Abstracts of Annual Meeting Papers

Annual Meeting Author(s) Title Abstract
2018 BHC Meeting Tristan Jacques POSTWAR AMERICANIZATION OF THE FRENCH RETAIL TRADE. Bernardo Trujillo and NCR's seminars on Modern Merchants Methods, 1957-1966.

Hypermarkets, invented in France in 1963, were part and parcel of the drastic

transformations of retail trade structures. This article examines the process of

Americanization behind those changes, and more specifically the role of the Modern

Marketing Methods seminars, organized by the National Cash Register and led by

Bernardo Trujillo between 1957 and the end of the 1960s. These courses were offered to

retail professionals in the United-States and touted, among other things, the advantages

of consumer self-service; despite being US-based, these seminars had a strong impact on

French business. However, as these seminars are not well known by historians, this

article seeks to document their functioning and to examine their influence, in particular

by comparing them to the productivity missions of the 1950s.

2018 BHC Meeting Nathan Delaney Competitive Strategy in the US Copper Industry after the EPA

From 1970 to 2000, the US copper industry (and the global mining industry in general) experienced significant decline; decline in prices, decline in consumption, and decline in investment. Over this same period, additional challenges emerged for the copper industry – most notably increases in environmental regulation. The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 1970) and the development of federal environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), Superfund (1980), as well as new mine health and safety standards (1977) put increased pressure on industry managers just as the good days of the post-WWII growth era were coming to an end.

The following paper investigates how some US copper firms managed to navigate these challenges and pays special attention to the headwinds caused by new environmental regulations. This paper offers a new perspective and compliments present-day literature concerning the mining industry and its impact on the environment. While most historians have focused squarely on the ecological “destruction” caused by the mining industry, few have bothered to step into the shoes of industry managers and consider how they dealt with such competitive forces in real time. 

Interestingly, the combination of environmental and economic challenges forced industry leaders to pursue new strategies that united cost-cutting and technology upgrades with improved methods of risk management related to poor environmental performance and community relations. Ultimately, those firms that survived the era learned a valuable history lesson: a firm’s historical record was its license to operate in the future.

2018 BHC Meeting Martin Eriksson, Lena Andersson-Skog, and Josefin Sabo An Eternal Challenge? The State and Small Business Financing in Sweden, 1935-1970.

One starting point for our research project “An Eternal Challenge? The State and Small Business Financing in Sweden, 1935-1970” is that an increased historical understanding is needed to improve the contemporary debate on small business finance policy. After the economic crises during the 1970s, most OECD countries have introduced programs for small businesses financing. The expected impact of such programs has often been that small business will grow through commercialization of technology and innovations, resulting in an overall transformation of the economy. In practice, however, such outcomes have only emerged to a limited extent. This has given rise to an industrial policy debate where analysts and scholars have tried to determine why such outcomes do not emerge and what additional steps and measures need to be taken to realize the expected potential. However, such analyses have hitherto only been exposed to historical perspectives to a very limited extent. This means that one important step to increase the historical understanding of small business funding policies is to work out the basic elements and foundations of the original policies which emerged during the post-war period.

The paper examines to what extent the post-war state funding of small business in Sweden reflected the “Varieties of Capitalism (VoC)” approach or the “historical alternatives to mass production” approach through a case study of the loan guarantee system for small business during the period 1945-1954. We find that the organization and implementation of this system reflected the path-dependent and complementary national institutional pattern emphasized by the VoC approach. In practice, it might be described as a scaled-down version of the general investment policy which meant that it did not offer the forms of flexibility and heterogeneity suggested by the historical alternatives approach. But while such perspectives were not transformed into actual policy, influential economic researchers continued to support them in the debate on investment policy. This meant that even though the change of small business policy towards entrepreneurship and innovation as a response to the economic crises of the 1970s built on established ideas and concepts, it still represented a radical policy shift to which firms and entrepreneurs needed a long time to adapt.

2018 BHC Meeting Leslie Hannah A Statistical View of US Stock Exchanges 1870-1950

Mary O’Sullivan’s book – Dividends of Development: Securities Markets in the History of US Capitalism 1866-1922 - published by OUP in September 2016 had still not, as far as I could tell, received any reviews (even online) a year later. Mary has always adopted somewhat renegade perspectives, which flummox specialists in the subject, but for which she marshals strong evidence. Her view is that in the post-bellum era the NYSE market for industrials (as opposed to railroads) developed later than at least one European rival and only really took off from 1917 onwards (a take-off forged by the war and its consequences). This is not easily reconciled with the work of many financial economists (other than Rajan and Zingales) or financial, corporate and legal historians (other than Baskin and Miranti) on pre-1914 US finance. Most argue that private order institutions - such as investment banks and self-regulating exchanges - fostered US precocity in developing securities markets, which Mary alleges “involves imagining them as they never were.”

My mainly descriptive paper offers fuller statistical evidence that Mary’s perspectives are plausible. It also supports some broader implications of her work for the rapidly burgeoning corpus of historical financial economics. Two that she herself outlines in her conclusion are:

1. Business historians should guide financial economists to understanding markets as they existed in the past, rather than Whiggishly ascribing to them characteristics of their very different descendant institutions of today.

2. Economic developments drove securities markets as much as vice-versa, and the companies that raised money on securities markets were often the least successful ones.

I derive two further points for historical financial economics:

3. Studies of historical rates of return or the equity premium are essentially based on NYSE securities, which before 1914 accounted for only around a quarter by value of US non-rail traded securities. The NYSE excluded companies among America’s largest such as - even in the rail sector - the Pennsylvania Railroad before 1900 or Standard Oil before 1920. Historical NYSE indexes should not be interpreted as representing the experience of typical US investors: they are not comparable to today’s combined NYSE/NASDAQ indexes such as the widely-used CRSP database.

4. Mary sees the exceptional volatility of the NYSE as driven by the call market and institutional investments. Because NYSE-listed companies were also more leveraged than the average US company, their bankruptcy risks and volatility – other things equal – were greater than for European companies or for many American companies with common stock listed on the curb or regional markets. The latter long included many prominent corporations like Standard Oil, Singer Manufacturing, Du Pont, Eastman Kodak and Procter & Gamble, with reliable dividends and growing earnings. Claims that NYSE-vetted securities were “safe” (such as those made by the legal historian John Coffee) should be viewed with skepticism: historically 5% or more of NYSE-listed securities by value were in receivership, a higher portion than for domestic securities on major European exchanges. US corporate governance around 1900 was substantially by bondholders, not (as at the time in Europe or today in the US) stockholders.

2018 BHC Meeting Lisa Jacobson Selling the Invisible Woman Drinker: Liquor Advertising and Liquor Retailing in Postwar America

Drawing upon trade journals, liquor advertisements, and market research studies, this paper analyzes how liquor retailers and liquor advertisers attempted to win women’s consumer allegiance and how women in turn responded to such overtures.  It argues that women played a mostly hidden but often crucial role in shaping postwar liquor markets.  Absent from liquor advertisements, minimally sampled in market research studies, and marginalized in the burgeoning field of alcoholism studies, the invisible woman drinker nonetheless exerted a significant influence over domestic drinking practices, retailing strategies, and liquor tastes.  By 1959, when the Distilled Spirits Institute, an industry trade association, lifted the industry’s self-imposed ban on women in liquor ads, women had helped to propel the rise of vodka—an invisible elixir that became whiskey’s chief new competitor—and shift liquor preferences toward less potent spirits.  Women had also garnered the attention of liquor retailers, who revised their retail practices, store layouts, and delivery services to accommodate the shopping habits of suburban women consumers and, in many cases, their desires to remain unseen.  Paradoxically, by crafting ways to camouflage women’s liquor purchases and their liquor consumption, retailers and advertisers gradually lured the invisible woman drinker out of the shadows and into the mainstream of American life.

2018 BHC Meeting Tristan Jacques Postwar Americanization of the French Retail Trade: Bernardo Trujillo and NCR's Seminars on Modern Merchants Methods, 1957-1966.

Hypermarkets, invented in France in 1963, were part and parcel of the drastic transformations of retail trade structures. This article examines the process of Americanization behind those changes, and more specifically the role of the Modern Marketing Methods seminars, organized by the National Cash Register and led by Bernardo Trujillo between 1957 and the end of the 1960s. These courses were offered to retail professionals in the United-States and touted, among other things, the advantages of consumer self-service; despite being US-based, these seminars had a strong impact on French business. However, as these seminars are not well known by historians, this article seeks to document their functioning and to examine their influence, in particular by comparing them to the productivity missions of the 1950s.

2018 BHC Meeting J. Carles Maixé-Altés Looking for New Perspectives on Globalization: The International Savings Banks Institute and the National Savings Banks Industry Associations (Spain), 1960s-2007

This paper analyzes the activities of different national and international savings banks institutions during the second part of the twentieth century, reflecting on how globalization propelled the role of non-state forms of organization and regulation in the financial system. The analysis focuses on the Spanish case and how its institutions and industry association established their market power with regard to governmental regulation and Spanish commercial banks. Through collaborative strategies, these institutions developed their retail banking business, in particular by introducing computers and IT in general. These developments are framed within a pan-European context, in which the European savings banks and their trade associations articulated their strategies through the International Savings Banks Institute. All participants are involved in ICT development, financial inclusion efforts and the adoption of worldwide actions in developing countries.

Keywords: banking systems, savings banks, collaborative strategies, global institutions, Spain

2018 BHC Meeting Samuel Milner Giving Credit Where It’s Due: The Civil Rights Coalition, the Federal Reserve, and Asset-Based Reserve Requirements

This paper explores how the civil rights movement participated in debates over financial reform in the hopes of transforming monetary policy into a means to encourage African-American economic development. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Federal Reserve’s efforts to combat inflation generated unemployment that fell disproportionately upon the minority groups least able to bear it. In response, African-American economists joined with the representatives of housing and other hard-hit sectors who demanded that the Federal Reserve adopt new monetary tools that would allocate credit to areas deemed social priorities. This article reviews the application of several of these approaches to the objectives of the civil rights movement, including open market operations in housing-specific agency paper and supplementary or asset-based reserve requirements. In particular, I discuss the policy proposals of Andrew Brimmer, the first African-American Federal Reserve Governor and a noted supported of supplementary reserve requirements. Although Brimmer’s ideas attracted much attention from Congress, his colleagues at the Federal Reserve rejected his approach to credit allocation as inflationary. They instead supported financial deregulation as the best means to encourage a greater overall flow of credit. Yet given the existing reluctance if not outright discrimination on the part of lenders to advance credit to inner-city or minority borrowers, African-American economists argued that it would be necessary to “deregulate” the market’s own structural biases as well. Unsuccessful demands for direct credit allocation thus ultimately led the civil rights movement to co-opt the language of financial deregulation, yielding a compromise in which monetary policy would remain focused on aggregate stability even as financial supervision grew increasingly concerned with the identity of those receiving credit.

2018 BHC Meeting Andrew Popp "None but a Parent:" Bringing the History of Emotions into Business History

This paper argues that the study of emotions should be integrated into business history and that this should take place through a dialogue with the emerging field of the history of emotions. The history of emotions would argue that rather than universal and immutable, emotions in fact have a great deal of historical specificity according to time and socio-cultural setting. It is in this sense that emotions and emotionality have a history. The paper makes its argument by asking what insights can be derived from adopting a history of emotions approach to a specific case. The case explored here is that of the Wilkinson family, who in the early nineteenth-century owned and ran multiple small-scale retail businesses across towns in Lancashire, England. Extant intimate correspondence between multiple members of the Wilkinson family allow us to explore the ‘emotionology’ or emotional grammar and register inhabited by family members, providing a form of access to their emotional experiences. The paper argues for a view of affect as cause, of affect as effect, and for affect as resource. Emotions prove to be a very significant factor in explaining the business lives of the Wilkinsons. The conclusion argues that emotions should be seen as a form of action.

2018 BHC Meeting Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl U.S. Business Organizations and Foreign Policy: The Case of the Capital Surge Towards the European Common Market (1958-1974)

This paper analyses the influence of major U.S. business associations on Washington’s policies toward the development of the European Common Market. It thus contributes to the renewed historiography on business-government relations, by focusing on the under-researched question of U.S. business associations’ role in foreign policy formation.

Following the establishment of the European Economic Community (E.E.C.) in 1958, U.S. foreign direct investment (F.D.I.) in Western Europe soared. Although these capital flows were part of the general globalization of U.S. multinational enterprises after 1950, direct investments in Western Europe rose more than double the rate of F.D.I. in other parts of the world, with the E.E.C. countries attracting the bulk of these investments.

In the 1960s, faced with a growing balance of payments deficit, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations aimed at curbing this F.D.I. in Western Europe in an effort to lessen the deficit and strengthen the dollar without renouncing the government’s soaring aid and military expenditures. These efforts conflicted with the shorter-term interests of U.S. business leaders. The paper shows which U.S. business organizations took the lead in defending the profitable capital flows to Western Europe in the face of the government’s attempts to control them, and analyzes the different strategies they adopted and channels through which they acted. It thus provides a fresh analysis, based on multi-archival research, of business-government interactions in the context of the U.S. government’s Cold War economic policies and the most profound transformation taking place in Western Europe during the post-war era: the establishment of the Common Market.

2018 BHC Meeting Emily Westkaemper The Career Woman as Consumer: Charm Magazine in the 1950s

Identifying women employed in business and professions as a growing consumer market, Street and Smith Publications offered Charm: The Magazine for Women Who Work. From 1950 through 1958, editor-in-chief Helen Valentine conceptualized Charm as the first American fashion magazine targeted to women pursuing careers in diverse fields. Charm advocated for changes in business and government practices to improve job opportunities for women, championing women’s skills and touting the personal and social benefits of women’s paid employment. The magazine thus offered visible counter-examples to negative stereotypes about ambitious career women that appeared frequently in the era’s popular entertainments. Charm publicized the purchasing power of employed women by staging innovative promotional campaigns in cities across the country. Magazine staff collaborated with local leaders, businesses, department stores, and newspapers on career seminars, fashion shows, and window displays that celebrated the white-collar working woman’s contributions to the American economy. Charm pitched these events as a way for downtown businesses to counteract suburbanization, as a platform for promoting corporate brands, and as proof of the magazine’s staff’s professional skill. Analyzing Charm content and archival material about the magazine’s marketing strategies, this paper considers the role of consumer culture in the evolution of American feminism.