Gilbert Knapp, a Lake boat captain in 1834, founded the settlement of Port Gilbert at the place where the Root River empties into Lake Michigan. The area was previously called Kipi Kawi and Chippecotton by the indigenous peoples, both names for the Root River. The name "Port Gilbert" was never really accepted, and in 1841 the community was incorporated as the village of Racine. After Wisconsin's statehood was granted in 1848 the new legislature voted in August to incorporate Racine as a city.
Before the American Civil War, Racine was well known for its strong opposition to slavery. Many slaves escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad passed through the city. In 1854 Joshua Glover, an escaped slave who had made a home in Racine, was arrested by federal marshals and taken to a jail in Milwaukee. One hundred men from Racine, and ultimately 5,000 Wisconsinites, rallied and broke into the jail to free him. He was helped to escape to Canada. Glover's rescue gave rise to many legal complications and a great deal of litigation. This eventually led to the Wisconsin Supreme Court declaring the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 unconstitutional, and later, the Wisconsin State Legislature refusing to recognize the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Waves of immigrants, including Danes, Germans, and Czechs, began to settle in Racine between the Civil War and the First World War. African Americans started arriving in large numbers during World War I, as they did in other Midwestern industrial towns, and Mexicans started migrating to Racine from roughly 1925 onward.
Unitarians from New England initially dominated Racine's religious life, as they did in other parts of the Upper Midwest before 1880. Racine's Emmaus Lutheran Church is the oldest Danish Lutheran Church in North America, founded on August 22, 1851. Emmaus Lutheran, originally a founding member of the Danish American Lutheran Church, has subsequently been a member of the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (UDELCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC), and, since 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).Also there was a large Catholic movement to the city opening up churches for their own ethnicity such as, St. Stanislaus (polish), St. Rose (Irish), Holy Name (German), St. Patrick (Irish), Sacred Heart (Italian), St. Joeseph (German), St. Mary (German), Holy Trinity (Slovak), St. Casimir (Lithuainian), and many more. As years passed populations moved and St. Stanislaus, Holy Name, Holy Trinity, St. Rose, and St. Casimir, all came togeter in 1998 to form St. Richard. With new waves of people coming in older parishes got a new lift by the hispanic community forming Cristo Rey and re-energizing St. Patrick's into the strong catholic communtity of today.
Racine was a factory town almost from the very beginning. The first industry in Racine County included the manufacture of Fanning mills, machines that separated wheat grain from chaff. Racine also had its share of captains of industry, including J. I. Case (heavy equipment), and S.C. Johnson (cleaning and chemical products). Racine's harbor was very central to the shipping industry in the late 1800s. Racine furthermore was an early car manufacturing center. One of the world's first automobiles was allegedly built there in 1871 or 1872 by Dr. J. W. Cathcart,, as was the Pennington Victoria tricycle, the Mitchell, and the Case
In 1887, malted milk was invented by Englishman William Horlick in Racine, and Horlicks remains a global brand. The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 by architect John Hammes of Racine. He founded the company InSinkErator in Racine, which still produces millions of garbage disposers a year. In addition, Racine is the home of Johnson Wax, with its headquarters designed in 1936 by Frank Lloyd Wright, who also designed the Wingspread Conference Center and two homes in Racine. The city is also home to the Dremel Corporation as well as Twin Disc.
Racine claims to be the largest North American settlement of Danes outside of Greenland. Racine is particularly known for its Danish pastries, especially kringle. Several bakeries have been featured on the Food Network.Some of the bakeries in Racine are: O&H and Lehman's.
The city is also known for its large prom celebration, which combines the students from all the high schools in the city at an after party. This was featured in the radio show This American Life in Episode #186 "Prom", originally aired on June 8, 2001.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.7 square miles (48.4 km²), of which, 15.5 square miles (40.2 km²) of it is land and 3.1 square miles (8.1 km²) of it (16.76%) is water.
| City of Racine|
Population by year
There were 31,449 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.2% were married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.1% were non-families. 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.7% under the age of 18, 9.9% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,164, and the median income for a family was $45,150. Males had a median income of $35,079 versus $24,279 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,705. About 10.8% of families and 13.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those aged 65 or over.
In addition to the mayor, Racine's other citywide elected official is the Municipal Judge. The City Council is the legislative branch and is made up of 15 aldermen, one elected from each district in the city. The council enacts local ordinances and approves the city budget. Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted each November. The council takes official action through the passage of ordinances and resolutions.
Racine is served by the daily newspaper The Journal Times, which is the namesake (but not current owner) of radio station WRJN (1400). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel publishes a Racine-specific page on Thursdays and a Racine County section on Sundays, while The Insider News covers issues specific to the African-American community. The web-only RacinePost.com also covers the community.
The city has one television station owned by Weigel Broadcasting, WBME-TV (Channel 49), a station which airs classic drama and sitcom reruns and has their analog transmitter just north of the Milwaukee County line in Oak Creek. For all intents and purposes the station serves all of southeastern Wisconsin, with the station offices located in West Allis and the station's digital transmitter to be located in north Milwaukee's Lincoln Park by the end of 2008. WBME does air a Sunday morning public affairs program called Racine & Me which is devoted to topics of interest to Racine residents.
Other radio stations serving the area are adult contemporary WEZY (92.1) and urban contemporary WKKV (100.7). WEZY specifically targets Racine and Kenosha and is owned locally, while WKKV is a station owned by Clear Channel Communications that although it is licensed to Racine and with a transmitter in the north-central part of Racine County, is targeted towards Milwaukee audiences and has their station offices in Greenfield.