Labor and Economic Opportunity
The River Rouge Complex is one of the industrial wonders of the world, an integrated operations plant encompassing all basic steps in automobile production. Shortly before 1920, Henry Ford (1863-1947) began to shift his production from the Highland Park location to this 2,000-acre site on the Rouge River. By the late 1930s, Ford had built more than two dozen steel-and-glass, single-story buildings, all designed by Albert Kahn.
The Rouge was the largest single manufacturing complex in the United States, with peak employment of about 120,000 during World War II. Here Henry Ford achieved self-sufficiency and vertical integration in automobile production, a continuous work flow from iron ore and other raw materials to finished automobiles. The complex included dock facilities, blast furnaces, open-hearth steel mills, foundries, a rolling mill, metal stamping facilities, an engine plant, a glass manufacturing building, a tire plant, and its own power house supplying steam and electricity.