History of Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie County, named for Lake Erie and the American Indians who lived there before it was settled, was established in the 1800s following Pennsylvania's acquisition of the Erie Triangle from the United States government in 1792. The French were the first European settlers in the region, constructing Fort Presque Isle in 1753. Presque Isle is a French phrase that means "almost an island" or "peninsula."

The city of Erie was established in 1795 and transformed into a port in 1801. During the War of 1812, a naval fleet was constructed at Erie to seize control of the Great Lakes from the British. In 1813, Commodore Oliver Perry beat the British at the Battle of Lake Erie, helping to define American tenacity by flying a flag bearing the dying words of American Navy Officer James Lawrence, "Don't Give Up the Ship." The majority of Perry's fleet was constructed at Erie, initiating a long legacy of shipbuilding. Around the middle of the 19th century, Erie was a prominent shipbuilding, fishing, and railroad center.

Throughout the 20th century, Erie County attracted European immigrants who, generations later, joined our dynamic group of New Americans to form our diversified population. We are defined by our industry, productivity, and innovation. Many authors, athletes, inventors, and artists are native to and reside in Erie, Pennsylvania. Workers from Erie County contributed to the construction of America. Throughout World War Two, our workforce produced everything from aircraft fuselages to howitzers. Our team has constructed the trains that transport the world's freight for a century.

Today, Erie County offers a broad economy and a substantial expansion by Erie Insurance, a Fortune 500 company that is constructing a new $135 million, 346,000-square-foot office complex in downtown Erie. Global businesses are attracted to the region's Innovation District, active Bayfront development, and Secure Smart City pilot project. Learn about the geography of Erie.

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