MADE IN THE U.S.A.: The History of American Business by Thomas V. DiBacco

MADE IN THE U.S.A.: The History of American Business

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Not the history of American business, but an episodic, tellingly detailed, and generally informative run-through that hits plenty of high--and low--points from the Colonial era through the 1950's. DiBacco (American Univ.) observes that ""America was the world's first and most successful capitalistic nation."" For openers, he traces the country's enterprising spirit back to Plymouth's William Bradford and the triangle trade that sustained New England through the eve of the Revolution. The contributions of Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and other Founding Fathers are duly noted, as is the unhappy fate of Robert Byrd Il, a Virginian whose lust for land brought him to grief. The author records how private interests, not government, ran the risks required to open the young country's first canals, railroads, and turnpikes, paving the way for westward expansion. He also documents the importance of Yankee ingenuity and the Patent Office in industrializing the US. For various reasons, though, many inventors did not get much credit or cash for their creations. One unsung hero is Obed Hussey, whose reaper is widely believed to be the brainchild of Cyrus McCormick. Nearer the present, the author appraises the achievements of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J.C. Penney, John D. Rockefeller, and Richard W. Sears. During the early 1900's and beyond, he reports, prudent businessmen joined forces with progressives to back reform legislation that resulted in stricter regulation. Further private/public-sector accommodations were required during the Depression (when men's bathing suit tops were jettisoned to cut costs) and WW II (which helped make aluminum, nylon, and synthetic rubber commercial propositions). But, DiBacco recounts, the Eisenhower years, marked by the advent of TV, plus a boom in demand for consumer goods and services, signaled a return to more moderate federal policies. DiBacco's eclectic overview provides perceptive accounts of landmark trends and socioeconomic milestones that put latter-day events in clearer perspective. An encore performance would be most welcome.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row