“You can see here, as it is impossible to do in a more varied and complex city, the whole structure of an industrial society.” So wrote essayist Edmund Wilson, reporting on a visit to the Motor City in the 1930s. As the capital of America’s most important industry—automobile manufacturing—Detroit became a global symbol of modernity and of the power of American capitalism and the labor that built it.
Detroit had all of the ingredients for industrial growth: it was close to the nation’s major centers of coal, iron, and copper mining; it was easily accessible by water and by land; and it was near the nation’s leading, well-established production centers. Still, it was not a great metropolis. When Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Detroit was only the nation’s thirteenth largest city.
By the mid-twentieth century, one in every six working Americans was employed directly or indirectly by the automobile industry, and Detroit was its epicenter. The “Big Three” auto firms—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—were all based in metropolitan Detroit. The auto industry consumed vast amounts of steel, glass, copper, and (later) plastic, fueling the rise of a host of auto-related industries in and around the city. Detroit was, in the words of one historian, a “total industrial landscape,” a place where hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers found work on the assembly lines, in stamping and tool-and-die plants, in foundries, and in a myriad of small factories that made all sorts of parts, from spark plugs to hood ornaments. The reach of the auto industry extended far into Detroit’s suburbs and into the small towns of the upper Midwest, where manufacturers made everything from auto glass to engine mounts. The dependence of towns like Toledo, Ohio, and Flint, Michigan, on the auto industry led to a common adage: “When Detroit gets a cold, the whole Midwest gets pneumonia.”
Form groups 1,2,3,4. Focus on one of the concepts each. Explain your concept to the others.
Explain in plain terms two of the concepts discussed. Post as a comment.