Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2015
Automobile manufacture is generally regarded as the paradigmatic mass production industry, with large plants able to exploit scale economies. We argue that the radio industry also sheds important light on evolving production technology and determinants of competitive success in inter-war manufacturing. Timothy F. Bresnahan and Daniel M.G. Raff (1991) showed that productivity differences resulting from scale in the auto industry translated into differences in exit rates during the Depression. We find that technical scale economies did not play a large role in the radio industry. Instead selection during the Depression was on non-“technical” productivity factors, including whether or not a plant's parent company owned a brand.
We thank the Hagley Museum Library, Library of Congress, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and Lemelson Center Archives for generous assistance with our research. Thanks are also due to the Economic History Society and the Universities of Iowa and Reading for financial support and to Leslie Hannah, Teresa Da Silva Lopes, Chris Vickers, and James Walker, for comments on earlier drafts. We also thank two anonymous referees and the editor of this Journal Paul Rhode, for very helpful advice. Any errors are our own.