Douglass Houghton Papers: 1829-1845
Summary Information
Title: Douglass Houghton Papers
Creator: Houghton, Douglass, 1809-1845
Inclusive dates: 1829-1845
Extent: 0.4 linear feet (1 box)
Extent: 2 oversize volumes
Extent: 3 oversize folders
State geologist of Michigan. Field notes, 1837-1841, of his geological survey of the state, including some original drawings [original and typescript copies, and microfilm of pages 197-291]; letter book, 1841-1845; miscellaneous correspondence and field notes, including letter, May 31, 1841, to Abram Sager; notes and other papers collected by Mrs. John Ehlers for her book on Houghton, including copies of papers of Bela Hubbard; and photographs.
Call number: 851483 Aa/2; Ac; UAx; AC
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid prepared by: Leonard A. Coombs (reprocessed, 1988)

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The bulk of the collection was transferred to the Bentley Historical Library from the Rare Book Room of the University Library (Donor 1278). The field notes volume was given to the University in 1858 by Houghton's widow. See Alexander Winchell's paper "History of the Controversy About Dr. Houghton's Field Notes" in Box 19, of the Winchell collection. The letter book was donated to the University in 1895 by Frantz H. Coe. Smaller portions of the collection were transferred from the William L. Clements Library (Donor 1333) and donated by William C. Steere (Donor 2068) and Russell Bidlack (Donor 2635). Photostat copies of maps were donated by the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology (Donor 9273)

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Unpublished writings of Douglass Houghton are in the public domain. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Alternate Format:

Materials in this collection have been digitized and are available online; please see Contents List for more information.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder title, box no., Douglass Houghton Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

[item], [URL], Douglass Houghton Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.],


As Michigan's first state geologist, Douglass Houghton was responsible for the expansion of scientific knowledge of the state's geography and geology in the period immediately after statehood. The results of his work had an important influence on the economic development of the state, especially in the development of copper mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula, but also in the exploitation of salt springs and, through the Geological Survey's mapping program, in the growth of the agricultural counties in the southern part of the state.

Houghton was born in Troy, New York, in 1809, but moved shortly afterward to Fredonia, New York. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic in 1829, and became assistant professor of chemistry there. The following year he was invited to Detroit as a lecturer and remained a resident of Michigan for the rest of his life.

Houghton served as surgeon and botanist with Henry R. Schoolcraft's 1831 and 1832 expeditions to the source of the Mississippi River. He practiced medicine in Detroit for several years and helped organize the Detroit Young Men's Society in 1833, becoming the society's second president.

In 1837 Houghton persuaded the state legislature to establish a geological survey to conduct a comprehensive study of Michigan's natural resources. He was appointed the first state geologist the same year. During the summers of the following years, Houghton and his assistants, chiefly Bela Hubbard, Sylvester Higgins, and William Burt, conducted field work in the northern parts of the state: in 1838 the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan shores of the Lower Peninsula were surveyed; in 1839 the eastern and southern parts of the Upper Peninsula from Sault Ste. Marie to Green Bay; in 1840 the Lake Superior coast and the copper region of Keweenaw Point; in 1841 the Michigan-Wisconsin boundary, the Ontonagon River area, and the Marquette iron region.

Houghton proposed in 1843 that the U.S. land survey of the Upper Peninsula be combined with the state geological survey of the area. The following summer he contracted to perform the combined surveys. While engaged in the survey of the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1845 Houghton drowned in a fall storm on Lake Superior.

After Houghton's death, the surveys he had contracted to do were taken over by Hubbard, Higgins, and William Ives. In 1846 Hubbard and Burt edited and published a report on the copper region based on Houghton's notes from his 1845 survey.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Douglass Houghton manuscript collection at the Michigan Historical Collections includes one volume of field notes, 1837-1841; typed transcripts of the field notes; a one volume letterpress book, 1841-1845; miscellaneous correspondence, newspaper clippings and other papers (photostats and typescripts of materials in other repositories); and notes collected by Mrs. John Ehlers for a book on Houghton.

An appendix to this finding aid contains an inventory to the manuscript maps found in the collection, and other Houghton maps.

The reports of Houghton's work for the Michigan Geological Survey have been published in Geological Reports of Douglass Houghton: First State Geologist of Michigan, 1837-1845, Lansing, Mich.: Michigan Historical Commission 1928. [MHC call number EA/153/MG345/G345, available online through HathiTrust]

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Geology -- Michigan.
  • Surveyors -- Michigan.
  • Alcona County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Alpena County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Antrim County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Arenac County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Baraga County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Bay County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Benzie County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Charlevoix County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Cheboygan County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Chippewa County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Delta County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Emmet County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Gogebic County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Grand Traverse County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Gratiot County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Houghton County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Huron County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Iosco County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Kalamazoo County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Kent County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Keweenaw County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Leelanau County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Luce County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Mackinac County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Manistee County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Marquette (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Mason County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Menominee County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Muskegon County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Newaygo County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Oceana County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Ontonagon County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Ottawa County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Presque Isle County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Saginaw County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Sanilac County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Schoolcraft County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Tuscola County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Van Buren County (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Minnesota -- Maps.
  • Wisconsin -- Maps.
  • Upper Peninsula (Mich.) -- Maps.
  • Superior, Lake, Region -- Maps.
  • Geology -- Michigan -- Maps.
  • Geology -- Minnesota -- Maps.
  • Geology -- Wisconsin -- Maps.
  • Daguerreotypes.
  • Digital file formats.
  • Photographs.
  • Ehlers, John., Mrs.
  • Houghton, Douglass, 1809-1845.
  • Sager, Abram, 1810-1877.
  • Houghton, Douglass, 1809-1845.
  • Hubbard, Bela, 1814-1896.
  • Mason, Stevens Thomson, 1811-1843.
  • Woodbridge, William, 1780-1861.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Field Notes [series]

The volume of field notes consists primarily of geological notes of areas surveyed during Houghton's field work, and include many maps, geological sections, and sketches of landforms. This is the final office copy of the notes, not the original field notes, which are available in part at the Clarke Historical Library (and on microfilm at this library, see below under Related Collections).

Oversize Volume   1  
Field notes and Observations 1837-1841

(Includes correspondence of Stevens T. Mason and William Woodbridge; Field notes for May 25-September 24, 1840 have been microfilmed. Master negative only)

[access item]
Box   1  
Typescript copy of text of the volume of field notes (2 volumes)
Oversize Folder   1  
Maps and overlays taken from field notes
Oversize Folder   2  

(Photostats use copies)

Oversize Folder   3  
Copies of encapsulated maps
Letterpress book and other correspondence [series]
Oversize Volume   2  
Letterpress book January 1841-April 1845

The letterpress book contains correspondence and copies of reports of the Geological Survey. Because the ink is faded, the volume is rather hard to read.

Correspondence and other communications (Photostats and typescripts)
Box   1  
Box   1  
Box   1  
Other Papers [series]
Box   1  
Fredonia (N.Y.) Academy catalogues (Photostats)
Box   1  
Papers concerning Bela Hubbard which mention Douglass Houghton (Photostats)
Box   1  
Probate records (Photostats)
Box   1  
Miscellanea (Photostats)
Box   1  
Notes made by Mrs. John Ehlers on the life of Douglass Houghton
  Outsize Folder  
Newspaper articles and miscellanea (Photostats)
Photographs [series]

(In UAx folders)

Box   1  
Photographs of portrait paintings made in the 1830s
Additional Descriptive Data

Index to Maps in the Houghton Papers

This inventory includes the manuscript maps drawn on and pasted into the pages of the field notes volume, other manuscript maps that have been removed from the volume and stored with outsize unbound manuscripts, a complementary group of maps in the collections of the Michigan State Archives, and a group of photostatic copies at the William L. Clements Library. Photostat use copies of most of the original maps in this collection are also available at the Bentley Historical Library.

The maps fall into three main groups:

  1. Maps of the Lake Huron shore of the Lower Peninsula from north of Port Huron north to Mackinac Island and the Lake Michigan shore south from Mackinac to the South Haven area, probably drawn in 1838.
  2. Maps of the St. Marys River and the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan shore of the Upper Peninsula, probably drawn in 1839.
  3. Maps of the Lake Superior shore of the Upper Peninsula, from Sault Ste. Marie to La Pointe, Wis., probably drawn in 1840.

A few maps can be dated earlier or later than these groups, or cannot be dated.

The maps in the field notes volume are listed in the order in which they are bound, followed by the outsize maps, the State Archives maps, and the Clements Library maps.

Maps Found in Field Notes volume

  1. [Township 11 North, Range 14 West]16x16 cm. Newaygo County Front flyleaf Copy: Photostat 1 
  2. [Grand Traverse Bay-part, unidentified] 1838?39x16 cm. Antrim, Grand Traverse, or Leelanau Counties Page 1 (facing) Copy: Photostat 10, Two sections on 1 sheet 
  3. [Grand Traverse Bay-south of Charlevoix] 1838?39x13 cm. Charlevoix and Antrim Counties Page 1 (facing) Copy: Photostat 9 
  4. [Lake Michigan shore-Northport area] 1838?39x26 cm. Leelanau County Page 1 (facing) Copy: Photostat 8 
  5. [Lake Michigan shore-Little Traverse Bay and area west past Charlevoix] 1838?40x19 cm. Emmet and Charlevoix Counties Page 1 (facing) Copy: Photostat 7 
  6. [Pigeon (Croche) River mouth] 1837?4x6 cm. Huron County Page 84 Copy: Photostat 10a 
  7. [Saginaw Bay-northwest part, Rifle River to Alabaster area] 1838?32x21 cm. Arenac and Iosco Counties Page 101 Copy: Photostat 11 
  8. [Saginaw Bay-Point Au Gres to Alabaster area] 1838?23x19 cm. Arenac and Iosco Counties Page 101 Copy: Photostat 12 
  9. [Lake Huron shore-Tawas Bay to north of Oscoda] 1838?22x19 cm. Iosco County Page 104 Copy: Photostat 13 
  10. [Lake Huron shore-north of Oscoda to South Point] 1838?23x11 cm.Mileage 240-260 Alcona County Page 105 Copy: Photostat 14 
  11. [Lake Huron shore-Black River to south of Alpena] 1838?21x15 cm. Alcona and Alpena Counties Page 106 Copy: Photostat 15 
  12. [Lake Huron shore-Thunder Bay to Middle Island] 1838?20x20 cm. Alpena County Page 109 Copy: Photostat 16 
  13. [Lake Huron shore-Middle Island to west of Presque Isle] 1838?40x14 cm. Alpena and Presque Isle Counties Page 112 Copy: Photostat 17 
  14. [Lake Huron shore-west of Presque Isle to Forty Mile Point] 1838?38x15 cm. Presque Isle County Page 113 Copy: Photostat 18 
  15. [Lake Huron shore-east of Cheboygan, with Mackinac, Round, and Bois Blanc Islands] 1838?21x30 cm. Cheboygan and Mackinac Counties Page 114 Copy: Photostat 19 
  16. [Lake Michigan shore-Mackinac to west of Harbor Springs] 1838?30x31 cm. Emmet County Page 119 Copy: Photostat 20 
  17. [Lake Michigan shore-Mackinac to Platte River] 1838?26x28 cm. Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Antrim, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie Counties Page 123 Copy: Photostat 21 
  18. [Lake Michigan shore-Leland to south of Frankfort] 1838?39x26 cm. Leelanau and Benzie Counties Page 127 Copy: Photostat 22 
  19. [Lake Michigan shore-area south of Frankfort] 1838?17x10 cm. Benzie or Manistee County Page 132 Copy: Photostat 23 
  20. [Lake Michigan shore-north of Manistee to north of Ludington] 1838?39x14 cm. Manistee and Mason Counties Page 132 Copy: Photostat 23 
  21. [Lake Michigan shore-north of Ludington to Grand River] 1838?40x13 cm. Mason, Oceana, Muskegon, and Ottawa Counties Page 135 Copy: Photostat 24 
  22. [Grand River-detail at Cold Brook] 1838?17x25 cm. Ottawa County Page 137 Copy: Photostat 25 
  23. [Lake Michigan shore-south of Black River] 1838?17x10 cm. Van Buren County Page 138 Copy: Photostat 26 
  24. [St. Marys River and Lake Huron Shore east of Mackinac] 1839?43x51 cm. Chippewa and Mackinac Counties and Ontario Page 177 Copy: Photostat 27 
  25. [Lake Huron and Lake Michigan shore-St. Martin Bay to Point Patterson] 1839?15x41 cm. Mackinac County Page 179 Copy: Photostat 28 
  26. [Lake Michigan shore-Point Patterson to Pointe aux Barques (Garden Peninsula)] 1839?22x32 cm. Mackinac and Schoolcraft Counties Page 180 Copy: Photostat 29 
  27. [Lake Michigan shore-Garden Peninsula and Big Bay De Noc] 1839?30x20 cm. Delta County Page 185 Copy: Photostat 30 
  28. [Lake Michigan shore-Stonington Peninsula and Little Bay De Noc] 1839?23x19 cm. Delta County Page 187 Copy: Photostat 31 
  29. [Green Bay shore-between Escanaba and Menominee] 1839?26X13 cm. Delta and Menominee Counties Page 191 Copy: Photostat 32 
  30. [Menominee River near mouth and adjacent Green Bay shore] 1839?11x25 cm. Menominee County and Wisconsin Page 193 Copy: Photostat 33 
  31. [Whitefish Bay] 1840?5x5 cm. Chippewa County and Ontario Page 199 Copy: Photostat 34 
  32. Curve of river at Lower Falls of the Tequoimenon. 1840?7x10 cm. Chippewa County Page 202 Copy: Photostat 35 

Maps Separated from Field Notes Volume

  1. Coast map showing the geology from Chocolate River to Granite Point of Lake Superior. 1840?32x23 cm. Marquette County Page 217 Copy: Photostat 36 
  2. Map of coast from Granite Point to Yellow Dog (St. Johns) River. 1840?17x21 cm. Marquette County Page 222 Copy: Photostat 37 
  3. Sketch showing by triangulation the position of two knobs of greenstone upon Bay du Gres. 1840?12x18 cm. Keweenaw County Page 230 Copy: Photostat 38 
  4. Sketch showing the position of the copper veins on the easterly cape of Copper Harbor. 1840?8x21 cm. Keweenaw County Page 237 Copy: Photostat 39 
  5. Map showing the geology of Isle Royale together with the relation, in position, of the island to the north and south coasts. 1840?23x24 cm. Keweenaw County, Minnesota, and Ontario Page 257 Copy: Photostat 40 
  6. Map of Grand Portage. 1840?11x22 cm. Minnesota and Ontario Page 261 Copy: Photostat 42a 
  7. Map of Montreal Riv. of Lake Superior, from its mouth to the crossing of the portage path. 1840?17x23 cm. Gogebic County and Wisconsin Page 263
  8. Map illustrative of the ranges of hills crossed by the Montreal R. portage to the 41st pause. 1840?15x23 cm. Gogebic County and Wisconsin Page 266
  9. Sketch of Black River of Lake Superior extending from its mouth about 3 miles. 1840?18x23 cm. Gogebic County Page 268 Copy: Photostat 41 
  10. Map of Eagle River of Keweenaw Point.Map on two sheets. 1840?33x23 cm. and 28x23 cm. Keweenaw County Page 278-279 Copy: Photostat 41a 
  11. [Agate Harbor] 1840?4x19 cm. Keweenaw County Page 284
  12. [Manitou Island] 1840?8x8 cm. Keweenaw County Page 285
  13. [Portage Lake and vicinity] 1840?17x23 cm. Houghton County Page 287 Copy: Photostat 42 
  14. [Pine River, Pine Lake, and adjacent Lake Superior shore] 1840?12x24 cm. Marquette County Page 290 Copy: Photostat 43 
  15. [Lake Superior shore-Huron Bay to Salmon Trout River] 1840?41x25 cm. Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw Counties Page 292 (Overlay with place names in Outsize folder) Copy: Photostat 44 (overlay 45) 
  16. [Lake Superior shore-Salmon Trout River to Black River] 1840?41x25 cm. Houghton, Ontonagon, and Gogebic Counties Page 293 (Overlay with place names in Outsize folders) Copy: Photostat 44 (overlay 45) 
  17. [Lake Superior shore-Black River to La Pointe] 1840?13x20 cm. Gogebic County and Wisconsin Page 294 (Overlay with place names in Outsize folder) Copy: Photostat 46 (overlay 45) 
  18. [Montreal River] 1841?13x23 cm. Gogebic County and Wisconsin Page 299 Copy: Photostat 47 
  19. Sketch of the geology of a portion of the Upper Peninsula as deduced from the field notes of 1840. 1841?35x26 cm. Chippewa, Mackinac, and Luce Counties, and Ontario Page 311 Copy: Photostat 48 
  20. [Sections 26 and 27, Township 9 North, Range 2 West]17x22 cm. Gratiot County Back flyleaf
  21. [Section 3 of Township 6 North, Range 12 West]49x47 cm. Kent County Back flyleaf
  22. [Part of Township 2 South, Range 11 West]18x7 cm. Kalamazoo County Back flyleaf
  23. Coast map showing the geology from Chocolate River to Granite Point of Lake Superior. 1840?34x27 cm. Marquette County Outsize folder
  24. [Escanaba River] 1839?39x25 cm. Delta and Marquette Counties Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 49 
  25. [Lake Huron shore-Lexington to south of White Rock] 1838?42x27 cm. Sanilac County Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 2 
  26. [Lake Huron shore-White Rock to Caseville] 1838?43x52 cm. Huron County Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 3 
  27. [Lake Huron shore-Au Sable Point to Sturgeon Point]45x14 cm. Iosco and Alcona Counties Outsize folder
  28. [Saginaw Bay-Sand Point to Alabaster] 1838?65x50 cm. Huron, Tuscola, Bay, and Arenac Counties Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 4 
  29. [Lake Huron shore-Tawas Bay to south of Black River] 1838?50x23 cm. Iosco and Alcona Counties Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 5 
  30. [Lake Huron shore-Black River to Middle Island] 1838?40x36 cm. Alcona and Alpena Counties Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 6 
  31. [Lake Superior and Upper Peninsula of Michigan]32x38 cm. Northern Peninsula, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario  Copy: Photostat 51 Outsize folder
  32. [Northern Peninsula-area north and west of Marquette including Keweenaw Peninsula] 1845?30x23 cm. Marquette, Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw Counties Outsize folder Copy: Photostat 50 

Maps Located at Michigan State Archives

  1. [Lake Huron shore-White Rock to Caseville]ca. 60x60 cm. Huron County Michigan State Archives Map Collection 01132
  2. [Saginaw Bay-mouth of Saginaw River to Pinconning Creek]ca. 16x16 cm. Bay County Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources
  3. [Saginaw Bay-Saganing Creek to Alabaster area]ca. 60x60 cm. Arenac and Iosco Counties Michigan State Archives Map Collection 01132
  4. [Saginaw Bay-Saganing Creek to Point Au Gres]ca. 16x16 cm. Arenac County Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources
  5. [Saginaw Bay-Point Au Gres to Alabaster area]ca. 16x16 cm. Arenac and Iosco Counties Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources
  6. [Lake Huron shore-Tawas Bay to north of Oscoda]ca. 16x16 cm. Iosco County Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources
  7. [Lake Huron shore-north to Oscoda to Sturgeon Point]ca. 16x16 cm. Iosco and Alcona Counties Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources
  8. [Lake Huron shore-Alcona area to South Point]ca. 16x16 cm. Alcona and Alpena Counties Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources
  9. [Lake Huron shore-North Point area]ca. 16x16 cm. Alpena County Michigan State Archives RG 71-12 Dept. of Natural Resources

Original Maps Not Located - Copies in Clements Library

  1. [Lake Huron shore-south of Black River to Middle Island]41x19 cm. Alcona and Alpena Counties  M-204 in corner  Clements Photostat (unnumbered) 
  2. [Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay - Saginaw to Pine River]58x16 cm. Saginaw, Bay and Arenac Counties  M-204 in corner  Clements Photostat unnumbered (2 copies) 
Related Collections

Houghton papers, 1830-1846, containing business correspondence relating to the real estate business of Houghton and Henry Hubbard, correspondence concerning the incorporation of St. Paul's Church in Detroit (1842), survey maps, and geological field notes (1837-1840 and 1845) are held by the Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The Michigan Historical Collections has a microfilm copy of this collection. The field notes in this collection are Houghton's original notes, written in pocket-size notebooks.

Other Douglass Houghton papers are held by the Michigan State Archives (in the records of the Geological Survey) and the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.

A portrait of Houghton painted by Alvah Bradish in 1850 is found in the Michigan Historical Collections works of art collection. A daguerreotype of another portrait of Houghton painted by Bradish is cataloged in the photograph collection.