Until 1895, Laurium was known as "Calumet" (not to be confused with the present nearby town of Calumet, Michigan, which was known as "Red Jacket" until it adopted the name Calumet in 1929). In 1895 the legislature changed Calumet's name to Laurium, after the famous mining town in ancient Greece. Laurium is located in the center of the Copper Country, the first major copper mining region in the United States. It was originally founded as a company town serving the Laurium copper mine, which later became part of the Calumet & Hecla mine. The town was generally home to the wealthier members of Keweenaw society, such as mine owners and captains. Although the mines have long since closed, the town still sports many large houses and mansions built by the wealthy mine owners. Today, many of the houses are participating locations in the Keweenaw National Historical Park.
The population in 1900 was 5643, of whom 2286 were foreign-born.
Noted 20th century football player George Gipp ("the Gipper") was born in Laurium. A small memorial to the football legend is located on the corner of Lake Linden Avenue and Tamarack Street and his grave is in nearby Lake View Cemetery.
The Palestra was a noted hockey arena, built in Laurium in 1904. It is thought to have been the first purpose-built indoor hockey venue in the United States. In 1921, the entire arena was moved to Marquette, Michigan and remained there until being razed in 1974.