Father Gabriel Richard Brought Michigan’s First Printing Press to Detroit in 1809!

Father Gabriel Richard Brought Michigan’s First Printing Press to Detroit in 1809!


Father Gabriel Richard


Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus

(“We hope for better things. They will rise from the ashes.”)

Father Gabriel Richard (Detroit, 1805)


In life, it’s good to celebrate progress, honor the past and always give credit to the architects and originators.

Father Gabriel Richard was a dynamic figure of early Detroit. We have him to thank for bringing the very first printing press to Michigan, among a host of other incredible accomplishments.

The Chinese invented paper around 100 AD. Then, they invented the process of imprinting ink on paper in 175 AD. They would take blocks of wood, ink them, put paper on them and rub them with a bamboo stick to create an impression.

The Chinese invented paper around 100 AD.


Around 1440 AD, Gutenberg, who previously worked for the Mainz mint in Germany, invented the printing press in Strasbourg, France. Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press revolutionized the world.

On February 23rd, 1455, Gutenberg printed 200 copies of his now famous Gutenberg Bible, a two-volume Bible written in Latin.

Currently, there are only about 48 copies known to exist. One of these babies is estimated to go for upwards of $35 million dollars if sold on the market today.

So, if anyone has an original Gutenberg Bible lying around they want to sell me, just let me know and I’ll be over in a jiff to buy it from you!

Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455 AD)



Quick Timeline of Father Gabriel Richard

(compiled from various sources by Ryan M. Place)


Printing Press


Saintes, France (October 15th, 1767)

Father Gabriel Richard is born.


Paris, France (1792)

While the French Revolution is in full swing, Father Gabriel Richard leaves France for the Midwest, USA. He was originally stationed in Baltimore, Maryland but his first official job was preaching as missionary to Native Americans in Southern Illinois.


Detroit (1798)

Father Gabriel Richard arrives in Detroit, which was a tiny French village on the river at the time.


Detroit (1802-1832)

Father Gabriel Richard is pastor of Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church.


Early Detroit


Detroit (June 11th, 1805)

The Great Detroit Fire of 1805 leveled the city’s 200+ log cabin homes, including Fort Detroit.


Upon witnessing the devastation, Father Gabriel Richard uttered his now famous phrase “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” (“We hope for better things. They will rise from the ashes.”).


This phrase is now the City of Detroit’s official motto.


Detroit (June 1805)

After the blaze, a major food shortage ensued. Father Gabriel Richard organized massive food aid relief to the city from outlying ribbon farms in what are now the suburbs.


Detroit (June 30th, 1805)

Augustus Woodward arrives in Detroit. Judge Woodward was appointed chief judge of Michigan territory by President Thomas Jefferson. Judge Woodward joins forces with Fr. Gabriel.


Detroit (Spring 1809)

Father Gabriel Richard brings the first printing press to Michigan. He sets it up on Detroit’s Southwest side at 5450 West Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, up the street from Fort Wayne.


Judge Woodward’s Map of Detroit.


Detroit (August 1st, 1809)

Father Gabriel Richard prints the first book printed in Michigan.


Detroit (August 31st, 1809-1816)

Father Gabriel Richard and James Miller print Detroit’s first newspaper, The Michigan Essay: or Impartial Observer. By 1840, Michigan Territory will have over 30 newspapers.


Detroit (1812)

During the War of 1812, Father Gabriel Richard is imprisoned by the British for refusing to submit to them. “I have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and I cannot take another,” Fr. Richard told them.


Detroit (July 1817)

Michigan’s first bookstore, The Detroit Book Store, opens. It is owned by John P. Sheldon and Ebenezer Reed. Father Gabriel Richard is a frequent customer and supplier.




Detroit (August 26th, 1817)

Father Gabriel Richard and Rev. John Monteith, with the assistance of Judge Woodward, establish the Catholepistemiad of Michigan. In 1837, this school moved to Ann Arbor and was renamed The University of Michigan.


Michigan (1823-1825)

Father Gabriel Richard serves as the Michigan Territory’s delegate to the United States Congress. He fought for the establishment of The Territorial Road, which connected Detroit to Chicago. This road is now known as Michigan Avenue.


Detroit (September 13th, 1832)

Father Gabriel Richard dies. He is the last victim of the raging cholera epidemic in Detroit. Reportedly, the epidemic started when a troop ship carrying infected soldiers to Chicago to squash Blackhawk’s rebellion, stopped in Detroit, and unwittingly unleashed the epidemic on fair Detroit.


Michigan (January 26th, 1837)

Michigan officially becomes a State.


Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church in Detroit, Michigan.


Father Gabriel Richard is buried in a subterranean crypt inside Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church (1000 Sainte Anne Street, Detroit, Michigan).



Printing Press.


Some other resources you should check out:

Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit houses Father Gabriel Richard’s original collection of books and papers



200 Years of Detroit Booksellers (this is an excellent book by deceased BCD member Kay MacKay)



Frontier Seaport (fascinating scholarly work about early Detroit superbly written by Dr. Catherine Cangany)



Michigan’s First Bookstore (c. 1817-1828)



Detroit: Engine of America (wonderfully informative book by Detroit’s own RJ King)



Flor-Dri (5450 W. Jefferson, Detroit), which was once the original site of Michigan’s first printing press in 1809, thanks to Gabriel Richard (photo by: Ryan M. Place)


First known illustration of a printing press (c. 1499 AD).


Win a FREE Personalized Autographed Copy of ‘Detroit: Engine of America’ signed by author R.J. KING!

Win a FREE Personalized Autographed Copy of ‘Detroit: Engine of America’ signed by author R.J. KING!

Detroit: Engine of America (photo courtesy of Calvert Lithgraph Company)


*Special thanks to R.J. King for this*

We are raffling off one personalized autographed copy of ‘Detroit: Engine of America‘ signed by author R.J. King!

*One winner will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*


The raffle will run from Monday, September 23 to Sunday, September 29.


Detroit: Engine of America

Detroit: Engine of America‘ is written by award-winning journalist, editor, and author R.J. King. Published by Momentum Books, this 168-page hardcover book is the ultimate book about Detroit’s history.

King, editor of DBusiness magazine, DBusiness Daily News, DBusiness Tech and Mobility News, and Detroit 500, details chronologically, for the first time, how the city grew, step by step, from a French fort on the Detroit River in 1701 to become the world’s first industrial powerhouse and the birthplace of the automotive industry in 1900.

In the first chapter, “Detroit: Engine of America” details how from 1600 to 1800 the superpowers of Europe — France, England, Spain, and the Netherlands — opened trade routes to the New World. The English and the Dutch settled along the East Coast, the Spanish went south to Florida, Cuba, and the West Indies, while the French sailed the St. Lawrence River and established Quebec and Montreal before turning south to found Detroit.

From there, the book covers the city’s growth by decade, from 1800 to 1900, including the Great Fire of 1805, the platting of modern streets by Augustus B. Woodward, the War of 1812 and the surrender of the city to the British, the resulting American victory, the rapid development of a manufacturing economy, the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and the resulting mass migration of people from the East Coast and beyond to what is the oldest city in the Midwest.

Detroit: Engine of America (image courtesy of Momentum Books)

Readers will learn about Detroit’s role in other major milestones such as the establishment of Michigan as a state in 1837, and the expansion of industry fueled by the production of iron, steel, copper, and brass machinery, and the breakneck progression of farms, hearths, stoves, mills, foundries, steamships, railroads, and finally, the horseless carriage.

The book is designed as a journal, complete with a red page-mark ribbon, to evoke an explorer’s guide to Detroit. Booklovers can follow in the footsteps of well-known pioneers, inventors, and merchants of the era, including Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac, Lewis Cass, Father Gabriel Richard, Gov. Stevens T. Mason, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Elijah Brush, Bernhard Stroh, Frederick Sanders, R.L. Polk, Ellen Scripps, Mayor Hazen S. Pingree, Henry Ford, and many more.

“Detroit has turned the corner on its renaissance, but few people know how the city was, and still is, at the cutting edge of manufacturing, innovation, and culture,” says King, author of “Mystical,” “Passport to the Corner Office,” and “8 Track: The First Mobile App.” “My new book is a tribute to the men and women who built a city out of the wilderness starting in 1701, and sustained its incredible growth to become the world’s Industrial Versailles in 1900. And the best part is, Detroit is still leading the way. It remains the ultimate Maker City.”

Momentum Books was founded in 1987 and was acquired by Hour Media in 2001. As a small press focusing on regional nonfiction, Momentum has cultivated a reputation for its exceptional catalog of award-winning, mostly Michigan-centric, books.

Momentum Books

“It’s an outstanding book.”

Bob Bury, President and CEO, Fair Lane Home of Clara and Henry Ford, former President and CEO, Detroit Historical Museum

“It’s a beautiful book and it’s done so well.”

Mitch Albom, Author, Columnist, Host on WJR-AM

“R.J. King’s book provides great insight on leadership and how people working together can accomplish amazing things.”

Vanessa Denha-Garmo, Host, “It’s Your Community,” WJR-AM

R.J. King (photo courtesy of R.J. King)

Biography of R.J. King

R.J. King is editor of DBusiness magazine, DBusiness Daily News, Tech and Mobility News, and Detroit 500, all of which cover companies in metro Detroit and Michigan that are expanding locally, nationally, and internationally. He also is author of four books, “Detroit: Engine of America,” “Passport to the Corner Office: The Starter’s Guide to Corporate Life,” “8 Track: The First Mobile App,” and “Mystical.”

Since 2011, DBusiness magazine has been honored with more than 35 Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in the Editorial Excellence Awards from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers, including being named the top regional business magazine in the country. Prior to launching DBusiness in 2006, Mr. King was a business writer for The Detroit News for 16 years, where he wrote more than 4,000 articles covering economic development, automotive, aerospace, health care, technology, transportation, and other business sectors.

Mr. King is a board member of the Brother Rice Business Alliance, Beyond Basics, Detroit Aircraft Corp., Detroit Spacecraft Corp., ASX, and the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he serves on the Board of Trustees for The Parade Co. He is a member of the Detroit Athletic Club, and on the board of the DAC Executives Club and the DAC Car Club. He also is a member of the Boston-Edison Historic District and the University of Michigan Alumni Association. In 2014, Mr. King was inducted into the International Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Hall of Fame.

DBusiness Magazine


Momentum Books


DBusiness Magazine


Hour Detroit



*Special thanks to R.J. King for this*

We are raffling off one personalized autographed copy of ‘Detroit: Engine of America‘ signed by author R.J. King!

*One winner will be selected at random. Enter now for your chance to win!*


The raffle will run from Monday, September 23 to Sunday, September 29.



R.J. King (courtesy of R.J. King)