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Detroit Photograph Album

An inventory of the item at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 28 Jan 2020

Biographical History

Nothing is known of the creator of this album. In the years prior to the American Civil War, Detroit was an important site on the Underground Railroad; Michigan was a free territory, and its location just across the border from Canada made it a destination for Southern enslaved persons seeking freedom. Many Detroit African Americans served in the Civil War, and the 1st Michigan Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, later renamed the 102nd United States Colored Infantry Regiment, was recruited in large part from residents of Detroit. The city experienced a race riots in March of 1863 which resulted in two deaths and considerable property damage. Following the Civil War, African Americans were an important voting bloc and active politically.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Detroit Photograph Album consists of a quarto-size bound volume, with an embossed illustrated celluloid front board, figured red cloth covering the spine and back cover, and metal clasp. The pages are heavy cardstock, with cutout frames for the images. The album contains approximately twenty albumen photographs, portraits of well-dressed and evidently prosperous African-American men and women. Based on clothing and hair styles, the images date from the mid to late 19th century. None are identified by name. More than half of the portraits have Detroit photographer's marks, including "Sr. Clear", "Willard", "Eisenhardt", and "Hughes". Others include "J.B. Dettmer" (Cincinnati), "Wilson" (Chicago), and "Kruse" (New Bedford, Mass.)

Arrangement of the Collection

Single volume.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advance notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


African-Americans -- Photographs.
Portrait photographers -- United States.


Detroit (Mich.) -- History -- 19th century.

Genres and Forms

Albumen prints.
Photograph albums.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Detroit Photograph Album,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2020.

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