Hidden History of Detroit: Everything you need to know

To schedule an interview, request a review copy, inquire after my favorite cocktail recipe, send for images of my book, my face, or my dog, or for any other information you may require, just send me an email.

In Hidden History of Detroit, discover the Motor City — before the Motor: a muddy port town full of grog shops, horse races, haphazard cemeteries and enterprising bootstrappers from all over the world. In these funny, warm and surprisingly personal essays, you’ll meet the argumentative French fugitive who founded the city, the tobacco magnate who haunts his shuttered factory, the gambler prankster millionaire who built a monument to himself, and the historians who created the story of Detroit as we know it: one of the oldest, rowdiest and most enigmatic cities in the Midwest.

Where to buy it

*Buy it from me directly and I’ll knock $3 off the list price!* Grab that great deal right here.

Prefer a brick & mortar shop? I don’t blame you! Local retail rules! This list is not by any means complete, but it should get you started. It’s also a good idea to call ahead and make sure the book is in stock, especially if you plan to make a special trip.

If you see the book somewhere I haven’t listed below, would you be so kind as to drop me a line?

Brick and mortar

City Bird
460 W. Canfield, Detroit

Detroit Historical Museum
5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit

Detroit Institute of Arts Museum Shop
5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit

The Henry Ford Museum Store
20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn

Magina Books
2311 Fort St., Lincoln Park

The Book Beat
26010 Greenfield, Oak Park

Pure Detroit
Locations at the Guardian Building, the Fisher Building, and the Renaissance Center

Other online options

Order directly from The History Press or from Arcadia Books

Order from an independent bookstore at IndieBound.com

Order from Amazon.com

Order for your Kindle

About Amy Elliott Bragg

Amy is a writer and editor. She blogs about early Detroit history at nighttraintodetroit.com. Before returning home to metro Detroit in 2009, she lived in Milwaukee, where she was senior editor of the arts and culture magazine ThirdCoast Digest (formerly VITAL Source).

By day she’s the content director for Detroit-based Issue Media Group. By evening and weekend, she rambles around old cemeteries and works hard at old books. She has written about the history of the accordion for the Metro Times, has been invited more than once to nerd out about Detroit history on WDET’s The Craig Fahle Show, and occasionally/enthusiastically guides tours of historical interest for Atlas Obscura and at historic Elmwood Cemetery. She is board president of Preservation Detroit, a co-founder of Brick + Beam Detroit, and emeritus organizer of the Detroit Drunken Historical Society.

She lives in Ferndale with her husband and her dog. She is a graduate of Beloit College. Hidden History of Detroit is her first book. She likes cocktails.

What people are saying

“Writer Amy Elliott Bragg unearths the salt of the city with fresh prose that reads like Detroit pulp nonfiction.” — Tamara Warren, Detroit Free Press

“From Antoine Cadillac’s arrival on these pastoral shores, it would seem Detroit has always been facing calamities of one sort or another: conflagrations, invasions, epidemics, disorders and drunkenness. But Bragg renders this rocky history in graceful prose with a warm, first-person touch that lovingly lingers over some of its most unusual characters, those both immortalized in statuary and street names or simply forgotten over the ages.” — Michael Jackman, Metro Times

“I would say the glass of Canadian Club Classic 12 is optional, but really it’s not.” — Brian Mulloy, Michigan Essay

Hidden History of Detroit contains many nice stories that are true and one picture of Lewis Cass that looks like Dennis when he forgets to cut his hair.” — Christina & Dennis Jacobs, Perfect Laughter


First edition

These corrections have been issued for the second printing, published in January 2012, so if you own an old copy of the book and raised an eyebrow at any of these facts, here you go:

In the introduction, I write that George Washington Stark was born in Corktown in 1884. Stark was born on the East Side.

In the chapter on the painting First State Election in Detroit, I write that Stevens T. Mason officially became Governor of the Territory after the death of Governor George B. Porter. In fact, Mason became Acting Governor of the Territory upon Porter’s death; he was not ”officially” the Governor until Michigan became a state in 1837,  although he became Governor Elect after the state constitution was ratified in 1835.

In the chapter Rivals, a typographical error indicated that the battle of North Anna took place in 1854. This battle, being part of the Civil War, was fought in 1864.

In the chapter Burying the Boy Governor, I write that the State Capitol was moved to Lansing in 1872. The state capitol moved to Lansing in 1848. Construction began on the State Capitol building we know today in 1872.


  1. Kathy Conlon - May 8, 2013 @ 8:15 am

    Hi Amy,

    Thoroughly enjoy your postings. I belong to Questers, a group interested in preservation and restoration. I would love to connect with you about a speaking engagement and/or an historical tour.

  2. Joan - September 1, 2014 @ 6:50 am

    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to far added agreeable from you!
    However, how could we communicate?

  3. Theresa Weller - January 17, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

    Hi Amy – I so enjoyed your information on the Burnham painting. I have an ancestor from the Soo who was a legislator from 1836 to 1839. Would love to find your book! I have written an article about this ancestor but lack his death information. One part that was particular intriguing was a description of the Steamboat Hotel. Wow, dinnertime sounded like insanity! I think your book would be filled with similar stories. I will make an effort to find it! Thanks again for your research! Terry Weller in St. Ignace, MI

  4. JUVETTE HAWKINS WILLIAMS - June 18, 2018 @ 5:02 pm

    Greetings Amy,

    I am Juvette Hawkins-Williams, and you are an Inspiration to a “History Buff” like myself. It is imperative that we preserve great and not so great historical information of Detroit. Currently, I am in the process of reopening George Washington Stark Elementary School in Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers Historic District. It’s more than fitting that we educate our youngest citizens as early as possible.

    Please reach out to me when you have the time.

    Thanks for your Historical Knowledge of our CITY OF DESTINY

    Sincerely Determined,

    Juvette Hawkins-Williams, B.S., M.Ed.

  5. David Warren - January 14, 2019 @ 6:03 am

    I found your book at Pure Detroit on 1/12/19 while on a history tour of the architecture of Detroit.

    You book is wonderfully written, hugely informative and a pleasure to read. Please write another book as soon as possible.


  6. Cal Knopf - October 13, 2019 @ 1:52 pm

    I enjoyed your book. I bought it at The Henry Ford Museum. I could not put it down. It is very easy to read. Some history books are stuffy, boring, and a chore to read. Your book was light and a pleasure from start to end. I look forward to reading more of your books.

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