(10) 220 N.Huron St. – Florence Smalley Babbitt

Florence in a dress from the “Age of Lincoln” worn at Ypsilanti’s Centennial to show the city needed a museum. Photo Courtesy of Ypsilanti Historical Museum

Florence Babbitt(1847-1929) was one of the first collector’s of antiques and Americana in the State of Michigan. She started collecting dishes when she was 13, and her interest in collecting only grew. Florence married the “boy next door” William Babbitt, in 1866. The two of them bought what was then, the oldest house in Ypsilanti, and it soon filled up with Florence’s dishes, toy collection, furniture, English silver, brass and pewter! She worked hard to constantly remind the community that it is important to remember, and understand the past. Florence dreamed of having a museum for the State, as well as a museum for Ypsilanti.

Interest for a Michigan State Historical Society arose, and Florence helped to make it happen by fundraising. As a result she became the official collector for the state society. When Henry Ford was making plans for Greenfield Village, he often used Florence Babbitt as a collecting consultant. In the end, despite her constant efforts to raise awareness for a museum and for preservation in Ypsilanti, a museum was not formed in her lifetime. Due to this issue, her collection was dispersed to several different museums and institutions including: The Henry Ford, The Michigan Historical Center, Eastern Michigan University, and the Grand Rapids Public Museum. A large part of her collection is now fittingly apart of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum. Ultimately, her collection found its way home.

A small sampling of Florence Babbitt’s collection
Photo Courtesy of Ypsilanti Historical Museum

 

Bibliography

Florence Babbitt, Vertical File, Ypsilanti Historical Museum

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