Author: Maureen Kerwin
Have you seen the Ypsilanti Historical Society's Digital Photo Archives? It is an online
collection of approximately 400 digitized photographs documenting a wide range of subjects and time
periods in Ypsilanti history. If you have browsed it before, the collection was nearly doubled this
spring so there is more to see! You can access the collection through the YHS's website on the
"Publications" page. Each image has a description, subject terms, and additional information
attached to it. The collection can be searched or browsed by key words.
The Digital Photo Archives project started in 2000 and is a collaboration between the Ypsilanti
Historical Society and the Digital Library Production Service at the University of Michigan. The
photographs are selected from the archives, researched, scanned, and entered into a database by the
YHS; the DLPS provides the web infrastructure that makes the collection accessible online.
The collection is very diverse. There are photographs from as early as the 1870s and as late as
the 1990s; they are of cemeteries, churches, cars, people, parades, buildings, sports teams, and
more. There is even a photograph of a Japanese opera production from circa 1900! Many of the
photographs are related to the automobile industry such as the picture showing the first Henry J
automobile sold in Ypsilanti to Mellencamp’s Clothing Store.
Other photographs are related to the many civic organizations that have existed in Ypsilanti over
the years. According to one photograph the Ypsilanti Knights of Pythias civic organization were
“Michigan State Champions” in 1923. We are not certain what the competition involved but it may
have involved costumes.
Whatever interests you about Ypsilanti history, there is certain to be something for you in this
collection. If you have questions about the Digital Photo Archives project you may contact me
(mkkerwin (at) gmail.com) or Al Rudisill (al (at) rudisill.ws).
(Maureen Kerwin is a student at the University of Michigan and served as an Intern in the YHS
Archives working on the Photo Archive project.)
Photo 1: A photo from 1951 showing the first Henry
J automobile sold in Ypsilanti. The vehicle was sold to Mellencamp's Clothing Store (located at 122
West Michigan Avenue from 1907 to 1984) by the Norris Motors Kaiser-Frazer dealership (334 East
Michigan Avenue). Pictured are William D. Stevens and Collin F. Bonner, owners of Mellencamp's.
Photo 2: According to this photograph, the members
of the Knights of Pythias civic organization were the Michigan State Champions in 1923. Pictured are
Hart, Hand, McGraw, van DeWalker, Tripp, Shaibly, Elsworth, Warner, Smith, Geer, Millage, Tenny,
Boutell, Burrell, Pierce, Hamond, and Williams.