The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837. Key in this effort is to celebrate the intellectual life of the University. This Faculty History Website is intended as a component of the effort to document the extraordinary academic achievements of Michigan’s faculty in building and sustaining one of the world’s great universities. It provides access to a comprehensive database of information concerning the thousands of faculty members who have served the University of Michigan.
Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.


Peter White
History of the University of Michigan 213

Peter White was born at Rome, New York, October 31, 1830, son of Peter and Harriet (Tubbs) White. He comes from old New England stock, his grandfather being one of the Revolutionary soldiers engaged in the defence of Fort Stanwix (as Rome was then called) against St. Leger in 1777.

His father removed to Green Bay, Wisconsin, when the lad was very small. At fifteen the boy struck out for himself to Mackinac Island, then a busy fur trading post. There he worked in a store, or assisted on the lake survey, until in 1849 he joined a boat expedition to the newly discovered Iron Mountains of Lake Superior; and returning from the site of the mines to the lakeshore became one of the first settlers of Marquette. Here he was clerk in a general store, postmaster, and soon a merchant on his own account.

From merchandising he passed on to the study and practice of the law. He established a bank, since 1863 the First National Bank of Marquette, entered into intimate relations with several important mining companies, and built up a large Fire, Life, and Marine Insurance business.

In 1857, he was a member of the State House of Representatives, from the Upper Peninsula, and, in 1875, State Senator. When Marquette County was organized, he became County Clerk and Register of Deeds and served also as Collector of the Port of Marquette for many years. As State Senator he made the first effort to secure a Normal School for Northern Michigan, and he obtained the grant of lands by the State that secured the building of the Duluth and South Shore Railway.

He has been a member of several commissions, by appointment of the
Governor: In 1892-1893 he was a member of the Board of World's Fair Managers for Michigan, and served on the Board of Judges of Awards. He set up in the building of Mines and Minerals at that fair what was generally conceded to be the best exhibit of any state or nation, consisting of ores of iron, copper, gold, and silver, as well as of the manufactured products of minerals.

Since 1895 he has been a member of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission; and since 1903 a member of the State Board of Library Commissioners. In 1905 he secured the passage of the law creating a commission to arrange for a celebration of the semi-centennial of the opening of the Sault St. Marie Canal, and was appointed chairman of the Commission. He has been Park and Cemetery Commissioner of Marquette for forty continuous years, and has been a member of the School board of the city for over fifty continuous years.

He is an officer of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, and is prominently identified with the American Historical Association. His public benefactions have been numerous and large. Marquette owes to him its fine library building, with a large part of the contents; the Science Hall of its State Normal School; and the beautifying of the fine Park of Presque Isle. He is also the founder of the Peter White Fellowship in American History and of the Peter White Classical Fellowship at the University.

In April 1900 the Regents of the University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts.

In April 1903, he was elected Regent of the University for the full term and took his seat the following January. He has been chairman of the Library Committee of the Board and has rendered invaluable service in promoting the interests of the General Library.

In 1857 he was married to Ellen S. Hewitt by whom he had six children, only one of whom survives, Mrs. George Shiras. Mrs. White died in June 1905.