American Consequences - June 2019

Great Black Swamp. Gaseous swamp odors were well-remembered. The promoters may even have believed what they were saying. Forty wells were drilled. Four pipelines were built to the city. Toledo experienced its third real estate bubble. The Toledo Blade opined, “Toledo the queen city of the lakes, goes forth conquering, one hand bearing a torch with light for the world, with fire for a nation’s forges, with heat for a million looms, with fuel for thousands of factories.” The gas ran out in 1895. Instead, Toledo became the queen city of the lakes on wheels. Local industrialist Peter Gendron invented the wire-spoke wheel and the ball-bearing hub. Employing the hometown Tubular Axle Company’s new lightweight hollow-steel tubing, he created the modern bicycle. By 1898 there were 22 bicycle manufacturers in the city. Toledo became the center of the American bicycle industry... just in time for the automobile. (My grandfather was a mechanic at the Milburn Wagon Company. One day he saw an automobile rumble by. He became a car mechanic. He soon realized you could have cleaner hands and fuller pockets selling the things instead of fixing them. Thus I grew up well-fed, well-housed, happy, and prosperous as a scion of the O’Rourke Buick car dealership.) Like Grandad, Toledo businessmen saw the socio-economic shift coming and this time they almost got the point. The Pope Motor Car Company began building cars in Toledo in the early 1900s.

of Pittsburgh, Youngstown, and Cleveland needed to produce the extreme temperatures necessary for steel production was high-grade anthracite coal mined in Pennsylvania. Toledo became the largest coal-shipping port of the least-wanted (and dirtiest) kind of coal. There was a “Panic of 1873” (the government monkeying around with our money – post Civil War inflation and demonetization of silver). Toledo, of course, was hard-hit. This time, I suppose, bringing a “sooty fabric into ruin.” Civic leaders responded by launching a program of business incentives (in case you thought the bidding for Amazon HQ2 was something novel) to lure “innovative technology” to town. The Milburn Wagon Company moved to Toledo from Mishawaka, Indiana. Milburn, with 65 different kinds of wagons, was the largest manufacturer of farm equipment in America. No Milburn products, however, were mechanized like the farm equipment being made by McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago or John Deere & Company in Moline, Illinois. Toledo, for a second time, in a second way, failed to become “Corn City.” TOLEDO GETS GASSED However, in 1884 a large natural gas field was discovered south of Toledo. The supply of gas was declared to be infinite. Drilling and pipeline promoters said the gas was self- generating. The gas field was in what had been, until the drainage system was dug, the

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June 2019

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