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The Great Lakes states of the U.S. are colored red in this map.
Map of the Great Lakes Basin.


The Great Lakes Region includes the Canadianmarker Province of Ontariomarker, and the eight U.S. states of Ohiomarker, Michiganmarker, Indianamarker, Illinoismarker, Wisconsinmarker, Minnesotamarker, New Yorkmarker, and Pennsylvaniamarker. The region geographically borders the Great Lakes and forms a distinctive historical, economic, and political bi-national history, culture, and political economy.

The Great Lakes Basin is the corresponding geological definition. It is much smaller than the geo-political boundaries defined by states and provinces, because the Great Lakes' watershed is constricted by the surrounding, more comprehensive drainages of Hudson Bay, and the drainages of the Mississippi-Ohio and Hudson-Mohawk river systems.

For the first time since the imperial reigns of France, then Britain, The Great Lakes have a formal, instituted government. The Great Lakes Commission, now authorized by the eight American states and Ontario, confirmed by the Canadian and American federal governments, finally institutes what has always been, in geographic, ecological, diplomatic, ethnic, political and economic terms, a distinctive, bi-national Region.

History

The Great Lakes Region was integrated in water-born commercial, demographic, and cultural interchange by indigenous Algonquin and Iroquois peoples, who organized geographically extended alliances and protocols for commerce and communication. Their organization facilitated the first major European incursions of the seventeenth century, in which they collaborated with French, Dutch, and English merchants in the fur trade.

Both elusive fur monopolies and exploration for the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia generated intense competition among western Europe's major capitalist powers to control the territory. Britain defeated France decisively near Montreal in 1754, and the 1763 Peace of Paris ceded the entire region to the victor. Britain's claims were intensely disputed by a confederation of Indians during Pontiac's Rebellion, which induced major concessions to indigenous rights and prerogatives.

The treaty, which was more like a truce, ended violently with the American Revolution, one of whose clear goals was extension into Indian territory. The basic organization for American settlement was outlined in a series of ordinances immediately upon the 1784 peace treaty with Britain, which ceded lands south of the lakes and north of the Ohio River to the United Statesmarker. The "Northwest" Ordinance of 1787 defined the political protocols by which American states south of the lakes would enter the union as political equals with the original thirteen colonies.

The surge of settlement generated constant tension and occasional violence, culminating in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The result was temporarily inconclusive, but established Anglo-American rights of settlement.

Settlement and economic expansion accelerated after the 1825 opening of The Erie Canal, an astonishingly successful public venture that effectively integrated markets and commerce between the Atlantic seaboard and the region. The region on both sides of the border became a vast research and design laboratory for agricultural machinery and techniques. Owner-operator family farms transformed both demographics and ecology into a vast terrain of farmlands, producing primarily wheat and corn.

Agricultural and industrial production generated distinctive political and social cultures of independent republican producers, who consolidated an ideology of personal liberty, free markets, and great social visions, often expressed in religious terms and enthusiasms. The region's alliance of antislavery with free soil movements contributed troops and agricultural goods that proved critical in the Union's victory. The Homestead and Morrill Acts, donating federal land to extend the agrarian economic franchise, and support state universities, modeled western expansion and education for all future states.

Industrial production, organization, and technology made the Region the world's most productive manufacturing center by the middle of the twentieth century. Nineteenth century proto-monopolies such as International Harvester, Standard Oil, and United States Steel established the pattern of American centralized industrial consolidation and eventual global dominance. The region hosted the world's greatest concentrations of production for oil, coal, steel, automobiles, synthetic rubber, agricultural machinery, and heavy transport equipment. Agronomy industrialized as well, in meat processing, packaged cereal products, and processed dairy products. In response to disruptions and imbalances of power resulting from so vast a concentration of economic power, industrial workers organized The Congress of Industrial Organizations, a coherent agricultural cooperative movement, and the Progressive politics led by Wisconsin's Governor and Senator Robert LaFollette. State universities, professional social work, and unemployment and workers' compensation were some of the region's permanent contributions to American social policy.

During World War II, the region became a major national producer of wartime materials, contributing motorized equipment from jeeps to tanks, as well as increased supplies of cereals and processed meat.

With the exception of the Mormons, who were driven out of the Region from upstate New York to western Illinoismarker, the region has proved tolerant, open and adept at absorbing new immigrant, linguistic, religious and ethnic groups. That heritage was severely challenged by the mass migration of southern African-Americans after World War II, when almost half a million African-Americans crowded into urban ghettos, escaping from the increasing racial violence and the desperate poverty of southern cotton-growing regions. While tensions and challenges remain, the region fostered many of the nation's most important leaders, including novelist Richard Wright, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, and media empressaria Oprah Winfrey.

Governance

Prior to European settlement, Iroquoian peoples lived around Lakes Eriemarker and Ontariomarker, Algonquin peoples around most of the rest, with the exception of the Siouan Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) in Wisconsin. In government, Great Lakes states on the United States side derived from The Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The ordinance, adopted in its final form just before the writing of the United States Constitution, was a sweeping, visionary proposal to create what was at the time a radical experiment in democratic governance and economy. The Iroquois Confederacy and its covenant of The Great Peace served as forerunner and model for both the U.S. Constitution and the ordinance.

The "Northwest" Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery, restricted primogeniture, mandated universal Public education, provided for affordable farm land to people who settled and improved it, and required peaceful, lawful treatment of indigenous Indian population. The ordinance prohibited the establishment of state religion and established civic rights that foreshadowed the United States Bill of Rights. Civil rights included freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, trial by jury, and exemption from unreasonable search and seizure. States were authorized to organize constitutional conventions and petition for admission as states equal to the original thirteen. The process constituted a kind of rolling revolution, extending the federal union westward as a grand anti-colonial imperative.

Not all provisions were promptly or fully adopted, but the basic constitutional framework effectively prescribed a free, self-reliant institutional framework and culture. Five states evolved from its provisions: Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The northeastern section of Minnesota, from the Mississippi to St. Croix River, also fell under ordinance jurisdiction and extended the constitution and culture of the Old Northwest to the Dakotasmarker.

The British-Canadian London Conference of 1866, and subsequent Constitution Act of 1867 analogously derived from political, and some military, turmoil in the former jurisdiction of Upper Canada, which was renamed and organized in the new dominion as the Province of Ontariomarker. Like the provisions of the ordinance, Ontario prohibited slavery, made provisions for land distribution to farmers who owned their own land, and mandated universal public education.

Social institutions

Governance was grounded in social institutions that were fundamentally more powerful, popular, and determinative than government, which remained comparatively small, weak, and distrusted until World War II.

The most powerful and influential of these were religious denominations and congregations. Even the most centralized denominations—the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, and Lutheran synods—necessarily became congregational in polity and to a lesser extent doctrine. There was no alternative, because without state funding, congregations were forced to depend on the voluntary donations, activities, and tithes of their members. In most settlements, congregations formed the social infrastructure that supported parish and common township schools, local boards and commissions, and an increasingly vital social life.

Congregations and township politics gave rise to voluntary organizations. Three kinds of these were especially significant to the region's development: agricultural associations, voluntary self-help associations, and political parties. The agricultural associations gave rise to the nineteenth century Grange, which in turn generated the agricultural cooperatives that defined much of rural political economy and culture throughout the region. Fraternal, ethnic, and civic organizations extended cooperatives and supported local ventures from insurance companies to orphanages and hospitals. The region was the political base, and provided much leadership political parties in the region.

The region's greatest institutional contributions were industrial labor organization and state educational systems. The Big Ten Conference memorializes the nation's first region in which every state sponsored major research, technical-agricultural, and teacher-training colleges and universities. The Congress of Industrial Organizations grew out of the region's coal and iron mines; steel, automobile and rubber industries; and breakthrough strikes and contracts of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan.

Economy

Before European immigration, The Great Lakes region had an established political economy. Indian nations traded with one another through an extensive network of lakes, rivers and portages that carried goods to and from the Gulf of Mexico and both North American coasts. Major exports were natural oil from western Pennsylvania, copper from islands and shorelines near contemporary Sault Ste. Marie, Minnesota pipestone, and wild rice and dried cranberries from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Seventeenth century European fur-traders used the extensive indigenous system of commerce and transportation to establish a lucrative exchange of European manufactures -- primarily iron products, firearms and ammunition, and woven clothe -- for beaver and fox pelts.

Immediately after the American Revolution, the Great Lakes region opened to European, primarily Anglo-American, settlement. In western New York and northeast Ohio, the St. Lawrence, Mohawk, and Hudson rivers provided cumbersome but workable outlets for commercial corn and wheat, while The Ohio River let agricultural products from western Pennsylvania and southern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois journey downstream to New Orleans. The opening of The Erie Canal in 1825 opened the entire region to settlement, primarily from both eastern states and Europe; and accelerated agricultural settlement. The first industries beyond agrarian settlement were mining, primarily soft metals of copper, zinc, and lead; and timer to supply rapidly expanding sawmills that supplied lumber for new settlements.

Comparatively flat terrain, links with Great Lakes and Erie Canal ports, and increasing production of wheat, corn, timber, and animal products -- both cured meat and hides -- spurred an unprecedented construction of railroads. Public allocations of land and private investments for construction generated a network of rail lines that integrated the production and markets throughout the Region.

Spurred by railroads and the prodigious markets required by The Civil War, the Region fast transformed into the nation's leading center of mass manufacturing. It also became a global leader in mass manufacturing, with significant innovations in both production processes and business organization. Cyrus McCormick's organization of interchangeable parts combined with extremely specialized assembly lines became the prototype for industrial manufacturing. McCormick and his competitors developed sales, delivery, and service systems to extend markets throughout the region, nation, and ultimately world. John D. Rockefeller controlled and systemized the mass distribution of oil products. Andrew Carnegie's steel production integrated large-scale open-hearth and Bessemer processes into the world's most efficient and profitable mills.

Mass marketing in the modern sense was born in the region. Two competing Chicago retailers -- Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck -- developed mass marketing and sales through catalogues, mail-order distribution, and the establishment of their brand names as purveyors of consumer goods.

The region became an epicenter of late nineteenth century corporate monopoly. McCormick Reaper and other manufacturers of agricultural machinery consolidated into International Harvester in Chicago. Rockefeller's Standard Oil set precedents for centralized pricing, uniform distribution, and controlled product standards through Standard Oil, which started as a consolidated refinery in Cleveland. The largest, most comprehensive monopoly in the world, United States Steel, consolidated steel production throughout the region.

Advantages of accessible steel, highly developed railroad infrastructure, and a prosperous market base made the region the global leader in automobile production. Henry Ford's movable assembly line and integrated production set the model and standard for major car manufactures. Michigan's Detroit area became the center of auto production, with plants throughout the region. Akron, Ohio became the global leader in rubber production, driven by the demand for motorized vehicle tires.

According to the Brookings Institution, if it stood alone as a country, the Great Lakes economy would be the second-largest economic unit on earth (with a $4.2-trillion gross regional product), second only to the United States economy as a whole.

Technology

The Great Lakes region hosted a tumultuous, globally influential number of breakthroughs in agricultural technology. The mechanical reaper invented by Cyrus McCormick, John Deere's steel plow, and the grain elevator are some of its most memorable contributions. Case Western Reserve Universitymarker and the University of Chicagomarker figured prominently in developing nuclear power. Automobile manufacture developed simultaneously in Ohio and Indiana and became centered in the Detroitmarker area of Michigan. Henry Ford's movable assembly line drew on regional experience in meat processing, agricultural machinery manufacture, and the industrial engineering of steel in revolutionizing the modern era of mass production manufacturing. Chicago-based Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck companies complemented mass manufactures with mass retail distribution.

Perhaps no field proved so influential as architecture, and no city more significant than Chicago. William LeBaron Jenney was the architect of the first skyscraper in the world; The Home Insurance Building in Chicagomarker is the first skyscraper because of the use of structural steel in the building. This setup Chicago to this day to hold some of the world's greatest architecture. Less famous, but equally influential, was the 1832 invention of balloon-framing in Chicago that replaced heavy timber construction requiring massive beams and great woodworking skill with pre-cut timber. This new lumber could be nailed together by farmers and settlers who used it to build homes and barns throughout the western prairies and plains. Wisconsin-born, Chicago-trained Sullivan apprentice Frank Lloyd Wright designed prototypes for architectural designs from the commercial skylight atrium to suburban ranch house.

Contributions to modern transportation include the Wright brothers' early airplanes, distinctive Great Lakes freighters, and railroad beds constructed of wooden ties and steel rails. The early nineteenth century Erie Canal and mid-twentieth century St. Lawrence Seaway expanded the scale and engineering for massive water-born freight.

Dialect and accents

English is spoken by the majority of the population of the Great Lakes. People in the northern areas (Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and Upper Peninsulamarker Michigan) are generally speakers of the North Central American English dialect, while citizens of areas further to the south (Chicago, Lower Peninsula Michigan, northern Ohio, northern Indiana, and Upstate New York) are speakers of Inland Northern American English.

Cities

Major U.S. cities


Major Canadian Cities


Other cities and towns which are important to the region








See also



References

  • Cronon, William (1991). Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, W.W. Norton. pp. 333–340.


For Further Reading

  • Chandler, Alfred D. and Hikino, Takashi (1994), Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism, Harvard University Press.
  • Chandler, Alfred D., (1977) The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, Harvard University Press.
  • Cronon, William (1991). Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, W.W. Norton.
  • Foner, Eric (1970. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War, Oxford University Press
  • Onuf, Peter S (1987). A History of the Northwest Ordinance, Indiana University Press.
  • Reese, T (2001). Soft Gold: A History of the Fur Trade in the Great Lakes Region and Its Impact on Native American Culture, Heritage Press.
  • Shannon, Fred (1945). The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, 1860-1897, Farrar & Rineheart.
  • Taylor, Alan (2007), The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution, Vintage Books.
  • White, Richard (1991), The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in The Great Lakes Region 1965-1815, Cambridge University Press


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