Cover image for Manufacturing the future : a history of Western Electric
Manufacturing the future : a history of Western Electric
Adams, Stephen B., 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 270 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
Format :


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HD9697.T454 W473 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This is a full-length history of the Western Electric Company, which was the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. As manufacturer in the communications revolutions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Western Electric made products that accelerated society's pace, such as telegraphs, telephones, an early computing machine, radios, radar and transistors. Western's history offers numerous examples of the difference between innovation and implementation. The aftermath of Western's 1882 acquisition by Bell Telephone, for instance, reveals vertical integration as a lengthy process rather than a single event. Ironically, although Western transformed business worldwide with innovations in areas such as quality control and industrial psychology, the company was slow to implement these innovations itself. Western's dual role as captive supplier for a regulated monopoly and as government contractor led to its most rapid change, in the area of civil rights.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Adams and Butler have written a concise and informative account of the operations and organization of Western Electric. From its founding in 1869, through the breakup of its parent firm (AT&T) in 1984, to its reincarnation as a new company (Lucent Technologies) in 1996, the corporate history of Western Electric encompasses a remarkable era of technological and economic change. Given its operations, affiliations, longevity, and evolution it is also a case study virtually without parallel. It not only supplied components for the Bell System for more than a century but also participated in the development of basic technology advances in sound, electronics, and communications. Studies of industrial psychology and productivity conducted at its Hawthorne manufacturing plant have become standard references in the business literature and widely adopted by other firms. As a captive supplier for a regulated monopoly, Western Electric's development is also unlike most other manufacturers. Drawing on primary and secondary source, the authors provide meaningful perspective on a period and a company that began with the telegraph and continues through the diffusion of microelectronics and the computer age. This overview of the operation and evolution of a leading firm over a vital era of American business history is recommended for undergraduate and graduate library collections. T. E. Sullivan Towson University

Table of Contents

1 Before the Bell: 1869âÇô1882
2 In BellâÇÖs world, but not of it: 1882âÇô1900
3 Systems of managing and managing of systems: 1900âÇô1925
4 Heard round the world: 1925âÇô1950
5 Defense and social contracts: 1950âÇô1972
6 A shock to the system: 1972âÇô1984
7 Epilogue: 1984âÇô1995
Conclusion: âÇ no ordinary companyâÇÖ