Steel City: Urban and Ethnic Patterns in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1950

Steel City: Urban and Ethnic Patterns in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1950

Steel City: Urban and Ethnic Patterns in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1950

Steel City: Urban and Ethnic Patterns in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1950

Excerpt

They called it the "Magic City" in the early years of the twentieth century. The label, of course, was little more than a real estate fantasy, and few would argue that the place has much magic in the 1980s. Like dozens of declining industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast, the steel city of Gary, Indiana, has been buffeted by the powerful winds of twentieth‐ century change. Indeed, the history of Gary provides, in microcosm, a view of the rise and fall of the American industrial city. More than that, it illuminates many of the patterns of urban growth and change in this century—the impact of planning, of industrial development, of European immigration, of black migration from the South, and of more recent demographic, economic, and political shifts.

During the course of the twentieth century the Indiana steel city, like many similar industrial towns, provided the setting for a variety of social changes and human processes. Peasants from Europe, the rural South, and even Mexico became industrial workers in Gary's steel mills. Some also became unionists and participated actively in the great steel strike of 1919. Immigrants became Americanized, or they resisted Americanization by building ethnic communities centered around church, parochial school, and a multitude of ethnic organizations. Blacks from the South became accustomed to a new kind of economic and political freedom, but they found themselves trapped in an urban ghetto by an almost impenetrable wall of racism. Mexican immigrants discovered economic opportunity in the steel city, but they too were victimized during the depression years, when several thousand Gary Mexicans were "repatri-

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