Welcome to Buy USA Made Stuff, your portal for all sorts of things that are Made in America
When I was ten, my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Johnson was very influential on my classmates and I. She not only taught us reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also tried to impress upon us the importance of looking at the world as a bigger picture. She had many strong opinions about politics, education, world affairs, and the greatness of the United States. This was back in 1986, the year that the Space Shuttle Challenger was launched. Mrs. Johnson felt that this was one of those defining moments that we must witness– not only was NASA sending American astronauts to outer space, they were also sending an American female school teacher for the first time. Mrs. Johnson checked out a TV from our school library, and it was the only time I remember watching live television during school hours. I remember the anticipation and excitement in the air as us kids counted backwards together until the launch, the amazement of this rocket blasting off in a wake of flames and smoke, watching it soar higher and higher, until suddenly it climbed no higher and instead was obscured by plumes of white smoke. I was baffled since this was the first shuttle launch I witnessed– was this what was supposed to happen? I could hear the confused murmurs of my classmates as I looked around the classroom. I saw the smile dissolve from Mrs. Johnson’s face as she swayed a bit where she stood. She had a white-knuckled grip on the edge of the nearest desk and became quite pale. No, this is not what was supposed to happen. Especially not in America.
You see, Mrs. Johnson was very patriotic and she tried to fix these same ideals on us children. She encouraged us to vote when we were of age, she touted the importance of Unions in the workplace, and above all else she compelled us to buy American made goods. Her fervor for this was akin to brainwashing, as she ended each of our school days with this mantra. She would not excuse us from class until she reminded us to shop locally and buy produce that was grown in the USA, and merchandise that was manufactured in the USA.
Although she was able to forever stamp this statement into my young brain before I was set in my ways, I was too inexperienced to understand and act upon it. My world was no bigger than my hometown, and I didn’t actively purchase anything except candy and donuts. But now that I can look back at that time in my life, I can see how following her advice could have made a difference, especially in that era. It was a time when a lot of American factories were closing their doors and moving production over seas, where companies could make more money. They could avoid paying taxes, pay less to the foreign workers than they would have paid to American workers, and they didn’t have to deal with pesky unions, worker rights, and US standards of manufacturing, with it’s pollution regulations and safety policies.
My family was affected directly. In 1983, my dad was laid-off from his long-time manufacturing job at a Donaldson’s factory when they shut their American doors and reopened overseas. He had had that job for eighteen years, and would have retired from there in another decade and a half, but instead was left with nothing– no job, no pension, no reward for his loyalty. From there, he could not hold down a job. Every six months to a year, the factory that he was working at would close and he would get laid off. Some of them were closing to reopen on foreign soil, while others were just going out of business since they couldn’t compete with the cheap prices of foreign products.
Because my mom was basically the sole bread winner of the family now with my dad seemingly always between jobs, we were poor. When my brother and I grew out of our clothes, we looked to friends and relatives for hand-me-downs. If there was nothing used available, then my mom would buy us cheap clothes manufactured in China, as we could only afford to shop at K-Mart, and even then we still needed to use their lay-away program. Little did my mother realize that by doing this, she was helping America dig itself deeper into the hole we find ourselves in now. It was a vicious cycle of my dad losing his job to foreign competitors, and us supporting the foreign competitors because their cheap prices were all we could afford.
Fast forward thirty years, and here we are now, in a nation that only produces a fraction of what we actually consume. A nation that relies on Walmart instead of small, locally-owned and run businesses. A nation that would be crippled and would starve if our import routes went down overnight. I have understood for years the impression that Mrs. Johnson was trying to bestow upon my tender mind back in 1986, but I find myself now in the same vicious cycle as my parents’ struggle, but the new twist is the fact that I can no longer readily find products made in America, weather I can afford them or not.
For the past three years, I have been looking for a soap dispenser that was made in America, to no avail. Even the hand carved wooden dispenser at our local art fair, sold by the artisan that created it, had a Chinese-manufactured pump. I have also been looking for salt and pepper grinders that were made in the USA, and thought I finally found them on the internet. When they arrived at my home, I eagerly opened them and then was deflated when I saw the sticker on the front that said “Proudly Filled in the USA”. OK, so there are American workers putting salt and pepper in foreign made shakers, and then tricking the public into buying them by advertising that they were made in USA, when really, they were not. I’ve been tricked before– I tried to buy mixing bowls that were made in America, and was so excited to finally find some. I peeled up the “Made in USA” sticker when I was washing them for the first time to find a stamp on the bottom of the bowl admitting that the bowls were really made in India.
This is when my husband and I saw the need to create a portal that sold products that were made in America, and I mean that were really made in America. No tricking the customers into thinking that they are supporting American manufacturing only to find that the product was “Proudly Packaged in America” (another thing that has actually happened to me on my hunt for USA-made stuff). Why not share all of our hard work of research and testing of the various products that are still made in America? My husband and I have been buying products, using them, and then reviewing their quality and overall value for you with the hope that we will eventually be able to fill in all the gaps, and offer everything that you may ever need here on our American made site, including those ever-elusive soap dispensers.