Gulfport was incorporated on July 28, 1898. Gulfport was founded by two men: William H. Hardy who was president of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (G&SIRR) that connected inland lumber mills to the coast, and Joseph T. Jones who later took over the G&SIRR, dredged the harbor in Gulfport, and opened the shipping channel to the sea. In 1902, the harbor was completed and the Port of Gulfport became a working seaport that now accounts for millions of dollars in annual sales and tax revenue for the state of Mississippi.
From its beginnings as a lumber port, Gulfport evolved into a diversified city. With about 6.7 miles (10.7 kilometers) of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport has become a tourism destination, due in large part to Mississippi's Coast Casinos. Gulfport has served as host to popular cultural events such as the "World's Largest Fishing Rodeo," "Cruisin' the Coast" (a week of classic cars), and "Smokin' the Sound" (speedboat races). Gulfport is a thriving residential community with a strong mercantile center. There are historic neighborhoods and home sites, as well as diverse shopping opportunities and several motels scattered throughout to accommodate golfing, gambling, and water-sport tourism.