Subject Guide

Business and the State

The relationship between business and the state has been a central theme of American history since the founding of the Republic. Beginning with Alexander Hamilton's push for federal assumption of the Revolutionary War debt, government (both state and federal) has been deeply involved in American economic life. In the first half of the nineteenth century, government funding of internal improvements and the protective tariff were defining issues of American political debate. As the state's role in American society expanded thereafter, important political struggles erupted over government regulation of the economy, the relationship between business and labor, antitrust legislation, national Prohibition, social welfare, Social Security, and the growth of the defense sector. In recent years, occupational health and safety, civil rights, civil liberties, and affirmative action have been in the forefront of public controversy.

View PDF version of the guide with images from our collections

Hagley's library collections document all these areas. They are strongest on the issues pertaining to the twentieth century, but they also contain material on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The records of America's major business organizations—the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the National Industrial Conference Board, and the National Foreign Trade Council—trace the evolving relationship between business and government. Significant corporate records that address this relationship include those of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Sperry Gyroscope, and Sperry-Univac. Hagley also has the records of trade associations and of individuals who influenced the relationship between business and the state. We continue to receive documents from many of these organizations and firms.

Our Imprints Department contains significant materials on business-government relations that complement our archival collections. These materials include publications concerning tariffs, internal improvements, and government regulation of business and pamphlets issued by many of the firms and trade associations whose records are at Hagley. Imprints also holds many important government documents pertaining to business, such as the Wheeler Report on railroad consolidation, the Nye Committee Report on the World War I munitions industry, and hearings on legislation such as the Taft-Hartley Act. Among our printed sources are nineteenth-century state reports, including reports of state railroad commissions and bureaus of industrial statistics.

NATIONAL BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS

Chamber of Commerce of the United States: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation, was founded in 1912 in response to President William Howard Taft’s call for a national institution to represent the unified interest of U.S. business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce records (along with its journal, The Nation’s Business, and associated photographic collection) document its activities since the Progressive Era. The Chamber’s core mission is to fight for business and free enterprise before Congress, the executive branch, the courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world.

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM):Organized in 1895, NAM became one of the nation’s most influential business organizations. Expanding beyond its initial core membership in manufacturing to include firms in all sectors of the economy, NAM emerged as a powerful business lobby in Washington on virtually all areas of legislation in the 20th century. It particularly monitored efforts to regulate business, and actively engaged the legislative process to produce outcomes that, in its opinion, reflected the interests of NAM members. The NAM records also trace the association’s interest in the relationship between organized labor, politics, and the economy.

National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC): Founded in 1914 and now representing 300 companies, the NFTC has been the premier American business organization advocating an open world-trading system. The records are strongest from 1936 through the 1980s and are especially informative on the creation of the postwar international economic order, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Marshall Plan, and the subsequent development of the European Common Market and nationalization by post-colonial regimes. In more recent years, the records deal with increasing globalization, immigration policy, and the use of economic boycotts.

The National Industrial Conference Board (NICB): Organized in 1916, the NICB originally sought an accommodation between business and the mainstream labor movement. In the 1930s it was sympathetic to the New Deal and advocated free trade. Its records, especially files generated by the NICB's research unit, contain information on firms' personnel practices, including wages, welfare work, profit sharing, and industrial safety. Public policy issues discussed in the NICB records include government regulation of business, the Federal Reserve banking system, immigration, atomic energy, private-sector pension plans, government support for American business overseas, national health insurance, and workers' compensation.

CORPORATIONS AND TRADE ASSOCIATIONS

As the state became increasingly involved in American economic life in the twentieth century, governmental policy began to have an impact on the firm. The relationship between business and the state is documented in firm-level records from two perspectives: (1) the impact of government regulation, particularly in the areas of labor relations, occupational health and safety, and civil rights; and (2) the growth of the military-industrial complex as a result of the expansion of defense programs, weapons procurement, and the rise of the national security state.

American Iron and Steel Institute: A major trade association, the American Iron and Steel Institute lobbied for high protective tariffs, participated in the development of the National Industrial Recovery Administration's steel code during the New Deal, and was represented in agencies governing labor relations and economic mobilization during World Wars I and II.

Bethlehem Steel: Bethlehem Steel supplied armor plate to the U.S. Navy and built ships under government contract during World Wars I and II.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company: Manufacturer of explosives, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company served as both a defense contractor and the prime contractor on the Hanford and Savannah River nuclear sites. Hagley's holdings include records of DuPont's Atomic Energy Division and records of the DuPont-General Motors antitrust suit, 1948-1962.

IBM: Hagley retains extensive materials relating to the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of possible antitrust violations on the part of IBM in the digital computer-systems market. Records include copies of trial transcripts, trial exhibits, depositions, legal memoranda, motions, subpoenas, and other documents.

MCI Communications Corporation: Through its administrative, legal, and regulatory files, the MCI collection reveals the dynamics of the telecommunication industry's transformation in the second half of the twentieth century and MCI's role therein. The records detail the company's relations with the Federal Communications Commission and state-level regulatory agencies. Legal records document MCI and U.S. antitrust litigation versus AT&T.

Pennsylvania Railroad: The Pennsylvania Railroad records include material concerning government investigations of railroad consolidation and air-mail contracts and court proceedings relating to full-crew laws and other labor legislation. There are also materials on government regulation of transportation, especially railroads during World War I. Engineering Department files include material on negotiations with city authorities regarding large-scale improvement projects.

Radio Corporation of America (RCA): RCA researched and developed radar, sonar, air traffic control, communication, weather, and surveillance systems for the military. The company also provided hardware for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lunar and Mars missions and designs for space stations and space vehicles. The records consist of technical research reports and more than 100,000 photographic negatives including many of these products.

Seagram Company, Ltd.: The Seagram Company records include information regarding state liquor legislation, regulations, pricing, and state liquor control boards. The archive also documents investigations conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and state and federal probes on matters such as liquor taxation, labeling, sales, and advertising.

Sperry Aerospace Division: Sperry served as a primary contractor for the computerized command and control systems used in NASA's Mercury and Apollo space programs.

Sperry Gyroscope: Known as the "brain mill for the military," Sperry Gyroscope developed the high-intensity searchlight, ship stabilizer, automatic pilot, microwave systems, advanced bombsight, and radar used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

Sperry-Univac: The collection documents Sperry-Univac's business and government contracts. The records hold material on the 1971-1972 patent-rights trial over computer development; Sperry was the successor firm to the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which developed the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first true modern computer, during World War II.

Sun Oil: Sun Oil developed the catalytic cracking system (Houdry Process) that was used to produce high-octane fuel during World War II. The collection includes records of the Temporary National Economic Commission that investigated monopolistic practices in American industry during the 1930s.

Westmoreland Coal Company: The Westmoreland Coal Company is the oldest independent bituminous coal company in the U.S. and usually ranks among the top twenty producers in both output and sales. Its records contain material relating to mine inspection, mine safety, and environmental regulation.

PERSONAL PAPERS

Pierre S. du Pont and Irénée du Pont: As presidents of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, both Pierre and Irénée were active in the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. Pierre was a member of the National Labor Board under the National Recovery Act. He broke with Roosevelt in 1935 and, along with his brother, founded the American Liberty League to oppose the New Deal. Pierre also served on the Business Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Crawford Greenewalt: Greenewalt served as president of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company from 1948 to 1962. His files include information on the Business Advisory Council.

J. Howard Pew: Pew's papers document his role as president of Sun Oil, founder of the American Petroleum Institute, board member of the National Association of Manufacturers, and member of the National Petroleum War Service Committee during World War II.

J. Newton Pew: These personal papers reflect Pew's leadership in the American Petroleum Institute and as an influential figure in the Republican Party, 1930s-1940s.

John J. Raskob: Raskob's papers document his tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee, 1928-1932 , and as a member of the National Industrial Recovery Administration Industrial Advisory Board and his activity in the American Liberty League.

Philip Reed: Reed served as president and chairman of the General Electric Company from 1940 to 1942 and from 1945 to 1959. During World War II he was a senior consultant to the Office of Production Management and deputy chief and then chief of the London-based U.S. Mission for Economic Affairs. He was also active in the International Chamber of Commerce and the Committee for Economic Development. His papers include executive committee meeting minutes from these organizations.

PROHIBITION

Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA): The AAPA was founded in 1919 in response to the government's enforcement of Prohibition. By the mid-1920s businessmen including Pierre S. du Pont, Irénée du Pont, and John J. Raskob had joined the organization. The AAPA records document its massive publicity campaign, which sought to identify Prohibition with the country's rising crime rate, the increase in federal authority, and rising taxes. Complementing these materials is a significant collection of anti-Prohibition pamphlets held by the Imprints Department.

Alice Belin du Pont: Alice du Pont played an active role as a member of the national Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) and was instrumental in the formation of its Delaware Division in 1930. Du Pont's records from her time as state chair describe the organization's strategies for lobbying and campaigning for repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform, Pennsylvania Division:The WONPR Pennsylvania Division was formed in 1929. Records document activities of the state and national organizations, principally soliciting members, holding mass meetings and voter-registration drives, distributing anti- Prohibition literature, supporting "wet" political candidates, and lobbying government officials.

CONTACT

For general questions about using any of these materials, please use our Ask Hagley online form or call 302-658-2400.

The Hagley Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society awards travel grants for visiting scholars. Some housing is available on the property. The Center also organizes conferences, research seminars, and academic programs. For more information email clockman@Hagley.org.