Western electric company

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The Western Electric Company was a subsidiary of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company. The firm manufactured a wide variety of telephone equipment at its Hawthorne Works in Chicago, Illinois. A notable series of worker efficiency experiments known as the Hawthorne Studies were staged at the plant between 1924 and 1933.

From the description of Photograph album, 1925. (Harvard Business School). WorldCat record id: 52815587

From the description of Western Electric Company photograph album, 1925. (Harvard Business School). WorldCat record id: 229475333

NYC.

From the description of Pamphlets, 1923-1924. (College of Physicians of Philadelphia). WorldCat record id: 86165513

Manufacturer of electrical materials and appliances. Founded in 1872; reorganized in 1881, at which time it was licensed to manufacture equipment for American Telephone and Telegraph, which controlled the company.

From the description of Western Electric Company Hawthorne studies collection, 1924-1934 (inclusive) [microform]. (Harvard Business School). WorldCat record id: 269600514

The Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company in Hawthorne, Illinois (near Chicago), manufactured electrical components, such as relays for telephones.

Western Electric and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences began the Hawthorne Study in 1924. Dugald C. Jackson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supervised the first phase, known as the Illumination Experiments, from 1924 to1927. These experiments attempted to determine the relationship between light levels and worker efficiency. The data compiled by the Illumination Experiments indicated only a minor correlation between light levels and worker productivity. The National Research Council researchers concluded that a variety of factors must affect industrial output. They also suggested that, as too many variables were involved, it was not possible to draw meaningful conclusions from studies conducted in regular shop settings or with large groups. The National Research Council withdrew from the study in 1927, but researchers from the Harvard Business School (then the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration) soon became Western Electric's new collaborators in the study.

Led by Elton Mayo of the Department of Industrial Research, the Harvard Business School team expanded the scope of the investigation at Hawthorne. The studies would attempt to discover relationships between physical working conditions, industrial productivity, and such additional variables as worker morale, home life, upbringing, diet, and other habits.

With Western Electric, the Harvard Business School team established the Relay Assembly Test Room (RATR). The RATR consisted of a small group of female employees isolated from other workers in a separate room with an observer and a tape-punching device set up to measure the number of relays each operator put together in a given period of time. The operators (assembly workers) were offered wage incentives to encourage them to produce at a high level. The daily output of each operator was recorded on 120 inches of tape. The uniform speed at which the tape advanced allowed for the measurement of variations in daily output. Each operator was assigned a number to preserve confidentiality, but the researchers inconsistently assigned the numbers. Other records produced in the RATR included Log Sheets (daily chronological records maintained by the observer, regarding an operator's activities, the type of relays assembled, etc.) and Daily History Records (recording changes introduced, remarks made, and questions that investigators asked themselves about observations or developments). Records of physical examinations and of eating habits were also produced. The RATR study lasted from 1927 to 1932 and was divided into thirteen periods. During each period, major changes in working conditions were introduced and the resulting behaviors and performance were observed and measured.

In addition to the RATR, investigators briefly organized a second Relay Assembly Group to test the effects of introducing wage incentives without any other changes. A Mica Splitting Test Room was also established to study the effect of changing working conditions without adding wage incentives.

The Interviewing Program at Hawthorne collected information about employee attitudes. Its goal was identifying the right conditions for improved productivity. Between 1928 and 1930, the research team interviewed about 21,000 employees of the Hawthorne Plant under guarantees of confidentiality. Interviewing methodology changed in the middle of the program, after interviewers discovered that interviewees gave more useful information about themselves and their jobs when allowed to speak about whatever came to mind (instead of being directed in their responses by prepared questions).

The Bank Wiring Observation Room was established to supplement information derived from the interviewing program with observations about interviewees' behavior on the job. The test group was separated from the regular work force, but otherwise worked under standard conditions. An observer stayed in the test room with the workers while they worked, and an interviewer recorded their attitudes, thoughts, and feelings when they were off the job.

The Western Electric Company discontinued the study in 1933. The research suggested to management that previous assumptions about improving productivity through changes in wage incentives, hours of work, lighting, or other easily identifiable factors were naïve and unfounded. To improve productivity, Western Electric’s management began to look at the total situation. The study clearly revealed to management that workers’ latent energy and productivity could be tapped under the right conditions. The researchers who helped design and implement the experiment, as well as many later scholars, however, continued to analyze the data and reconsider the study’s findings.

From the guide to the Western Electric Company Hawthorne Studies Collection, (inclusive), 1924-1961, (Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

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Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Telephone and Telegraph Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Andrews, Ernest Galen, 1898-1980. person
associatedWith AT & T Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Auerbach Associates. corporateBody
associatedWith Austrian, Geoffrey. person
associatedWith Bank Wiring Test Room corporateBody
associatedWith Beirne, Joseph A., 1911- person
associatedWith Carey, Herbert H. person
associatedWith Carey, Herbert H. person
associatedWith Charschan, Sidney S. person
associatedWith Chernick, Jack person
associatedWith Communications Workers of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Communications Workers of America. District 1. corporateBody
associatedWith Communications Workers of America. Local 3290 (Atlanta, Ga.) corporateBody
associatedWith Computer and Communications Industry Association, corporateBody
associatedWith Cunningham & Walsh (Firm). corporateBody
associatedWith Darrow, Karl K. (Karl Kelchner), 1891- person
associatedWith Davisson, Clinton Joseph, 1881-1958. person
associatedWith De Forest, Lee, 1873-1961. person
associatedWith Dimond, Stuart D. (Stuart Dudley). person
associatedWith Elton Mayo person
associatedWith Fadum, Ralph Eigil person
associatedWith Fadum, Ralph Eigil. person
associatedWith Feinberg, I. Robert (Irving Robert), 1912-1975. person
associatedWith Fletcher, Harvey, b. 1884. person
associatedWith Foote, Cone & Belding. corporateBody
associatedWith Fritz Roethlisberger person
associatedWith Goldey, James M. person
associatedWith Greenbaum, Marcia L. person
associatedWith Gue, Edwin M. person
associatedWith Hastie, William. person
associatedWith Herman, Luther Russell, Jr. person
associatedWith Hilpert, Elmer E., 1905-1975. person
associatedWith Horton, Joseph Warren, 1889-1967. person
associatedWith Illumination Study corporateBody
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith Industrial Research Division corporateBody
associatedWith Inspection Branch corporateBody
associatedWith Interviewing Program corporateBody
associatedWith Irwin, John H. person
associatedWith Johnson, John Bertrand, 1887-1970. person
associatedWith J.P. Morgan & Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Kaplan, Deborah, 1950 Jan.- person
associatedWith Lombard, George F. F. (George Francis Fabyan), 1911- person
associatedWith Mayo, Elton, 1880-1949. person
associatedWith McDonald, Robert Emmett, person
associatedWith MCI Telecommunications Corporation. Sales and Operations Administration (Records of Bert C. Roberts). corporateBody
associatedWith McKeehan, L. W. (Louis Williams), 1887-1975. person
associatedWith Mica Splitting Test Room corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan Bell Telephone Company corporateBody
associatedWith Morgan, Stanley Owen, 1900- person
associatedWith North Carolina State University. College of Engineering. corporateBody
associatedWith Operating Branch corporateBody
associatedWith Painter, Uriah Hunt, 1837-1900. person
associatedWith Perkins, James Secor. person
associatedWith Puschel, William H., 1902- person
associatedWith Relay Assembly Test Room corporateBody
associatedWith Ricker, Norman Hurd. person
associatedWith Ricker, Norman Hurd, 1896-1980 person
associatedWith Roethlisberger, F. J. (Fritz Jules), 1898-1974. person
associatedWith Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Soo Hardware Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Swope, Gerard, 1872-1957. person
associatedWith Thayer, Henry Bates, 1858-1936. person
associatedWith United States. Air Force. White Alice Communications System. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Chicago. Industrial Relations Library. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee corporateBody
associatedWith Western Electric Company. Hawthorne Works. corporateBody
associatedWith Western Electric. Hawthorne Works. corporateBody
associatedWith Wharton School. Industrial Research Unit. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilder, Samuel A. (Samuel Alden), 1868-1961. person
associatedWith Wooldridge, Dean E. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Illinois--Chicago
Illinois
Illinois
Illinois--Chicago
Illinois--Chicago
Illinois
Subject
Factories--Photographs
Women electronic industry workers--Photographs
Telephone companies--Employees--Photographs
Telephone supplies industry--Photographs
Industrial relations
Electric apparatus and appliances--Illinois
Telephone--Equipment and supplies--Photographs
Manufactures--Photographs
Industry
Manufactures
Labor productivity
Electric apparatus and appliances
Manufacturing industries--Photographs
Otolarynglogy--Instruments and apparatus
Ear--Examination
Personnel management
Industrial productivity
Industries--Illinois--Chicago
Industrial efficiency
Electricity
Audiometry--Instruments and apparatus
Telephone--Photographs
Occupation
Activity

Corporate Body

Active 1878

Active 1948

Americans

English

Information

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