A Great Lake's PortErie was incorporated in 1851 and soon developed into an important industrial city. The natural harbor, formed by Presque Isle, served as the magnet that drew economic prosperity to Pennsylvania's only lake port.
Activity on the HarborErie's first significant commercial enterprise was the salt trade. The transfer of salt from one ship to another changed the quiet harbor into a bustling shipping port. By the 1840's, railroads and a canal improved transportation routes from the harbor to important eastern markets. Harbor traffic increased further when luxury steamboats, several of which were built in Erie, became a novel way of traveling on the Great Lakes.
Metal Working and ManufacturingThe Industrial Revolution brought remarkable economic growth to Erie. As the salt trade lagged, new opportunities surfaced in the metal working industry. Immigrants flocked to Erie for jobs in iron, brass, and steel works. As smaller shops gave way to larger plants, the population and size of Erie skyrocketed. By World War I, Erie had more than 500 manufacturing plants and was mass-producing engines, boilers, stoves, and tools for distribution across the country.
A Lasting LegacyAlthough Erie's industrial growth leveled out after World War II, the skyline still
reflects some of the city's first industrial success stories. Turn-of-the-century metal working, fabricating, and machine shops continue to operate along the Erie shoreline. The bayfront, once teaming with steamboats and fishing tugs, now serves as a tourism gateway to Presque Isle and the Great Lakes region.
Did You Know?During the early 1900's, Erie was known as the "boiler and engine capital of the world."
"[Erie] has the largest horseshoe factory and largest pipe organ plant in the world, and makes more baby carriages, gas mantles, and clothes wringers than any other city..."National Geographic, May 1919
Marker background image: Pennsylvania State Archives