Past Cities

Akron, Ohio, United States

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Akron, Ohio, is a city in Summit County, located in the northeastern region of the United States. It is situated on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, approximately 40 miles south of Cleveland. Akron has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century. The city's location and political environment played a significant role in shaping its history.

Akron was originally founded in 1825 as a small village called "South Akron" by Simon Perkins, a prominent businessman and landowner. The city's name is derived from the Greek word "akros," meaning high point, due to its location on the highest point of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The canal played a vital role in the city's growth and development, as it allowed for the transportation of goods and materials throughout the region. The city's population grew steadily throughout the 19th century, from just a few hundred residents in 1825 to over 69,000 by 1900.

One of the key factors in Akron's growth was the rise of the rubber industry. In the late 19th century, the city became known as the "Rubber Capital of the World" due to its many rubber factories and tire companies. This was due in large part to the efforts of entrepreneur and inventor, Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, who founded the B.F. Goodrich Company in 1870. Other major rubber companies such as Goodyear and Firestone also had their headquarters in Akron.

Akron's prosperity in the early 20th century was largely due to its industrial base, but the Great Depression hit the city hard. The rubber industry suffered, and many of the city's factories closed or reduced production. Unemployment rates skyrocketed, and the population declined. However, Akron was able to recover from the depression in part due to the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided employment opportunities for many of the city's residents.

The political environment of Akron was also shaped by the city's history. In the early 20th century, Akron was a stronghold of the Progressive movement, which sought to reform government and promote social welfare programs. The city was home to many prominent progressive leaders, including the mayor, Newton D. Baker, who later served as Secretary of War under President Woodrow Wilson.

The city was also a center of labor activism, with many workers organizing unions and participating in strikes. In 1936, the United Rubber Workers union staged a major strike against the rubber companies in Akron, which lasted for several weeks and resulted in significant concessions for the workers.

In recent decades, Akron has faced a number of challenges, including population decline and economic stagnation. However, the city has also seen significant revitalization efforts, with new development projects and initiatives aimed at attracting businesses and residents to the area. Today, Akron is home to a diverse population of approximately 198,000 residents and is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, including the Akron Art Museum and the Akron Civic Theatre.

Akron, Ohio, has a rich history that has been shaped by its geography and political environment. From its early days as a small canal village to its heyday as the Rubber Capital of the World, the city has faced both successes and challenges throughout its history. Today, Akron continues to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, while remaining a vital and vibrant community in the heart of Ohio.