The United States Steel Corporation acquired land at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan in 1905 for the purposes of building a steel mill. The area that would become Gary was historically occupied by the Miami and Potawatomi peoples, who had long used the Indiana dunes, just east of the future site of Gary, for hunting, plant gathering, and ceremonial activities. The 1821 Treaty of Chicago forced Native tribes to cede their land in Michigan and northern Indiana to the United States. The monumental task of building the mills, a town, and then homes for thousands of workers began after US Steel acquired the land. By 1908 nearly five to six thousand people, mostly laborers for US Steel, called Gary, Indiana, home. Gary was named after lawyer Elbert Henry Gary, who was the founding chairman of the US Steel Corporation. With the founding of the company town, US Steel transformed sandy swamp lands with an abundance of flora and fauna into a place that city promoters would call the “City of the Century.” Gary experienced rapid industrialization and vast immigration in the years since its founding.
In this tour, we will explore Gary’s industrial history, the conflicts between management and workers that culminated in the 1919 strike, race relations (including a little known school strike), as well as the city’s built environment and its influence on the people who lived here.