Detroit is situated on the Detroit River and was founded in 1701 by the French soldier, Antoine Cadillac. He called it Fort-Pontcghartrain-du-Detroit but when the English gained control of the town it was shortened to Detroit. It came under the control of the Americans in 1796.

In 1805 a fire destroyed much of the town. The British captured Detroit in 1812 but the following year the Americans regained control and in 1815 it was incorporated as a city. Detroit became the capital of Michigan in 1837 (moved to Lansing in 1847).

Hazen Pingree, a successful shoe manufacturer, was elected mayor of Detroit in 1890. For the next six years he introduced several reforms including providing gardens for the unemployed (called Pingree's Potato Patches). Frank Murphy (1930-33), who later became a member of the Supreme Court (1940-49) was another distinguished reforming mayor of Detroit.

With the support of Henry Ford, Detroit became the main automobile manufacturing city in the world. Other important products produced in Detroit include aircraft parts, industrial robots, television equipment, office machinery and pharmaceuticals. In 1992 the population of Detroit reached 1,044,000. It is estimated that over 75 per cent of the population are African American.

Primary Sources

(1) Frank Murphy, while mayor of Detroit, had an article published in the radical journal, The Unemployed (Spring, 1931)

The time has come when widespread unemployment has ceased to be the concern of one group. It is neither the affair solely of the manufacturer nor of the unemployed. There was a time when the contractual relationship between the employer and the employee was supposed to be none of the public's business. That time has passed. Today the stability of employment is the direct business of every taxpayer and every citizen, because they are responsible for the support and maintenance of those who are of jobs. It is the public who must foot the bills and it is the public who most interest itself in the question which has become, not a class, but a social issue.

The first consideration of a widespread unemployment situation is a practical, satisfactory relief program. The mapping out of such a program is not an easy matter. For example, in Detroit there are 1,500,000 souls but only 300,000 taxpayers. The taxpayers have been providing heat, rent, light, food and clothes for 45,000 destitute families, the breadwinners of which, in the main, are employed in factories that for tax reasons border on the city limits - just outside, and do not contribute to the support of their former employees.

12,000 homeless men are cared for daily in two lodging houses, one on the west side, donated by the Fisher Brothers, one on the east side, donated by the Studebaker Corporation. 1,800,000 meals have been given and 350,000 nights's lodgings supplied. Two meals are served, each meal consisting of a well balanced, sufficient diet. Ninety thousand lunches have been given to the school children of the unemployed. At present 8,000 children daily are being fed in school. One hundred and twenty-five thousand person have been outfitted with clothes by the clothing bureau; 700 homeless women are being cared for in private homes or small institutions like the YWCA or League of Catholic Women. But the most satisfactory part of the work is the establishment of an Employment Bureau which has given out 21,000 jobs.