The Story of Reo Joe

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Geocoding Project for Reo Employees in Lansing , 1910 and 1920

The following maps were created from databases of Reo workers first found in the 1910 and 1920 Lansing City Directories, where workplaces were listed, and in the manuscript censuses for 1910 and 1920. The demographic data was used to determine general characteristics of the workforce. This information along with the addresses allowed us to explore the residential distribution of various types of workers throughout the city of Lansing .

I am very grateful to Kathleen Baker, a geographer and expert in the use of this softwar,e, for doing this work for me. I would also like to express my thanks to Susan Stein-Roggenbuck, who finished the manuscript census work, entered the material into the computer, and provided invaluable help in manipulating the data. Susan also helped geocode these workers on the GIS archview program. The three of us spend many hours constructing maps, building streets, and charting points on this very unwieldy but amazing software program. I am very grateful to both of them for doing this work. I could not have done any of this without them.

First, we reconstructed maps of the city as it was in 1910 and 1920. Then, we employed the GIS or Geographic Information System, ArcView software to do spatial analysis or geocoding. Maps reveal the residential distribution based on variables such as ethnicity, housing situation, and job category. No mathematical formulas were used to create samples. We used what we found and plotted what we could and this might have created a bias for stable workers and urban workers. Nevertheless, the maps are striking because they reveal very little segregation on the basis of class and ethnicity.

Maps 1 and Maps 5a, 5b, and 5c use a subset of those Reo workers with some occupation in the company listed. The occupations were grouped into:


Forelady, superintendent, foreman (of all areas) manager, social director, assistant supervisor, division supervisor, department overseer, sales manager, and area manager

Office (and service personnel)

Police officer, all types of clerks, restaurant waiter, mechanical engineer, education director, bookkeeper, accountant, watchman, chauffeur, blueprint worker, time setter, time keeper, fireman, salesman, printer, cafeteria cook, cafeteria steward and chief, ‘trouble shooter,' stenographer, power plant fireman, draftsman, gateman, purchasing agent, night watchman, cashier, weightsmaster, and gardener

Skilled workers

Inspector, machinist, drill press, tool grinder, painter, service station cylinder tester, carpenter, trimmer, riveter, varnisher, tool maker, machine setter, steel temperer, electrician, cylinder department, corkman, sheet metal, repairman, carbonizer, truck driver, metal worker, piston ring grinder, transmission, enameler, hammerman, punch press, grinder, polisher, shaft repairer, top builder, oiler, bob threader, packer, car loader, buffer, finisher, screw machine, gear sweeper, tool checker, fender maker, joint maker, millwright, steam fitter, car receiver, trucker, stock checker, motor tester, upholsterer, steelwork, blacksmith, clutch shaft maker, axel strenghtener, crank machine, pattern maker, brake light, rejoiner, hard wiring, radiator tester, ornamental, heat tester, and apprentice

Unskilled workers

Assembler, laborer, bench worker, ‘auto factory,' operator, piece work, helper (any workroom) and sweeper.

These job categories were the ones the workers gave the census taker so they reflect the workers' own definition of their work. Obviously, this is not an exact determination of the skill levels in the factory. For example, a man who said he worked in the ‘auto factory' could, in theory, be in any category.

I would like extend warm thank yous to Dean Rehberger, Ryan Scott, Joe Morgan, Mark Kornbluh for making my Reo Joe website.


Map 1. Residential Distribution by Job, 1910

Map 2. Residential Distribution by Nativity, 1910

Map 3. Residential Distribution by Housing, 1910

Map 4. REO Management, 1910

Map 5a. Residential Distribution by Job, 1920

Map 5b. Residential Distribution by Job, 1920

Map 5c. Residential Distribution by Job, 1920

Map 6. Residential Distribution of Non-Canadian Foreign Born, 1920

Map 7. Residential Distribution by Housing, 1920

The Story of Reo JoeA Book of Work, Kin,
and Community in Autotown U.S.A.