The Michigan Historical Collections Topical Photograph Collection offer a broad and varied glimpse into nearly one hundred years of Michigan history, from the 1860s into the 1950s. The provenance of most of the photographs has been lost and therefore these images have been grouped together by subject into an artificial accumulation. Subjects depicted range from industry and transportation to clothing styles and social customs.
The photographs in this collection were received from various sources. Subjects include carriages, automobiles, Great Lakes shipping, railroads, and mass transit, especially street railroads. There are also images documenting activities within the mining, forestry, and lumber industries, mostly in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Also included are photographs of various ethnic groups and their societies, notably of Native Americans (1870s-1930s) of the Manistee and Ludington, Michigan, areas. Some of the images are street views and private residences in various Michigan towns and cities. Of interest are photographs of Michigan units taking part in the Spanish-American War and the "Polar Bear Expedition" of World War I. There is also a series of bookplates, [acquired from?] William H. Bicknell, many of which relate to the University of Michigan.