A Picturesque Situation (Hardcover)

Mackinac Before Photography, 1615-1860 (Great Lakes Books)

By Brian Leigh Dunnigan

Wayne State University Press, 9780814332146, 395pp.

Publication Date: May 1, 2008

List Price: 75.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From the era of European exploration to the beginning of the Civil War, the Straits of Mackinac were a crucial link in the westward water transportation system of the United States. As the primary route to Lake Michigan and the Mississippi Valley, the Straits were a highway for the fur trade, a hotbed of military outposts, and one of the first settled areas of Michigan. Later, the natural beauty of the Straits, and particularly of Mackinac Island, led to the popularity of the area as a nineteenth-century tourist destination. A Picturesque Situation uses documents, maps, drawings, and prints to illustrate the unique history of the Straits from 1615 to 1860.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, Native Americans, soldiers, missionaries, traders, explorers, and scientists recorded their impressions of the Straits of Mackinac in letters, reports, diaries, books, and legal and financial documents. Military officers noted fortifications and topography, surveyors mapped boundaries, cartographers defined local geography, and travelers sketched scenery and local personalities. All of these rare and important glimpses of Mackinac before the age of the camera are elegantly presented in this oversized, full-color volume. The text of A Picturesque Situation complements its many images by detailing their history and incorporating the words and descriptions of people who visited or lived at the Straits before 1860.

Although much has been written about the history of the Straits of Mackinac, most works focus on narrow aspects of its history. Michigan historians and those interested in life in the pre-Civil War United States will appreciate the broad and striking picture of the Straits painted by A Picturesque Situation.

About the Author

Brian Leigh Dunnigan is the head of research and publications and curator of maps at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is also the author of Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit, 1701-1838 (Wayne State University Press, 2001).