Miami holds the distinction of being the only major city in the United States which was conceived by a woman, Julia Tuttle. Ms. Tuttle was a local citrus grower and a wealthy Cleveland native. She was instrumental in subsequently convincing Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon, to expand his Florida East Coast Railroad to the region. For this development, Ms. Tuttle became known as “The Mother of Miami.“ Miami was officially incorporated as a city on July 28, 1896, and at the time had a population of just over 300.
Miami prospered during the 1920s with an increase in population and infrastructure. However, this progress was significantly weakened after the collapse of the Florida land boom of the 1920s followed by the 1926 Miami Hurricane and the Great Depression in the 1930s. By the time World War II began, Miami played an important role in the battle against German submarines, due to its protected waters and being situated on the southern coast of Florida. In addition, the war helped to expand Miami's population, and by 1940, 172,172 people lived in the city.
After Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba in 1959, many Cubans sought refuge in Miami, in some cases join family members who were American citizens. This influx of immigrants further increased Miami’s population. During the 1980s and 1990s, various crises struck South Florida, including the Arthur McDuffie beating and the subsequent riot, numerous drug wars, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and the Elián González uproar.
Despite the sometimes negative spin on events, during the latter half of the 20th century, Miami became a major international, financial, and cultural center. Miami as a metropolitan area exploded from just over one thousand residents to nearly five and a half million residents in just 110 years (1896–2006). The city’s nickname, “The Magic City,” is based on this rapid growth: Winter visitors would remark that the city grew so much from one year to the next that it was like magic.