Located 600 miles from Philadelphia and over 700 miles from Québec City, early Detroit could have been a backwater, a frontier post that Europeans established to protect colonial settlements from Native American attacks.
Yet Detroit emerged as a cosmopolitan entrepôt filled with many different peoples and all of the goods you would expect to find in early Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, or Charleston.
Today, we explore the early history of Detroit with Catherine Cangany, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and author of Frontier Seaport: Detroit's Transformation into an Atlantic Entrepôt.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In this episode, we explore the early history of Detroit and its emergence as an Atlantic entrepôt with Catherine Cangany, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and author of Frontier Seaport: Detroit's Transformation into an Atlantic Entrepôt.
During our exploration, Catherine reveals details about the settlement of Detroit by the French in 1701; The Native American communities around Detroit and their relationships with the French colonists; And information about Detroit’s transition from a French fur trading post to an American city.
What You’ll Discover
- The Sieur de Cadillac’s settlement of Detroit in 1701
- The Native Americans who lived around Detroit
- The economy of early Detroit
- Whether Native Americans and Detroiters adopted aspects of one another’s culture
- Changes in Native American and French Detroit when the British claimed the area in 1760
- Pontiac’s Rebellion and the role it played in Native Americans’ transition from French to British trading partners
- Detroit’s economic ties to the Atlantic World
- Transportation options from the East Coast to Detroit during the 18th century
- The American possession of Detroit
- What the Erie Canal meant for Detroiters
- “Michigan Fever”
- The New England migration to Detroit
- Detroit’s fight for recognition and legal status after it joined the United States in 1796
- Detroit’s trade with British Canada
- Staples smuggling
- The Great Detroit Fire of 1805
- Francis Parkman’s oral histories of early Detroit
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Catherine Cangany
- Catherine’s Notre Dame webpage
- Frontier Seaport: Detroit's Transformation into an Atlantic Entrepôt
- Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815
- Episode 028: Janice Fontanella, The Erie Canal
- Episode 029: Colin Calloway, The Victory with No Name
In your opinion what might have happened if the June 11, 1805 fire had not burned down most of Detroit? Would the history or the appearance of the city be different? If so, how?
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