THE BOOK OF DETROITERS

A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Detroit

Edited by Albert Nelson Marquis

Chicago

A. N. Marquis & Company

1908

Copyright, 1908 by Albert Nelson Marquis

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Pages 10 – 12

Special Thanks to Bonnie Pattok for transcribing these pages .

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Page 10

PARK AND BOULEVARD SYSTEM

The park and boulevard system has worthily supplemented the original platting. In the river, opposite the east end of the city, is an island, 700 acres in extent, which was acquired by the city 30 years ago. Its surface was originally forest and swamp. Part of the forest has been left in its native wildness; other portions have been cleared and transformed under the touch of skillful landscape artists. The swamps have been displace by lakes, and these, connected by canals, give a long stretch of enticing waters for rowboats and canoes.

A portion of the center is occupied by a zoological enclosure. Near by is a horticultural building and an aquarium that ranks among the best in the world. These, with other attractions, make the island one of the most unique and interesting parks in the country.

Belle Isle is connected with the main land by a bridge about half a mile long. From this starts the Grand Boulevard, 150 feet, and in some places 200 feet, wide and twelve miles long, encircling the city and terminating in a small park and dock at the western end. The roadway is macadamized and the sides and center have park-like treatment through the whole length. Palmer Park of 140 acres in the northerly part of the city, Clark Park of 30 acres in the western part, and smaller parks on the river front and other sections add to the attractions which together have given Detroit the deserved reputation of being one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

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CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT

Detroit has a unique as well as long history. It was under the French flag from the time of its founding till 1760; when it surrendered to the British. It became nominally American in 1783, though it and other northwestern posts were not finally surrendered till 1796. The post was occupied by the British again August 16, 1812, but returned to American control September 20, 1813. When French, the city and territory were governed from Quebec; under the British, from Quebec and Fort Niagara. When the United States flag was first raised here Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory, with the seat of government successively at Marietta and Chillicothe. In 1812 it became part of Indiana Territory, with the seat of government at Vincennes. In 1805, the town of Detroit became the seat of government of Michigan Territory, which at one time included all the present state of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and a large part of North Dakota. It has had five separate city charters, the first in 1805, the second in 1824, the third in 1827, the fourth in 1857 and the fifth in 1883. In spite of its first city charter, its corporate name was the "Town of Detroit" till 1815. Then it was the "City of Detroit" till 1827, when it was enacted that the corporate name should be "The Mayor, Recorder and Alderman of Detroit." In 1857 it was enacted that it should be "The City of Detroit," and such it has remained ever since.

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Page 11

Although the French lost their official supremacy after 60 years of occupation, the place remained French in many of its characteristics for 60 years there after. Aside from the garrisons in the fort, the people were mostly French, retaining their old habits, customs, diversions and religion, entirely satisfied with a paternal government. As late as 1818 the question of substituting as elective territorial government for the rule of the appointive Governor and Judges was voted down. About that time migration from New England and New York state set toward Michigan, and when in 1824 the first really republican form of government was adopted, the Governor, the Territorial Secretary, all four of the Supreme Court Judges and nearly half the Territorial Council were men of New England birth. New York and New England influences were strongly felt in Michigan and in Detroit for half a century after that.

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MERCANTILE INTERESTS

Detroit was little more than a fur trading and military post until after the movement from the east commenced. The first comers brought with them New England industry and thrift, though but little capital. As settlements increased they began reaching out for country trade, established Detroit as an important wool and wheat market and laid the foundations of the large wholesale trade which the city possesses today. Detroit was from the outset the natural commercial metropolis of the country west and north. It was the terminus of the stage and steamboat lines from the east and was the converging point of the territorial roads which opened the way to the new settlements. It was nearly along the line of their roads that the first railroads were built, and many of the railroads since constructed have had Detroit as a starting or objective point. The first railroad through Canada also had this point for its terminus, while the water connection with the upper lake region was unsurpassed. For a time this city had almost a monopoly of the "up-country" trade. The movements of the first and last boats of the season were important events.

The advantage which location gave was followed up by an enterprising and energetic body of men who personally pushed their trade. It is an interesting fact that, of the Detroit pioneers in this trade, one afterwards became Michigan’s most distinguished Senator and two others became governors of the state. The advantages of location have continued, and with the growth of the city and the settlement of the country the field covered has widened. It now includes not only the whole of Michigan but northern Ohio and Indiana; parts of Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and in some branches, Canada and South Dakota.

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Page 12

For all lines Detroit has some advantages over the larger eastern cities. Rents and taxes are much less. Crating, cartage and terminal charges are light compared with those in New York. On many goods there is a great advantage in freights. Detroit dry goods merchants early commenced the direct importation of goods from Europe and have always continued the practice. Many American-made goods are bought direct from the manufacturer, thus making a saving of one commission to the country merchant. In some lines goods are laid down in Detroit at the same price as in New York, thus saving the country merchant freight as well as commission. Similar advantages accrue to other lines. As a consequence Detroit stands well in all branches of wholesale trade, and pre-eminent in some. It is one of the best wholesale drug markets in the country, being second in the volume of its business only to Philadelphia. It ranks high as a hardware market, and has some superior advantages for the general grocery trade and its specialized branches. The wholesale dealers to the number of 100 have recently organized an efficient association for the purpose of further promoting their interests.

The industrial prosperity and rapid growth of Detroit make it a particularly good point for all branches of the retail trade. But it has one peculiar advantage. Its suburban railway system makes it the center of a metropolitan district having a radius of 60 to 70 miles in every direction. The district, including the city, contains nearly on-fourth the population of the state. Every city and village in the district is reached by the trolley system, which gives frequent and rapid service, both passenger and freight. This addition to the natural advantages for retail business which the city possesses is of great value to trade.

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NAVAGATION AND SHIPBUILDING

Situated on the great waterway that connects the Lower with the Upper lakes, Detroit has always had a large share in the lake navigation interests and the trade which depends upon water for transportation. Its river front constitutes the most accessible and safest harbor on the whole chain of lakes, and one of the best in the world for loading and unloading. The river has no tides like those which embarrass commerce at salt water ports. It never overflows its banks and never dries up. It is so thoroughly land-locked that its surface is but little disturbed in the severest storms. It is deep enough for the largest vessels that float on inland waters, and its channel bank is near enough the shore to give it a convenient dock line. There is not a day during the navigation season when a vessel may not load or unload without inconvenience. The frontage on Detroit river is about nine miles, with a channel depth of thirty to fifty feet, and that on the river Rouge is four miles with a depth of sixteen feet.

These waterway facilities have not only given a great stimulus to trade and furnished an incitement to profitable investments in navigation interests, but they have made Detroit the leading shipbuilding port on the lakes. Canoes, bateaux and small craft have been built here from almost the earliest times. The first large vessel was built in 1852. The first double-decked vessel for carrying iron ore was built here. The first yard in the west for constructing iron hulls was located in the neighboring village of Wyandotte and was owned by Detroit capital. All types of vessels, from the scow and tow barge up to the largest freighters and the finest passenger steamers have been built at yards in the Detroit district. Always prominent, this port has in the past three years held a position of undisputed supremacy. The addition of a new company and improved facilities of the old brought it to the from in 1905. Of large freight vessels its two companies that year launched 14, with a total tonnage of 134,400. The output of the next largest port on the lakes was 10, with a tonnage of 85,500. For some of the vessels built in Detroit the contracts were made, the keels laid, the vessels launched, equipped and put in commission before the close of the season in which they were commenced, showing a degree of expedition in construction that was a marvel to old vesselmen. The freighters, with a floating dry dock, a large tug, with some smaller work and repairs made an aggregate of about $5,000,000 in value. To this nearly half a million dollars was added in yachts, launches, rowboats and canoes. The industry gives employment to over 5,000 men. In 1906 the Detroit yards launched 13 freighters, with 108,000 tonnage, besides a large passenger steamer and a large car ferry. In the next largest district, the number of freighters launched was 13, and the total tonnage 108,800. On the first of January, 1907, the freight vessels under contract in the Detroit district for delivery during the year numbered 17, with aggregate tonnage of 135, 500. Contract for freight vessels in the next largest district numbered 13, with tonnage of 110,500. The Detroit contract for the year also included the largest and most costly passenger steamer ever built on the lakes, to cost $1,250,000. One of the Detroit companies also had the contract for the tubes for the tunnel under the Detroit river, which is essentially marine work.

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