The Port of Toledo lies at the mouth of the Maumee River at the southwestern tip of Lake Erie in northwestern Ohio. About 75 kilometers southwest of the Port of Detroit (in Michigan) and 83 kilometers northwest of the Port of Huron (in Ohio), the Port of Toledo is the seat of Lucas County and the heart of a large metropolitan area. In 2000, the Port of Toledo was home to more than 313 thousand people, and over 659 thousand lived in the metropolitan area.
The Port of Toledo is a major Great Lakes seaport. Until the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the port was the mainstay of its economy. When automobiles were invented, the Port of Toledo became better known for industrial manufacturing. Chrysler and General Motors both have plants in the metropolitan area, and the Port of Toledo is a center for the manufacture of auto parts. The Port of Toledo is also home to several important companies, including Owens Corning and the Dana Corporation, and it is a leader in the glass industry. The Port of Toledo is a retail center and transportation hub. In addition to its seaport, the Port of Toledo is the United States' third busiest rail center and a major center for air cargo transportation.
Europeans first came to the Toledo area to establish Forth Industry in 1794 after the Battle of Fallen Timbers, where the US Army soundly defeated the Western Lakes Confederacy, an alliance of Native American tribes. The Confederacy included members of the Delaware, Ottawa, Miami, Ojibwa, Wyandot, Potawatomi, and Mingo Nations.
Many white settlers left the area during the War of 1812. In 1817, a group from Cincinnati bought an almost four square kilometer tract of land on the Swan Creek, naming it Port Lawrence, while a second group founded the town of Vistula to the immediate north.
In 1825, when the Ohio legislature decided to build the Miami and Erie Canal to connect Cincinnati to Lake Erie, many towns along the Maumee River competed to be the last stop for the canal on Lake Erie. In 1833, the towns of Port Lawrence and Vistula merged to gain a competitive edge for the canal. The new combined city was named Toledo. While Toledo was not selected, the town of Manhattan was – just a half mile to the north.
At first, growth for the Port of Toledo was slow. In 1835, just over 1200 people lived there, and the population hardly changed for several years. When the canal was finished in 1843, canal boats were too large for the shallow waters at Manhattan, and the Port of Toledo was born.
By 1860, almost 14 thousand people lived in the Port of Toledo, and the city consumed Manhattan by the 1880s. During the late 1800s, railroads began to compete with the canals as the mode of transportation. The Port of Toledo was soon the hub for several railroads with a fast-growing industrial community made up of companies that made furniture, carriages, glass, and beer. Immigrants were attracted to the Port of Toledo by the new factory jobs opening.
By 1880, the Port of Toledo was one of Ohio's biggest cities, and it continued to grow rapidly into the early 20th Century. Introduced by Michael Owens and Edward Libbey, glass-making became an important part of the economy.
Because the local economy had become dependent on manufacturing, the Great Depression brought severe hardship to the Port of Toledo. Growth slowed dramatically, and jobs were scarce until World War II. The Port of Toledo became a production center during World War II. The Willys Jeep was manufactured there among many other wartime products.
Today, the Port of Toledo is an important industrial, commercial, and transportation center for the north central United States. The port is connected to the St. Lawrence Seaway that brings traffic from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The Port of Toledo handles huge volumes of bituminous coal, and its free trade zone handles large amounts of grain, machinery and tools, metal ores, vehicles, and industrial equipment. The industrial profile of the Port of Toledo is diverse and contains makers of glass, cars (Jeeps are still made there), auto parts, furniture, cabinets, rubber, plastics, machinery, tools, and petroleum products.