National Archives at College Park, MD

The US National Archives are charged with documenting and preserving government records. I conducted research relating to two topics at the National Archives: (1) the development of quantitative productivity measures by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the 1920s, and (2) the Marshall Plan’s Productivity and Technical Assistance Program.

  1. The following collections were consulted for the BLS Productivity Studies:

RG 200 National Archives Gift Collection, Papers of Ewan Clague, Personal File 1919-1979

Clague joined BLS in 1926 and developed a quantitative productivity index in the late 1920s. He served as BLS Commissioner from 1946 to 1965. In this function, he oversaw BLS productivity experts serving the Marshall Plan Productivity Program. His records include documentation on the productivity index he developed, and his views on productivity and labor questions (including, later, automation).

RG 257 Records of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entry 31 Office Files of Ethelbert Stewart, 1904-1931 (Stewart served as the BLS Commissioner from 1921 to 1932; these records contain productivity studies from the early 1920s)

Entry 32 Correspondence of Mr. Stewart as Commissioner, 1923-26 (sighted, not used)

Entry 33 Correspondence of the Commissioner with the Secretary of Labor and Units of the Labor Department, 1925-35 (sighted, not used)

Entry 42 Office of Prices and Living Conditions, Program Files of the Office of the Associate Commissioner (these are all records from the 1970s onwards; not used)

In addition, I consulted the records of the Census of Manufactures, bi-annually conducted by the Census Bureau, at the National Archives location in Washington, DC. Clague used the Census of Manufactures for the calculation of his productivity index. The National Archives in principle holds the “schedules” for the Census of Manufactures, that is the survey responses; however, the schedules for 1890-1927 were destroyed, and only the records for the 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936 Census remain. The schedules contain detailed information on time, labor, and technology, such as the number of days and shifts operated, the number of employees, their wages and hours, the kind and value of products, power sources, machinery, and sales figures. As of 2015, the Census of Manufactures was being digitized. While the Census records that Clague used for the productivity index are no longer available, the soon-to-be digitized copies of the later Census records will allow studies of work processes, technology, and productivity in the United States into the 1930s.

%d bloggers like this: