Abstract: What Happened to the Company That Dix Made?

Nikki Mandell


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century progressive employers tried to coax recalcitrant workers into cooperative partners with a menu of corporate welfare programs. One of those employers, Henry A. Dix, took a leap that few contemplated. At the end of 1922 he decided to give his million-dollar business to his employees. His bombshell announcement drew headlines across the country, and forever marked him as "the man who gave his business to his employees." The ownership transfer scheme sought to make the welfare of the workforce the raison d'être of the firm. It raised the possibility of building a capitalist society quite different from the one that emerged in the twentieth century. This paper examines the Dix transfer as it was initially conceived and as it worked out over the course of the next quarter century. The Dix experiment speaks to the construction of the modern corporation, shedding light on the relationship between the purpose of business and the form of business, on the difficulty of pursuing non-monetary objectives within the corporate structure, and on the ways in which social hierarchies of class and gender shaped constructions of corporate ownership and management.