Racine is a city in and the county seat of Racine County, Wisconsin, United States. It is located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Root River. As of the 2010 U.S. census, the city had a population of 78,860, making it the fifth-largest city in Wisconsin,
On October 10, 1699, a fleet of eight canoes bearing a party of French explorers entered the mouth of Root River. These were the first Europeans known to visit what is now Racine County. Led by Jonathan Paradise, they established a trading post in the area that eventually became a small settlement on Lake Michigan near where the Root River empties into Lake Michigan. "Racine" is French for "root".
Before the Civil War, Racine was well known for its strong opposition to slavery, with many slaves escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad passing through the city. In 1854 Joshua Glover, an escaped slave who had made a home in Racine, was arrested by federal marshals and jailed 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 migrated to Racine from roughly 1925 onward.
Unitarians from New England initially dominated Racine's religious life. Racine's Emmaus Lutheran Church, the oldest Danish Lutheran Church in North America, was founded on August 22, 1851. Originally a founding member of the Danish American Lutheran Church, it 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). There was also 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. Joseph (German), St. Mary (German), Holy Trinity (Slovak), St. Casimir (Lithuanian), and others. As years passed, populations moved and St. Stanislaus, Holy Name, Holy Trinity, St. Rose, and St. Casimir merged in 1998, forming St. Richard. With new waves of people arriving, older parishes received a boost from the Hispanic community, which formed Cristo Rey, re-energizing St. Patrick's into the strong Catholic community 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 separate wheat grain from chaff. Racine also had its share of captains of industry, including J. I. Case (heavy equipment), S. C. Johnson & Son (cleaning and chemical products), and Arthur B. Modine (Heat Exchangers). Racine's harbor was central to the shipping industry in Wisconsin in the late 19th century. Racine was also an early car manufacturing center. One of the world's first automobiles was 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 in Racine by English immigrant William Horlick, and Horlicks remains a global brand. The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 by architect John Hammes of Racine, who founded the company InSinkErator, which still produces millions of garbage disposers a year. In addition, Racine is the home of S.C. Johnson & Son, whose headquarters was designed in 1936 by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright also designed the Wingspread Conference Center and several homes and other buildings in Racine. The city is also home to the Dremel Corporation, Reliance Controls Corporation and Twin Disc.
Racine has the largest North American settlement of Danes outside of Greenland. The city is particularly known for its Danish pastries, especially kringle. Several local bakeries have been featured on the Food Network.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built the Johnson Wax Headquarters building in Racine. The building was and still is considered a marvel of design innovation, despite its many practical annoyances such as leaks. Wright urged then-president Hib Johnson to build the structure outside of Racine, a city Wright thought of as "backwater." Johnson refused to have the Johnson Wax Headquarters sited anywhere other than Racine, and in a compromise Wright built it in Racine, but without windows.
The city is known for its large prom celebration, at which students from all the high schools in the city participate in an after prom party. This was featured on the radio show This American Life in Episode #186 "Prom", which originally aired on June 8, 2001; Racine's prom tradition was also the subject of the 2006 documentary The World's Best Prom.
Racine received an award the U.S. Conference of Mayors on June 20, 2011 for having the best tasting city water in America.