I was forced to read this book as part of a history class in college, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It really delves into the history of those who shaped the capitalistic society we have today. Great read, couldn't put it down.
In American Made, Harold Livesay examines ten men, concentrating on manufacturers, who molded American business practices. He argues that manufacturers generated economic prosperity and reflected American social values. He asserts that the men created the American system of mass production and succeeded because they supplied the market with whatever it demanded, or at any price, as long as they received an acceptable return on their investment.
Eli Whitney perceived that high volume manufacturing required interchangeable parts. Whitney further realized that mechanical manufacturing needed a large market volume to generate a profit. He used the federal government to provide the necessary market and capital investment to establish his armaments firm.
Cyrus McCormick faced a different problem. The United States had plenty of land to become an agricultural giant. The problem lay with harvesting enough product both rapidly and in sufficient quantities to make large ventures profitable. McCormick marketed his mechanized reaper to remedy this situation. Because these reapers involved complex technology and a large capital investment, he initiated a franchised sales and service system to meet the needs of the farmers.
Andrew Carnegie revolutionized the steel industry. He introduced cost accounting and scientific management principles that lowered costs, increased production, and yielded high profits.
Thomas Edison accelerated the energy transformation in the late nineteenth century with his invention of the light bulb. Edison geared his experiments towards perfecting or creating machines that would improve living standards for ordinary Americans. He sought to develop his inventions at precisely the right moment to achieve market success.
Henry Ford produced affordable cars that caused a transportation revolution, ended rural isolation, and hastened the growth of the suburbs. Ford conceived of the mass consumer market for this product. He instituted an industrial production system that employed factory modernizations, such as the assembly line and specialization of construction, to satisfy this market.
Pierre DuPont believed that the company's success and the workers' fortunes were intertwined. DuPont asserted that enlightened self-interest would dictate peaceful labor relations. Drawing upon his financial background, he invested where it would produce the greatest return regardless of production changes, and mandated a shift in capital from low-yield to high-yield areas of the corporation.
Alfred Sloan combined technology and systematic organization in his operations at General Motors. Sloan believed that corporations could encourage individual initiative through worker satisfaction, personal achievements, promotions and stock bonuses. These incentives would transform men into corporate workers while retaining an individualistic philosophy.
Henry Ford II introduced cost accounting and market forecasting to Ford. Ford revamped the overseas operations and viewed the entire world as a potential market.
Edwin Land viewed beauty and utility as synonymous and emphasized rationality in the Polaroid Corporation. Land used the interrelationship between personal achievement and scientific innovation to stimulate growth.
Livesay's American Made demonstrates manufacturers' contributions to the formation of American business. Livesay employs an entertaining and readable style to capture readers' interest, and then incorporates personal lessons about these changes to enliven the book.