Detroit’s Bicentennial Medal

Turn of the century relic shows how Detroiters celebrated city’s 200th birthday


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On July 24, Detroit turns 316 years old. Back in 1901, Detroiters went all out for the city’s 200th birthday. The bronze medal above, donning a rendering of Detroit founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac’s home, was issued by an official committee with the city at Detroit’s bicentennial celebration. Emblems representing the United States, Great Britain, and France are shown on the back.

The medal was one of the more stylish accessories fashioned for the ceremony, which also included horse-drawn floats and re-enactments of Cadillac’s landing in Detroit.

Mayor William C. Maybury headed the celebrations and also sealed descriptions of the city and predictions into a shoe-box-sized copper time capsule. When the city opened it in 2001, they discovered testimonies like the 1901 police commissioners’ prophecy that prisoners would be transported around the city in pneumatic tubes by the 21st century.

Our prediction from 2017? The tubes may not happen, but our ingenuity will strike gold.


The 200th anniversary medal is part of the Detroit Historical Society’s archives. Detroit Historical Museum; 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7935; detroithistorical.org
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