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Like all other major contributors in the American economy, the corporate American enterprise has a long and winding history that dates back up to the 18th century. The race for prominence and a competitive edge that has characterized the remarkable and memorable series of events within the business industry has seen it grow into a modern capitalist system that continues to adjust and re adjust to modern day trends and demands.
This paper seeks to illustrate how people, places and/or events have been interrelated and impacted on the various responses that have been projected buy the business enterprise. The approach used will employ historical concepts and issues as they are interrelated and bridged through time. This approach will form the basis of a tentative and detailed understanding of the historical miles in business as well as the role that they have played in modifying and demystifying the business environment in America.
The commercial jurisprudence in America has suffered numerous scholarly business history drivers that reflect the aggressiveness of the environment of the early-twentieth century. One such stimulus emerged with the rise of an American historical profession that was motivated by the ideology of the time and was based on a rigorous document-based scholarship system as opposed to skill recognition.
The trend indicated by most professional historians was one that invested solely on public policy issues alongside a variety of strongly identified criticisms of big business (Scranton, 1991).
It was this era of commerce that saw the birth of the term progressive history Unknown to many this would form one of the most politically influential concept and idea in the history of business and academic writing. Aside from the rather obvious political or ideological inclinations, it was common ground among historians rejected the notion critics developed to the effect that the generalization of history was mere propaganda.
The stage was set for the implementation of the scholarship approach that emphasized on a comprehensive and objective document-based system. This period saw the development of methodologies by thinkers who attempted to create a comparison between the various players in the industrial sector through comparison of specifically identified industries and firms displayed a comparability element.
This however would not last long since there was a need to provide a contemporary solution to the ever increasing concerns of the business world. The early and mid 19th century was heavily characterized by the reliance on specific institutions of higher learning in as far as ideology policy and research.
Such an institutional initiative was made in 1927 when the Harvard Business School developed a specific branch that was mandated with the creation of a body that would evaluate the concerns of historical scholarship. This department developed a report that focused specifically on the basic factors affecting the operation and survival of business in the competitive environment.
Their conclusions have been vouched by modern day writers as being meticulous, detailed, non-political, and descriptive (Galambos 1967). This scholarly initiative depicted the general perspective approach by managers and executives in the evolution of the cross century trend in the individual firm growth strategy.
Business in America consisted of a dominant and substantially influential finance based enterprise. An actual starting point in the progression of business in America can be pegged to the founding of the Bank of New York and the New York Stock Exchange. There is little evidence of this progression in the period proceeding this time.
These two institutions are considered as the two oldest business institutions that have survived modern times. Despite the dominance of the finance based sector in the business context, more attention began to drift towards the manufacturing sector in the late 19th century and the early 20th century (Walter, 1954).
The sector was motivated by the traditional conception that it was the basis of American strength and a source of national pride. The industry received attention from the increased number of innovations that were linked to it. It attracted a considerable amount of attention from politician, investors and historians alike with many innovations including those that borrowed heavily from Europe but refined in America being considered as a symbol of pride and prominence.
The market demand for convenience and reliability could not come at a more appropriate time since America was at its brink of innovation in as far as automobiles and technology is concerned. The manufacturing sector was hallmarked by its ability to sustain mass production of manufactured goods an aspect that generated a competitive edge.
One political issue they faced was the political and civil unrest. During this period America was sustaining one of the gravest wars in history (Hugh & Aitken 1965). This therefore meant that a lot of the investor funding and government facilitation was sent to the military to ensure that it was fully equipped to facilitate the defensive and offensive initiatives. Even more compelling the stock market hit rock bottom in October 1929.
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It saw major companies loose the capital otherwise invested in the market and subsequently shut down. The finance and manufacturing industries also suffered acute shortage in raw materials due to the unstable market conditions of the time. This more often than not impeded the rate at which these sectors grew and narrowed the scope of expansion.
In response finance companies introduced Consumer credit schemes to allow those customers who would under normal situation rely on cash to payment for consumer durables to pay in smaller installments. The manufacturing industries developed products that were connected to the war. They diverted their lines of production to the manufacture of war related tools such as `guns and ammunition they also reduced their production points and limited their investment in the acquisition of machinery and property. This allowed them to cut own their risks in case of a war.
This however resulted in a crisis due to the lack of fit in the market forces. The high demand led to a characteristic increase in the prices for products. The impression on the economy was felt in the increased levels of inflation that were experienced by the participant players in the economy (Blackford, 1992).
The salient features of an economic crisis began to materialize taking a toll on the small companies one buy one until only those which had a reliable back of capital remained. The sector resulted to the unification of manufacturing and finance firms and companies to cut down over head costs.
Business in America was also supported by a management based field that came to supplement the inadequacies of the finance and manufacturing sectors. As it were this sector existed even at the inception of the finance and manufacturing fields. It however gained prominence in the beginning years of the 20th century. It was an all humane and natural response to the market demand for efficiency.
This situation set the stage for scholarly initiatives that led to the creation of the various management theories. The users of the management products invested heavily in the research of cost effective methods of organizing labor resources as well as maximizing the use of such resources (Jacoby, 1985). This sudden shift of attention led to the development and creation of ideas and approaches that were sampled and tested in the whims of the market scene.
Players in this sector were however faced by numerous challenges. The enlightment period brought a wave of awareness of rights and freedom. The aftermath of the revolution created a great professional gap due to the reduced number of employed personnel (Sampson, 1995).
Political unrest left little room for the training of employees. Unions on the other hand became more aggressive in campaigning for the rights of employees in as far as salaries are concerned. This presented a great challenge in terms of costs incurred in the management and facilitation of the industry.
To curb this, the management field invested heavily in training and education. It also motivated the players to invest in research in new methods of ensuring that the final product survives the little availability of skilled personnel. This response motivated the change in management approaches to facilitate the gradual movement towards proficiency and a document based system of management.
The consequences of culminated in the increased attention awarded to education and educational qualification. The educational institutions began to gain credence in matters relating to management products. Management based companies also invested in research through institutions of higher learning which were entrusted with the responsibility of developing cost effective methods of creating economies of scale and reducing the impact of fixed and variable costs.
The advertising and marketing fields also constituted an essential part of the history of business in America. It began to steadily develop in the late 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. The use of bill boards as well as print advertising remained for a long time the only major methods of informing customers of the existence of alternative or new products.
This situation did not persist for long since after World War I, the focus on consumerism increased to an unfamiliarly large scale. The implicating was that it became much more costly and difficult to convey a message to the consumer (Nevins, 1940). This led to an increase in the costs of production since the impact of advertising is inevitably necessary
The common cry led to the development of research initiatives into the various consumer trends in as far as buying patterns is concerned. Marketers began to invest in the analysis of and testing of cost effective products that would allow them to survive the whims of the economic crunch. These research initiatives were mad through research firms as well as institutions of higher learning.
The result of these actions acted to increase the attention on public relations. This period was actually earmarked for its focus on the improvement and development of public relations. It also marked the beginning of emphasis on a good impression and product image. It saw many Industrialists as well as financiers engage the services of public relations experts along with other related professionals with an aim at portraying their organization its best possible public light.
It is evident that the period between 1920 and 1930 remains a fundamental and crucial decade for the American business in as far as development in both positive and negative respects. Technological creations and subsequent innovations such as automobiles, radios, as well as new home building motivated the progression during this decade. It was during this period that manufacturing production levels reached historic highs a gain that can be attributed to a booming stock market that thrived in the face of low interest rates.
The struggle for effectiveness convenience and a competitive edge spilled over to the 20th century. It brought along the consequences of this race which culminated in the stock market crash of 1929 as well as the Great Depression.
These events provoked the attention the general business fraternity and marked the beginning of a new era in the business history. The onset of this new era was characterized by a torrent of reviewed and reformed policies that were motivated by the precipitous consequences of the market collapse alongside the endless bank failures that were experienced in the 1920’s.
The Hoover as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt administrations have been historically identified as the main motivators of this policy change. Such policy changes include new securities and banking laws as well as new accounting standards regulated and monitored by an independent Securities Exchange Commission
Despite the fact that many at times crises in the history of business were created by either stock market or domestic events, the consequences of these crises had an undisputable negative ramification on the entire business community. For instance the currency exchange crisis hat materialized in the summer of 1971 caused a ripple effect that was seen in the realignment of major currencies around the world. It also had an impression on the American bank regulation.
The birth of the euro and its promotion to being the world’s second major reserve after the dollar can also be attributed to this crisis. The effects have often bypassed the attention of business historians, an element that is evident in the various literary works that propose to provide a generalization of the history of the progression of business in America.
Blackford, M. (1992). Small Business in America: A History. Boston: Twayne Publishers
Galambos, L. (1967) American Business History. Washington: American Historical Association,
Hugh, G. & Aitken, J. (1965). Explorations in Enterprise .Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Jacoby,S. (1985). Employing Bureaucracy: Managers, Unions, and the Transformation of Work in American Industry .New York: Columbia University Press,
Nevins, J. (1940). Rockefeller and the Heroic Age of American Enterprise. New York: Knopf
Sampson, A .(1995). Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life .New York: Random House
Scranton, P. (1991). “Diversity in Diversity: Flexible Production and American Industrialization, 1880-1930,” Business History Review, (65) 27-90.
Walter ,B. (1954).The Radical Novel in the United States, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press