Bill Rauhauser was born in Detroit in 1918. His father was a technical draftsman descended from Pennsylvania Germans who arrived in the United States in the eighteenth century. He received a bachelor's degree in Architectural Engineering in 1943 from the University of Detroit and spent 25 years in the engineering field, working for Holcroft & Company (1943-1959), ITE Circuit Breaker Company (1964-1968), and Chief Engineer at Keystone Corporation, a division of Avis Corporation.
He bought his first camera, the moulded-bakelite Univex Model A, for 39 cents by mail order in 1933 to use for a hobby, and from 1938 attended the Silhouette Camera Club meetings held above the Detroit camera shop of the same name. He discovered his calling in photography on a business trip to New York in 1947 where he saw an exhibition by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and was inspired by the photographer's statement in the accompanying booklet; “Photography isn’t a hobby. The art is in the seeing.”
Rauhauser soon took up 35mm photography, first with an Argus model A, then with a Leica, and using that faster format, then still considered 'miniature', strove to capture the energy, people and personalities of the Detroit streets as the city rallied to meet pivotal industrial demand during World War II. When it became the centre of automobile manufacture in the United States his street photography incidentally documented the massive urban renewal projects and social changes that were prevalent in Detroit from the 1950s to 1970s, before a late decline in population and the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history led to a catastrophic collapse of its economy.
Among the subjects of Rauhauser's portraits of Detroit personalities are Dr. Ernst Scheyer, art collectors Gertrude Kasle, Kurt Michel and Albert H. Ratcliffe, and bibliophile Charles E. Feinberg.