Boom Town: Detroit in the 1920s

NOW OPEN on the Lower Level

Between a roaring automobile industry and the illicit-but-profitable Prohibition liquor trade, 1920s Detroit was one of the most exciting, quirky and frenetic cities in the world.

While the physical city grew in size from 81 square miles in 1917 to 139 square miles ten years later, its resident count ballooned from 466,000 in 1910 to 1.56 million by 1930. Of these  Detroiters, about 75 percent were immigrants or first-generation Americans. Another sizable group were African Americans relocating north during the first phase of the Great Migration. 

From architecture and culture to politics and technology, the city was reinventing itself, seemingly every day.

This new exhibition explores the incredible changes Detroit underwent during the 1920s, and the city's drastic contradictions - glitz and glamour, risk-taking and repercussions, social conscience and depravity, elegance and poverty. Boom Town tells the decade's stories through 20 personal histories of real residents of the era, representing different ages, backgrounds and occupations, while evoking storied locations around the city. 

Presenting sponsors: