Abstract: A War Baby with Colic: Jack & Heintz, Inc., and the Politics of Profit Control during World War II

Mark R. Wilson


What is the history of American business during World War II? Much of what we know about this question rests on studies of the very largest corporations, business associations, and civilian coordinating boards. In this paper, I explore the question by considering the record of one mid-sized manufacturer, Jack & Heintz, Inc., of Cleveland, Ohio. During World War II, when Jack & Heintz became a leading supplier of aircraft starters and autopilots, the company was extraordinarily well known for its unusual practices of 12-hour shifts and generous workplace benefits. Its leader, Bill Jack, was among the most colorful and politically active business executives on the home front. After introducing the company and its high media profile, my paper describes the company's battles with the wartime state over profit controls. In early 1942 and again in the winter of 1943-1944, Jack & Heintz served as the central example of alleged profiteering in an ongoing national struggle over the boundaries of legitimate profits in wartime. By the end of the war, the case of this company suggests, the battle over profit controls had a polarizing political effect, contributing to the renewed dedication of the business community to "free enterprise."