The Port of Gary is located at the southern end of Lake Michigan in the State of Indiana in the United States. Some 15 nautical miles (21 kilometers or 13 miles by air) east of Chicago, the Port of Gary is part of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system. The Port of Gary is also a short eight nautical miles (only 15 kilometers or nine miles by air) west-southwest from the Port of Indiana at Burns Harbor.
Named after Elbert H. Gary who organized the United States Steel Corporation, the Port of Gary was planned as a part of US Steel's new manufacturing complex in the early 20th Century. The first boat carrying ore for making steel arrived in the Port of Gary in 1908. The Port of Gary is still basically a one-industry town. Suffering a long-term economic decline since the 1960s, the Port of Gary has undertaken several revitalization efforts over the past decades. In 2010, over 80 thousand people called the Port of Gary home.
Before Europeans arrived in the future Port of Gary, people of the Miami Nation occupied what would become Indiana, western Ohio, and southwest Michigan. Although it is not recognized by the federal government, the Miami Tribe of Indiana operates as a non-profit organization.
The Miami had a sophisticated civilization with their towns protected by stockades. They participated in Pontiac's 1764 Rebellion and in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, fighting for Britain, which reduced their population significantly. Today, Miami live in Wabash County, Indiana, and on a reservation in Oklahoma.
US Steel founded Gary in 1906 as the base for its newest plant. Since then, the Port of Gary's destiny has followed that of the steel industry. When the industry grew, the Port of Gary benefited financially. The downtown area and the Glen Park neighborhood gained new and architecturally significant buildings during the steel industry's prosperous years, and the Port of Gary's Broadway Avenue became a regional commercial hub.
Depending on a single industry, the Port of Gary began to decline in the 1960s as the United States' steel industry faced increasing competition from abroad. US Steel was forced to let many workers go, and crime increased as the Port of Gary declined.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, the Port of Gary's racial composition changed. One of the country's first African-American Mayors, Richard G. Hatcher, led the Port of Gary, and the city hosted the innovative National Black Political Convention in 1972.
While Port of Gary population declined, suburban populations increased from the 1960s through the 1980s. "White flight" combined with economic decline and threats from crime led more affluent Port of Gary citizens to flee to other cities, like Chicago, and to the nearby Indiana counties of Lake and Porter. The Port of Gary had the most African Americans in US cities of over 100 thousand population. In the 2000 US Census, the population of the Port of Gary was 84% African American.
US Steel is still an important United States manufacturer, but its employment levels in the Port of Gary are far below those of the past. The Port of Gary has worked hard to improve its manufacturing sector and to create tourist attractions. The modern Port of Gary faces many problems like unemployment, low literacy and education rates, and decaying infrastructure.