The Bentley will be closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday starting Thursday, Nov. 26. Regular hours will resume Monday, Nov. 30.

Where Michigan’s History Lives

U-M’s Bicentennial

In 2017, the University of Michigan will celebrate two centuries of existence since its founding in Detroit in 1817. The Bentley Historical Library has a wealth of materials and history to help celebrate this milestone event. If you’re a University unit in need of help researching your bicentennial history, please contact Brian Williams at

Snapshots of U-M History

  • The Long, Slow Death of a Statue

    The class of 1870 donated a statue of Ben Franklin to the campus. They thought it was bronze, but it was actually pewter. That was just the beginning of the statue’s problems.

    Complete Story
  • A Bibliography 200 Years in the Making

    After almost 200 years, it’s inevitable that some parts of University of Michigan history have faded into obscurity. But thanks to a new bibliography compiled by the Bentley Historical Library, some of those facts are coming back to life.

    Complete Story
  • Rising from the Ashes

    How a fire, a new location for the state capitol, and a tongue-tying, seven-syllable word led to the University of Michigan’s creation.

    Complete Story

Making History at U-M

Much can happen in 200 years. Click through our slideshows below to glimpse achievements from U-M’s past. While not a comprehensive history, it’s an invitation for the curious to dig into the Bentley archives and to discover more.

Michigan played its first intercollegiate football game on May 30, 1879 at White Stocking Park in Chicago, defeating Racine College by a score of 1-0. Irving Pond scored U-M’s first touchdown. Pictured here is the 1879 football team. Source: U-M Photographs Vertical File. BL001001
Fred Bonine (M.D. 1886) became U-M’s first national champion by winning the 100-yard race at the 1885 Intercollegiate Association Championships in Manhattan, with a time of 10.6 seconds. Bonine, pictured above left, later set a world record in the 110-yard race that stood for 34 years. Source: Athletic Department Records. BL001085
The University of Michigan played Stanford in the first Tournament of Roses game on January 1, 1902, as pictured here. With a score of 49-0, Stanford conceded the game with eight minutes left to play. The game was not played again until 1916. Today, it’s called the Rose Bowl. Source: Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics Records. BL001119
In 1924, U-M student William DeHart Hubbard, pictured above at the 1924 Olympics, won the gold medal in the long jump. He was the first African American to win an individual Olympic gold medal. At the 1925 Big Ten Championships, he set a world record with a leap of 25 feet, 10.85 inches. He graduated with honors from U-M in 1927 and was inducted into the National Track Hall of Fame in 1957. DeHart died in 1976, but was posthumously inducted into the University of Michigan Hall of Fame in 1979. Source: The Olympic Century, Volume 8. BL014788
Tom Harmon made 98 the most famous number in college football, dominating the gridiron from 1938-1940. He was an All-American halfback, U-M’s first Heisman Trophy winner, and a number one NFL draft pick. After serving as a WWII pilot in the Army Air Corps, he returned home to begin a distinguished broadcasting career as a radio and TV sportscaster. Source: Athletic Department records. BL007212
U-M’s Greg Meyer (right) won the Boston Marathon in 1983, and U-M’s Lisa Larsen (left) won the race in 1985. They were the last American runners to win the marathon until 2014. While at U-M, Meyer won eight varsity letters in track and cross country, while Larsen won six letters in cross country and track, and one in swimming. Source: Athletic Department records. BL11542, BL11584
From the second modern Olympics held in Paris in 1900 to the 2014 games in Sochi, the University of Michigan has made its mark in Olympic competition. Including the squads for the Sochi games, 235 U-M students (188 varsity athletes) and coaches have participated in the Olympics, representing the U.S. and 24 other countries. This includes athlete Eddie Tolan (right), who won gold in 1932 in the 100- and 200-meter events, and Micki King (left), who won gold in diving in 1972. Source: Athletic Department records. BL001104, BL010318
In 2001, U-M’s field hockey team defeated top-ranked Maryland 2-0 to win the NCAA Field Hockey Championship. It was the first-ever NCAA title for a U-M women’s team. Source: Athletic Department records. BL011502
In 2005, Samantha Findlay’s walk-off homerun in the tenth inning of the softball College World Series gave U-M a 4-1 victory over UCLA and its first NCAA Softball Championship. The U-M team was the first from east of the Mississippi to win the Series in its history. Source: Athletic Department records. BL017758
The “Old Main” Hospital, designed by famed architect Albert Kahn and completed in 1925, was the location of the first successful lung removal operation in the world in 1932 and the first heart transplant in Michigan in 1968. In 1990, the hospital was replaced with a new 11-story, 550-bed facility. Source: U-M Photographs, vertical file. BL004566
The Bentley Historical Library was established in 1935 by the University of Michigan Regents to carry out two functions: to serve as the official archives of the University and to document the history of the state of Michigan and the activities of its people, organizations, and voluntary associations. Today, the Bentley houses approximately 11,000 total collections across more than 71,000 linear feet of storage space. Source: Bentley Historical Library records
] In 1954, Thomas Francis, Jr., of U-M’s School of Public Health, led the clinical trials of the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk (University of Pittsburgh). A center was established on campus to carry out the trials, which involved 1.8 million children. It was the largest clinical trial to date. In 1955, Francis pronounced the vaccine “safe, effective, and potent.” Source: School of Public Health records. BL006833
“On October 14, 1960, at approximately 2:00am, Senator John F. Kennedy addressed more than 5,000 students from the steps of the Michigan Union in an unprepared campaign speech. He challenged them to serve their country and promote the cause of peace by working in developing countries around the world.” This was the initial seed that grew into the organization now known as the Peace Corps. – Quoted text from the University of Michigan Peace Corps website ( Source: News and Information Services records. BL000107
In 1971, the Apollo 15 mission was manned by three U-M alumni pictured here, left to right: James B. Irwin, David R. Scott, and Alfred M. Worden. The mission included extended exploration of the lunar surface around the landing site and was the first Apollo flight to have a lunar rover vehicle. Source: Alumni Association Records. HS11261
U-M’s Solar Car team was established in 1989 to design a car for GM’s Sunrayce USA challenge. The team’s car, Sunrunner, took first place in the race and third in the World Solar Challenge. Since then, the Solar Car team, which brings together students from multiple disciplines, has continued to produce winning vehicles. Source: Solar Car Team records. HS2416
Before it was called President’s Day, it was Washington’s Birthday and, in February 1892, it was commemorated on U-M’s campus with a speech by Grover S. Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Since then, there have been many other presidential visits to campus including William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Source: News and Information Services records. HS13793
In 1817 the Territory of Michigan legislature chartered the Catholepistemiad University of Michigania in Detroit. Pictured here is the original draft of the act to establish the Catholepistemiad in the handwriting of its author, Judge Augustus B. Woodward. In 1821, the name was changed to the University of Michigan. Source: Charter Document, Charles Irish Walker papers, University of Michigan Founding Documents, item no. 1. HS9803
Originally located in Detroit, the University was relocated to Ann Arbor in 1837, and the next four years were spent preparing the campus. In 1841 the University held its first year of classes in Ann Arbor, with two professors teaching seven students. Jasper Cropsey, a landscape painter and architect, painted U-M’s fledgling campus in 1855 at the behest of its Board of Regents. Today, the original hangs in the Bentley Director’s office. Source: Jasper Francis Cropsey visual materials. HS1155
In 1838, the University of Michigan appointed its first professor: Asa Gray, pictured left, became a professor of botany and zoology. In 1879, the Chair of the Science and Art of Teaching was created, and William Payne, pictured right, appointed to the position. Not only was it the first chair of education at the University of Michigan, it was the first permanent chair of education to be established in the United States. Source: (Left) HS13408; (right) HS13409
The campus’s first chemistry lab, pictured here, was built in 1856 and was added to seven times over the next 45 years. Today, LSA’s Department of Chemistry is known for its top-ranked faculty, and the analytical chemistry program ranked seventh in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. Source: Allen Lysander Colton Photographs. HS3518
Organized by Professor Joseph B. Davis, the first session of what came to be called Camp Davis was held during the summer of 1874. The surveying group pictured here is gathered near Carp Lake, Michigan in 1896. A permanent site near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was founded in 1929. Today the camp is called the Camp Davis Rocky Mountain Field Station. Source: Camp Davis Records. HS12367
The first engineering laboratory was completed in 1882. It’s easy to see from the picture here why the building was already overcrowded once its doors were opened. In 1915, Engineering became its own college and today boasts more than 70,000 alumni and 95 graduate programs ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s top ten. Source: University of Michigan Photographs Vertical File. BL005282

Related Links:

U-M’s Bicentennial page
The U-M Heritage site
The Bentley’s U-M History Page
University of Michigan Bibliography