By Lindsey Bauman, recent History M.A. and B.A. alum
I entered graduate school in the fall of 2015 with a decent idea of where I wanted to end up in the field of history. Although academia interests me, interpreting and educating people in public forums, such as museums or park services, has always been my passion. But as the submission date for my thesis loomed c;oser, I faced the same challenge that every other graduate student experiences upon nearing graduation: actually finding a job that channeled that passion.
As my submission deadline approached, my thesis advisor, Dr. Rebecca Mancuso, reached out to me about a potential internship with the Whirlpool Corporation in Clyde, Ohio. Looking to set up an exhibit focusing on the history of the plant, they had developed a project committee that included employees with different specialties and experience. Many of them had family working in the plant for two or three generations, which added a personal investment in the project. However, the committee wanted to include a few people that had a background in history. They had already brought in Dustin McLochlin, Curator at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont, to help them understand the process of designing an exhibit. They also wanted to bring in an intern to help them sort through their archival materials and create an exhibit narrative.
Upon starting in July, I have spent quite a bit of time sifting through the company’s archives and constructing a catalog describing the materials. The amount of history contained within the walls of Clyde Division cannot be overstated. The facility was originally built in 1880 along a set of railroad tracks just to the northwest of Main Street. Over the years, the plant has undergone several expansions and housed numerous manufacturers. This has included the Elmore Manufacturing Company, a bicycle-turned-automobile manufacturer that was quite prominent in the early 1900s before being bought out by General Motors. It was also the home of the Clydesdale Motor Truck Company, which was renowned in Europe during World War I for its excellent truck chassis, as well as Clyde Porcelain Steel Corporation, one of the largest manufacturers of porcelain-on-steel products in the United States during the 1940s. Clyde Porcelain Steel merged with Whirlpool Corporation in 1952 and the division has since become the largest manufacturer of washing machines in the world.
While I did not have much experience with corporate history prior to my internship, I am quickly developing an interest in it. While I enjoy learning about the manufacturers and the challenges they faced, the most rewarding moments of my experience so far have included employees of Whirlpool themselves. During my first week, I was working with another committee member in the archives and we stumbled across a photograph of his grandparents; his grandfather had worked with Clyde Porcelain Steel until 1962. Seeing just how important this project is to him, as well as other employees with personal, familial, and communal connections to it, has added a whole new level of meaning to the work we are doing. I am looking forward to continuing to analyze and interpret the archival materials while constructing an exhibit narrative that represents the historical importance of Whirlpool and manufacturing to Clyde and its residents.