Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Detroit

DETROIT, the most important city of Michigan, in the United States of America, capital of Wayne county, situated on the west bank of the Detroit River (from the French for a strait), opposite the Canadian town of Windsor. It is about 7 miles S.W. of Lake St Clair, 55 miles from Lake Huron, and 18 miles N. of Lake Erie, in 42° 20' N. lat. and 83° 3' W. long. The river, which there separates the United States from Canada, is about half a mile to three quarters of a mile wide, and 5½ fathoms deep, and flows with a pretty swift current. The population of Detroit has increased from 21,019 in 1850 to 45,619 in 1860, and 79,577 in 1870. Of this last number 35,381 were of foreign birth, including 12,647 Germans. According to the State census of 1874, the population of the city was 101,255; while in the neighbouring towns are not fewer than 15,000 persons whose business interests are in the city. Detroit with its suburbs stretches about five miles along the river, and the central part extends for about two miles back from the shore. The streets generally cross each other at right angles, and are from 50 to 100 feet wide. They are for the most part ornamented with rows of trees. A number of avenues, from 100 to 200 feet wide, diverge from the Grand Circus, a spacious park, semicircular in form, which is divided into two quadrants by Woodward Avenue. Connected with the Grand Circus is the Campus Martius, a public “place” about 600 feet long and 250 feet wide. The chief public building is the city hall, which faces the Campus Martius with fronts on four streets, and is one of the finest structures of the kind in the West. Built of sandstone, and designed after the Italian style of architecture, it measures 200 feet long, and 90 feet wide, and is surmounted by a tower 180 feet high. The cost of the building amounted to $600,000 (£120,000). Other noteworthy structures are the opera house, the office of the Board of Trade, the Roman Catholic cathedral, which is the most imposing of the many churches in the city, the custom house, containing also the post-office, and the Michigan Central Railroad freight depôt, which is 1250 feet long by 102 feet wide. On the Campus Martius stands the Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument. It is of bronze and granite, 55 feet high and about 20 feet in diameter at the base. It is surmounted by a colossal bronze statue of an Indian girl representing Michigan in defence of the Union. The design comprises numerous other bronze figures, all of which were cast in Munich.

The commercial facilities of Detroit are very extensive. The Detroit River is a connecting link in the great chain of lake navigation, and affords the best harbour on the lakes. The city is the centre of an extensive railroad system, which presents important channels of transportation in almost every direction. Not fewer than five trunk lines diverge to the eastern seaboard. More than 350 vessels are owned here, and from ten to thirteen daily lines of steamers run to various points on the lakes. There is a considerable foreign commerce with Canada, the imports in 1875 amounting to $1,680,922, and the exports to $2,340,015; 4426 vessels entered and 4355 cleared in the foreign trade; 3968 entered and 3000 cleared in the coastwise trade. The large quantities of produce, chiefly from Michigan, passing eastward through the city by rail and water, give to Detroit an extensive domestic commerce. The manufacturing industries of the city are extensive and important. The working of iron is carried on in numerous blast furnaces, foundries, and other establishments. In 1875, 9 mills manufactured 238,200 barrels of flour; 8 factories produced more than 4,000,000 ℔ of chewing and smoking tobacco; and 171 establishments made about 30,000,000 cigars. Twelve saw-mills annually cut from 45,000,000 to 50,000,000 feet of lumber; and 26 brick-yards make from 55,000,000 to 60,000,000 bricks a year. The extensive Pullman car works, with a capital of about $12,000,000, are situated here; also one of the seven pin factories in the United States. The city glass works produce about $200,000 worth of glass a year; and the copper smelting works more than $2,000,000 worth of ingot copper from Lake Superior ore. There are four ship-yards and three large dry docks.

Detroit has 10 lines of street railway, with more than 45 miles of track intersecting the city in every direction. It is divided into 1 1 wards, each returning 2 aldermen to the city council, and has a metropolitan police of 100 members; 7 steam fire-engines, the stations of which are connected by telegraphic alarm apparatus with all parts of the city; and ample supplies of water from the river. There are 64 churches, 14 asylums and hospitals, 18 public schools, 4 public libraries, the largest containing about 25,000 volumes; 2 medical colleges, and 3 medical societies; 8 daily newspapers, and 30 weekly and monthly papers and periodicals; several public parks; 10 banks, with an aggregate capital of $3,210,000; and 62 incorporated companies, representing capital stock to the amount of $22,445,000. The net city debt proper, January 1, 1875, amounted to $990,340, or about $9.78 per head of the population.

Detroit was settled by the French early in the 18th century, and passed into the hands of the English in 1763. It was then besieged for eleven months by the Indian chief, Pontiac. Ceded to the Americans in 1783, it was not occupied by them till 1796. It was incorporated as a city in 1824, and was the capital of Michigan from 1837 to 1847, when that honour was transferred to Lansing.