This history traces the evolution of the machine tool industry during the first half of the century in terms of its major managerial and economic problems. It is concerned primarily with the business of producing and selling power-operated metal-cutting machine tools rather than with the technical development of the tools themselves. The author relates policies and opinions expressed by machine tool builders to technological developments within the industry itself, to its external relationships with major machine tool users, and to the federal government.
During the period studied (treated in chronological divisions: 1900-1919, 1919-1939, and 1939-1950) the producers of machine tools progressed from a loose alliance of small groups manufacturing special types of metalworking machinery to a federation that allowed these groups to be recognized and treated as a separate industry. The author finds that firms producing metal-cutting tools as their primary product appear to have had more in common than other machinery builders or metal-working firms. For most of the period under study they were represented by a strong trade association which aggressively presented the industry's special problems and interests. Dr. Wagoner treats such major topics as the location and structure of the industry; the effects of unstable demand, prices, and profits; and the industry's efforts to improve management, limit competition, solve manpower problems, adjust to wartime demand, and prepare for reconversion. He discovered only a few instances in which either machine tool builders or the federal government found effective solutions to the problems of industrial mobilization for war and orderly reconversion.
Although relatively small in terms of capital investment, as compared to the iron and steel, chemical, automobile, and a number of other industries, the machine tool industry has made a crucial contribution to modern industrial development. The author concludes that machine tools and the machine tool industry were indispensable to the development of metal products manufacturing and essential to the evolution of all sectors of modern economic life.
The U.S. Machine Tool Industry is rich in data and general information necessary for a more full understanding of the industry's growth and development. Unlike previous works, this book is not limited to a small number of firms but covers the industry at length and specifically. Dr. Wagoner has made a significant contribution to American industrial history in this work that contains much new material from government records, a comprehensive summary, statistical appendix, and bibliography.