BORN IN THE USA
The declining state of manufacturing in the United States became a hot-button issue during the last election cycle, spotlighting a downward trend in domestic production over the past four decades. Although industries like finance and real estate have gradually grown to employ more people in the industry’s place, it’s still difficult for many Americans to grasp just how many companies have exported manufacturing jobs overseas. These are just some of the most unexpected companies who have ditched domestic manufacturing.
Donald J. Trump Collection
President Donald Trump has stirred the recent uproar against American companies moving manufacturing facilities elsewhere, even though his own product lines are rarely produced domestically. His “Make America Great Again” hats were, but a quick survey of his other branded merchandise reveals that most all of it is produced overseas in China, Bangladesh, or Germany.
A major figure in the lives of so many young girls, the all-American Barbie doll is one of the most iconic products made by multinational toy manufacturer Mattel. The company is headquartered in California but closed its last American factory in 2002, outsourcing all production to China.
Huffy’s bicycles came with a U.S. flag emblazoned somewhere on the frame until 1999, when it was hit by financial struggles and a drop in bike prices dictated by high-volume retailers like Walmart. The company laid off its hundreds of plant employees in Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi as it moved manufacturing operations to Mexico and China, where the company is now primarily based.
Founded in New York in 1930, Fisher-Price has been making reliable children’s toys for nearly a century now, having helped popularize the use of plastic for toy making in the 1950s. The company’s shift to international manufacturing began in 1993, when it was acquired by Mattel, and led to a massive recall of nearly a million China-made toys in 2007 due to concerns about lead paint.
One of America’s most easily recognizable footwear companies is Converse, particularly for its long-running Chuck Taylor All-Stars. The brand struggled for several decades before filing for bankruptcy repeatedly and selling to Nike, who helped the shoes enjoy a resurgence but also moved manufacturing completely from the United States to Indonesia.
The Nike swoosh is among the world’s most recognizable brand logos, bringing to mind the company’s athletic footwear and scores of endorsements by American athletes. Though founded in Oregon, the company has been manufacturing shoes in international plants since at least the 1970s, when new protective labor laws in South Korea and Taiwan drove manufacturing to less prohibitive markets in China and Vietnam.
An American brand that’s survived since its founding during California’s gold rush, Levi’s is inseparable from the blue denim jeans it brought into fashion. The iconic garments are now manufactured in plants around the world, with the exception of one expensive line of jeans still made in North Carolina.
Still one of the most visible bicycle brands, Schwinn produced and sold lightweight American-made bikes from a facility in Chicago until 1991, when cheap international competitors prompted the company to send its manufacturing overseas. The company has since been sold to Pacific Cycle, owned by the multinational conglomerate Dorel Industries, meaning its current China- and Taiwan-made models have little in common with classic Schwinns.
Is baseball still America’s pastime when the balls used to play it aren’t even made here anymore? The company was founded in St. Louis and used to manufacture baseballs in Puerto Rico, but it had already moved production to Haiti by the time it became an official Major League Baseball supplier. The balls are now produced in Costa Rica and China.
The red toy wagon produced by Chicago-based Radio Flyer has been a prominent fixture of so many American childhoods since its invention in 1917. The Chicago plant previously manufactured the wagon, as well as other products like scooters and tricycles, until maintenance costs forced the company to move production to China.
Another toy most children in America grew up with, the Etch-a-Sketch was invented in France and bought by Ohio Art Co. The U.S.-based company brought the toy to international prominence and manufactured it in Ohio until 2000, when production was exported to China to save money.
Founded in Denver, Samsonite has grown from a small retailer of travel bags into one of the world’s foremost luggage manufacturing companies. The headquarters moved to Massachusetts after a change of ownership in 2005, but the company’s main branch is now located in Europe, along with a small portion of its manufacturing. Most, however, is located in Asia, with at least 40 percent of inventory coming from the company’s factory in India.
Brach’s was founded in 1904, and sweets like Candy Corn and Conversation Hearts have since become inescapable throughout the year, particularly around holidays. These confections were made in Chicago until 2001, when new regulations on sugar in the United States drove up the cost of production and prompted the company to move manufacturing to Mexico.
The Fender Stratocaster is an influential guitar strongly associated with several icons of American music, including Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix. The recognizable six-string is still popular among musicians even now that the company’s standard models are made in Mexico. An American-made model can still be found, but for roughly double the price.
Texas-based Dell made its way to the forefront of the tech industry selling computers and related products. Unlike many competitors, it kept manufacturing facilities in the United States until 2010, when it closed a North Carolina plant that had received $280 million from the state. Production of Dell computers moved almost exclusively to Asia and Mexico.
G.I. Joe, the original action figure, was billed as a morally upstanding hero from various branches of the U.S. armed forces, but the Hasbro-made toy is no longer as all-American as its marketing suggests. As one of the world’s largest toy companies, Hasbro relies primarily on factories throughout China and now India to produce its toys, and G.I. Joe is no exception.
Monopoly is an enduringly popular American board game invented to help players understand capitalist economics. The game originated in 1903 and was owned by Parker Bros. until 1991, when the company was acquired by Hasbro. Today the plastic houses and hotels that go into each Monopoly box are manufactured in Ireland.
BLACK & DECKER
The portable electric drill is an American invention, first made in 1917 by Black & Decker, which was then headquartered in a small Baltimore machine shop. Now owned by Stanley Works, the company still has roots in Baltimore and a few production facilities in North America, but the vast majority of its manufacturing is conducted in China.
Once named America’s most trusted brand, Craftsman was created by Sears to market hardware products acquired from other manufacturers. The brand advertised its “Made in the USA” pedigree until 2004, when a lawsuit accused Craftsman of misleading consumers about tools made with metal parts manufactured abroad. Today a select few Craftsmen products labeled as industrial are still made in America, while the remainder are manufactured overseas.
Founded by entrepreneurial icon Henry Ford and closely associated with the Motor City of Detroit, Ford is a quintessentially American car manufacturer. It still has some unionized plants operating domestically, but like other automakers, Ford makes none of its vehicles exclusively from American parts. The Ford Edge, for example, comes from Canada while the Fusion and Fiesta models are made in Mexico.
Now owned by General Motors, Chevrolet is another all-American car manufacturer based in Detroit, and managed to overtake Ford as the nation’s best-selling car in the 1920s. Although its advertisements often feature patriotic music and themes, many of its most popular models, like the Silverado and Equinox, are produced at least partially in Mexico or Canada.
The American Girl brand certainly seems expensive enough to be manufactured in the United States, with each 18-inch doll priced around $100. But despite the company’s name and original focus on aspects of American history, American Girl dolls have been manufactured in Germany since the mid-1980s, even before it was acquired by Mattel, which moved production to China.
Millions of Americans were raised on Gerber baby food, a Michigan brand that today ranks as the world’s largest supplier of baby products. Now owned by the Swiss conglomerate Nestle, Gerber’s products have been manufactured overseas since its first merger, with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis in 1994.
Sardine canning became a major American industry on both coasts in the 1950s, strongly associated with historic communities like Monterey’s Cannery Row. The industry as a whole has been in steep decline ever since, forcing the nation’s final sardine cannery, the Stinson Seafood plant in Maine, to close its doors in 2010.
Who can forget when Under Armour burst onto the scene with its string of “Protect this House” commercials. But for an apparel brand so often clad in stars and bars, Under Armour has strayed from its Maryland roots to product athletic gear in Asia, Central and South America, and Mexico.