The years leading up to the 1920’s were a time of momentous change for America. New technology was gaining momentum and factories were producing more and more goods. People were able to buy goods rather than making them like they had in the past and the standard of living was going up. Manufactured goods were a major part of life, especially during the 1920’s. This change towards being a consumer nation didn’t happen all at once and it certainly didn’t happen without prompting from some amazing innovators of the time. One of these people was Frederick Winslow Taylor, the founder the scientific management, a system which revolutionized production and largely contributed to making our nation the way it is today.
Frederick Winslow Taylor was born on March 20, 1856 in Germantown, Pennsylvania to Franklin Taylor and Emily Annette Winslow. The youngest of eleven, Taylor was raised as a devout Quaker. Born into wealth, he travelled through Europe for three years as a young teen before attending Phillips Exeter Academy in order to prepare him for Harvard School of Law. Being bright and having access to all the resources he could possibly need, Taylor aced the entrance exam and was accepted into Harvard. Around this time, however, his eyesight was quickly worsening and he chose to go down a different path based on his doctor’s advice. It was this fateful decision that would eventually lead Frederick Winslow Taylor into a career at Midvale Steel Works, a career that that would serve as the foundation for his breakthrough management theory which he is still renowned for today.
When Taylor arrived at Midvale, he soon realized, after carefully observing the workplace, that workers didn’t work to their full capability despite methods designed to get them to do just that. He is quoted as saying at one point, “Hardly a competent workman can be found who does not devote a considerable amount of time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his employer that he is going at a good pace.” Always a man of practicality and efficiency, Taylor set about to help the company reach its greatest potential. To reach this lofty goal, he looked back at his childhood years, particularly at an old teacher he had. This teacher, Bull Wentworth, calculated the average time of all students that it took to complete each problem and designed his tests around his findings. Taylor likely drew a lot of his beliefs in efficiency from this teacher. By using a similar system at Midvale, later coined Scientific Management, the great innovator was able to double productivity in the few years he worked there. Taylor’s time working for Midvale Steel Works was not only a time of great growth for the company but ultimately for companies everywhere. The system’s widespread popularity and influence, however, did not occur overnight, or even during the years of Taylor’s employment at Midvale. Rather, Taylor went to school at Stevens Institute of Technology, got married, and proceeded to go through many careers, impacting these businesses for the better, but gaining little notoriety until the late 1890’s when he became a part of Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
Frederick Taylor’s career at Bethlehem Steel was a great success for him and for the company. While he was there, he created a production planning system as well as a modern accounting system and began analyzing output costs. His most important innovation, however, was his discovery of the Taylor-White Process for working with steel. The significance wasn’t in the process itself, but in the way Taylor figured it out. Basically by looking at the steel-working process in small steps, he was able to create a more efficient way of doing things. In 1903, he authored an essay explaining the Taylor-White Process and how he deduced it. This essay caught the attention of Louis Brandeis, a prominent attorney. Using Taylor’s methods, which he gave...