AMERICAN BUSINESS HISTORY is a history of business, entrepreneurship, and corporations, together with responses by consumers, critics, and government, in the United States from colonial times to the present. In broader context, it is a major part of the Economic history of the United States , but focuses on specific business enterprises.
* 1 Colonial era
* 1.1 New England
* 2 Early national
* 2.1 Government policy * 2.2 Banking
* 2.3 Business centers
* 2.3.2 Baltimore
* 18.104.22.168 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
* 3 Big business: the impact of the railroads
* 3.1 Shipping freight and passengers * 3.2 Basis of the private financial system * 3.3 Inventing modern management * 3.4 Career paths * 3.5 Love-hate relationship with the railroads
* 4 Marketing
* 4.1 The general store * 4.2 Retail in towns and small cities * 4.3 The big city department store * 4.4 Self-service * 4.5 Advertising
* 5 The golden age of black entrepreneurship
* 6 Heavy industry
* 6.1 Steel
* 7 Historiography * 8 See also * 9 References
* 10 Bibliography
* 10.1 Surveys
The New England region's economy grew steadily over the entire
colonial era, despite the lack of a staple crop that could be
exported. All the provinces and many towns as well, tried to foster
economic growth by subsidizing projects that improved the
infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, inns and ferries. They gave
bounties and subsidies or monopolies to sawmills , grist mills , iron
mills , pulling mills (which treated cloth), salt works and glassworks
. Most important, colonial legislatures set up a legal system that was
conducive to business enterprise by resolving disputes, enforcing
contracts, and protecting property rights. Hard work and
entrepreneurship characterized the region, as the
The federal government under President George Washington and Treasury
Washington himself was business-oriented, and was involved in numerous projects to develop transportation and access to Western lands.
Bank of the United States check signed by
John Jacob Astor
At Hamilton's initiative, and over the opposition of Thomas Jefferson, Congress set up the privately owned First Bank of the United States (BUS) to provide a uniform financial system for the 13 states.
The BUS handled national finances, tax receipts and government
expenditures, and funded the national debt. Increasingly became
involved in lending to business, and especially assisting new local
banks in unifying the national monetary and financial system.
Jefferson supporters never stop complaining of the dangers provided by
the special interests behind a private national Bank, and block the
renewal of its charter in 1811. The bank closed, and the government
had enormous difficulty in financing the War of 1812. President James
Madison, despite his Jeffersonian heritage of anti-banking rhetoric,
realized the need for a replacement, and the Second Bank of the United
States was opened in 1816. It flourished, promoting a strong financial
system across the country, until it was challenged and destroyed by
President Andrew Jackson, Jefferson's successor, in the
In the South, by far the major business center was Baltimore,
Maryland . It had a large port to handle imports and exports, and a
large hinterland that included the tobacco regions of Maryland and
Virginia. It dominated the flour trade. Alexander Brown (1764–1834)
arrived in 1800 and set up a linen business and his firm Alex. Brown &
Sons expanded into cotton and shipping, with branches in Liverpool,
England , Philadelphia, and New York. The firm Helped finance the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to tap its own hinterland as far as
Pennsylvania and Ohio. Brown was a business innovator after 1819 when
cash and short credits became the norms of business relations. By
concentrating his capital in small-risk ventures and acquiring ships
and stock in the
Second Bank of the United States
Baltimore And Ohio Railroad
Baltimore faced economic stagnation unless it opened routes to the
western states, as New York had done with the
In 1860, the combined total of railroad stocks and bonds was $1.8
billion; 1897 it reached $10.6 billion (compared to a total national
debt of $1.2 billion). Funding came from financiers throughout the
Northeast, and from Europe, especially Britain. The federal
government provided no cash to any other railroads. However it did
provide unoccupied free land to some of the Western railroads, so they
could sell it to farmers and have customers along the route. Some cash
came from states, or from local governments that use money as a
leverage to prevent being bypassed by the main line. Larger sound came
from the southern states during the Reconstruction era, as they try to
rebuild their destroyed rail system. Some states such as
INVENTING MODERN MANAGEMENT
The third dimension was in designing complex managerial systems that
could handle far more complicated simultaneous relationships than
could be dreamed of by the local factory owner who could patrol every
part of his own factory in a matter of hours. Civil engineers became
the senior management of railroads. The leading innovators were the
Western Railroad of
After a serious accident, the Western Railroad of
The fourth dimension was in management of the workforce, both blue-collar workers and white-collar workers. Railroading became a career in which young men entered at about age 18 to 20, and spent their entire lives usually with the same line. Young men could start working on the tracks, become a fireman, and work his way up the engineer. The mechanical world of the roundhouses have their own career tracks. A typical career path would see a young man hired at age 18 as a shop laborer, be promoted to skilled mechanic at age 24, brakemen at 25, freight conductor at 27, and passenger conductor at age 57. Women were not hired.
White-collar careers paths likewise were delineated. Educated young men started in clerical or statistical work and moved up to station agents or bureaucrats at the divisional or central headquarters. At each level they had more and more knowledge experience and human capital. They were very hard to replace, and were virtually guaranteed permanent jobs and provided with insurance and medical care. Hiring, firing and wage rates were set not by foreman, but by central administrators, in order to minimize favoritism and personality conflicts. Everything was by the book, and increasingly complex set of rules told everyone exactly what they should do it every circumstance, and exactly what their rank and pay would be. Young men who were first hired in the 1840s and 1850s retired from the same railroad 40 or 50 years later. To discourage them from leaving for another company, they were promised pensions when they retired. Indeed, the railroads invented the American pension system.
LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RAILROADS
America developed a love-hate relationship with railroads. Boosters in every city worked feverishly to make sure the railroad came through, knowing their urban dreams depended upon it. The mechanical size, scope and efficiency of the railroads made a profound impression; people who dressed in their Sunday best to go down to the terminal to watch the train come in. David Nye argues that: The startling introduction of railroads into this agricultural society provoked a discussion that soon arrived at the enthusiastic consensus that railways were sublime and that they would help to unify, dignified, expand and enrich the nation. They became part of the public celebrations of Republicanism. The rhetoric, the form, and the central figures of civic ceremonies changed to accommodate the intrusion of this technology.... Americans integrated the railroad into the national economy and enfolded it within the sublime.
Travel became much easier, cheaper and more common. Shoppers from small towns could make day trips to big city stores. Hotels, resorts and tourist attractions were built to accommodate the demand. The realization that anyone could buy a ticket for a thousand-mile trip was empowering. Historians Gary Cross and Rick Szostak argue: with the freedom to travel came a greater sense of national identity and a reduction in regional cultural diversity. Farm children could more easily acquaint themselves with the big city, and easterners could readily visit the West. It is hard to imagine a United States of continental proportions without the railroad.
The engineers became model citizens, bringing their can-do spirit and their systematic work effort to all phases of the economy as well as local and national government. By 1910, major cities were building magnificent palatial railroad stations, such as the Pennsylvania Station in New York City , and the Union Station in Washington DC .
But there was also a dark side. As early as the 1830s, novelists and
poets began fretting that the railroads would destroy the rustic
attractions of the American landscape. By the 1840s concerns were
rising about terrible accidents when speeding trains crashed into
helpless wooden carriages. By the 1870s, railroads were vilified by
Western farmers who absorbed the
THE GENERAL STORE
General store exhibit at the Deaf Smith County Historical Museum in Hereford , Texas
General stores, and itinerant peddlers, dominated in rural America until the coming of the automobile after 1910. Farmers and ranchers depended on general stores that had a limited stock and slow turnover; they made enough profit to stay in operation by selling at high prices. Often farmers would barter butter, cheese, eggs, vegetables or other foods which the merchant would resell. Prices were not marked on each item; instead the customer negotiated a price. Men did most of the shopping, since the main criterion was credit rather than quality of goods. Indeed, most customers shopped on credit, paying off the bill when crops, hogs or cattle were later sold; the owner's ability to judge credit worthiness was vital to his success. The store was typically a gathering point for local men to chat, pass around the weekly newspaper, and talk politics.
In the South the general store was especially important after the Civil War, as the merchant was one of the few sources of seasonal credit available until the cash crops (usually cotton or tobacco) were harvested in the fall. There were very few nearby towns, so rural general stores and itinerant peddlers were the main sources of supply.
RETAIL IN TOWNS AND SMALL CITIES
In the small cities consumers had more choices, usually purchasing
dry goods and supplies at locally owned department store. Sometimes
entrepreneurs opened stores in nearby cities, as did the Goldwater
family in Arizona. They had a much wider selection of goods than in
the country general stores and price tags that gave the actual selling
price. Department stores provided limited credit, and set up
attractive displays and, after 1900, window displays as well. Their
clerks—usually men before the 1940s—were experienced salesmen
whose knowledge of the products appealed to the better educated
middle-class women who did most of the shopping. The keys to success
were a large variety of high-quality brand-name merchandise, high
turnover, reasonable prices, and frequent special sales. The larger
stores sent their buyers to
Main article: History of advertising J. Walter Thompson Co. promotes high-powered advertisement, 1903
By 1900 the advertising agency had become the focal point of creative planning, and advertising was firmly established as a profession. At first, agencies were brokers for advertisement space in newspapers. N. W. Ayer & Son was the first full-service agency to assume responsibility for advertising content. N.W. Ayer opened in 1869, and was located in Philadelphia. In 1893, 104 companies spent over $50,000 each on national advertising. Most sold patent medicines, which faded away after the federal food and drug legislation of the early 20th century. Seven innovators had emerged in the big time: Quaker Oats, Armour meat, Cudahy meat, American Tobacco Company, P. Lorillard tobacco, Remington Typewriters, and Procter she built a national franchise business called Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company based on her invention of the first successful hair straightening process.
Booker T. Washington
Although black business flourished in urban areas, it was severely handicapped in the rural South where the great majority of blacks lived. Blacks were farmers who depended on one cash crop, typically cotton or tobacco. They chiefly traded with local white merchants. The primary reason was that the local country stores provided credit, that is the provided supplies the farm and family needed, including tools, seeds, food and clothing, on a credit basis until the bill was paid off at harvest time. Black businessmen had too little access to credit to enter this business. Indeed, there were only a small number of wealthy blacks ; overwhelmingly they were real estate speculators in the fast-growing cities, such as Robert Reed Church in Memphis.
Carnegie Steel Company
Numerous smaller companies when operation before the Civil War the
British innovation of making inexpensive steel, which is much stronger
than traditional ironwork, cause the radical transformation. Young
By 1890 Carnegie Steel was the world's largest manufacturer of pig
iron , steel rails, and coke . In 1888, Carnegie bought the rival
Homestead Steel Works , which included an extensive plant served by
tributary coal and iron fields, a 425-mile (685 km) long railway, and
a line of lake steamships . Consolidation came in 1892 through the
Carnegie Steel Company
* ^ Margaret Alan Newell, "The Birth of New England in the Atlantic
Economy: From its Beginning to 1770," in Peter Temin, ed., Engines of
Enterprise: An Economic
History of New England (Harvard UP, 2000), pp.
11–68, esp. p. 41
* ^ John R. Nelson, "
* Blackford, Mansel G. A History of Small Business in America (ISBN 0-8057-9824-2 ) (1992) * Blackford, Mansel G., and K. Austin Kerr. Business Enterprise in American History (ISBN 0395351553 ) (1990) * Blaszczyk, Regina Lee, and Philip B. Scranton, eds. Major Problems in American Business History: Documents and Essays (2006) 521 pp. * Bryant, Keith L. A History of American Business (1983) (ISBN 0133892476 ) * Chamberlain, John. Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States (ISBN 0060107022 ) (1974) by popular journalist * Cochran, Thomas Childs. Business in American Life: A History (1976) online edition * Dibacco, Thomas V. Made in the U.S.A.: The History of American Business (1988) (ISBN 0060914661 ), popular history * Geisst, Charles R. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Business History. Infobase Publishing. * Groner, Alex. The American heritage history of American business 2014pp; scholarly essays covering 1159 major business leaders excerpt v. 2
* Ingham, John N. and Lynne Feldman.Contemporary American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary (1990); another 150 leaders post-WW2
* Krooss, Herman Edward. American Business History (ISBN 0130240834 ) (1972) * McCraw, Thomas K. American Business, 1920-2000: How It Worked.2000. 270 pp. ISBN 0-88295-985-9 . * Meyer, B.H. and Caroline E. MacGill. History of Transportation in the United States before 1860 (1917). pp 366–72 online; 698pp; Encyclopedic coverage; railroads by state pp 319–550. * Perkins, Edwin J. American public finance and financial services, 1700-1815 (1994) pp 324-48. Complete text line free * Porter, Glenn. The rise of big business, 1860-1910 (1973)(ISBN 0690703945 ) * Schweikart, Larry . The Entrepreneurial Adventure: A History of Business in the United States (2000)
* Alfino, Mark, John S. Caputo, and Robin Wynyard, eds. McDonaldization Revisited: Critical Essays on Consumer Culture (Praeger 1998). * Bronner, Simon J. "Consumerism" in Encyclopedia of American Studies, ed. Simon J. Bronner (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015),online * Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism (1990) * Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. Shaping the Industrial Century: The Remarkable Story of the Evolution of the Modern Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industries. (2005). * Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. and James W. Cortada. A Nation Transformed by Information: How Information Has Shaped the United States from Colonial Times to the Present (2000) online edition * Chandler, Jr., Alfred D. "The Competitive Performance of U.S. Industrial Enterprises since the Second World War," Business History Review 68 (Spring 1994): 1–72. * Chandler, Jr., Alfred D. Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism (1990). * Chandler, Jr., Alfred D. Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise (1962) online edition * Chandler, Jr., Alfred D. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (1977), highly influential study * Church, Roy, and Andrew Godley. The Emergence of Modern Marketing (2003) online edition * Cole, Arthur H. The American Wool Manufacture 2 vol (1926) * Dicke, Thomas S. Franchising in America: The Development of a Business Method, 1840-1980 (1992) online edition * Fraser, Steve. Every man a speculator: A history of Wall Street in American life. Harper Collins, 2005. * Friedman, Walter A. Birth of a Salesman. The Transformation of Selling in America(2005) * Geisst, Charles R. Wall Street: a history (2012). * Glickman, Lawrence B., ed. Consumer Society in American History: A Reader (Cornell UP, 1999). * Jones, Geoffrey., and Jonathan Zeitlin (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Business History(2008) * Lamoreaux, Naomi R., and Daniel M. G. Raff, eds. Coordination and Information: Historical Perspectives on the Organization of Enterprise (1995) * Myers, Margaret G. A financial history of the United States (1970). * Previts, Gary John, and Barbara D. Merino. History of Accountancy in the United States: The Cultural Significance of Accounting (1998). * Tedlow, Richard S., and Geoffrey G. Jones, eds. The Rise and Fall of Mass Marketing (Routledge, 2014). * Whitten, David O. The Emergence of Giant Enterprise, 1860-1914: American Commercial Enterprise and Extractive Industries (1983) online edition * Wilkins, Mira. The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise(1970) * Wilkins, Mira. The Maturing of Multinational Enterprise (1974) * Williamson, Harold F. and Arnold R. Daum. The American Petroleum Industry: The Age of Illumination, 1859-1899, (1959); online edition vol 1; vol 2, American Petroleum Industry: the Age of Energy 1899-1959, 1964. The standard history of the oil industry.
* Decker, Stephanie, Matthias Kipping, and R. Daniel Wadhwani. "New business histories! Plurality in business history research methods." Business History (2015) 57#1 pp: 30-40. * Friedman, Walter A., and Geoffrey Jones, eds. Business History (2014) 720pp; reprint of scholarly articles published 1934 to 2012 * Galambos, Louis. American Business History. Service Center for Teachers of History. 1967, historiographical pamphlet. online version * Goodall, Francis, Terry Gourvish, and Steven Tolliday. International bibliography of business history (Routledge, 2013). * Gras, N.S.B. and Henrietta M. Larson. Casebook in American Business History (1939), with short biographies, company histories and outlines of the main issues * Gras, N. S. B. "Are You Writing a Business History?" Bulletin of the Business Historical Society 1944 18(4): 73-110. detailed guide to writing one; in JSTOR * Hansen, Per H., “Business History: A Cultural and Narrative Approach,” Business History Review, 86 (Winter 2012), 693–717. * John, Richard R. "Elaborations, Revisions, Dissents: Alfred D. Chander, Jr.'s, The Visible Hand after Twenty Years," Business History Review 71 (Summer 1997): 151–200. * Kirkland, Edward C. "The Robber Barons Revisited," The American Historical Review, 66#1 (1960), pp. 68–73. in JSTOR * Klass, Lance, and Susan Kinnell. Corporate America: A Historical Bibliography 1984 * Klein, Maury. "Coming Full Circle: the Study of Big Business since 1950." Enterprise Raff, Daniel M. G.; and Temin, Peter. "Beyond Markets and Hierarchies: Toward a New Synthesis of American Business History." American Historical Review (2003) 108#2 pp: 404-433. online * Larson, Henrietta M. "Business History: Retrospect and Prospect." Bulletin of the Business Historical Society 1947 21(6): 173-199. in Jstor * Scranton, Philip, and Patrick Fridenson. Reimagining Business History (2013) online review * * Staudenmaier, John, and Pamela Walker Lurito Laird. "Advertising History" Technology and Culture (1989) 30#4 pp. 1031–1036 in JSTOR * Tucker, Kenneth Arthur. Business History: Selected Readings (1977)
ENTREPRENEURS, INDUSTRIES, AND ENTERPRISES
* Bailyn, Bernard. The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (1955) * Beckert, Sven. The monied metropolis: New York City and the consolidation of the American bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 (2003). * Brinkley, Douglas G. Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress (2003) * Byrne, Frank. Becoming Bourgeois: Merchant Culture in the South, 1820-1865 (2006). * Bursk, Edward C., et al. eds. The World Of Business Harvard Business School (4 vol. 1962); 2,700 pages of business insight, memoirs, history, fiction, 500+ Pages each with coverage of entrepreneurs, corporations, and technologies, Plus specialized bibliographies
* Bryant, Keith L., ed. Railroads in the Age of Regulation, 1900-1980 (1988) * Frey, Robert L., ed. Railroads in the Nineteenth Century (1988) * Leary, William. ed. The Airline Industry (1992) * May, George S., ed. The Automobile Industry, 1896-1920 (1990) * May, George S., ed. The Automobile Industry 1920-1980 (1989) * Paskoff, Paul F., ed. Iron and Steel in the Nineteenth Century (1989) * Schweikart, Larry, ed. Banking and Finance, 1913-1989 (1990) * Schweikart, Larry, ed. Banking and Finance to 1913 (1990) * Seely, Bruce E. The Iron and Steel Industry in the 20th Century (1994)
* Folsom, Burt, et al. The Myth of the Robber Barons (2010) * Friedman, Walter A. and Tedlow, Richard S. "Statistical Portraits of American Business Elites: a Review Essay." Business History 2003 45(4): 89-113. * Geisst, Charles R. Monopolies in America: Empire builders and their enemies from Jay Gould to Bill Gates (2000).
* Ingham, John N. Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders (4 vol. 1983); 2014pp; scholarly essays covering 1159 major business leaders excerpt v. 2
* Ingham, John N. and Lynne Feldman.Contemporary American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary (1990); another 150 leaders post-WW2
* Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs (2011) on APPLE.
* Levinson, Marc. The Great A Pulitzer Prize
* Tucker, Barbara M. Samuel Slater and the Origins of the American
Textile Industry, 1790–1860 (1984)
* Walker, Juliet E. K. Encyclopedia of African American Business
History Greenwood Press, 1999 online edition
* Wall, Joseph F.
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