Cleveland history involves an all-American transformation from coastal town to a bustling modern city. Through technical and cultural advances, Cleveland became the celebrated city it is today, home of famous sports teams, Native American history, and a nationally ranked economy. Cleveland is now the largest city on Lake Erie and in the state of Ohio.
Read on to learn more about how Cleveland, Ohio was founded, formed, and developed.
Cleveland history starts with The Connecticut Land Company setting out to form settlements in the Great Lakes area. “Cleaveland” was the first, named after one of their investors. The name shortened to Cleveland by chance when a local paper needed to save money on their masthead.
This should remind us that history is not just about choice, but also about necessity.
The city was first surveyed in 1796, divided into 220 lots, and sold to landowners for 50 dollars per lot. Unfortunately, many people couldn’t afford that. Even as late as 1810, fewer than 60 people lived in Cleveland.
The War of 1812 spurred its development by ending the fear of Native American attacks in the region. This even freed up investors to fund roads and build a working harbor. Cleveland then became a growing market town with the advantage of its port and the eventual Erie Canal. This connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River, thus encouraging even faster trade. Steamboats, merchants, and farmers became common sights in Cleveland almost immediately.
After building a connection to the railroads in the 1850s, Cleveland boomed. By 1900, it would subsequently have a population of over 40,000 people.
Cleveland History: The Transition Years
For the next decades, Cleveland established itself as a booming industrial city. Its location proved advantageous because of major developments in mining. Due to its nearness to coal and iron deposits, Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in Cleveland in the 1860s.
Steel mills and refineries became the major moneymakers (and employers) in Cleveland. This made it boom even more. Cleveland would get its own theme park, museum of art, orchestra, and sports team by the 1910s.
However, its reliance on industry would cause the World Wars and the Great Depression to hit Cleveland especially hard. Many were laid off from steel and oil refineries. By 1933, Cleveland’s unemployment reached over 30%.
Modern Cleveland History
Following the World Wars, Cleveland focused on sports and job recovery. They became famous for the Cleveland Browns football team, formed in 1946. However, an oil slick caused a fire in 1969 that would put the city in debt for almost 20 years.
Despite tragedies, Cleveland now flourishes as an economic center, home of the Cleveland Indians, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The river has recovered, and the city now bustles as a major center for commerce and culture in the Midwest.
Cleveland history may be rife with disaster, but it contains its fair share of development, too. After a slow start, Cleveland became an epicenter of industry. The wars of the 20th century hurt, but Cleveland survived, thanks to the courage of its people.
Today, its economy flourishes, and its sports and nightlife culture are famous throughout the region.