Platted in 1873 and incorporated as a village in 1881, Gaylord was incorporated as a city in 1922. It grew as a warehouse and distribution center for the produce raised in nearby potato fields and a manufacturing center for hardwood products—woodenware, butter bowls, barrel hoops and staves, and shoe-last blocks. The wide, well-lighted streets and excellent stores, since 1964 displaying an Alpine theme, led the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to conclude in Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State (1941) that Gaylord was one of the most modern cities in northern Michigan. Today tourism is important to the economy.
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