Wilbert B. Hinsdale (1851–1944) was born on May 25, 1851, in Wadsworth, Ohio. He received a B.S. from Hiram College in 1875 and an M.S. in 1878; an M.D. from Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College in 1887; and an A.M. from Hiram College in 1897. Hinsdale served on the staff of the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College from 1890 to 1895.
In 1895 Hinsdale was appointed Professor of Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Clinical Medicine (later Internal Medicine) and dean of the Homeopathic Medical College at the University of Michigan. He was later given the additional title of director of the Homeopathic Medical Hospital. He retired from both positions in 1922, after the college was essentially dissolved by a mandated merger with the university's Medical School.
Although he was a doctor by profession, Hinsdale had a lifelong interest in archaeology, and even before the Museum of Anthropology was established, he deposited a large collection of Native American artifacts with the university. Soon after his retirement in 1922, Hinsdale was given the honorary title of custodian in charge of the collections in Michigan Archaeology. His charge was to develop the university's collections with funding from the Museum of Zoology. After the Museum of Anthropology was established, Hinsdale's title was changed, in 1931, to Associate in Charge of the Great Lakes Division.
Affectionately termed the father of Michigan archaeology by his colleagues, Hinsdale was responsible for the first systematic attempts to identify, organize, and record the prehistory of the state of Michigan. His extensive network of "informants" (mainly amateur archaeologists) provided him with a continual stream of information about archaeological sites and finds across the state. Hinsdale also visited many sites and led the earliest Museum of Anthropology-sponsored fieldwork in the state. Hinsdale's Archaeological Atlas of Michigan, published in 1931, brought together information about the location of Michigan sites throughout the state for the first time, and was an important resource for professional and amateur archaeologists alike. Other notable archaeological publications include The First People of Michigan (G. Wahr, 1930), The Indians of Washtenaw County, Michigan (G. Wahr, ca. 1927), and Distribution of the Aboriginal Population of Michigan (University of Michigan Press, 1932). Hinsdale was also involved in the development of two important anthropological associations in the state, the Michigan Archaeological Society and the Anthropology Section of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters.
Hinsdale married Estella Stone in 1875. They had one son, Albert. Hinsdale's brother, Burke Aaron Hinsdale (1837-1900) was a well-known educator. Burke Hinsdale served as the president of Hiram College, was a professor in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan, wrote one of the earliest histories of the university, and was a personal friend of U.S. President James A. Garfield. Wilbert Hinsdale died on July 25, 1944, in Ann Arbor.
This short biography was written by Christina DeBella while processing the W.B. Hinsdale archival records from the Museum of Anthropology. Additional information on W.B. Hinsdale and other members of his family is available in the Bentley Historical Library's vertical file and the Hinsdale Family Papers.