Sunday 5 February 2012

The America Project - Michigan

Michigan (MI) size 97,990 sq.m population 9.9 million

Bordering states Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin (3)
State capital Lansing
Most populous city Detroit
Other notable places Grand Rapids, Warren, Ann Arbor, Flint
Notable landmarks and natural features Porcupine Mountains; Sleeping Bear Dunes; Lake Michigan; Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, Detroit; General Motors Building, Detroit, Hitsville USA, Detroit

Statehood 26th January 1837 (26th)

Ten famous Michiganders
William Boeing (aviation pioneer and businessman; born Detroit, 1881-1956)
Francis Ford Coppola (film director; born Detroit, 1939 -)
Hawley Harvey Crippen (convicted murderer; born Coldwater, 1862-1910)
Leon Czolgosz (Presidential assassin; born Detroit, 1873-1901)
Henry Ford (industrialist; born Dearborn, 1863-1947)
Berry Gordy (record producer and businessman; born Detroit, 1929 -)
Charles Lindbergh (aviator; born Detroit, 1902-1974)
Madonna (singer and actress; born Bay City, 1958 -)
Mitt Romney (businessman and politician; born Detroit, 1947 -)
Stevie Wonder (musician; born Saginaw, 1950 -)

Three important events

1. Model T Ford (August 12th 1908)
The American automotive industry is almost exclusively based around Detroit. In 1903, Olds and Ford both opened factories in the city soon followed by General Motors, whilst Chrysler are based in Auburn Hills. The early leader was Ford, established by Henry Ford, a revolutionary industrialist and peculiarly unsavoury man. Ford did not invent mass production on factory lines, but it's arguable to say that he was one of the people who perfected the system. The thing that set Ford apart in the early years of motoring was 1908's pioneering "car for the great multitude", the Model T. So advanced were the mass production techniques - at their peak a single Model T could be assembled from scratch in just 93 minutes and total daily production approached 10,000 cars - that it was not until 1972 when the Volkwagen Beetle overtook the Model T for the title of the most produced car in history, a full 44 years after Model T production had ceased. The car was cheap, too: in the 1910s, an assembly line worker could buy a car with four month's pay, but by the 1920s the price had dropped to just $290 (equivalent to $3,300 today). As such, the car became ubiquitous across the globe.

2. Motown (April 14th 1960)
Motown records, another form of production line altogether, was formed by Berry Gordy in 1960. Best known for its soul, funk and rhythm and blues records, smash hit after smash hit was produced from its Hitsville USA building on Detroit's West Grand Boulevard. Recording and creation took place round the clock, with the impetus coming from Gordy as well as some of the top writers of the time: Holland-Dozier-Holland, William "Smokey" Robinson and, in time, Marvin Gaye and the precocious Stevie Wonder. By the time the company left for Los Angeles in 1972, they had produced 110 top 10 hits, as black music made the leap into the American mainstream pop charts with acts like Diana Ross and The Supremes, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Jimmy Ruffin, Mary Wells and Gladys Knight and The Pips.

3. 12th Street Riot (July 23-27 1967)
The 12th Street Riot erupted on 12th Street, Detroit on July 23rd 1967 after a police raid on an unlicenced after-hours drinking hole called The Blind Pig. The running battle between the police and the bar's owners and patrons - over 80 people celebrating the safe return of two locals from the Vietnam war - quickly spread in the tinderbox environment of late 1960s America, becoming a riot that lasted 8 days, claimed 43 lives and caused $25 million worth of damage. To this day it is the third-most destructive riot in the history of the United States. By the second day, Governor George Romney had called in the National Guard, on the third President Lyndon Johnson had sent in the army. By the time the riot subsided, in addition to the 43 dead were 467 injured, 7,231 arrested (the youngest aged just 4) and 2,509 stores and buildings destroyed by fire or looting. It was even worse than a Saturday night in Croydon.

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