Posted on Leave a comment

Discovering the Motor City: What You Didn’t Know About Detroit

Many people around the globe know Detroit as the Motor City and birthplace of techno music and R&B. Beyond housing the automotive “Big Three,” however, Detroit has been the home of innovators and creative minds since it was founded July 24, 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. This article explores some of the lesser-known facts, firsts and inventions that all originated in the Motor City.

Before diving into some of the less-commonly known facts surrounding the Motor City, let’s have a quick history lesson on how Detroit came to be the birthplace of the automotive industry. It’s common knowledge that the automotive “Big Three”- composed of General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Company- all started in Detroit. Ford was the first to establish itself in 1903, followed by GM in 1908 and Fiat-Chrysler in 1925. The industry was booming, and not only were the automotive assembly lines providing thousands of jobs to the city, but they were providing workers with better hours and wages. In fact, the day after Ford announced their employee benefits, including a decrease in work days from 9 hours to 8 hours and a wage of $5 per day, 10,000 people lined up outside their doors in hopes of landing a job. The extra leisure time outside of work and increased wages helped stimulate the economy and lead to an increase in the number of cars sold, in turn creating more jobs in the city as the demand for automobiles rose. By 1950, the population of Detroit had risen to 1.85 million people and the automotive company offered 296,000 jobs to the community. To this day, Detroit currently produces more vehicles than anywhere else in the country.

Aside from housing the automotive industry and creating thousands of jobs for its citizens, what else is Detroit known for? Well, it makes sense that the birthplace of the automotive industry would also be the birthplace of paved roads in America. That’s right- the nation’s first road paved with concrete happened in Detroit in 1901. Eight years later, in 1909, the nation’s first mile of paved freeway was laid in Detroit. This stretch of road is still used today, and you might be surprised to find that it’s Woodward Avenue between Six and Seven Mile!

Have you ever wondered how roads around Detroit got names like Six Mile, Seven Mile, and so on? Unsurprisingly, each road is named for how far it is from Campus Martius park and Detroit’s point of origin. If you want to find Detroit’s exact point of origin, you can visit it yourself at Woodward and Monroe. There’s a plaque on the ground near Fountain Bistro marking the city’s exact point of origin.

Fun Facts About Water

Detroit’s surprising “firsts” aren’t all on land, however. Detroit is home to the nation’s first and only floating post office, the J.W. Westcott II. The J.W. Westcott started as a simple reporting system on the Detroit River- it would sail out to incoming cargo ships and report on the conditions in the port. In 1948, however, it became a fully-fledged floating post office and eventually claimed the world’s first floating zip code- 48222. It’s still in operation today on the Detroit River!

On the topic of the Detroit River, did you know that it’s not actually a river? The Detroit River is actually a strait, or a passageway connecting two larger bodies of water. In this case, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. The strait is bordered by the U.S. on one side and Canada on the other and is actually the source of Detroit’s name; in French, “Detroit” translates to “the strait!” Running beneath the Detroit River between Detroit and Canada lies the nation’s first international tunnel. Opened in 1928, the tunnel gives cars a shortcut to Canada and allows for easier crossing of the border.

Facts on Snacks

Detroit isn’t only known for automotive and infrastructural accomplishments. It’s also the birthplace of the nation’s oldest ginger ale and one of the nation’s oldest sodas. As the story goes, Detroit pharmacist James Vernor invented his Vernors ginger ale just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Before he was able to sell any, he was called upon to serve in the military, and stored his drink in oak casks. After the war he returned to find his drink had aged into the sweet, gingery drink we all know today, and started selling it to the public in the 1860s. The Vernors pharmacy on Woodward Avenue was originally the only place in the world you could purchase the drink- straight from the tap!

Speaking of snacks, Detroit is known as the world’s Potato Chip Capital. In 1930, Detroit entrepreneurs Cross Moceri and Peter Cipriano decided that they would team up to create a better potato chip- and thus, Better Made potato chips were born in Detroit. To this day, Better Made chips hold the place of Detroit’s favorite potato chip, and until recently Better Made chips were only available in the state of Michigan. How much do Detroiters love Better Made chips, exactly? According to the Better Made website and a Tweet they sent out in 2011, the average citizen of Detroit eats seven pounds of potato chips per year. To put that into perspective, the average U.S. citizen only eats four pounds of potato chips per year. But why so much love for snack foods? Rumor has it we can thank Ford Motor Company for Detroit’s love of chips and snacks, as Ford employees were privileged to have short breaks in their shifts to rest and recover, and quick, portable snacks sold in bags became a fast favorite among workers.


Although Detroit has many claims to fame, the automotive industry still remains the heart of the city. Today, Michigan is home to 92 of the nation’s top 100 auto suppliers in North America. In 2014 alone, over 1.5 million vehicles drove off of Detroit assembly lines. Michigan is home to 13 original equipment manufacturer (OEM) assembly plants and 35 OEM component plants, and there are over 1,700 automotive-related manufacturing establishments in Michigan, according to an article on the Detroit Regional Chamber website (Stevens).

With so many automotive jobs and establishments in the Detroit area, it can be overwhelming to find the parts or service your car needs. Holbrook Auto Parts has been a part of the Detroit community for over 75 years and takes pride in helping our customers find the parts they need to stay on the move. We thank the community for their continued support and for giving us the opportunity to provide outstanding parts and services to the city.

Images from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Holbrook Auto Parts, Inc, 2021
Simple modal box
Part Inquiry Form
[contact-form-7 id=18 title='partrequest']