Albion Interactive History / Library / Birds Eye View of the City of Albion (1988)

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Research Documents

Frank Passic, Birds Eye View of the City of Albion, 1988

The Bird’s Eye View was a very popular art form immediately following the Civil War. Numerous Michigan communities had Bird’s Eye Views produced. Most of these, including the Bird’s Eye View of Albion, were the work of Albert Ruger (1828-1899), a Prussian immigrant and Civil War veteran, whose original occupation was that of a mason.

Ruger served in Company E, of the 196th Ohio Infantry at the end of the Civil War. While there, he prepared drawings of campsites of the Union army. In the spring of 1865, Ruger drew and had lithographed a Bird’s Eye view of Columbus, Ohio, at the time that the funeral car of Abraham Lincoln passed through the city. That lithograph drew particular attention, and has been reproduced many times.

Ruger moved to Battle creek, Michigan in 1866, and began producing Bird’s Eye Views of nine Michigan cities (plus two in nearby Indiana), including Albion. He continued in this occupation for twenty five years, traveling from state to state. It is estimated that he produced more than 250 views of cities, in a total of twenty-four states.

A detailed biography of the artist Ruger is contained in the book, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America: Lithographs of towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalog of Their Work 1825-1925, by John Reps (University of Missouri Press, 1984), pp. 201-204.

The Bird’s Eye View of Albion is undated, but from building comparisons and other factors, it can be safely determined that it was drawn in the year 1866.

The 1866 Bird’s Eye View of Albion measures 29 ¾” long, and 23 7/8″ wide. The actual “viewarea is 27 3/4″ by 15 ¾”, with a 3 ½ “blue sky” on the top. The map was produced and published by Ruger. It was printed at the Chicago Lithographing Company. Several original copies are still known to be in existence today, mostly in historical reference libraries, or in museums.

The Albion Historical Society reprinted the Bird’s Eye View of Albion in 1988. It is interesting to note that although Ruger used the word “city” in his title, Albion was still a village and did not become a city until 1885.

The reproduction was printed on 80 lb Mohawk Super Fine Cover acid-free paper, and 540 copies were produced. The printer was the Colonial Press, in nearby Jackson, Michigan. The Society used an original map from their collection, which was photographically reproduced, and then cleaned, as well as having the tears repaired, and the blue color restored.

The reproduction is basically the actual size of the original, with the exception that a very small portion of the left edge of the view had to be shaved off by the printer in order to produce the “window” effect for the coloring.

This book is intended as a general guide, to help the viewer locate the homes and businesses of specific persons living in Albion after the Civil War. Four basic references sources have been used in helping to determine addresses and residences.

The first is the 1858 Map of Calhoun Country, Michigan, published by Geil, Harley, and Siverd in Philadelphia. This canvas scroll-type map contains a map of Albion Village, showing the block numbers, building/house locations, and the names of some of the owners of the property. Although dated 1858, the map was actually prepared and produced in 1857.

The second source is the 1871 Map of Albion, published by Taylor & Bird (Philadelphia). It, too, shows the village, listing block numbers, and showing placement of homes. Unfortunately, very few names of property owners are given on this map. However, a listing of the merchants on Superior St. is included, and this has proved helpful. We have used the central portion of that map in this guide. The original is in the Albion College Archives.

The third source is the 1873 Atlas of Calhoun Country, Michigan, published by F.W. Beers & Co. of New York. This work is an important resource, in that it names the property owners on each lot.

The fourth source is the 1869-70 Albion Village Directory, which was published as part of the 1869-70 Calhoun County Business Director, published in 1869 by E.G. Rust of Battle Creek.

This source is the first known village directory of Albion, and lists residences by their street, number, and the resident’s occupation. In 1987, the Albion Historical Society reprinted the Albion portion of this work, and prepared a street by street numerical listing from the original directory.

The 1869-70 directory has proved to be a very valuable asset in determining locations, and residences. We strongly urge those who purchase a map and this guide, to also obtain a copy of the directory reprint.

Using these major resources, we have proceeded to move block by block in the Birds eye View, attempting to reconstruct an overall guide to “who lived where” during the late 1860’s. It must be noted that for the most part, we are using the 1869-70 directory listing in our determination, as there is no such 1866 work.

However, many people who were at one house in 1866, were still in the same house in 1869. We have used these persons as reference points, which has helped greatly in determining locations, etc.

In order to better understand the 1866 Birds Eye View, we have copied the 1858 and 1873 maps, block by block, and are including them along with the enlarged Birds Eye View of each block. This will help you, the reader, in making your own determination as to identifications. We have also copied portions of the 1871 map, which is helpful in those sections which gravitate towards Superior St.

The downtown business district proved most difficult to decipher, due to the fact that merchants were continually moving from one building to another. More emphasis, therefore, is given on the history of a particular building, rather than a particular merchant who occupied it.

We have not attempted to guess what houses are still here in 1988 that are pictured in the 1866 Birds Eye View, with just a few exceptions. Many houses were either moved or reconstructed, so much so that it cannot be positively determined if a house is still standing today, unless very specialized research is undertaken. However, in general, there appears to be many houses or buildings which appear in the 1866 Birds Eye View, which are still standing in Albion today, or were only demolished in the last 25 years or so.

On occasion, I have included some biographical and/or historical information about a particular person or structure. This was done at random, depending up the easy access to such information and space considerations.

Now some useful information about the guide itself. Use the numbered “key” at the beginning to determine each block number. They are analyzed in numerical order in the guide. On the other hand, the large section stretches, i.e., N. Eaton St. area, are covered in the beginning. Albion College lots (Beginning with 90c) are covered AFTER the regular village lots, which end at 101. Those blocks which are blank on the Bird’s Eye View are not covered in this guide.

The directional boundaries of Albion’s streets were different than they are today. Today, Cass St. forms the north/south boundary, while Superior St. forms the east/west boundary. In the 1860s, street numbers “started” at the Kalamazoo River, N. Eaton St., S. Ionia St., and others.

This booklet, originally printed in 1988 has proved a very useful tool for those studying the Ruger map. This 1993 reprint contains an occasional correction now and then from the original edition.

-Frank Passic
Albion Historian
April, 1993 Reprint edition