“American made,” the term certainly doesn’t mean what it used to. “American made” was once a source of pride and indication of quality and value. Since the industrial revolution the US has time and time again affirmed itself as the prime innovator of high technology, manufacturing efficiency, and innovation. People in America always wanted stuff that was made here, and unless a good was highly specialised, we would look to foreign-made goods with scepticism. Now in 2011 much of that has changed.
The world is now different for better or for worse. Different being the key term, especially here in the US. A combination of factors including high labour costs and globalization have resulted in the US manufacturing ideal to be withered away significantly. During the 1970s and 1980s the automotive industry unfortunately damaged the reputation of US manufacturing beyond repair. The Japanese and Germans started to steal much of the show, and more recently the Chinese have swooped in to replace the majority of manufacturing when it comes to the most basic, non-perishable good. I guess the US is still good at making food. So what does “Made in America” still mean?
I think the term has even higher value today that it ever has. Especially when something is an American made high-end functional craft. These are probably among the most rare items and are highly collectible – just look at the auction market for antique American made furniture. When at a store seeing something “made in America,” it makes me stop and think, and feel grateful. Items such as that feel increasingly rare. So what of our craft and creativity? Where is the art of Americana.
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