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Grand Plans

Grand Plans: Business Progressivism and Social Change in Ohio's Miami Valley, 1890-1929

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Grand Plans
    Book Description:

    Scholars may have widely differing views of the Progressive Era, but all see business as holding the key to the reforms of that period. In this new book Judith Sealander amplifies our understanding of the relationship between business leaders and reform through a detailed examination of Dayton and the Miami Valley of Ohio. She focuses specifically on four progressive projects that made this nine-county region nationally known as a center for reform activism.

    The four "projects" include an extensive program of employee benefits instituted at the National Cash Register Company; the creation, in the Miami Conservancy District, of a massive flood prevention system; the institution of a new businesslike city-manager government in Dayton; and a new experimental approach to education in the region's public and private schools.

    Well grounded in the scholarly literature on progressivism and drawing from a rich trove of local manuscript sources, Judith Sealander has provided an integrated analysis of the role of business leadership in these four reform areas that corrects the exaggerated treatment business has often received. She shows how this one group of businessmen functioned as reformers, the "grand plans" they had for changing society, their merger of scientific engineering, business management, and moral fervor, and the benefits and costs of their kind of progressivism.

    Grand Planscontributes new insights into the Progressive Era and will interest scholars of that period as well as historians of American business, urban affairs, and reform.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5949-2
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Business and Progressivism
    (pp. 1-17)

    In the late nineteenth century, Ohio’s Miami Valley was still predominantly agricultural. A nine-county region in the extreme southwestern quadrant of the state, it contained numerous villages and hamlets that nestled along the hundred-mile-long watershed created by the Miami and Mad rivers. The average family lived on a farm and shopped for cloth, horseshoes, and other necessities in a little crossroads village, such as Harshmanville, Harries Station, Little York, Liberty, Union, or a dozen others. But the Valley’s one city, Dayton, heralded the significant changes to come, not just to the region, but to the country, in the four decades...

  5. 2 Employee Welfare at National Cash Register
    (pp. 18-42)

    The Civil War spurred an industrial boom in southern Ohio. Within a decade of the war, Dayton, one of two major cities in the region, had emerged as a center in the Midwest for the production of agricultural implements and lumber products. Dozens of factories made iron plows, flour-milling machinery, hay rakes, wooden boxes, pails, and wagons. One company, the Barney and Smith Car Company, became by 1880 one of the five most important manufacturers of wooden railroad cars in the country, using more than 10 million feet of lumber each year. Its many buildings stretched over almost thirty acres...

  6. 3 Flood Control in the Miami Valley
    (pp. 43-84)

    In January 1913 John H. Patterson would have liked to earn headlines as a “leader in industrial welfare.” Instead, newspapers featured stories about the great NCR trust trial. A federal judge found President Patterson and twenty-six other company officers guilty and fined the NCR chief and his executives more than $135,000. Most defendants, in addition, received prison sentences of nine months to one year. Patterson himself was to spend one year in jail and pay a fine of $5,000. Though the sentences and fines were later over-turned on appeals, in early 1913 Dayton’s most important company faced an uncertain future....

  7. 4 City Manager Government for Dayton
    (pp. 85-128)

    Ray Stannard Baker, famous journalist and political adviser, traveled to Dayton in 1916 to assess Dayton’s flood recovery efforts. The great 1913 flood, readers ofWorld’s Worklearned, was the “best thing that ever happened to the Miami Valley.” It was, Baker said, borrowing a phrase from one of his principal informants, Edward A. Deeds, a “heat treatment.”¹ Steel rails subjected to a period of intense heat during their manufacture were stronger and far less likely to break under sudden strain. The fierce heat of the flood calamity, Deeds suggested, had jarred apart groups and cliques and forged a stronger,...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. 5 Educational Engineering
    (pp. 129-175)

    The legacy left by the long fight in Dayton to establish “businesslike‭” city manager government was an important one. Indeed, the eventual victory of the Citizen’s Committee affected not just governmental institutions. In interesting ways, changes at the schoolhouse even more than changes at city hall illuminated the complicated nature of business involvement with the progressive movement.

    John H. Patterson often liked to say that “business is only a form of teaching. You teach people to desire your product. You teach workmen how to make the right product…. You teach others to cooperate with you.”¹ A concern with the proper...

  10. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 176-185)

    Changingis the one adjective that best describes the United States during the decades between 1890 and 1930. Scarcely anything about the country’s life and culture remained unaffected. The reform phenomenon known to contemporaries and historians alike as progressivism was both engine and product of this maelstrom of change.

    Recognition of the nature and importance of business involvement is central to an understanding of progressivism, in the same way that recognition of the nature and importance of business change is central to an understanding of the dramatic organizational changes sweeping the United States during the progressive era. If progressives are...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 186-224)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-259)
  13. Index
    (pp. 260-264)