Collection Strengths

The Bentley Historical Library has been collecting personal papers of politicians, ministers, faculty members, business people, and social organizers, as well as records of businesses, churches, organizations, and the University of Michigan for seventy-five years. Here are some examples of outstanding collections held by the library.

BHL staff and HMBC members

Members of the Bentley Historical Library staff (Kenneth Scheffel, Field Representative, Thomas Powers, Head of the Michigan Historical Collections, Francis Blouin, Director, and William Wallach, Assistant Director) with members of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in 1997.

African American Collections

In 1985-86 the Bentley Historical Library analyzed its collection development plan and determined that more emphasis needed to be placed on the identification and accessioning of historical records from and about Michigan's African American community. The collecting plan called upon the field staff to concentrate its efforts on the Black churches in Detroit, because of these institutions' significance in their community/state/nation, not only in the area of religious development, but in education, politics, civil rights, social concerns, and community service as well. To view more collections on this topic, please consult the African Americans in Michigan subject guide.

Sally Bund and Architectural Drawings

Sally Bund, Assistant Archivist for architectural records, examines one of the thousands of architectural drawings held by the library.

Architectural Drawings

The Bentley Historical Library includes in its holdings many collections of architectural drawings by nationally and internationlly-known architects. These architects include George Brigham, Gunnar Birkerts, Albert Kahn, Robert Metcalf, William Muschenheim, and Pond and Pond to name but a few. A particular strength in the Bentley Library holdings is mid-century modern architecture. Please consult the Architects, Architecture, and Landscape Design subject guide for more information.

Robert F. Williams Finding Aid

Photograph of the paper version of the
Robert F. Williams Finding Aid. Click
here
to view the online finding aid.

Civil Rights Activists

The Bentley Historical Library holds many collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement. The personal papers of Robert F. Williams is one of the most used collections in the library. Williams was an African American civil rights activist and black militant leader in Monroe County North Carolina, who came to advocate armed self-defense in response to the violence ignited by his non-violent campaign to integrate Monroe County's public service facilities. In 1961 he moved to Cuba where Premier Fidel Castro offered him political asylum. He became one of the most outspoken critics of the United States and called African Americans to arm themselves for the battle ahead. To communicate his ideas, Williams published The Crusader, a black militant journal, and also broadcast a program called "Radio Free Dixie." After five years in Cuba, Williams became disenchanted with Castro's views of blacks in America. He left Cuba and traveled to the People's Republic of China where he established residency. As a friend of Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai, Williams redoubled his criticism of the treatment of blacks in America. In 1966, Williams moved toward black separatism. He was elected president of the Detroit-based Republic for New Africa, which called for a separate state for African Americnas within the United States. Williams reached the full development of his ideology: moving from a proponent of passive resistance as a NAACP leader, to a black militant, to a black self-determinist. In 1969, Williams ended his self-imposed exile and settled in Baldwin, Michigan. In 1970-71 he served as a research associate in the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. Drawing from his experience in China, Williams advised political scientist Allen Whiting who in turn advised Henry Kissinger shortly before Kissinger's first trip to China.

For other Civil Rights related collections please consult the Civil Rights Activists and Organizations in the African Americans subject guide.

Maynila Bibliography

Balita mula Maynila (Maynila
Bibliography) written by Tom Powers.

Philippine Islands Material

The Bentley Historical Library has one of the largest collections of Philippine Island materials outside of the Philippine Islands. Every year scholars from all over the world come to study these papers. The bibliography Balita mula Maynila was written by Thomas Powers, Curator of the Michigan Historical Collections. The Walter M. Marquardt finding aid represents one of the many Philippine Island related collections at the library found in the American-Philippine relations subject guide.

Politics

The Bentley Historical Library has a long history of collecting the personal papers of Michigan's public servants whether they served in the local, state, national or international sphere.

Bordin Report 1

Bordin Report, page 1.

In March 1964 Ruth Bordin, Curator of Manuscripts, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with various Michigan Congressional representatives to discuss donating their papers to the Bentley Historical Library. This trip report describes her conversation with Congressman Gerald R. Ford who by this time had already represented the 5th Michigan Congressional District for

Bordin Report 2

Bordin Report, page 2.

seven terms.

In his March 17, 1965 letter, Ford agreed to deposit his papers at the University of Michigan. (Donor File, Bentley Historical Library)

The Gerald Ford papers came to the Bentley Historical Library in annual accretions until Ford's nomination to become Vice President after Spiro Agnew left office in 1973. When Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States. After his defeat in the 1976 election, plans were developed for his Presidential Library and Museum. Because of his familiarity with the Bentley Library, his friendship with the Bentley Library's director,

Congressman Ford's letter to MHC

Congressman Ford's letter to Michigan
Historical Collections.

Robert M. Warner, and the fond memories of his time spent as a student at the University of Michigan, building his Presidential library in Ann Arbor was a logical step. The papers from the Executive Office began arriving in Ann Arbor on January 21, 1977, and were housed at the Gerald Ford Presidential Papers Project, in a warehouse near Michigan Stadium, until the library building was completed. President Ford, Dr. Warner, university officials and Ford supporters worked together to design an attractive and functional presidential library, which was dedicated in April 1981.

To honor his home Congressional district, President Ford decided to construct his museum in the city of Grand Rapids. This is the only Presidential Library and Museum designed in this way. In fact, Congress passed a bill, Amendment to the Presidential Libraries Act (1986), to prevent such a split from ever happening again as well as limiting the size of the library/museum complex.

For other collections documenting politics consult the politics and goverment subject guide.

Social Activists

The John and Leni Sinclair papers came to the library in 1979. The initial accession, covering the period 1957-1979, contained textual material, sound recordings, and photographs relating to all phases of their careers, including participation in the Artists' Workshop in Detroit, the Rainbow Multi-Media Corporation, the White Panther Party and its offshoot, the Rainbow Peoples Party. There

Sinclair publication

Sinclair Papers Publication.

were also materials concerning the legalization or marijuana, radical politics, prison reform and rock and jazz music.

The Sinclair papers provide a rich and unique source for the study of America's radical movement in the 1960s and 1970s including a remarkable series of correspondence containing letters from Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and Jerry Rubin. These papers detail the cultural, political and business activities of a man whose energy and charisma made him a local and national leader of the counter-culture. The collection also documents the support and creativity of Leni, his wife and partner, who as writer, photographer, and publicist helped to showcase the lifestyle that he symbolized.

For more information on activism on the University of Michigan campus please visit the Decade of Dissent on-line exhibit.

Transportation in Michigan

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was formed in 1846 and expanded rapidly in the 1860s and 1870s, eventually controlling over 800 corporations. The New York Central Railroad Company was organized in 1853 and merged with the Hudson River Railroad in 1869 to form the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad; in 1914 the name was again changed to the New York Central Railroad Company.

Penn Central records pick-up

From the top clockwise: Christine Weidemann, Assistant Archivist, Diane Hatfield, Administrative Secretary, Lee Barnett from the State of Michigan Archives, and Greg Degowski, Archivist for the Blue Water Michigan Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, picking up the records from an old railway car in July of 1986.

The Penn Central Transportation Company was formed in 1968 through the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads. The company did not prosper and went bankrupt in 1970. It was reorganized in 1971 with the help of the Federal Government and the creation of the National Railroad and Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) which assumed long distance passenger service and in 1976 with the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) which took over the viable parts of Penn Central and five other bankrupt rail lines. Penn Central was reorganized as the Penn Central Corporation in 1978; it liquidated most of its rail subsidiaries and property and became a general holding company with subsidiaries in energy, electronics, equipment, manufacture, and real estate. The Penn Central records were stored in railroad cars and were divided between the Bentley Historical Library, the State Archives, and the Durand Union Station which was selected by the Michigan legislature to serve as the home of the Michigan Railroad History Museum. The Penn Central records are a valuable resource for information on Michigan railways.

For more information on the railroad holdings see the railroad subject guide.

University Athletics

1902 Football Team in Parade

The University of Michigan football team riding in the 1902 Tournament of Roses parade.

The records of the University of Michigan Athletic Department document the participation of the University of Michigan Athletic teams in intercollegiate competition from 1864 to the present. These records include over 210 linear feet and 14 outsize boxes of media guides, including game programs and other print material, press releases, team and individual statistics, photographs, approximately 1500 reels of film and videotape, development and fundraising material, and a variety of accounts, audits and other administrative records.

For more information on the University of Michigan Athletic Department, pleasse consult the athletics history webpage.

Pictured above is the University of Michigan football team riding in the 1902 Tournament of Roses parade.


The records of the University of Michigan Athletic Department document the participation of the University of Michigan Athletic teams in intercollegiate competition from 1864 to the present. These records include over 210 linear feet and 14 outsize boxes of media guides, including game programs and other print material, press releases, team and individual statistics, photographs, approximately 1500 reels of film and videotape, development and fundraising material, and a variety of accounts, audits and other administrative records.

For more information on the University of Michigan Athletic Department, please consult the athletics history webpage.