of each of the 19 French commandants at Detroit. The first was Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who founded a colony at Detroit in 1701. The last was Sieur de Bellestre, who, shortly after the defeat of the French at Quebec in September 1759, was replaced by the first British commander at Detroit, Sir Jeffrey Amherst.

See also related works on this site: histories of Michigan on Michigan General History

In Memoriam, Founders and Makers of Michigan : a Memorial History of the State’s Honored Men and Women

Memorial Society of Michigan
Detroit: Clarke 193?

No Table of Contents; see the index at the back of the volume.

Men of Michigan: A Collection of the Portraits of Men Prominent in Business and Professional Life in Michigan

Michigan Art Company
Detroit: Michigan Art Co. 1904

The volume consists entirely of photo portraits, usually with no biographical details beyond, name, city and professional title. About 1,500 men are included. There is a 2-part index; the first arranged by name, and the second by town.

Collection of Local Histories and Atlases

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.
-Business directories.
-Multi-volume photo collection sets entitled “Art Work” for the Lake Superior region, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties, published in the 1890s.
-Atlases or plat books for many counties, often with directories. There are 131 atlases, nearly all post-1870.

But Men are More Interesting than Rivers

Michigan State Library
Lansing: Michigan State Library 1968

Annotated bibliography of 110 Michigan biographies.

Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame Website – Inductees by Name

Michigan Women’s Historical Center

This website contains one-page biographies of numerous Michigan women of note.

Historic Women of Michigan: A Sesquicentennial Celebration

Troester, Rosalie Riegle, ed.
Michigan Women’s Studies Association 1987

First Ladies of Michigan

Weddon, Willah
NOG 1994

Michigan Governors: Their Life Stories

Weddon, Willah
NOG 1994

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