Abstract: Explaining Cleveland as an Industrial Region: Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Firms and Industrial Clusters, 1840-1930

David C. Hammack


What made Northeastern Ohio an innovative, entrepreneurial place in the nineteenth century, and then allowed it to succeed for over one hundred years in nurturing new companies and industries? Why did the region then seem to lose its entrepreneurial capacity? To address these questions we developed data on patent activity across the United States and data on firms listed in the rating books published by Dun & Bradstreet and its predecessors in 1860, 1880, 1900, and 1925. Northeastern Ohio/Cleveland firms achieved increasing returns and a high rate of productivity growth after 1860 not only by passively taking advantage of their location at the cheapest place in North America to produce steel (for this period), but also by actively developing significant sources of invention and innovation, and by actively expanding national networks that linked inventors and entrepreneurs, especially in the northeastern United States, to investors and to local firms and specialists.