Think of this as Volume 18, Number 47 of the newsletter I have written weekly since March, 1997. Enjoy.
For the Civil War generation that center was Cleveland. Cleveland, you say? Yes, Cleveland. Because Cleveland was where Standard Oil developed. It was the nearest city to America’s first oil boom. Cleveland powered the Industrial Revolution that made America a great manufacturing center.
Cleveland was also the economic capital of Ohio, which during the late 19th century became the “Mother of Presidents” – Hayes, Garfield, McKinley and, in time, Taft and Harding. The Cleveland boom also brought forth John Sherman and his anti-trust act, and the whole concept of business and industry working together, under regulation, to create electrical networks, telephone networks, railroad networks and gas networks.
For the Progressive Generation the capital of America was undoubtedly New York. New York was where John D. Rockefeller fled the anti-trust cops. New York was J.P. Morgan, it was Ragtime. It was where the immigrants brought growth and food. New York organized and controlled the great manufacturers. It was the stock market, unions and Broadway. Until you made it there, until the Great Depression, you couldn’t make it anywhere.
Detroit was the capital of the Greatest Generation. Detroit won the war. Detroit built the cars that created the suburbs. Detroit was where your dad worked. Even if he didn’t work there he was deeply influenced by the business bureaucracies created in Detroit, by the worker organizations created in Detroit, and by the images used to sell Detroit values to the suburban masses – mass-produced suburbs, mass-produced lifestyles, the mass production and the mass consumption.
Houston defined our generation’s architecture in my youth, and Houston came to dominate a generation’s politics – Lyndon Johnson, John Connally, George H.W. and W. Bush. Houston made us a global imperialistic power, fighting wars for oil, for economic control of the globe.