History

Vehicle City Arches Saginaw Street Downtown

Vehicle City Arches Saginaw Street Downtown

Founded as a village by fur trader Jacob Smith in 1819, Flint became a major lumbering area on the historic Saginaw Trail during the 19th century. Smith with local Ojibwa tribes and the territorial government, along with his wife; who was also an Ojibwa, founded a trading post in Flint. On several occasions, Smith conveyed land exchanges with the Ojibwas on behalf of the U.S. government, and he was looked upon highly by both sides. As the ideal stopping point on the overland route between Detroit and Saginaw, Flint grew into a small but prosperous village, and in 1855 officially became a city. In the latter half of the 19th century, Flint became a center of the Michigan lumber industry. Michigan being a heavily wooded state Michigan was a prime region for the lumber trade. Revenue from lumber funded the establishment of a local carriage-making industry, which not too long after gave way to the production of automobiles. A rapidly growing city, the population of Flint according to the 1860 U.S. census indicated that Genesee County had a population of 22,498 of Michigan’s 750,000, which is a major increase from just the couple thousand who lived in the area in recent years. Since the start of the 20th century Flint began to turn into a booming auto centralized city. In 1904, local entrepreneur William C. Durant was brought in to manage the Buick Motor Company, which became the largest manufacturer of automobiles by 1908. In 1908, Durant founded General Motors, with headquarters in Flint, but later moved to Detroit in the mid-1920s. For the last century, Flint’s history has been dominated by both the auto industry and car culture. During the Sit-Down Strike of 1936–1937, the United Automobile Workers succeeded over General Motors, inaugurating the era of labor unions. The successful intervention of the strike by Governor Frank Murphy, began an era of successful organizing by the UAW. Flint was also a major contributor of tanks and other war machines during World War II due to its extensive manufacturing facilities. For decades, Flint remained politically noteworthy as a major population center as well as for its prominence in the automotive industry.