1. The concept of the modern-day traffic light was born in Cleveland.
Garrett Morgan was a remarkable inventor that made Cleveland his home. While here, Morgan invented a hair straightening chemical, and he led a rescue mission to rescue workers trapped in a tunnel under Lake Erie with the assistance of his "safety hood" (a device built to prevent smoke inhalation). Perhaps most notably, he was the great mind to patent a traffic signal with three positions, which made for safer travel when compared to traffic signals with just "stop" and "go" positions.
2. Cleveland can trace its love of baseball pretty far back.
In the 1850s, Clevelanders partook in (or at least encountered) this all-American sport almost daily. When the first professional baseball league formed in 1871, Cleveland was its westernmost outpost. When that league failed and the American Association formed, Cleveland sent their formidably "skinny and spindly" players to form the Cleveland Ball Club, aka the Cleveland Spiders. The Spiders were nicknamed the "Indians," and though they were disbanded in 1899, the name would later be adopted by Cleveland’s current professional baseball team.
3. League Park shaped Cleveland sports.
Today the plot on the corner of Lexington and East 66th houses the Baseball Heritage Museum, but we may not realize exactly why. In 1891, a wooden structure was built to encircle a sports field, and it was later made more solid with the addition of concrete building materials in 1910. League Park, which was briefly renamed Dunn Field, hosted the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns in their early years, and even was used as the Indians’ primary facility during much of the Great Depression. The majority of the structure was demolished in 1951, but a ticket house and part of the exterior brick facade still remains.
4. Cleveland experienced its first period of notable growth following the War of 1812.
Though the area that would become Cleveland was surveyed by 1796, it would take years for it to become more of a city than a settlement. In 1800, as few as three men called Cleveland home. However, after the threat of Native American attacks subsided and as roads were improved, Cleveland slowly began to grow. It initially got its start as a market town where farmers congregated to sell their locally produced goods.
5. Cleveland was most heavily populated in 1950.
In the year of 1950, Cleveland was home to more residents than ever before… nearly 915,000 people helped make it the seventh most populated U.S. city. Today, less than 400,000 people live within its borders, and it has fallen to the 51st most populated U.S. city.
6. Cleveland was a backdrop to a number of civil disorders in the 1960s.
In the 1960s, racially based tensions were growing across the nation in relation to the Civil Rights Movement. In Cleveland, some activists rejected the nonviolent approach to initiating change. In 1966, the Hough Riots resulted in the arson and overall destruction of several blocks on the east side of Cleveland. 2,200 Ohio National Guardsmen were brought in to quell the violence. In 1968, the Glenville Shootout resulted in the deaths of four civilians and three officers.
7. It originally cost only $50 to settle on a plot of land in Cleveland.
When Cleveland was first surveyed, it was divided into 220 lots which were sold for $50 a piece by the Connecticut Land Company (which is equivalent to just under $1000 today). While that price might not seem unreasonable, it is actually rather steep when you consider that it was not quite certain who had the right to govern the land, and it would not even be recognized as part of the Northwest Territory until 1800, meaning that the United States would not provide Cleveland’s earliest residents legal or military protections. Plus, with so many uncertainties, potential landowners were skeptical of the legitimacy of land titles. Would you want to move to such a tumultuous region?
8. Cleveland’s nightlife was quite active during Prohibition.
When alcohol was nationally prohibited from 1920 to 1933, organized crime flooded into the streets of Cleveland as bootleggers took advantage of the new economic state. Ironically, before Prohibition, Cleveland only hosted about 1,200 bars. During Prohibition, more than 2,500 speakeasies were identified in the city. The Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, around the area of West 25th Street, was an infamous haunt for bootleggers and drinkers alike, and one such raid in the area reportedly resulted in pouring barrels of whiskey down the street.