Detroit has essentially been “the Motown roller coaster.” It is worth looking at the history of this Michigan city, which dates back to 1701, to gain a perspective on it’s growth and eventual decline. At that time, what is now referred to as the Motor City, started as a fort in the wilderness. A French settler by the name of Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac founded Detroit, which was then a mere fort.
Later, in 1760, the fort known as Detroit was taken over by the British after they won the Seven Years’ War. By 1796, however, Detroit came to be under control by America. As for the name “Detroit” and its origins, the city was named after the Detroit River that is linked with Lake Erie and Lake Huron. “Detroit” itself means “strait,” which is of course a body of water. The French gave it the name of “the strait of Lake Erie.”
In 1890, Detroit’s population had risen to 205,000, making it equal to gold rush towns in California and other parts of the West Coast of America. By 1903, Henry Ford made the city even more famous as he founded the Ford Motor Company. As a result, Detroit became the automotive capital of the world. At the same time, the Dodge and Chrysler companies were also formed in the city.
By 1920, Detroit’s population grew to a boom of one million. Thirty years later, in 1950, that increased to 1.8 million people. Detroit’s size is actually deceptive as it is large enough at 138 square miles, to house San Francisco, Boston and even Manhattan, New York, within its limits.
Out of the 1.8 million residents of the city by 1950, 200,000 of those individuals were working in the manufacturing industry. In other words one out of every 10 Detroit residents worked in manufacturing.
In 1959, Motown Records was founded by Berry Gordy. A few examples of success stories to come out of the record company were the Temptations, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. In addition to the music industry, arts and culture in general began to flourish one year later in 1960. This eventually led to the Detroit Opera House opening.
Today, in 2013, Detroit’s population has fallen to only 714,000. The population was cut to 25 percent over the past decade as a result of middle class African Americans moving to the suburbs. Now, in vast contrast to how things were in 1950, less than 200,000 Detroit residents are employed within the manufacturing industry. The decline and eventual bankruptcy can be attributed to events as far back as the racial riots that took place in 1967, lost tax revenue, a loss of diversity in industries, and the globalization of the automotive industry. There are now only two big car manufacturers left in Detroit as a result of the floundering economy.
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