Detroit: An Illustrated Timeline

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By Paul Vachon

This book explores three centuries of Detroit’s rich history to its current comeback.

Let’s take a walk—a long walk, back over three centuries. At the dawn of the eighteenth century Detroit was established as simply an outpost for the French to take advantage of the fur trade while keeping the British at bay. Over the subsequent 300 plus years this small settlement advanced to become a regional hub of commerce, a focal point of nineteenth century industrial strength, and ultimately the nexus of the auto business--the industry that redefined mobility and in doing so changed the course of world history.

Detroit’s long evolution occurred along an often rocky path, marked by a devastating fire, military conquests, conflicts with southern slave hunters, a burgeoning population, all while enduring persistent racial tensions and insurrection. As the Arsenal of Democracy the city proved essential to the allied victory in World War II; but the following decades proved ruinous. As the city bled people and resources, whole areas were decimated--yet nonetheless poised for a rousing comeback.

This book points out many of the seminal events and noteworthy turning points of Detroit’s long journey, some little known: the city’s fall to the British during the War of 1812, the existence of slavery in Detroit as late as the 1820s, and Mayor Hazen Pingree’s aggressive advocacy for the everyday citizen against corporate interests.
Chapters devoted to the twentieth century highlight Detroit’s underappreciated architectural heritage, the development of its notable cultural institutions, as well as the exploits of assorted scoundrels, such as the Black Legion, the Purple Gang, Harry Bennett and Father Charles Coughlin.

Triumphant sports teams, the contributions of religious leaders, and courage of civil rights leaders are all brought to life, completing this chronological sketch of America’s city of the straits.

The last chapter, "We Hope for Better Things," does a nice run-down on Detroit's recent comeback, including Ford's revival of the train station.

The book is a handsome addition to the growing pile of new volumes celebrating the Motor City in all its multifaceted glory.

Hardcover, 256 pages

Dimensions: 11.7" x 9" x 1"

About the Author:
Detroit native Paul Vachon is an author, freelance writer and public speaker. He possesses a strong interest in Detroit history, and has written four previous books devoted to the subject. He's also written guidebooks on Michigan travel.