History of Buffalo: A
Buffalo, New York
In the years following World War I Buffalo emerged as an industrial
giant, a major center for the production of steel, railroad cars and
engines, airplanes, and automobiles. However, the increasingly
industrialized economy is owned increasingly by outsiders. By the end
of the 1920s Buffalo loses practically any ability to control its own
economic destiny. - Source: Mark Goldman,
"High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State
U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983,
Curtiss and Wright interests are merged and the new Curtiss-Wright Corporation moves to Buffalo, erecting a new factory in the town of Tonawanda dedicated to building military aircraft.
Buffalo Plant 1 will manufacture a variety of military and naval planes including the Owl observation plane, Helldiver naval dive bombers, and the P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk fighter planes.
After the war, in 1946, the corporation will close the Buffalo operations. Plant 1 will be sold to Western Electric and Plant 2 to Westinghouse.
The gigantic Fox Movie Company buys up five local movie theaters
In 1925 the Schoellkopfs merged four power companies into a gigantic holding company. Four years later this is merged into yet another holding company called the Niagara Hudson Power Company. Based in Buffalo, the company dominates and controls electrical utilities from the Hudson to the Niagara River.
The Marine Midland bank began the decade as a major commercial bank. It ended it as the centerpiece of a gigantic holding company - the Marine Midland Corporation - whose primary goal is to acquire a controlling interest in as many banks as possible. By 1929 it owns ninety-seven percent of the capital stock of seventeen banks throughout New York State.
By the end of the 1920s the dominant figures in the financial life of Buffalo include
The source of these men's power is their control of banking and electric utilities. What is fascinating and significant about the business interests and activities of these people is that they have little financial stake in the industrial companies of the city.
Glenn Curtiss dies in Buffalo, from complications after appendix surgery.
Germans lead Buffalo's
immigrant population with 38% or over
Ads from the 1930s
Buffalo-born and bred Chauncey Olcott (1860-1932) dies. He is known throughout the music world for his contributions as a composer, singer, and actor. Honorary pallbearers at his funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City include James J. Walker (Mayor of New York City), Alfred E. Smith (Governor of New York State), and George M. Cohan. Olcott is perhaps best remembered for composing the popular song "My Wild Irish Rose."
New Deal benefits come slowly. It is not until 1935 that large-scale federal relief money is spent in Buffalo When it does finally arrive, the sums are enormous:
Between 1935 and
1937 over $45 million had been spent on
permanent projects in the city of Buffalo, employing over 75,000 men
Consolidated Aircraft leaves Buffalo and moves to San Diego. Lawrence Dale Bell, vice president and general manager for Consolidated, decides to found his own company in Buffalo with the help of three associates from Consolidated.
Bell's vision entails designing airplanes for the military that are designed around great firepower, rather than in the traditional method of adding firepower to airframe designs. He begins with the YFM Airacobra, contracted in 1936, one of the many cutting edge designs by engineer Bob Woods.
Two new Grand Island bridges are opened on December 3, 1935. They connect Grand Island with Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Governor Herbert Henry Lehman presides at the dedication/opening ceremony.
In 1933 the Studebaker
Company, which had
acquired Pierce Arrow in the late twenties, goes into
receivership, and Albert Erskine, president of the company,
jumps out of a window in his New York City office.
|1938||Following months of newspaper
reports that the mayor, George
Zimmermann, and several members of his administration, have
used WPA funds to finance their payrolls, a special grand jury is
created to investigate. In early 1938 a councilman is convicted of
receiving fraudulent payments from the city, the streets commissioner
is convicted of payroll padding, and the mayor himself is charged with
the taking of unlawful fees in connection with the $15 million federal
By the end of 1938, nine councilmen and former councilmen have been indicted. Although several priests charge that the indictments are part of an "anti-Catholic plot," the charges stick. Several of the politicians go to jail. Mayor Zimmerman dies while out on bail.
World War II (1939-45):
Buffalo's Harold Arlen receives the Academy Award for Best Song for "Over the Rainbow." Some of his other songs include "Accentuate the Positive," "Stormy Weather," "That Old Black Magic," "One for My Baby."
"Wizard of Oz" songs by him
include "If I Only Had a Brain, a Heart, the Nerve," "We're Off to Se
the Wizard," and "If I Were King of the Forest."
The University Plaza is begun in 1939 at Main Street and Kenmore Ave. It is the first shopping center of its type to be constructed in the metropolitan area.
Buffalo produces three-quarters of the wall board in the country. Also home to Spencer-Kellogg, the country's largest linseed plant oil, and National Aniline, the largest dye plant in the country.
John R. Oishei Foundation formed. Oishei is founder of Trico Products Corporation, one of the world's leading manufacturers of windshield wiper systems. The foundation is committed to enhancing the quality of life for Buffalo area residents by supporting education, health care, scientific research, and the cultural, social, civic and other charitable needs of the community.
Bell Aircraft moves into a brand-new plant that the federal government builds for them in Niagara Falls. Bell employs 32,022 by the end of the year
The Curtiss Wright plant employs 5,300 in 1940 and 43,000 three years later.
A large number of African Americans move to the city in the 1940s to work in war industries, but they will suffer more than any other group from Buffalo's subsequent decline.
Population is over 575,000
The city is still a major railroad hub, with ten railroad lines and three major train stations.
In addition to the trains, business and social visitors can arrive and depart by bus, boat, and airplane. Thirteen different bus lines stop at three different stations; four boat lines dock in the harbor; and the airport is serviced by two airlines, American and Pennsylvania Central.
Corporation opens Buffalo Plant 2 on
Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. That huge plant will produce more than
16,000 P-40s and over 300 C-46 transport planes for U.S. involvement in
builds a plant in Wheatfield to produce Bob
Woods' P-30 Airacobra. By the time construction will cease in 1944,
9588 will have been built.
builds and flies the first American jet
plane, the P-59 Airacomet. The P-59 is built in utmost secret
on the upper floor of the old Ford (later Trico, now Tri-Main) plant on
Main Street. It is then shipped to California by rail disguised by a
false prop fastened to its nose, and successfully flown.
Corporation develops a research
laboratory across the road from the Buffalo airport. It has a pioneer
high velocity wind tunnel and a large altitude chamber. Dr. Clifford C.
Furnas is the first director. The laboratory will be donated to Cornell
University after the war and later becomes known as Calspan.
|1944||Importance of World War II for Buffalo: Given Buffalo's orientation toward heavy industry, the economy of Buffalo fares well during the Second World War. Indeed, the war years were the halcyon period of urban industrial society, a time when everybody works and most everybody feels good about their community. - Source: Mark Goldman, "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983,|
|1945||World War II ends with the surrender of the Japanese on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The war in Europe ends with the surrender of Germany earlier in the same year.|