Science and Technology at Work

Reorganizing for greater efficiency was approached as a science and pursued with religious zeal in 1919. Housewives should approach their work as Domestic Science, one magazine advised. Just as the Columbian Exposition in 1893 had inspired the city to shape its future development by creating the Burnham Plan, mobilization for the world war inspired business to increase its productivity through massive automation and comprehensive reorganization. Where Armour and Co. and later Ford Motor Company integrated many individual tasks within a single plant, manufacturing corporations like General Motors integrated production across many plants, located in several cities. The scale of each business enterprise grew rapidly, as power and utility providers responded to regional, national and international demand.

Businesses worked hard to improve efficiency in order to increase both their workers' productivity and to increase profits. Companies reorganized their corporate structure from the highest levels of management down to the workers. Frederick Taylor's ideas of scientific management based upon time/motion studies, were first pioneered in the steel mills and then spread to other industries. In his book, The Principles of Scientific Management (1911) Taylor wrote, "In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first." Taylorism was intended to resolve the "class war" between capital and labor through greater productivity created by scientific management.

In the same way that Pullman had tried to manage this conflict by creating his "company town" on the far south side of Chicago, programs called"Fordism" or "the American Plan" tried to enforce particular lifestyles on employees. For example, Ford rewarded his employees who he thought were committed to family and country, and he punished those whose commitment he thought was inadequate. As the "science" of industrial relations gained popularity, big business advanced its own plans for labor peace, cooperation and profit sharing, hoping to divert workers' attention from the conflict over the distribution of wealth.

Taylorism and automation were reorganizing work into quick repetitive tasks that less skilled employees could do. At the same time, new employment opportunities began to open up for a significant number of working and middle class individuals. A large number of training schools grew in new areas of industrial engineering such as electricity and chemistry. As businesses expanded, information management became a new industry.

The new automobile industry was at the forefront of technological innovation, providing thousands of new jobs in Chicago and Illinois. While automobile building never dominated Chicago and Illinois, as it did in Detroit and Michigan, Illinois has had 160 manufacturers of autos in the last 100 years. In the first part of the century, Chicago companies built electric cars and steam powered vehicles, which were featured at the first Auto Show in 1901. Blue Island, Chicago Heights and Cicero each had a budding automobile plant. "The Commonwealth," assembled in Joliet between 1917 and 1922 became the Checker Cab and then the Yellow Taxi. International Harvester ventured briefly into auto manufacturing in Chicago in 1907 but moved its operation to Ohio. In 1920, nearby Rockford's Comet Automobile Co. produced six cars daily and had the largest single export sale up to that time: 40 cars to Belgium.

Many innovations were marketed to the "do it yourself" auto owner as well as to the professional mechanic. "America's automotive industry depended on Rockford built tools and machines," states the Illinois Association of Manufacturers. Chicago area companies also played an important part in the growing national auto industry by supplying parts and machine tools. The new technology generated thousands of new jobs in dozens of related areas -- mechanics, chauffers, garage builders, cab drivers, taxi cab meter inspectors, and road builders. In the 1920s work began on the great "Mother Road," Route 66, which began in Chicago and stretched westward to Santa Monica,California.

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