The History of Buffalo: A Chronology
Buffalo, New York

1929-1945
1664
1679
1689

1721

1722
1759
1774
1775
1780
1785
1786
1788
1789
1790
1791
1792
1793
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1795
1797
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1800
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1900
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1908
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1910
1911
1912
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1914
1915
1916
1917
1918
1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931
1932
1933
1934
1935
1936
1937
1938
1939
1940
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945
1946
1947
1948
1949
1950
1951
1952
1953
1954
1955
1956
1957
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966 1967
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000

2001
2002

INDEX

SOURCES

1929

Importance of industrialization: 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,



Great Depression



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
  • George F. Rand, president and chairman of the board of directors of the Marine Midland Corporation
  • Jacob Schoellkopf, Jr. (whose father had been the entrepreneur to first turn the water of Niagara Falls into the major power industry in the United States)
  • Walter P. Cooke, the corporation lawyer who had presided over the Liberty Loan drive
  • Edward P. Letchworth, whose family have made a fortune in steel and real estate, and Cooke's law partner, and

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.


Buildings erected:

1930

Glenn Curtiss dies in Buffalo, from complications after appendix surgery.


Germans lead Buffalo's immigrant population with 38% or over 100,000 people.


Buildings erected:
Ads from the 1930s

1931

Buildings erected:


1932

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."


Buildings erected:
  • Crosby Hall
  • Buffalo State Office Building
  • On July 1, City Hall is officially dedicated and opened to the public. Buffalo celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of its incorporation as a city. Built on Niagara Square. City Hall blocks Court Street - the first building to interfere with Joseph Ellicott's radial street plan and the only one to do so with no harmful effects. Style: Art Deco

1933

Buildings erected:


1934

Buildings erected:



1935

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:

  • $4.5 million for public housing
  • $1.2 million for airport modernization
  • $2 million for a downtown auditorium (Memorial Auditorium opened in 1949)
  • $750,000 for a concert hall (and thousands of dollars for the creation of a symphony orchestra), (Kleinhans Music Hall)
  • $1 million for the modernization of the zoo
  • $2 million for a federal office building
  • $1.3 million for a stadium (Roesch Memorial Stadium opened as Civic Stadium in 1938; renamed War Memorial Stadium in 1960)
  • $500,000 for a new police headquarters
  • hundreds of thousand of dollars for schools, street widenings, playgrounds, tennis courts, swimming pools
  • $15 million-was for the construction of a new sewer - the largest single grant of all

Between 1935 and 1937 over $45 million had been spent on permanent projects in the city of Buffalo, employing over 75,000 men and women.


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.

Buildings erected:

1936

Buildings erected:


1937

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.

Later that year, however, Pierce Arrow is salvaged by local investors willing to gamble one million dollars in cash on one last effort to save the company. Rejecting advice that they return to the manufacture of a luxury automobile, the company directors commit the company and its 3,000 workers to the mass production of a trailer known as the Travelodge, an early version of the recreational vehicle. Despite a massive advertising campaign, however, fewer than one thousand of the Travelodges are sold.

In February 1937 Pierce Arrow goes out of business.


Buildings erected:

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 sewer project.

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.

1939

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."

Other "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."

In 1982 Arlen will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 1996 Arlen will become the only Buffalo native honored with his own postage stamp.



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.

1940

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.
  • The New York Central Railroad, the Michigan Central, the Pennsylvania, and the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railroads stop in Buffalo at Central Terminal
  • The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, Baltimore and Ohio, and New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroads stops at the Lackawanna station
  • The Lehigh Valley, Erie, and Canadian National Railroads stop at the Lehigh Valley Station

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.


Buildings erected:

1941

Curtiss-Wright 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 W.W.II (1941-45).

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


Bell Aircraft 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.

After combat experience with the Airacobra, an upgraded airframe, designated P-63 Kingcobra will succeed the Airacobra. Over 3600 will be built, most sent to the Russian front for close-support against Nazi armor.

Bell employment will rise from 56 employees to 36,000 at the peak of war production.

Bell begins helicopter development, setting up an experimental shop in Gardenville. The workhouse Model 47 will be certified in 1946 and will prove its value in the Korean conflict.


Buildings erected:

1942

Bell Aircraft 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.

Two navy carriers are built in Buffalo: the "Greater Buffalo" and the "SEEANDBEE." They are sent to Chicago where they are cut down and have a flight deck installed.


1943

Curtiss-Wright 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.

By 1943, 87,000 people work at three area General Motors plants, producing motors for engines and airplanes.

There are close to 200,000 women working in the city's defense industries.



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.

See also:


Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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