In sharp contrast to the nature of America cities in 2015, looking at the average American city in 1949 offers up a huge difference between the city of the past and the city of the present.
In the 1940s, Toledo Ohio was a major manufacturing center, with some 550 plants cranking out everything from Food products to Auto parts, it was one of the biggest suppliers of car parts in the country, if not the world. In fact, the auto industry in Detroit relied considerably on the manufacturing abilities of Toledo. And it also boasted being the Glass Capital of the world.
It was also a city prone to labor disputes, as was evidence by the Coal strike going on when this broadcast was being made. The great Coal Shipping port was quiet in October of 1949, and many wondered how long the stockpiled supplies of coal would last.
This broadcast, part of the series Report On America was attempting to paint the uncertain post-war economic times with a positive brush. America had re-tooled back to peacetime production and was well on the road to recovery. But there was still unemployment and other ominous signs all was not well with the rest of the world. We had a Cold War to contend with – there was Reconstruction still going on in Europe (and would for some time) and the political and social landscape was changing, at home and abroad. The cities would bear much of the brunt of those changes – changes in technology laid off many workers – automation was a concept only imagined in 1949. Soon the racial component would cause rifts and divisions, and the phrase “white flight” would enter our lexicon. So 1949 was a key year and an interesting year with regards to America’s place in the grand scheme of things.
Originally aired on October 15, 1949, this episode of Report On America was also one of the first of the on-the-spot documentaries, which became so popular with radio in the 1950s, since tape recording was introduced around 1948. Gone were the days when participants had to go to the studio – the studio went to the participants and an extra shade of reality was added to the mix. Radio documentaries in America were coming of age.
Here is that broadcast.
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