Toledo, Ohio

From Ohio History Central
Toledo map.jpg

Toledo, the county seat of Lucas County, is located in the northwestern part of Ohio. It is part of an area known as the Great Black Swamp. Most settlement in this region was delayed until after Ohio obtained statehood because of conflicts with Native Americans. Toledo itself was incorporated in 1836, and it was built on the site of a former stockade, Fort Industry, which was built in 1800. Originally, there were two separate towns named Lawrence and Vistula. When the Wabash and Erie Canal was mapped out in 1836, the location of Toledo was chosen as one of the termination points. The population of the two towns merged and created the new community of Toledo. By 1840, Toledo had a population of 1,322 people.

Although the canal would bring significant business to Toledo, the community still struggled in its early years. Many of its residents suffered from epidemics that spread rapidly in the region in 1838 and 1839. Finally, the canal was opened in 1845. The canal made the town a growing seaport along Lake Erie, and much commerce traveled through Toledo. In addition to the Wabash and Erie Canal, Toledo was connected to the city of Cincinnati by way of the Miami and Erie Canal.

When railroads began to emerge as a key form of transportation in Ohio in the second half of the nineteenth century, Toledo became a destination for a number of railroad lines. In addition, a number of industries began to emerge in the city, including furniture companies, carriage makers, breweries, railroad manufacturing companies, and glass companies, among others. The Libbey Glass Works was located in Toledo and helped to make the community known as the "City of Glass." By 1880, Toledo boasted a population of more than fifty thousand people, making it one of the largest cities in the state.

Many immigrants began to settle in Toledo by the late nineteenth century, attracted to the city because of the factory jobs available and the city's accessibility by rail and by water. Although Toledo offered many economic opportunities, it also illustrated many of the problems associated with urban life during this time. Toledo became the target of Progressive reformers in the late 1800s. Among them was the town's mayor, Samuel M. "Golden Rule" Jones, who was elected in 1897. During his time in office, Jones worked to improve conditions for the working class people of his community. The mayor opened free kindergartens, built parks, instituted an eight-hour day for city workers, and did much to reform the city government. Although Jones was not very popular among businessmen and the wealthier members of Toledo society, he was very popular with the average citizens and was reelected as mayor for three additional terms. Jones died in office in 1904, and his successor, Brand Whitlock, continued his reform efforts.

Toledo continued to grow, both in terms of population and industry, in the early twentieth century. Because of its dependence on manufacturing, the city suffered high unemployment rates during the Great Depression. As World War II began, however, Toledo's industries began to focus on wartime production, and unemployment concerns disappeared. Toledo made a unique contribution to the war effort. Home to the Willys-Overland Company, this firm began producing jeeps in 1941.

In the 2000 census, Toledo's population was 313,619. The city is home to the University of Toledo, the well-known Toledo Zoo, the internationally renowned Toledo Museum of Art, and the Toledo Mud Hens, the Detroit Tigers' triple-A professional baseball affiliate.

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