What It Looked Like Wednesday: WNY’s industries boom in 1955

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Inside Bethlehem Steel

Back in 1955, this page from a Buffalo Evening News marketing piece was created to let potential advertisers from all around the country know that Buffalo was filled with a blue-collar workforce with plenty of disposable income — “people working, people living, people buying,” said the promo piece.

buffalo-marketleft buffalo-marketright

“Buffalo industries are BIG in the United States,” the page says, “and these Buffalo industries are BIG in creating wealth.”

Bethlehem Steel ad, 1953 (Buffalo Stories archives)

Bethlehem Steel ad, 1953 (Buffalo Stories archives)

With numbers probably gleaned from Labor Department stats, Buffalo claimed 43,300 steel workers, 36,700 auto industry workers, 19,400 petroleum/chemical workers and 15,000 grain/food workers.

The combined number of people working in manufacturing in just those industries in the mid-’50s was about 115,000. Today, the number for all industries is less than half of that. In August 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor says that there were 51,300 people employed in manufacturing jobs. More people were working in steel plants and grain elevators in 1955 than are working in any factory or plant in the Buffalo area today.

Inside Buffalos General Mills plant, Robert W. Duszczak operates the puffing gun, used to turn grains into breakfast cereals. 1965 photo. (Buffalo News archives)

Inside Buffalo’s General Mills plant, Robert W. Duszczak operates the puffing gun, used to turn grains into breakfast cereals. 1965 photo. (Buffalo News archives)

While manufacturing is not as important to Buffalo’s economy as it once was, these days there’s steady growth in sectors like education, health care and hospitality.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.