PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

Return to Home

Related Topics

Subcultures
E pluribus unum refers to thirteen colonies peacefully becoming a single nation. But it applies to Philadelphia in a different sense. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods.

The Park and Beyond: East Falls, Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill
Fairmount Park is large enough to split the City from its suburbs, and is partly a playground, partly a museum. East Falls, Germantown and Chestnut Hill are almost a separate world on the far side of the park.

North of Market
The term once referred to the Quaker district along Arch Street, and then to a larger district that had its heyday after the Civil War, industrialized, declined, and is now our worst urban problem area.

To Germantown, a Short Appreciation
Seven miles from the heart of Philadelphia, Germantown was once a separate town, the cultural center of Germans in America. Revolutionary battles were fought here, it was briefly the capital of the United States, and it still has an outstanding collection of schools and colleges.

Quakers: The Society of Friends
According to an old Quaker joke, the Holy Trinity consists of the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Quakers: All Alike, All Different
Quaker doctrines emerge from the stories they tell about each other.

Customs, Culture and Traditions
Abundant seafood made it easy to settle here. Agriculture takes longer.

Evolving Philadelphia
The city changes.

Philadelphia Economics
economics

Right Angle Club 2008
A report, to the year 2008 shareholders of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, by the outgoing president, Neale Bringhurst... www.philadelphia-reflections.com/topic/120.htm

Favorites - II
More favorites. Under construction.

Quaker Efficiency Expert: Frederick Winslow Taylor 1856-1915

{F.W. Taylor}
F.W. Taylor

For at least seventy-five years after Fred Taylor turned it down, any rich smart Philadelphia Quaker attending Phillips Exeter would have been automatically admitted to Harvard. We don't know why he did it, but instead F.W. Taylor just walked a few blocks down the hill from his Germantown house and got a job at the Midvale Steel Company as an apprentice patternmaker. During the twelve years while he rose to become chief engineer of the company, he took a correspondence course for a degree in mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute, and invented a process for making tungsten steel, called high speed steel. That made Midvale Steel rich, but Taylor was going to make Philadelphia rich, and after that he was going to make America rich. When he died, he was widely hated.

Evidently his lawyer father greatly admired German efficiency, having sent little Freddy to a famous Prussian boarding school where he was in attendance at the time of the

{General von Moltke}
General von Moltke

Battle of Sedan. General von Moltke had used Prussian efficiency and discipline to defeat those indolent lazy French, and Fred Taylor evidently absorbed and retained these stereotypes for the rest of his life. Whatever he was looking for at Midvale Steel, what shocked him most was to find workers "soldiering on the job". That's a Navy term, by the way, invented by sailors to describe the useless shipboard indolence of any Army they were transporting. Taylor later went to Bethlehem steel, reduced the number of yard workers from 500 to 180, and was promptly fired. It seems that most of the foremen at the plant were owners of local rental houses, which were emptied of tenants when Taylor reduced the workforce. Even management came to mistrust Taylor. When the railroads wanted a rate increase, Louis Brandeis defeated them with the argument that they wouldn't need higher rates if they adopted Taylor's system of efficiency. In his later years after he became enormously rich, he toured the country giving speeches without fees, promoting the doctrine of finding the one best way and then doing everything that way.

{Louis Brandeis}
Louis Brandeis

Over time, Frederick Taylor had come to see that the industrial revolution had proceeded to the factory stage by merely bringing craftsmen indoors, each one treasuring his little trade secrets. Bringing the point of view of the company's owners onto the shop floor, Taylor could see how vastly more profitable the steel company would be if all those malingering tradesmen would stop soldiering on the job. No doubt the young Quaker soon learned that little was to be accomplished by remonstrating with workers, just as bellowing foremen had learned that bullying was also useless. Out of all this familiar scene emerged Taylorism, the idea of paying financial incentives to those who produced more, splitting the rewards of efficiency with the management. It sort of worked, but it didn't work enough to satisfiy F.W. Taylor. When he walked around with a stop watch, he collected the data showing how much more might be produced if the workers were perfectly efficient. Not only did that create the stereotype of the stop-watch efficiency expert, it provoked Congressional hearings and a federal law against stop watches which stayed on the books from 1912 to 1949. Although management responded by forming dozens of Taylor Societies to honor the approach, the unions invented the term "Taylorism" and bandied it about as the worst sort of epithet. Curiously, the Taylor approach proved to be enormously appealing both to Lenin and Stalin, who applied it as a central part of their five-year plans and general approach to industrialization. As we now all recognize, the Communist approach was a two-tier system instead of the three-tier system that was needed. It isn't enough to have a class of comrades called planners and another called workers; you need a layer of foremen, sergeants and chief petty officers in the middle. In addition to the elaborate time and motion studies leading to detailed written procedures, there needs to be an institutional memory for the required skills of the trade. In a funny sort of way, Fred Taylor the Quaker may have organized the downfall of the communist state before it was invented.

{Herbert Hoover}
Herbert Hoover

Another peculiar outgrowth of Taylorism may be the partisan lines of our own political parties. If you trace the American ideological divide to the 1932 election of Franklin Roosevelt, you can see we are still fighting the battles of the depression. It happens that Herbert Hoover, another Quaker, was totally captivated by Taylorism. Not only that, he was adamant that to get rid of the depression all the country needed was to return to self-reliance, individual responsibility, and hard work. Those were qualities Hoover himself had in super abundance. One telling remark that he probably regretted saying but nonetheless firmly believed was, "If a man hasn't made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he can't amount to much." Franklin Roosevelt had the million all right, but his family had given it to him. The Cadburys and Clarks could have given it to Fred Taylor, too, but he chose to make it himself.

www.Philadelphia-Reflections.com/blog/1296.htm

(1296)

A nice entry although some smaller details are wrong. FWT's patternmaking apprenticeship was at another company called the Enterprise Hydraulic Works. He then went to Midvale. He (with colleague Maunsel White) didn't develop HSS until about 8-9 years after leaving Midvale. They did the HSS work at Bethlehem. Robert Kanigel's 1997 biography of FWT has details, some of which I am forgetting. Anyway, I look forward to reading more Phila musings on your site, which is new to me. Thx!
Posted by: Anon   |   Nov 17, 2007 7:48 PM

Please Let Us Know What You Think


(HTML tags provide better formatting)

Because of robot spam we ask you to confirm your comment: we will send you an email containing a link to click. We apologize for this inconvenience but this ensures the quality of the comments. (Your email will not be displayed.)
Thank you.