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The maps collection features local and county area maps of historical interest, including over 80 maps and drawings from the Combination Atlas Map of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Compiled, drawn and published from personal examinations and surveys by Everts & Stewart, c.1874, 1895, Everts & Stewart.

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Browse the 1874 Atlas and Map of Washtenaw County
(Additional Washtenaw county histories and atlases are available through Michigan County Histories and Atlases digitization project.)

View the Indian Trails of Washtenaw County Map from W.B. Hinsdale's 1927 book The Indians of Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Historic Buildings of Ann Arbor

The Historic Buildings of Ann Arbor collection includes over 200 images and historical information on houses, churches, commercial, and other local buildings in Ann Arbor.

From Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan, by Susan Wineberg and Marjorie Reade, c.1992, Ann Arbor Historical Foundation, Ann Arbor Historic District Commission and Cornelia E. Corselius collection, 1909 and undated, Bentley Historical Library.

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by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg, 1992, 1998

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The Ann Arbor Postcard collection consists of over 260 images of area postcards from 1890 to the present.

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Footnotes on Pictorial History of Ann Arbor

Chapter 1 (1824-1859)

Ann Arbor/Annarbour - The Naming of Ann Arbor

The most recent version of how the name Ann Arbor was chosen by John Allen, one of its founders, is provided by Russell Bidlack, in his book, Ann Arbor's First Lady: Events in the Life of Ann I. Allen (published by the Bentley Historical Library in 1998). In that book, Dr. Bidlack states that Ann Arbor was named in honor of John Allen's wife, Ann:

"Named in her honor five months before Ann's arrival, his having rejected 'Allensville' and 'Annapolis' as possibilities, John Allen, the town's principal founder, had chosen the word 'arbour' to follow his wife's first name, it being commonly used in Virginia for a bower of trees. In Michigan Territory, arbour seemed appropriate to describe the setting of sunshine and shadow produced by the scattered oaks in the 'opening.' In so doing, he created a place name that would remain unique. Recorded officially for the first time in a plat map of the village on May 25, 1824, the name was written 'Annarbour,' but thereafter it appeared as two words. The Allens insisted throughout their lives, however, on the pre-Webster spelling of arbor." (p. vi)

Some previous writers on the naming of Ann Arbor suggested that it was named for both of the wives of the founders, Ann Allen and Mary Ann Rumsey. Russell Bidlack himself, in an earlier 1962 publication, John Allen and the Founding of Ann Arbor, said:

"There can be little doubt that Allen and Rumsey chose the name 'Ann' because Allen's wife bore the name and because Mrs. Rumsey was generally called Ann, although her full name was Mary Ann."

In the 1998 book, Russell Bidlack notes in passing, "Rumsey's wife had the middle name Ann, but she was not called by that name."

Most earlier versions credit both wives and even suggest that Mary Ann Rumsey was more involved since she was present at the time and Ann Allen did not arrive until five months later. The version of the naming given by O. W. Stephenson in Ann Arbor: The First Hundred Years (1927) is:

"Some time about the middle of May, when the leaves were unfolding, Mary Anne Rumsey was sitting in an arbor of wild grapevines which ran up over a plum tree near the bank of Allen's Creek, just south of Huron street, and a hundred feet or more west of First street. Both Allen and Rumsey had spent some time in making this arbor more beautiful and for a time it had been their home. Mrs. Rumsey was wont to sew in this arbor and to wash clothes in a huge iron cauldron nearby. One day, perhaps soon after the survey was made, when John Allen was searching for a name for his town, he approached the arbor where Mrs. Rumsey was sitting and, lifting his hat, remarked with a smile, 'My! What a restful place you have here; what do you call it?' Mrs. Rumsey resplied, 'This is Ann's Arbor; don't you think that is a good name for the place?' John Allen agreed that it was a good name for not only that particular spot but for the whole place he and Mr. Rumsey had lately surveyed. He saw in the name a way of honoring Mrs. Rumsey and his own wife, and rushed off to find Mr. Rumsey to solicit his opinion. Rumsey was struck with the name and the two men decided none could be better. It was duly recorded on their plat, therefore, and so it appeared May 25 when the plat was recorded in Detroit." (p. 38)

Wystan Stevens, in his charming brochure, The Naming of Ann Arbor (1974) (underwritten by the Ann Arbor Bank), addressed this particular conception of the arbor portion of the name:

"Many present-day residents are still confused about the origin of the name which Rumsey and Allen chose for the village. A persistent myth would persuade us that their wives, both named Ann, were a leisured pair who whiled away the warm afternoons sewing and exchanging gossip in the shade of a wild grape arbor built for them by indulgent husbands.

"It is a very romantic legend, to be sure. But Allen and the Rumseys arrived in February, and we know that the name 'Ann Arbor' had already had been chosen by May 25, only three months later, when it was recorded at the office of the Register of Deeds in Detroit.

"Spring weather in these parts is notoriously bad for gossiping in arbors. Nor was there much yet to gossip about. The husbands were too busy surveying their village and selling lots to spend time building anything frivolous. Grapes weren't yet in season. And Ann Allen -- the other Ann -- didn't arrive until October, five months after Ann Arbor was named."

In another passage in his book, Dr. Bidlack says Ann Arbor's first historian, Mary Clark, writing in 1863, correctly explained the choice of arbor:

"It was called 'Arbor' on account of the noble aspect of the original site of the village - which was a burr oak opening, resembling an arbor laid out and cultivated by the hand of taste."

John Allen spelled the name 'Annarbour.' But Russell Bidlack explains in his latest book:

"While map-maker Judd spelled the name 'Annarbour,' and Governor Cass wrote it as two words, John Sheldon inserted a hyphen between Ann and Arbour. The Governor's choice became standard, except for the gradual acceptance of Noah Webster's 'American' spelling of arbor, i.e., arbor, although neither John nor Ann ever made the change."

Cities of the United States (Gale Research, 3rd. ed., 1998) cites another theory of the naming:

"According to an unsubstantiated story, however, the settlement was named after a mysterious young woman guide named Ann D'Arbeur who lead parties from Detroit westward into the wilderness as early as 1813." (vol.3, p.189)

Of these various versions, the documentary evidence supports Dr. Bidlack's explanation of how John Allen chose the name Ann Arbor.

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Old Northwest - The "Old Northwest" became the first possession of the United States through the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain, which ended the American Revolution in 1783, the area known as the "Old Northwest" was organized as the Northwest Territory and it considered of what are now the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. Ownership of this area of the then young United States included land bordering the Great Lakes. The ownership and use of this land was a continuing source of friction between the British and their Native American allies and the U.S. The war of 1812 between Great Britain and the U.S. was fought in large part because of the disputed ownership of the Northwest Territory.

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Masonry - Refers to the largest secret society in the world, formally known as the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons." The Masons (or Freemasons as they are also known) are not governed by any central authority. Authority is divided among many national organizations around the world called "grand lodges." Religious tolerance, loyalty to local government and political compromise were basic to the beliefs of the Masons. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other Revolutionary War leaders were Masons. Despite its popularity, the organization remains a controversial among some religions and governments. The name "Mason" comes from "stonemason," a person who is skilled in building structures (such as a cathedral made out of stone). Membership is no longer limited to stonemasons. Masonry as a secret order dates back to 14th century England and Scotland.

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Chapter 2 (1860-1879)

Fort Sumter - This U.S. fort was built on a large sandbar, also known as a shoal, at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. In 1860, the South Carolina government passed a law to withdraw (or secede) South Carolina from the United States of America. After seceding from the U.S.A., South Carolina demanded that the Federal government turn over all U.S. property to the state. By 1861, South Carolina joined the new Confederate States of America, which was made up of 11 southern states. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired cannon on Fort Sumter, which the Federal government refused to give to the Confederates. The two-day battle over Fort Sumter was the first violent act of war between the United States and the Confederate States, a conflict which came to be known as the Civil War. On April 14, the Federal commander surrendered Fort Sumter to the Confederate army. The fort remained in Confederate hands until near the end of the Civil War in April-May 1865.

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Confectionery - A store that sells candy or pastry.

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Abolitionist - A person who does not believe in slavery and wants to abolish or destroy it completely.

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Chapter 3 (1880-1899)

Booming - When the members of the Businessmen's Association of Ann Arbor said the purpose of the taxes were for "booming the city," they wanted to use the tax money to publicize the good points about Ann Arbor and to attract more businesses to the city. This is also called "boosterism," meaning an attempt to cause rapid settlement and growth of a city or town.

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Alderman - "Alderman" is a word that we have borrowed from the English and Irish. In this country, an alderman is part of a city's legislative body. We now call this our City Council and its members are called councilmen and councilwomen.

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Macademized - "Macademized" refers to a type of road construction where workers crush small broken stones into a compact mass and then use cement or asphalt to bring the stones together tightly so the stones will stick together. The result is a smooth, protective surface on the road. These kinds of roads replaced dirt roads or sometimes roads made out of wooden planks.

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Prohibition - The word "prohibition" here refers to a movement to prohibit the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages (for example, beer, wine, whiskey and other liquor). In the late 19th century, political parties like the Anti-Saloon League and the Prohibition Party promoted legislation and constitutional changes to stop the production of drinks made from alcohol. They finally succeeded in 1919 when the states approved the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which officially forbid (or "prohibited") the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic drinks. The 18th Amendment was repealed (or "overturned") in 1933 when the states approved the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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Temperance - Unlike those who believed in the total prohibition of alcoholic drinks, there were others who believed in the moderate use of alcohol. These people belonged to the "temperance" movement. They even recommended wine and beer as replacements for hard liquor. The temperance movement in the United States began in the late 19th century but by the Civil War many leaders of the temperance movement backed total prohibition of alcohol.

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Chapter 4 (1900-1919)

Milling - This is a business that grinds grain, such as wheat, into flour. The Ann Arbor area had many mills in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Cooperage - A "cooper" is a person who makes or repairs wooden barrels, casks, or tubs. The "cooperage" is the cooper's place of business.

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Liveries - A "livery" is a place to feed, stable, and care for horses, and sometimes it is a place that rents horses out to customers for short periods of time. Because of the popularity of the automobile in the early 20th century, by 1919 Ann Arbor had no more liveries.

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Vaudeville - This was a type of stage entertainment in a theater. A "vaudeville" show would include many different and unrelated acts by singers, dancers, comedians, acrobats, and actors. Vaudeville shows were replaced by movies as the most popular form of entertainment.

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Polyscope - This was an early optical device used to show motion pictures or what we now call movies. One of the largest of the companies using this device was the Selig Polyscope Co., which became among the first movie companies to move, in 1908, to Los Angeles to take advantage of the mild climate and sunshine which were necessary for making movies all year long when filmmaking was mostly done outdoors.

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Kinetoscope - The "kinetoscope" was a device for watching moving pictures. In 1893, Thomas Alva Edison and his staff developed and marketed the kinetoscope, which became very popular in penny arcades. People would watch the moving pictures through a special viewer, leading them to call these "peep shows."

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Teutonic - A word used to indicate Germanic people or culture. It comes from the Teutons, who were an ancient people who spoke a language now classified as belonging to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family.

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The Great War - World War I, fought from 1914 to 1918 mostly in Europe, was known as "The Great War," partly because it was the largest war the world had yet experienced.

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Doughboys - A word used for American infantrymen, especially in World War I. Originally, a "doughboy" was a small, round donut. Early in the Civil War, the word was applied to the large brass buttons on the soldier's uniforms, which looked like donuts. Eventually, the infantrymen themselves were called "doughboys."

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Pandemic - A disease that breaks out over a wide geographic area and affects a large percentage of the population.

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Additional Resources

Ann Arbor & Washtenaw County

Ann Arbor history (a collection of online texts from UM's digital collections and google books)

Photographs of Ann Arbor, (from Google's LIFE photo archive)

Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now

AADL’s Select Sites of Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County History

Another Ann Arbor

Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit program

Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County

Selected Bibliography for Washtenaw County Research

Jewish Community Center of Washtenaw County
(and Jewish Historical Society of Washtenaw County)

Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor and vicinity

The University of Michigan

Bentley Historical Library's Digital Histories and Publications: The University of Michigan

(student yearbook, 1897-1931)

The President's Report to the Board of Regents (1870-1966)
Each volume is listed separately, in chronological order

Proceedings of the Board of Regents
A permanent historical record of actions taken by the University of Michigan Board of Regents from 1837 to the present.

The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey

Voices: Early Years at the University of Michigan


Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Michigan County Histories
Page-by-page access to 192 histories and county atlases dating from 1866 to 1926

Michigan Electronic Library - Michigan History Links

Michigan Historical Center

Archives of Michigan

Selected print materials at the Ann Arbor District Library

Ann Arbor, Michigan: a pictorial history. By Marilyn S. McLaughlin (1995)

Ann Arbor: the first hundred years. By Orlando W. Stephenson (1927)

Ann Arbor yesterdays. By Lela Duff. (1962)

Ann's amazing arbor : the growth and groans of a great university town. By Alger Buell Crandell. (1965)

Celebrating our history : 160 years of the Ann Arbor News. Compiled by the Ann Arbor News. (1995)

Historic buildings of Ann Arbor, Michigan. By Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg. (2nd ed., 1992)

A History of Ann Arbor. By Jonathan Marwil. (1987)

History of Washtenaw County, Michigan ; and, History of Michigan. (1881,1990)

John Allen and the founding of Ann Arbor. By Russell E. Bidlack (1962)

Memories of old Ann Arbor town. By Sam Sturgis (1967)

Old Ann Arbor Town. Ann Arbor Federal Savings (1974)

Pictorial history of Ann Arbor, 1824-1974. By J. Fraser Cocks III. and others (Michigan Historical Collections, Bentley Library, 1974.)

Washtenaw County : an illustrated history. By Ruth Bordin. (1988).

About The Making of Ann Arbor


The Ann Arbor District Library, the University of Michigan University Library and the U-M’s Bentley Historical Library have entered into a partnership to create The Making of Ann Arbor, an online, public website on the history and development of the Ann Arbor community. MOAA is an illustrated narrative about Ann Arbor from its pioneer days when it was part of Michigan Territory to the early twentieth century. The project draws upon the three libraries’ resources and the expertise of all three partners to build a website of interest to the citizens of Ann Arbor. In addition to the illustrated narrative history of our city, the website has a searchable image database, including many photographs and other visual images not used in the narrative.

The partners view their initial collaborative efforts as laying a foundation for an ongoing, evolving project about the history of Ann Arbor from the 1820s to the present. In envisioning future plans, we plan to add more narrative to bring the city’s history forward in time, to contribute additional historical materials in digital form, and to extend our partnership by seeking other collaborators in the community who will enrich the site with historical narratives, photographs, and other materials about Ann Arbor, its people, businesses, and organizations.

To take on this digital project, three elements were required: historical content, technical skills in the digital arena, and experience and expertise in working with a wide and diverse public. Over the years, the three partner institutions collectively have accumulated a rich documentary and visual history of Ann Arbor and surrounding areas; the institutions have developed a strong staff expert in working in the digital arena; and they have each interacted with students at all levels, local history enthusiasts, and other citizens interested in the forces and events that have defined Ann Arbor. Each partner has made invaluable contributions to The Making of Ann Arbor.

The Bentley Historical Library

The Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan was founded in 1935 by the U-M Board of Regents with the double task of documenting the history of the state of Michigan and the activities of its people, organizations, and associations as well as documenting the history of the University of Michigan. Over the past six and a half decades, the library has accumulated and made available for research more than 40,000 linear feet of historical documents, 1.5 million photographs and other visual materials, 55,000 books, thousands of historical maps and other documentation about Michigan. Ann Arbor is well represented in the library’s collections on North Campus and are available to all citizens.

The Bentley’s role in the pilot project was to provide the content, the images and narrative used to tell the story of The Making of Ann Arbor. The narrative is based on a Bentley publication prepared in 1974 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Ann Arbor. The Pictorial History of Ann Arbor, 1824-1974 served as the basis for this online project. The illustrated history is divided into seven chapters based on time periods in the city’s development. Bentley staff have expanded upon the original publication by finding additional images and historical documents for the website.

University of Michigan University Library’s Digital Library

The University of Michigan’s University Library is one of the nation’s leaders in digital initiatives. The University Library’s Digital Library has undertaken a national role in devising methods to control, manage, and present digitized texts and visual images. Through cost-effective use of information technology, the Digital Library staff has taken unique historical documentation and converted it to digital form to make it more accessible.

The University of Michigan's University Library Digital Library Initiatives (DLI) program is supported by several core partner organizations with additional project support from a variety of foundations, government agencies, and campus units. The program uniquely draws upon the complementary expertise of library and technology organizations, and is considered a premier program nationally. Partners include the University Library, the School of Information, the Information Technology Division, and the Media Union.

Launched in 1993, the program has evolved into a base-funded, campus-wide program in the development and maintenance of digital resources. DLI focuses on:

  • projects which build digital collections and access tools
  • providing capabilities and services for UM units and individuals
  • providing frameworks and systems to federate distributed information
  • serving as a catalyst for addressing electronic information issues on campus.

As part of its outreach to the community and in the interest of making valuable historical materials widely accessible, the DLI contributed its technical expertise and equipment to the MOAA project. DLI staff created digital versions of the photos, drawings and printed materials that make up MOAA. It also used the methods it has developed in its Image Services ( to put these materials online and to make their descriptions searchable, as well as providing panning and zooming tools to work with the images.

The Ann Arbor District Library

The third component of this joint venture is the Ann Arbor District Library. While the Bentley acted as the content provider for the website and the University Library contributed its technical skills in digitizing text and images and developing powerful search engines to make the site work, the Ann Arbor Public Library was responsible for the design and management of the “Making of Ann Arbor” Web site. The Library team (including librarians and members of the Technical Services and Information Access and Systems departments) is also responsible for developing descriptive information to assist users searching and browsing the site. Most of this information, hidden in the coding of a specific text or image file, consists of keywords and phrases that describe the content or define the context of that file. This information allows users to search by subject, such as business, sports, or transportation; proper names, such as Ann Allen or Lewis Cass; and image type, such as posters or portraits. Subjects and keywords have been assigned based on the anticipated searching patterns of a wide variety of users.

Next Steps

Through this initial phase of the project, Ann Arbor’s citizens will have an opportunity to connect with the rich historical documentation on the history of the city and to the university that has preserved these materials over many decades. We seek the help of the Ann Arbor community in the next phases of development. We welcome critical assessment of the content and presentation of The Making of Ann Arbor and contributions of additional ideas for the site’s expansion and improvement.

To Contact the Partners

Ann Arbor District Library
Downtown Library
343 S. Fifth Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
phone: (734) 327-4200
More Information

Bentley Historical Library
University of Michigan
1150 Beal Ave. Ann Arbor,
MI 48109-2113
phone: 734-764-3482
fax: 734-936-1333
More Information

Digital Library Services
University of Michigan
818 Hatcher South
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1205
Phone: 734-764-8016
Fax: 734-763-5080
More Information


The partners wish to acknowledge the assistance of the Arts of Citizenship Program which provided a small grant at a critical time to support the digitization of text and images used in The Making of Ann Arbor.

We would like to hear from you. Please take a moment to complete the feedback form so that we may continue to improve the site.

MoAA Texts

The Making of Ann Arbor Text Collection comprises the text portion of the collection and will include digitized versions of local histories, city directories, and atlases that can be keyword searched as well as read page by page.

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Pictorial History of Ann Arbor

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The Pictorial History of Ann Arbor collection includes over 400 historical images of Ann Arbor from 1824 to 1974, plus searching and browsing access to the text of The Pictorial History of Ann Arbor, 1824-1974, edited by J. Fraser Cocks, III, c.1974, Michigan Historical Collections, The University of Michigan.

John and Ann Allen, founders of Ann Arbor.
(Bentley Historical Library)

Warranty Deed from John and Ann Allen to James Kingsley, 1834
(Bentley Historical Library)

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Advertising Index

Book Credits and Table of Contents

A Note of Appreciation

Bibliographical Note

Read the Pictorial History of Ann Arbor

Welcome to the Making of Ann Arbor

The Making of Ann Arbor is a public website on the history and development of the Ann Arbor Community, created in collaboration with the Ann Arbor District Library, the Bentley Historical Library, and the University of Michigan's Digital Library Production Services.