The city of Detroit, Michigan, USA, is situated on the banks of the Detroit River that connects Lakes Erie and St Clair. Across the river is Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The city’ position on the river has made it an important trading post since earliest times. Being on what developed to be one of the world’s busiest water systems, Detroit was uniquely poised at the turn of the 19th century, to become one of the greatest industrial cities of the world.
FACT 1: Detroit was a key point of trade for the various tribes of Native Americans that were the original inhabitants of the area. Non traders were not permitted in the area.
FACT 2: European presence was established with the arrival of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701. The French trader established the Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit on the banks of the river. He named the Fort after his patron. Later the British shortened the name to Detroit.
FACT 3: The territory became an important fur trading post. In 1760 it passed to the British. Under Jay’s Treaty of 1796, it became part of the US.
FACT 4: The US made Detroit a city in 1815 and it was the last stop for the underground railway. The city became known for its cigars and kitchen stoves.
FACT 5: Henry Ford, a farmer’s son, changed the destiny of the city. In 914 he developed the assembly line production of cars. Detroit became a fast growing city attracting industrialists and migrants. It became the city that put the world on wheels, and was affectionately called Mo town.
FACT 6: The city’s population swelled rapidly. It became a multicultural, multiracial city. The city was populated by Italians, English, Germans, Poles, Irish, Mexicans, Greek as well as people from the Middle East and Africa.
FACT 7: During both World Wars the city put its manufacturing expertise to good use by producing armaments for the Allies. Detroit’s participation in the war effort is credited as being one of the factors contributing to the Allied victory.
FACT 8: Barry Gordy Jr., furthered Detroit’s fame and fortune by creating a successful record company, Mo town, in the 1960’s. The label gave the world Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Smokie Robinson, Diana Ross and the Temptations.
FACT 9: Detroit’s rise to Automobile Capital of the World was phenomenal. But along with this rise came waves of migrants from the South, leading to racial tensions. In 1943 fights broke out leading to the ‘White Flight’. Many whites fled to the suburbs and this trend continued over the decades. The city today consists mostly of African Americans, Hispanics and Asians. Areas in the city are named Asian Village, Mexican Town and Greek Town. In 1967, unprecedented rioting broke out in the city. It lasted for 5 days and left 43 dead and 1200 injured. Coleman Young, the city’s first coloured mayor, served for five terms. He and his successor Dennis Archer made a tremendous effort to rebrand the city.
FACT 10: As the city’s fortunes were completely tied in with the wellbeing of the automobile industry. Its decline brought loss of jobs, economic hardships and social problems. In 20113 the city was declared bankrupt. In 2014 the city officially emerged from bankruptcy.