Lansing is located about 85 miles northwest of Detroit, where the Cedar River flows into the Grand River. It was settled in 1847 and immediately became the capital of Michigan. The name is derived from Lansing, New York, home of one of the original settlers.
Lansing is not the oldest community in its area. Holt, five miles south, was settled in 1837.
In 1844, residents of nearby North Settlement built a dam and mill in what is now North Lansing, Michigan. Their employer, James Seymour, was a land speculator from New York. Recognizing an opportunity, Seymour proposed that the Michigan legislature, which was deadlocked over the site of a new capital, accept his water-power site in the yet-to-be developed wilderness.
The legislature agreed and built a two-story capitol building near Seymour's settlement, between 1873 and 1878. It stands in a 10-acre park, surrounded on three sides by the Grand River.
Ransom E. Olds experimented with steam-powered "horseless carriages" in the late 19th century in Lansing. He later switched to gasoline power and moved his operations to Detroit. Due to differences with the company's directors, Olds quit the Olds Motor Works and returned to Lansing to found the Reo Motor Car Company, whose name was derived from the initials of his name.
Lansing grew rapidly as a center of automaking. The Fisher Body plant, along with other enterprises, contributed to Lansing's population growth from 16,000 in 1900 to nearly 80,000 by 1930.
East Lansing, Michigan, a suburb of Lansing, is home to Michigan State University. Originally established as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan in 1855, it was the first land grant college in the country.