In his most recent foray into Deep Thinking, rapper Kanye West declared himself and Henry Ford, among others, to be “artists [and] merchants.” Though Kanye was mocked for his egotism, his description of Ford was well put. Ford not only sold products, but saw his ideas made real. Even the most abstract of these ideas—vertical integration—became reality in the largest industrial complex ever built: the River Rouge.
Designed by Albert Kahn, the Rouge covered 1,300 acres. During the 1930s, over 65,000 men worked at the plant on three shifts. The namesake river was dredged and widened to allow ships access to the facilities. Raw materials—iron, sand, rubber—brought by barge into one end of the complex, could be transformed into steel, glass, and tires on site, and assembled into a finished car at the other.