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Industrial Transitions in the Black: US Government-Business Relations in the Mobilization of Carbon during World War II

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2021

Abstract

This article examines government–business relations in the context of World War II mobilization of the US carbon black industry. The topic contributes to the ongoing debates about whether this relationship laid the foundation for postwar US prosperity. The primary research question is: What role did wartime mobilization and the US government play in carbon black industrial transitions and changes in technology and productivity? The evidence from wartime records of the carbon black program shows that industry dominated the government–business relations during the period. The War Production Board was unable to effectively resolve or even report on disputes between synthetic rubber and carbon black industry factions or resist carbon black industry control over product prices and specifications and approval of government-financed plant construction projects. Behind the transition was prewar and wartime carbon black industrial research and development. Through the federal government’s cooperative research, procurement, and sponsored construction contracts, the carbon black industry applied its industrial research discoveries to transform its business model to high-efficiency production in the context of postwar expansions of transportation infrastructure, economic growth, and natural gas pipelines.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Business History Conference. All rights reserved.

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