The History of Buffalo: A Chronology
Buffalo, New York
Appendix and index to Volume 18 of the Buffalo
Historical Society Publications Reprinted by
1914-1918 World War I: Some individuals are able to profit from the war. Prior to 1914 most the coal tar dyes used in America were imported from Germany. Following the Allied blockade of Germany, Americans began to turn to domestic dye makers. None benefited more from this turn of events than the Schoellkopf's National Aniline and Chemical Company, the largest dye plant in the country. National Aniline got even bigger during the war as coal dyes were used increasingly for the manufacture of high explosives and poison gases.
W.W.I and African Americans: For years the traditional source of cheap labor for the steel mills of Lackawanna had been eastern Europe. In 1910 over half of the work force was Slavic. The war ends this, however, and in their place come a rapidly growing number of southern blacks who have begun to trek northward to Chicago, Cleveland, Lackawanna, and the other industrial centers of the Northeast.
There had always been some blacks in Lackawanna. Never a part of the regular labor force, blacks had lived on the fringes of the town, working periodically, primarily as maintenance men and as outdoor laborers in and around the mill. Their only break came during strikes when, if they could survive the bitter and brutal responses of the strikers, they found work, however temporary, inside the plant itself.
This dreadful and divisive situation began to change during the war. Now, for the first time, blacks, as a result of an increasingly serious labor shortage, were entering the labor force. Now, however, they came not as janitors and strikebreakers but rather as bona fide industrial workers.
Index to Volume 19 of the Buffalo Historical Society
Publications Reprinted by Cornell U.
The area bounded by Michigan, Jefferson, Broadway, and William Streets has lost most of its original German population, and is now inhabited primarily by Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. For them, as well as for the other immigrant groups who have lived there, the East Side neighborhood is only a temporary home.
Glenn H. Curtiss comes to Buffalo and rents the Thomas Flyer Automobile Manufacturing Plant on Niagara Street. This is where he develops the R-model airplane which will be the forerunner of the famous Curtiss "Jenny." Curtiss soon moves to a plant he builds on Churchill Street. He also rents several other facilities and ultimately builds the plant at 2050 Elmwood Avenue.
At the close of World War 1, Curtiss will build four flying boats capable of trans-ocean flight. These boats will be the first NC series, and the NC-4 well be eventually successful in circling the globe.
Elbert Hubbard dies on Luisitania.
Col. Francis Ward Pumping Station - largest pumping station in the country - completed
University of Buffalo: Chancellor Charles Norton persuades Seymour Knox (who had made a fortune with the Woolworths in the dimestore business) to makes lavish gift of a quarter of a million dollars for the establishment for a liberal arts college at the University of Buffalo.
The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company becomes the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world during World War I and goes public in 1916 with Curtiss as president. Curtiss employs 18,000 at its Buffalo facility and 3,000 at its Hammondsport, New York location. They produce 10,000 aircraft during World War I, more than 100 in a single week.
"Jenny," America's most famous World War I airplane,
was developed by combining the best features of the Curtiss
"J" and "N" models. The JN-3 was modified in 1916 to improve
its performance and redesignated the JN-4. With America's
entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, the Signal Corps
began ordering large quantities of JN-4s, and by the time
production was terminated after the Armistice, more than
6,000 had been delivered, the majority of them JN-4D.
George Birge, the president of the Pierce-Arrow Company, sells the company to a group of investors from New York City for $16.5 million. Local managers, most of whom had worked with the company since 1901 are immediately dismissed and replaced by a new team from New York.
Sensing that a dramatic increase in production is the only way to compete in the rapidly expanding automobile industry. the new owners replace the traditional Pierce Arrow method of team production with an assembly line. The nature of work changes, too, for as mechanization and the assembly line are introduced. skilled work which comprised nearly three-fourths of all jobs in the automobile industry in 1910,declines drastically in the twenties, as the emphasis shifts to speed and efficiency in production.
1917 - Online Buffalo City Directories - LINKS (BuffaloResearch.com)
Participation of the Buffalo historical society in the Erie canal centenary, celebrated at Rome, N. Y., July 4, 1917 Reprinted by Cornell U.
Glenn Curtiss opens a 31-acre factory at 2050 Elmwood Avenue (in 2002, it houses the M. Wile Clothing Co. and Home Depot building). It is the largest airplane manufacturing plant in the world.
Following the end
of the World war I (1914-1918), a nationwide influenza
epidemic affects Western New York also.
In 1918 the Schoellkopf family of Buffalo consolidates two separate small power companies into the Niagara Falls Power Company, which immediately becomes one of the largest in the country.
The lower East
Side is to Buffalo what it is to New York City: the
neighborhood of entry for every one of the city's
immigrants. For them, as well as for the other immigrant
groups who have lived there, the East Side neighborhood is
only a temporary home.
groups within the black community also flourish during
the twenties. One of the earliest is the Colored
Musicians' Union of Buffalo, founded in 1917 by black
musicians who have been denied
In the 1920s, while there is no black-owned bank, the community does boast several newspapers: The Buffalo Enterprise, the Buffalo American, the Buffalo Criterion and the Voice. Abandoned by every other ethnic group that had ever lived there, the lower East Side has remained black to this day. - Source: Mark Goldman, "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983
Throughout the 1920s Buffalo's economy is dynamic and diversified, healthy and strong. The older industries - grain, steel, and lumber - employ more people and produce a larger finished product than ever before.
Associated Buffalo Architects Inc., a collective of local architects, was organized in 1920 with Charles S. Wood as President. Such prominent Buffalo architects as E. B. Green, Duane Lyman, Frederick Backus and Max Beierl were members, assisting in the collaboration on each school building design. The Association contracted with the Board of Education for the design and supervision of school building construction. From 1921 to 1925 the Association constructed public schools no. 3, 11, 31, 45, 64, 65, 66, 68, 70 and Bennett High School.
C. 1920, cement companies that laid out sidewalks switched from identifying brass markers to stamps.
15,000 people worke in twelve automobile factories
The 1920s see the rise of the chemical industry in Buffalo and nearby Niagara Falls. Within a period of a few years a whole new industry is born. Spawning companies whose impersonal names make no reference to either place or person - Carborundum, Niacet, Canadium, Vanadium, and the Alox Chemical Corporation (Hooker, named after the company's founder, is an exception) - the petrochemical industry, located in Niagara Falls, employs over fifteen hundred people by the end of the decade.
They choose Niagara Falls because that is where the electrical power is. Initially developed by Jacob Schoellkopf, the German immigrant who had made his first fortune in the tanning business, the business of producing and selling electrical power at Niagara Falls has become a gigantic enterprise by the 1920s.
Nothing. indeed, is more responsible for the accelerated development of the Buffalo region as an industrial center than the availability of cheap and plentiful electrical power . - Source: Mark Goldman, "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983, p. 216
Gregory Deck opens the first enclosed Deco restaurant at 24 West Eagle at Pearl.
As the Roaring Twenties begin, the Pierce-Arrow line is completely overhauled. The basic line of three chassis, the 38hp, the 48hp, and the huge 66hp, are replaced with a single product. First introduced in 1920 as the Series 32, minor changes in late 1921 transform the car into the Series 33.
The Series 33 remains Pierce-Arrow's flagship model through the mid-twenties, continuing in production through early 1926. It will be replaced in 1927 and 1928 with the Series 36, which will share much of the same chassis, but will have new sheet metal.
G. Elias & Bro., Inc., an established lumber company, builds airplanes on Seneca Street in Buffalo during the early 1920s. The company is the first to build a cantilever biplane and an aerodynamic twin-engined night bomber. They also pioneer the use of duraluminum in Americana aircraft, and introduce the swinging engine mount and the detachable power plant. Elias will be best known in the industry as a producer of propellers.
Steel industry: In October 1922, Bethlehem Steel, the second largest steel company in the United States, acquires Lackawanna Steel for $60 million. The Lackawanna plant, already over twenty years old, has become antiquated. The company had made few improvements, and was quickly falling behind newer plants in other parts of the country. Bethlehem buys it cheap and, banking on a docile and defeated work force, spends over $40 million during the 1920s modernizing the plant. Bethlehem is interested in the growing automobile market. Buffalo, with a significant automobile industry of its own and with easy access to Detroit and other market places, is viewed as a crucial node in the developing geography of the automobile industry.
Buffalo's first radio station, WGR, begins regular programming.
Mary Bumett Talbert receives the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. This award is the highest honor given to a citizen by the NAACP.
Mary Talbert, civil rights leader, dies.
Garrett A. Morgan invents the traffic signal.
The first city bus service begins along Bailey Avenue.
General Motors Company builds a factory in the city.
The Delaware Avenue Association (organized in 1923) succeeded in 1924 in having the city widen the avenue from Niagara Square almost up to North Street. The widening of the roadway from forty feet to sixty feet was accompanied by the laying of new sewer lines, the placement of traffic signals, and the installation at one-hundred-foot intervals of 1500-candle-power electric light standards. The modernization of the avenue, however, occasioned the destruction of most of the splendid elm trees that had lined the thoroughfare, two rows on each side, since even before Olmsted's day. The effort by many citizens both on and off the avenue -- including artist Charles Burchfield, who had come to town in 1923 to work in the Birge wallpaper factory -- to stay the massacre of the trees was to no avail. ... It was the first of many preservation battles that were doomed to fail in a city that, like many others, came to pride itself on the destruction of its distinctive charms in the name of jobs and progress.
Reuben H. Fleet merges two out-of-state aircraft companies and established his Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in the former Curtiss factory on Elmwood Avenue. Among the many airplanes developed is the world famous PB2Y Catalina navy flying boat.
The Johnson Immigration Restriction Act, favored by die-hards throughout the United States, threatens to end completely the whole character of American immigration. The law is a direct assault on the eastern European Catholic and Jewish communities in cities throughout the Northeast. A major source of urban vitality is ending.
Read about Buffalo's Joseph Braun's attempt to defeat the defeat the bill in Jewish-American History in Buffalo
The path of the Erie Canal passes directly through the heart of the downtown busines district. It is filled in and paved over. On it is built a fixty-six-foot-wide highway with four traffic and two parking lanes.
The Curtiss-Wright Aeroplane Company, which moved to Buffalo in 1914, by the mid-1920s employs over two thousand people producing over 150 planes a year, into the largest plane manufacturing company in the world. Buffalo has quickly become the center of the nation's airplane industry.
William Evans founds the Buffalo Urban League.
After operating at a loss during the 1920s, the Pierce Arrow Company is bought by Studebaker
John E. Brent becomes the second African-American to design a "colored" YMCA, Buffalo's Michigan Avenue YMCA. It opens in April 1928 and becomes the cultural center of Buffalo's African-American community. It costs $200,000 to build, half of which is donated by Buffalonian George Matthews. It boasts a cafeteria, gymnasium, swimming pool, barber shop, tailor shop, library; and classrooms, locker rooms, dormitory rooms, and billiard tables. It will be demolished in April 1977.