1900 - the milestone of "Buzz Wagon" and General Motors


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On September 3rd, 1900, the first practical car ever built by Wisner was introduced in the Labor Day parade.

Produced by the county judge and part-time mechanic Charles H. Wisner, Buzz Wagon was debuted on September 3rd, 1990 in the parade celebrating the Labor Day. What makes it unique is that it was one of the rare cars that didn’t come from a factory of giant General Motors. Also, only 3 of the model were ever made.

Wisner’s car, or “Buzz-Wagon”, was a funny machine. Flint Journal said that it was very noisy, it had only 1 door which was located in the rear, and it had the most audacious innovation: it had no brake at all. To stop the car, Wisner had to crash it with something solid and bulky, normally it is the sidewall of his own shop. However, at that parade, he didn’t have to brake, instead, under the observation of ten thousand audiences, the car stalled and had to be manually removed from the parade route.

Wisner on his Buzz Wagon car

Buzz-Wagon's peculiar design

It was hilarious in the first place, but the story actually marked the beginning of Flint’s brighter future, as in 1908, General Motors was founded in the city. Flint’s reputation rose rapidly after the introduction of Chevrolets and Buicks, along with the production and assembly of engine parts and electronics. In 1936 and 1937, the sit-down strike of GM workers had caught the autoworkers union’s attention, resulting in 30-hour working per week, 6 hours per day, overtime salary, seniority benefits and the minimum wage based on American living standard. These achievements allowed the middle-class auto-workers in Flint to lead a stable life for years. For a long period of time, Flint’s citizens are among the wealthiest in the US.

a chevrolet car

Flint's rise came along with the name "Chevrolet"

Nonetheless, since 1970, GM has been declining drastically, and Flint had to say goodbye to its heyday. Roger & Me, a film produced in 1988, told a story of 30,000 workers being fired, and the city's sudden poverty was widely known. In July 1999, General Motors shut down its Buick City complex, completely eradicating their assembly branch from Flint, which prolonged the city’s suffering. In 2009, when the economic crisis overshadowed the entire nation, Michigan Genesee County, to which Flint city belongs, had an unemployment rate of nearly 15% - the highest data recorded during 18 years, and almost doubled the average rate of the US.

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