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The second-largest city in Florida (after Jacksonville), Miami proper has an area of about 55 square miles and a population of approximately 383,000. Greater Miami is composed of approximately 25 incorporated municipalities and has a combined population of approximately 5,422,200.

location of Miami

Miami skyline


Juan Ponce de León became the first European to visit the area of Miami when he sailed into Biscayne Bay in 1513. Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his men made the first recorded landing when they visited a nearby Tequesta settlement in 1566 while looking for Avilés' missing son, shipwrecked a year earlier. Spanish missionaries built a Jesuit mission at the mouth of the Miami River in 1567, but it was short-lived.

The first permanent European settlers were treasure hunters who came to the region in the early 1800's to hunt for treasure from ships that had run aground on the Great Florida Reef. Some of them accepted Spanish land offers along the Miami River and established farms and homes. The Seminole Indians arrived at about the same time, as did a substantial population of runaway slaves. Fort Dallas was established in 1835, during the Second Seminole War.

The Village of Miami was plotted on the south bank of the Miami River by William English in 1842. In 1844, Miami became the county seat, and six years later a census reported that there were 96 residents living in the area.

In 1895, Mrs. Julia D. Tuttle (below), a Florida pioneer, convinced railroad builder Henry M. Flager that the area could become rich farmland by sending him some flowers to show that the land had escaped a killing frost. In 1896, Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railroad to the area in exchange for land. Miami was officially incorporated as a city on July 28, 1896, with a voting population of about 1,500. The railroad helped Miami's population reach 5,000 by 1910 and 30,000 by 1920.

Julia D. Tuttle

During World War II, Miami served as an important military training center. The armed services used most of the city's hotels as barracks. Many servicemen settled in Miami after the war, and by 1950 the city had a population of 250,000.


Miami is an important financial and cultural center, as well as a major seaport. Tourism is a principal economic activity of the city, with millions of visitors coming to Miami every year for its beaches and night life. The Port of Miami is the largest cruise ship port in the world, serving over 18 million passengers every year. The port is also one of the nation's busiest cargo ports, with nearly 10 million tons of cargo passing through it every year.

Other major industries include the processing of citrus fruit and vegetables grown in the surrounding area, construction, fishing, and the manufacture of transportation and electronic equipment, biomedical products, clothing, and printed materials. Because of its proximity to Latin America, Miami serves as the headquarters of Latin American operations for many multinational corporations. In addition, downtown Miami has the largest concentration of international banks in the country.

The Miami-Dade County region is served by Miami International Airport.


Miami is served by Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the largest school district in Florida, as well as by several parochial and private schools.

Institutions of higher education in Miami include Barry College (1940), Saint Thomas of Villanova University (1961), Florida Memorial College (1879), Florida International University (1972), Saint John Vianney College Seminary (1959), Miami Christian College (1949), International Fine Arts College (1965), the Bauder Fashion College (1964), and several junior colleges. The University of Miami is in nearby Coral Gables.

Sites and Attractions

Cultural attractions in Miami include the Miami Seaquarium, the Museum of Science, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Villa Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and the Japanese Teahouse and Garden. Dade County Auditorium is home to a symphony orchestra and a ballet company.

The Orange Bowl is the site of a major postseason college football game. Joe Robbie Stadium, located in nearby Opa Locka, is the home of the Miami Dolphins professional football team and the Florida Marlins professional baseball team. American Airlines Arena is home to the Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association, the Miami FC professional soccer team plays at Tropical Park, and the Miami Tropics of the American Basketball Association play at Miami Arena.

Other Information

The television shows Nip/Tuck and CSI: Miami were both based in Miami, although neither was actually filmed here. Other well-known television programs that were based in Miami but not taped here include The Golden Girls, Surfside 6, and Miami Vice. The Jackie Gleason Show was taped in nearby Miami Beach from 1964 to 1970.

Movies which have used Miami as a backdrop include There's Something About Mary, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, The Birdcage, True Lies, Miami Vice, and Scarface.

City of Miami
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

Henry M. Flager
World War II

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The Robinson Library >> Florida >> Cities, Towns, Etc.

This page was last updated on July 11, 2018.