Centuries-old map of Detroit finds way to UM library
The latest addition to a University of Michigan library doesn’t show where Detroit is going, but it captures where it was more than 225 years ago.
UM’s William L. Clements Library has acquired a map of the city created in 1790, officials said Tuesday.
The 21-by-40-inch map was shown to the public for the first time Tuesday at the Hatcher Graduate Library on the university’s campus in Ann Arbor. It was on display for about two hours for a presentation by an expert on Detroit’s history as a frontier town and seaport city in the 18th century, said Sydney Hawkins, a UM spokeswoman.
Officials say the map was found in a home in Almonte, Ontario, after the owner contacted historians to check its validity.
“The grandson of the original owner said that the map was bought by his grandfather sometime back in the 1930s,” said Brian Dunnigan, curator of maps and associate director of the Clements Library, in a statement Tuesday.
“This is a really special find because there aren’t any other maps that depict Detroit at this particular time period, which was about six years before the British peacefully evacuated the town and fort to make way for the arrival of United States troops.”
Hawkins said the map’s owner wanted the university to have the map because he wanted it to belong to an institution that would use it for research, teaching and learning.
The map, “Rough sketch of the King’s Domain at Detroit,” was hand-drawn and hand-colored. It was signed by its author, David William Smith, a captain in the British Army assigned to Detroit and dated September 1790.
Smith further served as surveyor general of Ontario from 1792 to 1802.
It includes details of the frontier city, its defenses and Fort Lernoult, built during the American Revolution at the intersection of Fort and Shelby streets.
Dunnigan said he believes the map was once accompanied by a key or a report, which has not been found.
“The D. W. Smith 1790 map of Detroit is a wonderful acquisition for the Clements Library when considered alongside our current holdings,” said J. Kevin Graffagnino, the library’s director, in a statement.
“It’s exciting to know that there’s still a lot of historical documentation out there waiting to be discovered — everything that turns up solves another piece of the puzzle.”
Library officials said they are planning an exhibition with the map in 2017.