Category: Snapshot

Labor Day in Louisville, 1936

Louisville Motors Co. picnic at Fontaine Ferry Park.

The sign over a crowd gathered at a pavilion at Fontaine Ferry Park in western Louisville says: “Gigantic Display of Daylight Fire Works, Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7,” above a smaller sign with the Ford Motor logo. The display they’re looking at appears to be part of a car with a steering wheel and gauges, according to the caption supplied by the University of Louisville Photographic Archives.

Ford Motor started making cars in Louisville in 1913 with 11 employees, a decade after Henry Ford founded the company in a converted factory in Detroit. More about Ford’s presence in the city.


1936: Brown-Forman advertising car, possibly in front of the company’s distillery on Dixie Highway south of downtown. The promotion included the company’s founding bourbon, Old Forester; plus two brands no longer produced: Bottoms Up Whisky, and Old Polk, according to the University of Louisville Photographic Archives.

Yesterday, the founding Brown family rotated three new family members onto the board of directors of the nearly 150-year-old Louisville spirits giant.

Ali Center presser

10:40 a.m., the Muhammad Ali Center. CEO Donald Lassere is visible on a TV cameraman’s video monitor as he tells a press conference the UPS Foundation has donated $500,000 to the museum honoring the Louisville native.

The gift will fund the center’s education initiatives, including UCrew, Generation Ali, its Character Education Program “Creating Our Future,” and the Muhammad Ali Center Council of Students. More about the Ali Center.

The UPS Foundation is the charitable arm of the shipping giant, which has 22,000 workers in Louisville — the city’s single-biggest employer. More about UPS and about its foundation.

Mayor Greg Fischer was there, too. But one of the most important people present — maybe the most important — wasn’t publicly acknowledged at all: Brown-Forman heiress Ina Brown Bond, one of the Ali Center’s main movers.

In Appliance Park sale, a long chapter in local history comes to a bittersweet conclusion

Construction underway on GE Appliance Park in 1952, in this aerial view from the University of Louisville Photo Archives.

China’s Haier Co. may close on its $5.4 billion purchase of the iconic 65-year-old Appliance Park as soon as Monday. Built during the rapidly growing post-World War II economy, the 1,000-acre park churned out dishwashers and other home appliances for the burgeoning baby boom generation. Construction started in 1951.

With Ford and other big local manufacturers, GE launched a solid middle class that became the foundation of Louisville’s economy. At one time, the park employed 25,000 workers. It was a self-sufficient city providing many of its own needs, right down to mail handling. (In 1953, it got its own Zip Code: 40225.)

But that started to ebb in the 1970s, as manufacturers sought cheaper labor by moving production overseas. Appliance Park now employs only 6,000 workers. Service jobs have become the fastest-growing part of Louisville’s economy. But they’re often part-time and don’t pay as well as factory work once did.

GE women working
Women work on the pickling and spray booth line in this 1953 photo, also from the photography archives.

Manufacturing employment last peaked in the Louisville metro area in 1999, when there were an average 95,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It then fell to a low of 60,900 in 2010, when the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession. The better news is that it’s crept up every year since, to 76,500 last year. But it’s extremely unlikely it will ever return to the glory days of 1951, when Appliance Park was king.

Factory jobs