UM Clements Library is purchasing and crowdfunding a rare 1761 hand-drawn map of Detroit



Source: Clements Library

The last time the public had a chance to see the “Plan of the Fort of De Troit” was in 1967 when it was put up for sale at Sotheby’s. Now it will be part of the University of Michigan William L. Clements Library Collection.

Without knowing who the original was then sold to, former Clements curator Brian Dunnigan studied the photo in Sotheby’s auction catalog to write about this hand-drawn map for his book Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit.

“This map was made in 1761 by noted surveyor and map-maker William Brasier for General Jeffery Amherst,” said Dunnigan, now retired map curator who is an expert on the history of early 18th-century Detroit, Mackinac, Niagara, and the Great Lakes is.

“Comparing maps helps understand Detroit’s growth and change. This map was drawn just a few months after Detroit was ceded from New France to Great Britain and shows the fort that was later attacked by Pontiac and his warriors in the summer of 1763. “

The Great Lakes region was unknown to the British before the end of the French and Indian War (1756-1763) when the British vied with the French for control of colonial North America. Most of the current general maps of the Great Lakes area have been printed in French. More detailed plans of certain places were handwritten in small numbers, which were kept close by French military or colonial leaders. With French surrenders, the British were able to receive these large-format handwritten maps of the newly conquered territories.

Digital facsimile of the cartographer William Brasier’s “Plan of the Fort at De Troit” (1761), recently acquired by the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan. Its reference key identifies the following locations: “A. The king’s powder magazine. B. Log houses. C. The Cavalier. D. The Church. E. Commander’s Garden. F. Powder magazine of the inhabitants. “

When British officers took possession of the French fort on the strait (Detroit) between Lake Erie and Lake Huron in November 1760, the French commander presented his latest fort plan. This French plan formed the basis for William Brasier’s “Plan of the fort at De Troit”, which was drawn in 1761 for the British commander of the armed forces in North America.

“Brasier’s plan highlights key features such as named streets, the location of gunpowder magazines, land within the fort, and the commandant’s sprawling garden,” said Mary Pedley, assistant curator of maps.

“Most noticeable, however, is the inclusion of a small view of the fort from the west. This image of the fort, perched on a gentle hill overlooking the river, vividly captures what the British saw when they first approached the fort to accept the French surrender and negotiate with the Ottawa (Odawa ), Potawatomi, Potawatomi, The villages Ojibwa and Huron (Wendot) are located around the fort. ”

Pedley says that the area around the fort has long served as a meeting place for many indigenous groups and that both colonial powers understood the great importance of the place and the indigenous presence in the fur trade. Brasier’s plan, prepared for military leadership, had the potential to influence British planning for the Great Lakes region and Native American recognition and housing.

The Brasier Card fills a void in the Clements Library’s collection of Detroit plans. It is the earliest original manuscript plan of the fort in the collection, as well as the earliest view of the fort; it joins a number of facsimiles of French manuscript plans kept in French archives.

It will further enrich the Treasury of Detroit History at Clements, which houses one of the most comprehensive collections of early American history in the world. The Clements own several dozen maps of the city of Detroit showing its growth from the early 18th century to 1900; a depiction of colonial Detroit in General Thomas Gage’s papers; numerous manuscript collections from Detroit families from the 18th and 19th centuries; General Jeffery Amherst’s papers; other cards of Brasier.

Whereabouts now known

Dunnigan speculated in Frontier Metropolis that this plan was drawn up in 1761 to help the British military assess property conditions at the western end of the fort. At the time of this writing, his reference was “Current whereabouts unknown”.

When Paul Erickson, Randolph G. Adams director of the Clements Library, learned the plan was back on sale, he knew it belonged in the Clements Library. The only problem was that the cost of the card would put a heavy strain on the purchase budget.

“This card is one of a kind, one of a kind,” he said. “Manuscript materials of any kind from before the War of Independence are rare. Items like this card that can help bring researchers back to a specific time and place are exceptional and their prices accordingly. “

The Clements library starts a Crowdfunding campaign raise the $ 42,500 to purchase this Detroit plan. The first preview of the card generated so much enthusiasm that several donors stepped forward to provide $ 20,000 in matching funds.

“Covering this campaign means that every new donation is immediately doubled to meet our goal. We hope that anyone in the world passionate about the history of Detroit and the Great Lakes can crowdfund this exciting acquisition, ”said Angela Oonk, director of development, Clements Library.

Erickson says the core of the Clements mission is to acquire, preserve, and share original primary sources for research and exhibition.

“The Clements Library has always relied on financial contributions from supporters to help us source materials for the collections,” he said. “This support is more important than ever as we continue to build collections that will make UM a global destination for research into early American history and culture.”

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