Prior to the arrival of French trappers and traders during the 17th century, the territory we know as Detroit and Southeastern Michigan was inhabited by many different Native American Tribes. Seeing the strategic value of this settlement along the river between two Great Lakes, the French built “Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit” in 1701, near the river on the site now bordered by Griswold, Fort, Shelby and Larned streets.
The name "Detroit" actually comes from 'de Troit" which in French means “the strait”. Detroit remained a French settlement until the British took over in 1760. The British held Detroit through the American Revolutionary War, until they turned the small wilderness outpost (with less than 1000 people) over to American troops in 1796.
Detroit burned down in 1805, but was quickly rebuilt adopting a street plan designed and by Judge Augustus Woodward. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 made it easier for people to travel westward across the country, and Detroit became a supply stop along the route. Many people found the Detroit area, with its vast riverfront and its fertile farmland very attractive, and Detroit became a destination for people to stay and live.
Michigan became a state in 1936 and Detroit was the initial capitol. The population grew to more than 45,000 by 1860, and by 1900 Detroit was the 12th largest city in the US with over 285,000 people. Detroit became one of the worlds’ major shipping, distribution, and manufacturing centers. In the 1890’s, Detroit was known as the Cast-Iron Stove Capital of the World, and had a thriving coach, carriage, wagon and wheel making industry.
Detroit definitely earned the right to be called the "Motor City." and the “Automobile Capital of the World”. For more than half a century, The Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, and General Motors, and many other automakers and auto parts makers and distributors, dominated the auto industry and shipped cars all over the world. Companies built their factories and their corporate headquarters in and around in Detroit, and people came from all over the country and all over the world to work in these factories and assembly lines.
Many of these new "Detroiters" were coming directly from European Countries, and Detroit became a “melting pot’ with distinct ethnic neighborhoods located around the city. These ethnic communities had a great influence on the arts and architecture and have added class and culture all around Detroit. That early French influence led to some people to refer to it as "the Paris of the Midwest."
Wealth from the automobile industry (and other industries) helped Detroit prosper and continue to grow. By 1920 it was the 4th largest US city by population, and it was the wealthiest of the major cities on a per capita basis. Some of that wealth went into a great public school system -- and the city had great museums, libraries, parks and roads. It also had some of the tallest and finest skyscrapers of any American city.
Detroit was also known as the "City of Champions" specifically because the Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings all won titles within a few months of each other in 1935-1936. The name stuck with more championships from those teams and because Detroit native Joe Louis was the reigning heavyweight champ 1937 to 1948.
Detroit was also known as the "Arsenal of Democracy" as auto factories churned out tanks, jeeps, airplanes and munitions during World War II. Women worked in the factories, including the iconic "Rosie the Riveter."
Detroit is still known as "Motown" thanks to Berry Gordy Jr., Motown Records and such great talents as Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5. Detroit has the "Motown Museum" as a reminder of the Motown Music era.
Detroit has been known for other music styles, including gospel, jazz, blues, soul, mainstream rock, punk rock,
hip hop, and techno music, and other great artists like Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper,
the MC5, Iggy Pop, Eminem, Kid Rock, the White Stripes and others.