Canton, Ohio

From Ohio History Central

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This photograph depicts downtown Canton, Ohio looking north from Market Avenue in the Public Square.

Canton, Ohio is the county seat of Stark County.

Bezaleel Wells founded Canton in 1805. The community grew slowly during the first half of the nineteenth century. By 1815, only three hundred people resided in the town. One of the main reasons for Canton's slow development was its distance from transportation routes. During the late 1820s, planners of the Ohio and Erie Canal offered to build the canal through Canton. Residents refused, believing that disease would run rampant through the community due to the standing water in the canal. As a result, the Ohio and Erie Canal skipped Canton, traveling through nearby Massillon, Ohio, instead. The canal actually improved the health of Massillon residents, draining the neighboring swamps of putrid water. Canton also rejected railroads initially. The developers of the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad offered to build the track through Canton, if residents pledged ten thousand dollars to the line's construction. City officials refused, believing that the railroad would have to build the track through Canton anyway. The developers constructed the line eighteen miles east of Canton, through Alliance, Ohio, allowing Alliance to prosper.

Canton developed into an important agricultural and industrial center due to the American Civil War. Canton, along with Akron, emerged as the leading agricultural implement manufacturers in northeastern Ohio in the years leading up to and following the Civil War. Canton also developed as an important center for iron production. In 1888, Canton's manufacturing establishments brought in almost five million dollars in income. Machinery produced in Canton's factories was shipped across the world. Equally important to Canton's traditional industries during the 1880s was the emergence of watch-making establishments. The two main watch producers in Canton were Hampden Watch Manufacturing Company and the Dueber Watch Case Company. In 1890, these two companies employed over 2,300 people, roughly ten percent of Canton's population. Upon arriving in Canton from Connecticut and Cincinnati, Ohio respectively, these two companies merged, remaining in operation until the 1930s. In 1890, Canton's population numbered 26,337 people, more than double the number of residents who had lived in the city in 1880. Canton had emerged as one of Ohio's most important industrial centers. One of Canton's more famous residents was William McKinley, president of the United States.

During the twentieth century, many Canton businesses continued to be iron and steel manufacturers, but other businesses also emerged. Following World War II, Canton experienced some difficult times as these various industries declined in importance to the American economy. Other Ohio cities, including East Liverpool and Akron, have experienced similar difficulties. Some businesses have continued to prosper, including several dairies, which supply northeastern Ohio with large quantities of milk. Many Canton residents also earn their livelihood by working for several corporate poultry farms. A small tourism industry also exists in the city, due primarily to the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. In 1920, organizers founded the first professional football league in the city. In honor of this event, the National Football League authorized the Hall of Fame to be located in the city. One of Canton's most important businesses in the twentieth century was the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Company. Hoover's home offices were located in Canton, and the company was one of the city's leading employers since the early 1900s. Other prominent Canton employers have been Diebold, Inc., a firm that principally manufactures security devices, and the Timken Company, historically a bearings manufacturer.

In 2000, Canton had a population of over eighty thousand people. Local industries produced more than 1,500 different types of items.

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