History of Detroit

 Detroit owed its rapid rise to the car production of Ford and General Motors, which reached its zenith around 1950. Since then the city continuously decreases. In 2013, Detroit had to file for bankruptcy. The crime rate of Detroit is among the highest in the US. 
1627The French found "La Nouvelle France" and explore the Great Lakes and Mississippi River from Quebec, Canada
1701The Frenchman Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac erects the Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit. Détroit is the French word for strait. The city is located on a close connection between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. 
1718The French found La Nouvelle Orléans, today's New Orleans. Detroit is an important station between Quebec and Lousiana.  
1760During the "Seven Years War" with France the Britsh conquer Fort Detroit and drive the French out of town.
1763After the Peace Treaty of Paris "La Nouvelle France" becomes the British colony of Canada.  
1764Detroit is attacked by Chief Pontiac, but can not be conquered by the numerically inferior Indians. The uprising was directed against the British, who unlike the French began to colonize the Indian land. The British end the Indian uprising by massive military presence. Pontiac is murdered by another Indian in 1769. 
1776The United States of America declare the independence from Britain. The American War of Independence against Britain started.
1783Britain excepts the independence of the United Sates of America. The loyal British are leaving the US for Canada.  
1796The still british Detroit is handed over to the USA.
1805A great fire destroys the city of Detroit. 
1810Detroit has about 1.500 inhabitants. 
1812The USA starts a war against the British colony of Canada. Detroit is conquered by British troops.
1813The British soldiers are retreating from Detroit.  
1814The US attack on Canada fails. British troops loot Washington D.C. and the war is over.
1815The war ended with the "Treaty of Ghent" in Belgium. The City of Detroit is incorporated. 
1818Britain and the USA set the common border at the 49th parallel. Detroit is part of the US territory at the Canadian border.
1825The Erie Canal connects the Great Lakes with New York City. The route to the Atlantic Ocean allows the economy of Great Lakes to rise. A industrial region between Chicago and Cleveland is formed and Detroit becomes a port city.  
1834The British Parliament bans slavery in all parts of the empire, so slavery is banned in Canada as well. The organization "Underground Railroad" helps refugee slaves from the South of the US to escape over the "Detroit River" to Canada. In Michigan they were not save, because they could be sent back to the southern states. Detroit was the transit town on their way to freedom. 
1837Detroit becomes the capital of Michigan. 
1847Lansing becomes the new capital of Michigan. 
1865The American Civil War ends and all former slaves are free. Many black people leave the southern states to find a job in the industrial belt of the north.
1874More than 100,000 people live in Detroit.
1895George B. Selden receives the patent for an automobile. The Selden Road Engine had a cylinder and was introduced as early as 1877.
1899The Electric Vehicle Company (EVC) buyes the patent for automobiles from Selden. The EVC founds the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers ALAM, to which every car manufacturer had to pay license fees.
1903Henry Ford founds the Ford Motor Company, but does not get a license from the ALAM. Ford produces cars without license and is sued by the ALAM.
1908Production of the first Ford T model "Tin Lizzie" is started. General Motors is founded in Detroit by William C. Durant. In the same year he takes over Buick, Oldsmobile, the Oakland Motor Car Company and Cadillac. 
1910Durant tries in vain to take over Ford and is fired by his own company General Motors. 
1911Ford wins the lawsuit against the ALAM, the licensing business of the auto patent is history. Together with the Swiss Louis Chevrolet, William C. Durant founds the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in Detroit. 
1918Chevrolet is taken over by General Motors, William C. Durant returns to GM's managing board. 
1919Alcohol is banned in the US. During the Prohibition, approximately 80% of the alcohol sold in the US was speedboat-shipped from Canada across the Detroit River. 
1921Detroit rises to over 1 million inhabitants.  
1925The Chrysler Motor Company is founded in a suburb of Detroit. Through the acquisition of Dodge Brothers, Chrysler becomes the third largest automaker in the United States in 1928. 
1927The 133 m (438 ft) high Cadillac Tower is completed.
1929The Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River to Windsor Canada opens.
1930The "Detroit Windsor Tunnel" opens, connecting the USA and Canada. 
1933The "prohibition" (ban of alcohol in the US) is lifted. 
1943During the "Detroit race riot" 34 people were killed by fights between white and black workers. Federal troops finaly suppressed the riot.
1950Detroit is growing rapidly to over 1.8 million inhabitants. 
1956The "General Motors streetcar conspiracy" was muckraked. From 1930 onward GM bought up the tram companies of 45 American cities to replace the trains with buses from GM. General Motors managed to ruin public transport in many major cities within a few years. The cartel also included Standard Oil and Firestone Tire. The court sentenced the criminal organization to a $ 5,000 fine. 
1956President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Federal Aid Highway Act. The goal was to build a highway system with a length of 66,000 km within 10 years. In Europe starting in 1921 (AVUS Berlin), the first test lanes of a "Autobahn" were built. In 1933 the first section of the german highway system was built between Frankfurt and Darmstadt. Each direction with two wide lanes, intersection-free and for cars only. America was more than 20 years behind and wanted to catch up quickly in order to have a high-performance road system in case of war. The "Interstate Highway System" was implemented quickly. Even-numbered interstates run from east to west, with odd numbers running from north to south. The highway system made many railways unprofitable and led to golden times for Detroit's auto industry. 
1959The label "Motown Records" is founded in Detroit by African-American songwriter Berry Gordy. He built a Hit factory with Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Temtations, Suprems, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 just to name a view. Visit the the Motown Historical Museum in Detroit to find out more.
1963The railway station of Detroit is shut down. Detroit has about 3.5 million inhabitants. 
1965The Edison Company published an urban design study of the future of Detroit. The city planner Constantinos Doxiadis predicts the growth of the city to 8 million people by the year 2000. The "Urban Detroit Area" is therefore expected to grow to 15 million inhabitants. To cope with this enormous increase in people, a new city is to be built north of Lake St. Clair.  
1967Racial riots in downtown Detroit killing 43 people and destroying many buildings. The white middle class flees from Detroit. The so-called "white flight" takes place in almost all major American cities and leads to sprawling suburbs with a homogeneous white population, while the black population lives close to the city centre. 
1973The "oil crisis" between 1973-1979 leads to a recession in the western industrialized countries. Fuel is getting more expensive.
1975The industrial centers at the Great Lakes are stagnating. The once economically strong region, with heavy industry is developing into a "Rust Belt". Due to the oil crisis, huge gas-guzzling American cars are no longer demanded on the world market. European companies design luxurious automobiles while Japanese manufacturers are producing low-cost small cars. The demise of Detroit begins. 
1994The North American Free Trade Agreement "NAFTA" between the United States, Canada and Mexico leads to a massive exodus of labor-intensive work to Mexico. Detroit becomes a shrinking city. 
1998Chrysler merges with Daimler-Benz of Germany to form "Daimler-Chrysler".  
2000The population of Detroit drops to 950,000.  
2007Daimler sells Chrysler to the hedge fund Cerberus. 
2008Chrysler is bankrupt and is being rescued by a government loan. Italian motor company Fiat takes over a share of Chrysler. 
2009General Motors is bankrupt and will be dissolved. The GM group with debts of $ 172 billion is being rescued by the state and back on Wall Street just one year later. 
2013The city of Detroit is in debt with $ 18 billion and has to file for bankruptcy. The population drops to below 700,000. Over 80,000 houses are empty. 
2014Detroit will be deprived of 1/3 of its debt, but the city's finances will be placed under supervision. Fiat takes over 100% of Chrysler. 
2016The high crime rate with 350 murders per year and the increasing arson in empty houses let the city continue to perish. 
2018The population of Detroit drops to less then 650,000. Donald Trump becomes president in 2017, he promises to bring back jobs from Mexico to the USA. 
2020The Monroe Blocks are being built on a wasteland in the center of Detroit. The skyscraper by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects from Copenhagen is the first skyscraper in over 25 years. Most of the buildings in the center have been renovated, the city is clean. Nevertheless, the city seems empty. Another project is the 300 m high Hudson Tower financed by Dan Gilbert. The residential tower with shopping center is to be built on the site of the former Hudson's department store. Detroit's boom is largely thanks to billionaire Dan Gilbert and the Ilitch family, who renovated many buildings.
2021Detroit's population drops to around 660,000. About 4 million people live in the metropolitan area of Detroit.




Detroit Michigan

The History of Detroit

Most people connect Detroit with the auto industry and the decline in recent decades. Detroit was a French fort on a major waterway. The "Great Lakes" are all interconnected and in the mid-19th century they were the most important communications link in North America. The "Detroit River" was the bottleneck of this waterway. Detroit evolved into a major port city and later, with the boom of the railroad, most wagons were manufactured in Detroit. Later on car companies emerged. 



Reasons for the decline of Detroit

The American automotive industry relied too long on large vehicles with high gas mileage. In the USA, gas is much cheaper than in other parts of the world. The demand for American cars flattend worldwide with the oil crisis starting in 1973. In addition, many jobs were lost through rationalization and industrial robots. The free trade agreement "NAFTA" of 1994 between the USA, Canada and Mexico led to the emigration of labor-intensive work to Mexico. 


Detroit Historical Society


Detroit Historical Museum