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Gary, the Most American of All American Cities

S. Paul O'Hara

Publication Year: 2011

U.S. Steel created Gary, Indiana. The new steel plant and town built on the site in 1906 were at once a triumph of industrial capitalism and a bold experiment in urban planning. Gary became the canvas onto which the American public projected its hopes and fears about modern, industrial society. In its prime, Gary was known as "the magic city," "steel's greatest achievement," and "an industrial utopia"; later it would be called "the very model of urban decay." S. Paul O'Hara traces this stark reversal of fortune and reveals America's changing expectations. He delivers a riveting account of the boom or bust mentality of American industrialism from the turn of the 20th century to the present day.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: “Built as It Is on Shifting Sand”

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pp. 1-16

The story of Gary, Indiana, has been told in many ways. When U.S. Steel finished building its newest steel production center in 1909, the corporation named the city after its chairman, Judge Elbert H. Gary. Because the company had seemingly conjured the city and its mill (or perhaps the mill...

Part 1: Gary, the Magic City: Creation Myths

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pp. 17

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1. “An Industrial Utopia”: The Search for Industrial Order

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pp. 19-37

The United States Steel Corporation had ensured that its process of converting large shipments of coal and iron ore into finished steel was fast, efficient, and seamless. Great care had gone into the planning of its newest production center in Gary, Indiana, so that no unnecessary movement...

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2. “ Making a City to Order”: U.S. Steel and the Building of an Industrial Center

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pp. 38-53

“In approaching consideration of the model village,” Eugene Buffington, president of the Indiana Steel Company, wrote of Gary in 1909, “our thought naturally gravitates toward problems associated with the complex social relations found in present-day urban life.” “Who can doubt,”...

Part 2: A City Built on Sand: Paradox and Meaning

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pp. 55

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3. “ The Youngest City in the World”: The Early Years of an Industrial Frontier

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pp. 57-73

There could be little doubt that the election of 1912 was going to be about the issue of reform. Each of the four candidates offered a reform agenda, yet each candidate differed on what he saw as the major problem that needed reform. With their shared yet complicated visions of Square Deal...

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4. “The Gibraltar of the Steel Corporation”: Narrative Meaning in a Steel Strike

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pp. 74-92

By September 1919, the lines had been drawn in the struggle over union recognition in the steel industry. As a large-scale strike loomed a couple of days away, the Chicago Tribune began preparing its readers for the climatic conflict. “Commanders of both sides in the steel controversy tonight are...

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5. “ You’re a Damned Liar—It’s Utopia”: Imagining Industrialism between the Wars

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pp. 93-117

The chaos and uncertainty of the Great War, the Russian Revolution, and the Red Scare had not been kind to people’s faith in modernity and industrialism. American critics began not only to question the results of industrialism but to view industrialism itself as a grave danger. In a 1922...

Part 3: The Very Model of Modern Urban Decay: Decline and Fall

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pp. 119

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6. “ Gary Is a Steel City, Young, Lusty, Brawling”: Declension Narratives about Gary

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pp. 121-143

The war effort had been about inclusive democracy, communal sacrifice, and the rejection of racial categories and racialized hatred. Or at least this was the official war narrative created by the Office of War Information (OWI). While much of American culture had focused on proper hatred...

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7. “Epitaph for a Model City”: Race, Deindustrialization, and Dystopia

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pp. 144-165

Lake County was supposed to be a minefield for Democrats in the 1968 presidential primary. This was, after all, a county that Alabama governor George Wallace had carried in the 1964 primary. After what was to many the surprising popularity of Wallace’s primary campaign, many...

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Conclusion: “In Search of America”

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pp. 166-171

In June 2009, the city of Cleveland celebrated the fortieth anniversary of perhaps its most infamous moment. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River, which had long served as an open sewer for the city, caught fire and burned. Although the fire was relatively small and caused little damage, the event...


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pp. 173-186

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 187-192


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pp. 193-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004994
E-ISBN-10: 0253004993
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253222886

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011