American Consequences - June 2019

(This is actually a failure of Toledo’s Polish population – Tony was Hungarian.) In this humble place people led a better life or had a chance to lead a better life or at least were – “ ‘Tis Ague in the Fall ” notwithstanding – alive. Not reaped for cannon fodder by the Kaiser, persecuted by the Ottomans, murdered by Hitler, crushed by Stalin, shot by the Hatfields and McCoys, or lynched by white trash. Toledo is a junkyard of capitalism. But what splendid junk! Canal boats, railroad trains, lake freighters, bicycles, and lumbering Yale Touring Cars – they weren’t laden with treasure perhaps, but they carried enough of the good things in life to feed, clothe, and shelter Toledoans.

beer, look out your picture window, and toast Michael J. Owens. Libbey-Owens-Ford invented auto-safety glass in Toledo and Owens-Corning invented fiberglass. If you hoisted too many beers, looked out your picture window at your Corvette, crashed it, and survived, toast one more Toledo booster nickname, “Glass City.” A Toledo physician, nose and throat specialist Allen DeVilbiss, was trying to make a throat atomizer for his patients and tried so hard that he invented the paint spray gun. DeVilbiss paint sprayers are available in better automotive-supply stores everywhere... You can touch up that crashed ‘Vette. The doctor’s son, Allen DeVilbiss Jr., invented a portable pendulum-operated weighing device and founded Toledo Scale. Its products were so ubiquitous when I was young that I thought Toledo’s city motto was “No Springs.” And when the need came to invent the Jeep and win World War II, it was Toledo’s always- on-the-tip-of-bankruptcy Willys-Overland Motor Company that invented it. Jeeps continue to be made in Toledo (and are a more appropriate vehicle for a man my age than that Corvette). Toledo is still home to four Fortune 500 companies – Marathon Petroleum, Owens- Illinois, Dana, and Owens Corning. Paris is home to none. (Of course, Fortune doesn’t count French companies. But who does?) Per capita income in Toledo is $28,584. That isn’t as much as the $31,786 American average, but it’s a lot more than the $13,812 in Poland.

Toledo is a failure... But what a magnificent failure it's been. Toledo is a junkyard of capitalism. But what splendid junk!

Cheap natural gas lured New England’s glass companies to Toledo. By the time the infinite supply of gas proved finite, glassmakers – Libbey-Owens-Ford, Owens-Illinois, Owens- Corning – had built so many factories in Toledo that they couldn’t leave. The repetitive “Owens” in the corporate names was Michael J. Owens, a peripatetic glass blower with little formal education and great mechanical genius. He developed a process to make bottles with machinery instead of by hand and another to produce sheets of glass in continuous flow. Hoist a


June 2019

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