Facts About Saginaw
The history of Saginaw, Michigan explores the development of the city from the time that Native American hunter-gatherers ranged through the area. There was little settlement, though, until the 19th century when the marshes were drained to alleviate the endemic mosquito infestation. The site of what later became the city of Saginaw was originally inhabited by the Anishnabeg. French missionaries and traders first appeared in the area during the late 17th century and encountered the Ojibwe (Chippewa) living in the area. Because of convenient means of travel to the area by rivers, streams, and Lake Huron, the area was one of the sites of councils of The Three Fires: Ojibwe, Pottawatomi, and Ottawa. Henri Nouvel, a Jesuit missionary visited the area in the 17th century and recorded his travels in a journal. A trading post was established by Louis Campeau in 1816. The Treaty of Saginaw in 1819 cleared the way for settlement by white people. To control the Ojibwe in the region, the United States government established Fort Saginaw in 1822, but the mosquito infestation and humidity was so severe that the fort was closed in 1824. Campau platted a town, but few lots were sold for some time. Also in 1822, Saginaw County was established.
Saginaw realized significant growth due to the lumber industry boom of the 19th century. Two cities had been established Saginaw City and East Saginaw, which were consolidated into the current city of Saginaw in March, 1890.The city grew substantially as automotive manufacturers opened plants in Saginaw and when the city answered the call to produce munitions and motor vehicle parts during World War II. The number of manufacturing jobs declined significantly and the rate of unemployment increased dramatically. More recently, economic development in the region is focused on comparative advantages in innovation, clean energy, and continued manufacturing exports. In 1908, a new Michigan state constitution was adopted. The new Michigan state constitution mandated increased home rule powers for local units of government which helped the Saginaw area, and the Michigan state legislature enacted the Home Rule Cities Act in 1909. Under this statute, cities were permitted to frame and adopt their own city charters and were given great flexibility in structuring their local governments. The government, under the 1889 charter, had continued to be inefficient and provided for much political infighting. In 1913, a new city charter was adopted with voter approval and which followed a commission form of city government that had gained in popular interest among various cities across the United States in the early 20th century. The new government consisted of five commissioners, each elected separately at-large, who served both as the city council and as the executive heads of various city government departments. One of the commissioners served as the mayor, which was a mostly ceremonial role.
Before the United States entered World War II on the side of the Allies, Saginaw’s industrial complex became directed towards military production. Turning its efforts to the production of munitions, ordnance and components for military vehicles made Saginaw a significant contributor to the Allies’ victory. Perhaps most famously, Saginaw was home to a production facility that produced.30 caliber machine guns more quickly and at lower cost than the Army thought possible, armor-piercing shells for anti-tank use, and over half a million M1 Carbine rifles for the US military during World War II, the “Gun Plant” that later became Steering Gear Plant 2. Saginaw Steering Gear’s Plant 1 also began wartime production in 1941, concentrating on ball screws that would eventually be used in the wing flaps of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Malleable Iron converted its production of Armasteel from engine components to gun parts and tank treads, while Grey Iron specialized in the production of magnesium for use in Pratt and Whitney airplane engines.
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