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The University Comes to Ann Arbor

1817: Founded in Detroit in 1817, the University of Michigan had no real home until the regents agreed to accept the Ann Arbor Land Company's gift of a forty-acre site. Classes began in Ann Arbor in 1841 with two professors, seven students, a large hay field for a campus, a three-story classroom-dormitory building on State Street, and four houses for professors. By 1849 a second classroom-dormitory building was needed, built under the thrifty supervision of chemistry professor Silas Douglass, who went on to supervise the construction of the Medical Building in 1850, the Detroit Observatory in 1854, and the Chemical Laboratory in 1856.

In 1852 the regents hired Henry Philip Tappan as the university's first president. His vision of a great university on the German model laid the foundation for what has become one of the premier universities of the world. During his tenure, the Medical and Law Departments were added to the original Literary Department and the dormitories converted to classrooms. A firm believer in scientific research and the practical application of knowledge, Tappan broke with the past by recruiting faculty based on intellectual accomplishments rather than religious denomination.

Caption 1: Professor Douglass also founded the gas company and served as mayor. His home still stands next to the First Baptist Church on East Huron Street.

Caption 2: His home still stands next to the First Baptist Church on east Huron Street.

Caption 3: Henry Philip Tappan's liberal approach and confident manner offended the regents, who forced his resignation in 1863, despite vigorous public protest. Later President James B. Angell said Tappan was "the largest figure of a man that ever appeared on the Michigan campus. And he was stung to death by gnats!"

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