COLUMBUS, OHIO, is the capital and most populous city of Ohio. It was laid out on the high east bank of the Scioto River in 1812 expressly to serve as the capital and was named for the great Italian explorer. Ohio's legislature
chose the site owing to its central location in the state and because Columbus's promoters offered to donate land and construction money for the state house and penitentiary. During the course of the nineteenth century, Columbus garnered virtually all of the state's institutions, including the schools for the blind and deaf; the "lunatic asylum"; the "asylum for idiots"; and the land-grant college, Ohio State University. Completed in 1831, a feeder canal linked Columbus with the Ohio and Erie Canal. Two years later, the National Road reached the city, providing access to the East. These transportation advantages spurred Columbus's growth, and in 1850 it was the second largest city in the state with almost eighteen thousand inhabitants.
During the 1850s and 1860s, the construction of numerous rail lines further enhanced Columbus's commercial fortunes. Owing to its proximity to the coalfields of southeastern Ohio, Columbus became a major coal shipping center. During the late nineteenth century, the city's industrial sector expanded, and Columbus won recognition as a leader in the manufacturing of buggies and carriages and as the home of numerous foundries and machine shops. Meanwhile, Columbus attracted thousands of German immigrants, although at the close of the nineteenth century, the foreign born constituted less than 10 percent of the city's population, a figure far below that of most midwestern industrial cities.
The city continued to grow at a steady pace, yet in 1930 its population of 290,564 earned it only fourth rank among Ohio cities, behind Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. During the half century following World War II, however, it pulled ahead of its rivals, and by the mid-1980s was the state's largest city. In 2000, its population reached 711,470. Unlike Cleveland and Cincinnati, Columbus was able to annex vast tracts of new territory, its area more than tripling during the 1950s and 1960s. Thus, it acquired thousands of new residents and escaped encirclement by suburban municipalities. Columbus was not as dependent on heavy industry as many rust belt cities and was spared the worst effects of the late-twentieth-century decline in midwestern manufacturing. State government was the city's chief employer, and as long as the state of Ohio survived, the city's economic future remained secure.
Cole, Charles C., Jr. A Fragile Capital: Identity and the Early Years of Columbus, Ohio. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2001.
Hunker, Henry L. Columbus, Ohio: A Personal Geography. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2000.