Dayton was founded on April 1, 1796, seven years before the admission of Ohio to the Union in early 1803, by a group of 12 settlers known as "The Thompson Party." They traveled in March from Cincinnati up the Great Miami River by pirogue and landed at what is now St. Clair Street, where they found two small camps of Native Americans. Among the settlers was Benjamin Van Cleve, whose memoirs provide insights into the history of the Ohio Valley. Two other groups who were travelling overland arrived several days later.
In 1797, Daniel C. Cooper had laid out the Mad River Road, the first overland connection between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Dayton, opening the "Mad River Country" at Dayton and the upper Miami Valley to settlement.
The city was incorporated in 1805 and was named after Jonathan Dayton, who owned the land. Dayton had been a captain in the American Revolutionary War and was a signer of the U.S. Constitution. By 1827, construction on the Dayton-Cincinnati canal began as a way to better transport goods from Dayton to Cincinnati. The canal provided the main source of growth for Dayton at the time.
Historically, Dayton has been the site for many patents and inventions since the 1870s. Famous inventors such as the Wright Brothers who invented the practical airplane and Charles F. Kettering who had numerous inventions also came from Dayton. According to the National Park Service who cited information from the U.S. Patent Office Dayton had more granted patents per capita than any other U.S. city in 1890 and ranked fifth in the nation as early as 1870.