The Studebaker company has always been in the background of my life growing up in the South Bend area. From field trips, to baseball games, to plays, the infrastructure and memory of the factory has remained present in my life and in the life of South Bend. While this memory of Studebaker was never anything I thought about until I started this project during the fall of 2021, I have a deep love of history about labor in the United States, especially when it comes to the history of union struggles. These struggles I remember being present in Studebaker history before they closed their doors in South Bend ahead of Christmas in December, 1963.
I had originally thought that I wanted to research the initial reactions to the closure of the factory, but found that there was very little in the way of information about that in the historical record. At least I thought that, until I found out that many of the workers of the factory had been interviewed through the Studebaker Oral History Project, 1984-1985. These interviews were conducted by the Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory. This discovery changed the focus of my research, with the help of Professor Eric Sandweiss, who was my advisor during the project. I focused my research on how the factory has been remembered in South Bend.
The interviews from the 1980s gave me a better understanding of how people remembered the factory two decades after the closure. Working on this project gave me a better understanding of how memory affects the history we tell ourselves, but also how the history we remember is reflected on the physical landscape around us.