Chapter 1

The first two chapters cover with the two decades before World War II. Chapter One describes the development of productivity as a statistical measure in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the 1920s. Since the late nineteenth century, BLS officers had sought to understand technological developments and their impact on labor. In the early 1920s, they still conducted a number of qualitative descriptive studies of technological change in selected industries, but by the mid-1920s, Ewan Clague, a young graduate from the University of Wisconsin, developed statistical indexes to measure productivity in important industrial sectors. While these statistical measures signaled numerical objectivity, the following chapters unravel how various social groups saw productivity differently, and how their views changed over time.

Caroll Wright, Hand and Machine Labor (1898)

In August of 1894, the US Congress passed a resolution that charged US Commissioner of Labor, Carroll W. Wright, to undertake a comparative study of the effects of mechanization on labor and production costs…
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Efficiency in the Manufacture of Common Brick (1920s)

In the early 1920s, officers of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) undertook a series of studies to update the 1898 report on Hand and Machine Labor…

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