Editor’s note: Next month, in May, Ann Arbor’s getDowntown program will promote its annual commuter challenge – an effort to encourage downtown workers to try an alternative to driving a car to work. This week, local history columnist Laura Bien takes a look back to “commuting” habits of Ypsilantians a hundred years ago.
A tiring commute to a job sometimes far from home is taken for granted today.
In 1910 Ypsilanti, commuting for work outside the city was almost unknown. The few exceptions included traveling salesmen, one or two businessmen with interests in other cities, and a scattering of “factory girls” who commuted by rail to a Detroit mill after the local underwear factory closed.
Aside from that small number and farmers coming into town from Augusta, Superior, and Ypsilanti townships to sell produce, eggs, and dairy items, the city was a largely self-contained unit of local labor. Nearly every working resident commuted to work nearby within town. Most went on foot, with many returning home for lunch (a welcome break in what was then a standard 10-hour workday). The pattern was the norm for everyone from bank presidents to day laborers.
Who were the Ypsilantians of the walk-to-work era?