South Bend is the economic and cultural hub of the region commonly known as Michiana. South Bend officially began as South Hold, as designated by the United States Postal Service in 1829. The Post Office changed the name to South Bend in 1830. Around 128 people lived in the area at the time, mostly fur traders, merchants, and innkeepers. South Bend was organized as a town in 1835 and became incorporated as a city in 1865.
During the late 1830s through the 1850s, much of South Bend's development centered around the industrial complex of factories located on two man-made canals along the St. Joseph River. The East Race remains as a visible reminder of the past and was converted to an artificial whitewater course in 1984. The West Race, was purchased in 1903 by the Oliver Chilled Plow Company and utilized to produce power for numerous structures throughout South Bend. Only parts of the plant and dam remain as the Century Center coverted it into a tourism and business center.
As the city became dependent on the railroad and street car systems, industry grew rapidly. From this rapid development came interest from Henry and Clem Studebaker, who soon established their wagon-building business and then successfully transitioned into a leader in the automotive industry. This was one of several businesses that were able to make this shift to being an industry leader. In the first half of the 20th century the company outsold Ford on a regular basis. They also left a permanent imprint on the skyline of the city. Unfortunately, economic difficulties forced the company to close in 1963. Other companies involved in the development of South Bend include the Oliver Corporation, the Birdsell Manufacturing Company, the Bendix Corporation, Honeywell, AlliedSignal, the Robert Bosch GmbH, Uniroyal, Singer Sewing Machine Company, South Bend Lathe Works, the O'Brien Paint Corp., and the South Bend Toy Company.
Today, South Bend is a thriving city with approximately 107,789 residents and is the fourth largest city in Indiana. Nearby University of Notre Dame is a large contributor to the local economy. Health care is another major contributor to the South Bend economy. Memorial Health Systems is the largest employer in the city. Other notable businesses include the AM General headquarters, Crowe Chizek, and Honeywell.
South Bend also is home to the South Bend Regional Museum of Art, which currently contains over 850 works of art from around the world and features a variety of artists from South Bend and the Michiana region. The museum also offers several classes and workshops for adults and children. Other sites of interest include the Copshaholm, The Studebaker National Museum and the Morris Performing Arts Center.