Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

Welcome to AADL's local history page!

We have a large local history collection located on the second floor of the Downtown Library where you'll find a variety of sources for genealogy research. We've also produced several online collections you may be interested in, including...

50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair The 50 year history of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair including an exhibit on the path the Art Fair has taken, a collection of over 100 images including photos and promotional materials, audio memories of art fair participants and visitors, and videos.
Ann Arbor Architecture Archive Learn the history of the buildings around us with this gallery of images and text about Ann Arbor's historic structures. Includes the full text of Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Minutes A chance to view the history of Ann Arbor through the eyes of its governing body. Search the full text of Ann Arbor City Council meeting minutes from 1891-1930 or browse available meetings. All sets of minutes can be viewed as images or as searchable pdfs.
Ann Arbor Cooks Online collection of heirloom recipes and cookbooks from Ann Arbor area community organizations, churches and businesses. Browse or search recipes, or view cookbooks in their entirety. Includes access to Repast, the acclaimed culinary history magazine.
AACHM Living Oral History An oral history project in partnership with the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. The interviews serve as a road map illustrating what local African-Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today.
Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive The history of North America's longest running festival for independent and experimental film is told through programs, posters, flyers, photographs, newspaper articles and original interviews.
Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now Online collection of over 130 articles from the Ann Arbor Observer covering a wide variety of local history topics, fully searchable and browsable by subject. Also has an image gallery of historic Ann Arbor photos.
Ann Arbor Police Department History An online exhibit of the history of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Includes full-text of True Crimes and the History of the AAPD, The History of the Outdoor Range and hundreds of photographs and images of memorabilia collected by the department since 1847.
Ann Arbor Summer Festival Archive Learn about the history of one of Ann Arbor's largest cultural events, featuring programs and posters from each year, contemporary newspaper articles, hundreds of photos, and original interviews with past Festival directors.
Downtown A2 Historical Street Exhibit Program Tour the permanent sidewalk exhibits at sixteen landmark sites throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Includes full-text and keyword access to an image database of hundreds of images from each location.
The Ford Gallery of Ann Arbor Founders Who are the people who made Ann Arbor the city we all know and love? From the earliest pioneers to twentieth-century philanthropists, here are the stories of businessmen and women, visionaries and artists, educators and entrepreneurs, doctors, ministers, and mayors.
Freeing John Sinclair: The Day Legends Came to Town Learn about a piece of Ann Arbor's radical past with photos, essays, newspaper articles, the entire run of the Ann Arbor Sun, and original interviews. This website documents the activities of John Sinclair, the day John Lennon and Stevie Wonder played a concert in Ann Arbor, how an Ann Arborite ended up on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and the actions the White Panther/Rainbow People's Party.
Making of Ann Arbor Discover the history of Ann Arbor through full-text access to several books and several image collections. Includes a collection of postcards, historic buildings, advertisements, and maps of early Ann Arbor.
Old News Read newspapers from Ann Arbor's past to learn more about the places around you. Old News includes over 115,000 articles and photos from the Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor Courier, Ann Arbor Argus, and Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat. Read full issues of 19th century newspapers and browse or search articles and photos from the 20th.
pictureAnnArbor An online photo collection of Ann Arbor past and present. Search for images of Ann Arbor and add some of your own.
Signal of Liberty Ann Arbor's prominent abolitionist newspaper, with issues from 1841-1847 now available online. Browse the articles in the original or search all newspaper items.
University Musical Society: A History of Great Performances This collection includes full text searching and browsing access to the first 100 years of historical programs from University Musical Society concerts, as well as hundreds of photographs from their 131-year history.
Ypsilanti Gleanings Ypsilanti Gleanings is the official publication of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, which through painstakingly-researched articles, first-hand accounts, and historical photographs, presents a clear picture of the Ypsilanti that once was and still is all around us. Explore this online archive by searching, browsing by issue or browsing by subject, and check out the image gallery of photographs and illustrations from the collection of the YHS.

We've also invited some local historians to contribute to a local history blog, which begins below. Thanks for your interest, and enjoy!

The Monuments Men Revisted

The Monuments Men, the movie with George Clooney and Matt Damon, was based on the book The Monuments Men : Allied heroes, Nazi thieves, and the greatest treasure hunt in history by Robert M. Edsel.

The real Monuments Men were a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of them volunteers, who were museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. These mostly middle-aged family men, walked away from successful careers into the epicenter of the war, risking—and some losing—their lives. They raced against time in order to save the world’s greatest cultural treasures from destruction at the hands of Nazi regime.

Two of these brave men lived among us quietly for decades, one, Charles Sawyer was previously blogged about here, the second was Ralph Hammett.

Professor Hammett taught in the architecture department at U of M starting in 1931, with a hiatus to join the army in 1943, and retired from the University in 1965. His work as one of the Monuments Men and a noted architect will be forever remembered in Ann Arbor having designed some homes as well as buildings such as an addition to the Ann Arbor (then Women's) City Club on Washtenaw, the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church parish hall and chapel, the Lloyd Douglas Memorial Chapel, and the Lutheran Student Center. He also designed the Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Springfield, Illinois. He was named “Architect of the Year” in 1957 by the Michigan Society of Architects. Hammett died in 1984. You can read Old News articles about him here. There is also an extensive website created by his grandson here.

Check out that newfangled voting machine!

Voting Machine Demonstration, March 1942

On your way to the voting booth today, consider what passed for cutting-edge voter technology in Tree Town back in March 1942.

Oldnews has over 200 articles and photos of past Elections in Ann Arbor and 160 that reference past Ann Arbor Mayors, including this one of former Mayor Cecil O. Creal taking the oath of office - with his left hand - 55 years ago.

Ann Arbor Art Fairs: AADL has the Good Stuff

As the Ann Arbor Art Fairs open today, you can learn a lot from AADL. Take a look at 50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, a digital collection which includes over 100 images, plus audio recollections and videos. And if you’re interested in viewing past fair posters from our Art Print Collection, click here.

A Community for Victory - Ann Arbor in World War Two

AADL is pleased to partner with the University of Michigan Stephen S. Clark Library to explore community life in Ann Arbor during World War Two. "A Community for Victory - Ann Arbor in World War Two", which will be on display May 1-August 1 on the 2nd floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library, makes use of AADL’s local historical archives, the Clark Library's map collection, and special materials from the the American Culinary History Collection.

Among the documents on display from AADL’s collection are Ann Arbor News articles and photographs highlighting homefront activities during World War II, including the promotion of victory gardens, scrap drives, and bond drives. Nearly 800 additional articles and photographs from the World War II era are available via AADL’s Oldnews site.

An opening reception will take place at the Stephen S. Clark Library, 913 S. University Ave., on Thursday, May 1st, 4- 6pm, with coffee and light refreshments provided. Public welcome!

AADL partners with UMS to present UMS Rewind

AADL is pleased to have partnered with the University Musical Society to help build UMS Rewind, a searchable database of performances, programs, and photographs from 135 years of UMS history.

Open to all researchers, this unique research tool is available for searching by composer or composition, conductor or performer, and provides access to repertoire, programs, and other material detailing the unique legacy of UMS and the history of touring in the performance arts in America.

Databases for the History Buff

A click on the aadl.org Research tab at the top of the page will introduce you to a wealth of databases covering such subjects as Car Repair, Literature, and Investing.

For those with a history interest, the databases are especially rich.

Start at the History and Biography Page and go from there. You'll find local history aadl.org-hosted sites like Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now, Freeing John Sinclair, and Old News. An exploration of Other Sites reveals a yield so diverse, you can find, within minutes, the legend of the Birth of Hatshepsut, National Security discussions between Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford, a transcript of the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War, and the actual scanned pages of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from May 24, 1883 touting the Opening of the Brooklyn Bridge (click on "View" and then "View Item in PDF" to get the full article) along with the May 31, 1883 edition recording the subsequent, deadly Panic on the Bridge and much more.

The Newspaper section allows you to browse historical editions of the Ann Arbor News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others. If you know what you're looking for, you can easily track down such unusual items as the Washington Post's 1933 Obituary of Mrs. George A. Custer.

Let your love of history go wild and see what you can find.

AADL is a Community Partner at the Ann Arbor Film Festival

The 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival is only days away and the Ann Arbor District Library is participating as a Community Partner for "Film Competition 5" featuring filmmakers ages 6 and up.

The screening takes place Saturday, March 29 at 11am at the Michigan Theater. Take a look at the list of films and if you enter this code - AAFF52_AADL - when buying online tickets, you will get 10% off the advance ticket price ($5 standard)!

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. The 52nd AAFF takes place March 25 - 30, 2014 and presents over 200 films, videos and performances from more than 20 countries with dozens of U.S., North American and world premieres.

I Remember When: a 1974 video series made during Ann Arbor's sesquicentennial celebrations

Just in time for Ann Arbor’s 190th anniversary, AADL is pleased to release - for the first time! - I Remember When, a seven-part video series made during the city's sesquicentennial celebrations in 1974 "to tell the story of the important events that have happened in Ann Arbor's 150-year-old history."

In the first show, host Ted Trost says, "...the entire series will be recorded on videotape so that future generations of Ann Arborites may see and hear what it was like, way back when in 1974 - the year Ann Arbor celebrated her sesquicentennial.” And today, 40 years later, all seven episodes are available at aadl.org/irw for streaming and downloading!

Following an overview in the first show, each episode focuses on a specific topic - from city politics, the business community and religion, to entertainment, music and theater, and Ann Arbor’s Greek and German communities - and features interviews with several prominent citizens from that era. Together these films provide a snapshot of our city at a unique time and place in its history.

I Remember When was sponsored by the (at that time) Ann Arbor Public Library, in conjunction with the Ann Arbor Sesquicentennial Commission, and produced by students in the University of Michigan’s Speech Department.

"Time Has Little Effect on Valentine Sentiments"

Valentine greeting cards have been around since the second half of the 19th century, and popular with local collectors, and the topic of museum exhibitions. One of the most endearing collection is that of Ellen Gould, with some items dated back to 1917, from her former students.

Over the last 50 years, the Ann Arbor News has focus its coverage on how area children and families observed the holiday.

Valentine's Day was also a reason to celebrate for local businesses especially for florists and confectioners.

For the serious-minded, academics and researchers were consulted on the subject of romance.

Syndicate content