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Labor Productivity and Managerial Efficiency against a Static Technology: The Pennsylvania Iron Industry, 1750–1800

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2010

Abstract

An increase in labor productivity and a reduction of fuel consumption rates were two notable and closely related achievements of the management of Hopewell Forge, an ironworks in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. Significantly, these economies were realized in the face of technological stasis through learning by doing. The analysis of this accomplishment is cast in the larger context of the performance of the iron industry before and after 1800.

Type
Papers Presented at the Thirty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Economic History Association
Copyright
Copyright © The Economic History Association 1980

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References

1 See David, Paul A., Technical Choice, Innovation and Economic Growth (New York, 1975), pp. 174–91Google Scholar.

2 Manuscript sources for data on eighteenth-century facilities are “Furnace and Forge Account Books,” Grubb Collection, and Forges and Furnaces Account Books, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Additional.data are from Bining, Arthur C., Pennsylvania Iron Manufacture in the Eighteenth Century (Harrisburg, 1973)Google Scholar. Nineteenth-century data are from Tench Coxe, Esquire, A Statement of the Arts and Manufactures of the United States of America for the Year 1810 (Philadelphia, 1814), pp. 4952Google Scholar, Eleutherian Mills Historical Library; Louis McLane, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Documents Relative to the Manufactures in the United States (originally published in 1833; New York, 1969), Documents 13 and 14; Hazard, Samuel, ed., The Register of Pennsylvania, 8 (July-Dec. 1831), 397Google Scholar; and “Documents Relating to the Manufacture of Iron in Pennsylvania …,” Journal of the Franklin Institute, 3rd ser., 21 (Jan. 1851)Google Scholar, tables following 69–72. Space limitations prevent more extensive citations. Complete references are available from the author upon request.

3 Zabler, Jeffrey Francis, “A Microeconomic Study of Iron Manufacture, 1800–1830” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1970), p. 212Google Scholar; and Robbins, Michael Warren, “The Principio Company: Iron-Making in Colonial Maryland, 1720–1781” (Ph.D. diss., The George Washington Univ., 1972), p. 142Google Scholar.

4 The Pearson correlation coefficient r is −0.74 for a double log transformation of the variables. The rough form of the regression equation is: Q = 28.25C−.79 + e, where Q is tons of anconies per worker; C is hundreds of bushels of charcoal consumed per ton of anconies; and e is an error term. This equation is for Hopewell Forge's operations during the period 1768–1774.

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