Michigan State University

German Michigan

Kathleen Weessies

In 1860, one-quarter of the foreign-born population in Michigan was from Germany.  These two maps of Michigan appeared in two popular German-made atlases, made when many western Europeans were immigrating to the United States.  

‘Nordlicher Theil’ shows us the entire journey immigrants could take from New York, up the Hudson River, along the newly-built Erie Canal and through the Great Lakes to Michigan.

Thirty years later, the atlas containing Neueste Karte was referred to as “Rolls Royce” of nineteenth century atlases.  However we can see that the geography of Michigan is dreadfully out of date with its slanting Lake Michigan shoreline and undeveloped county boundaries.  What obviously was more important to the author Joseph Meyer was the list of steamship routes from Detroit.  Meyer also devotes considerable space to a variety of scale bars serving twelve different national units of measure including “Englische Meilen” and Türkische Meilen.” The cartouche says 1845, however the map was found in an 1860 atlas.

These maps will be on display in the MSU Map Library the week of September 17, 2018.  Both maps were gifts from Ronald Dietz.

Nördlicher Theil Der Vereinigten Staaten. Made by Adolf Stieler and Christian Gottlieb Reichard in 1817 (Revised in 1824) and appeared as Map 47 in Steiler’s Hand-Atlas über alle Theile der Erde und über das Weltgebäude. Published in Gotha, Saxe-Gotha, by Justus Perthes in 1830.

Neueste Karte von Michigan: nach den bessten Quellen verbessert 1845. Made by Joseph Meyer and appeared as Map 65 in Meyer’s Großer HandAtlas  . Published by Joseph Meyer Bibliographisches Institut in Leipzig, Saxony in 1860.


Petermann's Planet: A Guide to German Handatlases and Their Siblings Throughout the World, 1800-1950. By Jürgen Espenhorst and George R. Crossman. Published in Schwerte, Germany by Pangaea Verlag in 2003.

The Germanic influence in the making of Michigan. By J. Andrew Russell. Published in Detroit by University of Detroit in 1927.

West to Far Michigan: Settling the Lower Peninsula, 1815-1860. By Kenneth E. Lewis. Published in East Lansing by Michigan State University Press in 2002.

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