History of Detroit07/19/2017 History of Detroit The city of Detroit, home to over 680 thousand people today, has a unique history of both grit and glamour because of steel mills and Motown. In director Quentin Tarantino’s classic film True Romance, actress Patricia Arquette laments how she made the trip to Motor city Detroit to find her true love; the line resonated with anyone familiar with the birthplace of the US auto industry. Detroit: A Hundred Years to Flourish It was about a hundred years after brave US soldiers claimed the city of Detroit from Great Britain in 1796, before mega-pioneer Henry ford guns the very first car of his own creation along the unpaved roads of Detroit in 1896; and just two years later when he established the Detroit Automobile Company. Although Ford’s first try wasn’t a success, it sowed the seeds of a private enterprise, and how it would come to define the conscientious residents of the city. Population Explosion in the Motor City It took just a handful of years before the hard-driving Mr. Ford was back at it again. Heopened a follow-up company, Henry Ford Co, at the turn of the century; just a year later in 1902, it was renamed to the Cadillac Motor Co after Ford left to start yet another car company. By this time, the burgeoning automobile sector contributed to making Detroit the 13th most populous city in the Union, as people flocked from all over for work in the manufacturing plants, homes were being built to create even more jobs. 1908 Detroit Sees General Motors Make Its Mark With Henry Ford starting multiple companies in the state, this signaled to other entrepreneurs that Michigan was the place to be for vehicle-makers. Businessmen Charles Mott and William Durant followed the trail to the state and established General Motors in nearby Flint. Among the dozens of other business that cropped up to make a living for the owners was Palmer Moving Company, which opened its doors for the very first time in 1910 – just two years after Buick’s holding company started taking orders in Flint, MI. By this time, Detroit’s population had positively soared from a mere 1600 settlers in 1810, to nearly half-a-million by 1910. In addition to private business such as Palmer Moving, the transportation hub of the Great Lakes, pharmaceutical firms and manufacturing facilities in many industries, wealthy industrialists established city homes that stand even to this day as testament to the way Old Detroit flourished in the early years. The People of Detroit As you might have expected, people came from all over to plant their roots in the burgeoning city. English and French families led the way, with Polish and German immigrants not far behind in the late 1800s. If one religious denomination can be said to have been dominant in turn of the century Detroit, it would be Irish Catholicism – but all others were welcome and practiced openly. As the 20th century rolled around, all of the industrial activity brought in even more diverse populations because of the growing labor demands. Most of these applicants were from nearby Canada and Europe, with Greek immigrants peaking just a few years after about 1910; this introduced the Greek Orthodox Church into the preexisting mix of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In the coming years, Detroit would see a large influx of Blacks from the Deep South, Appalachian Whites, people of Jewish descent and even Palestinians. Detroit From 1910 to 2017 After the turning point of 1910, when business really flourished in the Motor City, the progressive era of politics crept in, and the Great Depression followed in 1928. This era saw the rise of labor unions, and then the single greatest change wrought on the Detroit economy (arguably, after Henry Ford and his automobile companies): World War II. This monumental event extracted Detroit – and the nation as a whole, in fact – from the Depression, as production and the demand for labor reinvigorated the country’s economy. From that economic high to the present day, Detroit has seen its trials and tribulations; from riots and businesses failing, to others starting up again and reinvigorating sections of the city. It is one of the birthplaces of Civil Rights; with Martin Luther King Jr. himself, as the primary architect of social change in the 1960s to help bring the many different demographics together. In the 1990s, a revival began that spurred on development in much of Downtown Detroit; and, although the population has fallen from its peak of 1.85 million in the 1950s to under 1 million in the 2000s, the rise of a spate of businesses seems to show promise that the Motor City will, once again, rise to prominence.