History of Detroit
Detroit was founded in 1701 by the French officer Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac, who named the settlement Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit. Thanks to the free land that was offered to families, by 1765 Detroit became the largest city between New Orleans and Montreal. In 1796, Detroit passed to the United States under the Jay Treaty. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, Detroit was the capital of Michigan. It was kept under siege by the British during the War of 1812 but in 1813 it was recaptured by the U.S. troops. It was incorporated as a city in 1815.
Detroit’s location close to the Canadian border made it one of the most important stops on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes for the escaped slaves from the South. During the Civil War, future president Ulysses S. Grant was stationed in the city. Many locals volunteered to fight in the war, in 24th Michigan Infantry Regiment, which suffered 82% casualties at Gettysburg.
After the war, because of its proximity to the great Lakes, Detroit emerged as an important transportation hub. In 896, Henry Ford built his first automobile in Detroit and in 1903 founded the Ford Motor Company. He, along with other pioneers such as the Dodge Brothers, Packard, Walter Chrysler and William C. Durant, established Detroit as the world’s leading automotive center. The industry in the city was thriving and with it came the highly organized labor unions, led by such famous names as Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther. New workers moved to the city, along with European immigrants, and at one point in the first half of the 20th century Detroit was the fourth-largest city in the nation. Racial and ethnic diversity unfortunately led to tensions and full-scale riots, most notably those of 1943.
The 1990s were a period of new growth for Detroit, with many new buildings, stadiums, and casinos being built. Recently, the industry and the economy in the city have been experiencing difficulties, like many other major American centers.
Geography and Climate
Detroit is located on the Detroit River and connected to Windsor, Ontario, by the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest international border crossing by volume. The city has three other border crossings: Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Michigan central Railway Tunnel and Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry. The primary airport for the city is Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, the primary hub for Delta Air Lines.
The highest elevation in the city is 670 ft. above sea level at the University District. The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge of its kind in North America to be located in the heart of a major city. The largest island on the river is the Grosse Ile, the most populated island in the state. Belle Isle Park is also located on an island.
The climate in Detroit is humid continental, with cold winters with moderate snowfall and warm to hot summers.
Population of Detroit
According to the 2010 Census, Detroit has 713,777 inhabitants and its greater area, called Metro Detroit, has 4,296,250 inhabitants. The racial makeup in 2010 was 82.7% African Americans, 7.8% non-Hispanic Whites, 6.8% Hispanics or Latinos, 1.1% Asians, 0.4% Native Americans, 0.02% Pacific Islanders, 3% other races and 2.2% other races.
Detroit has one of the largest concentrations of Hmong people. After the World War II, many Appalachians moved to Detroit, but because they were negatively perceived by the locals they formed their own communities, which is why southern accents can often be heard in Detroit.
Detroit is still one of the most racially segregated cities in the USA. Eight Mile Road is a traditional boundary between largely black central neighborhoods and whiter suburbs.
The median household income in 2010 was $25,787 and the per capita income was $14,118.
Economy and Industry
Detroit is home to the America’s “Big Three” automobile companies: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The city is trying to diversify its economy, attracting companies from sectors such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology. Advertising, law, health care, finance and biomedical research are also important economic sectors.
Some of the largest companies in Detroit, in addition to the “Big Three,” include American Axle & Manufacturing, DTE Energy and Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. Major employers are also Wayne State University and various health care providers.
Detroit is the largest U.S. city with casino hotels, such as MGM Grand Casino, MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino.
Culture and Arts in Detroit
Detroit has many nationally prominent live music venues, such as DTE Energy Music Theatre and The Palace of Auburn Hills. Live music has been a prominent feature of the city’s cultural life since the 1940s. The Motown record company was founded in Detroit but it later moved to New York, after the acquisition by The Island Def Jam. This company, and its subsidiaries, were crucial in the development of the soul music style called the Motown Sound, with names such as Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and many others. Aretha Franklin and John Lee Hooker are also great names of the Detroit music scene. In other genres, Detroit was the home of The Stooges, The MC5, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Eminem, J Dilla and The White Stripes, to name just a few.
Wayne State University is the largest institution of higher education in the city and a major national research university with medical and law schools. Other institutions include The University of Detroit Mercy, a prominent Catholic co-ed university, the College for Creative Studies, Lewis College of Business, Marygrove College and Wayne County Community College.
As for the sports, Detroit is home of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, MLB’s Detroit Tigers and NFL’s Detroit Lions.