The Genius of
Electricity ("Golden Boy") Trademark of Western Electric.
Renamed "The Spirit of Communications" by the local Bell
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Electric - A Brief History
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old Western Electric hand once said: "I always like to think of
AT&T as a manufacturing company that happens to have a few operating
departments." As that manufacturing company, now called Lucent
Technologies, casts loose the last of its operating departments, it
arrives at an old place - that of an independent company-at a new time.
More than a century ago, prior to joining the Bell System, Western
Electric was the largest electrical manufacturer in the United States.
Now, as an independent $20 billion company, Lucent Technologies will
easily break into the ranks of the Fortune 50. Just as Western Electric
of the late 1870s was both a distributor of telephone equipment for the
new Bell company and a supplier to Bell's primary communications
competitor (Western Union), Lucent Technologies will manufacture both
for AT&T and the regional telephone companies.
as a telecommunications manufacturer today requires constant innovation,
one of Western Electric's perpetual hallmarks. At its 1869 inception,
the company provided parts and models for inventors, such as co-founder
Elisha Gray. In the early 20th century, when a handful of companies
assembled scientific researchers to expand their innovative capacities,
Western Electric did so in a big way. The research branch of Western
Electric's engineering department became Bell Laboratories, the greatest
private research organization in the world- and an integral part of the
new Lucent Technologies.
way, the company made tremendous breakthroughs. In 1913, Western
Electric developed the high vacuum tube, thereby ushering in the
electronic age. The company subsequently invented the loudspeaker,
successfully brought sound to motion pictures, and introduced systems of
mobile communications which culminated in the cellular telephone.
requisite "core competency: for success in manufacturing is
corporate concern for quality. Today's "total quality"
movement can be trace to the work of three individuals- Walter Shewhart,
W. Edwards Deming, and Joseph Juran-who got their start at Western
Electric, then introduced their idea to the Japanese after World War II.
Bonnie small then brought quality expertise to the shop floor in 1958
with the "Western Electric Statistical Quality Control
Handbook," which is still the world's shop floor bible of quality.
The company practiced what it preached: In 1992, AT&T Transmission
Systems won a Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award, and in 1994 AT&T Power
Systems became the first U.S. manufacturer to win Japan's Deming Prize
for Total Quality Management.
Technologies's consumer products line renews a Western Electric
tradition. In its early days, Western Electric made communications
equipment and other electrical devices- including alarms. Western
Electric later carried on an extensive line of household appliances,
from sewing machines to vacuum cleaners, until selling off its consumer
goods segment in the 1920s, After a long absence, Western Electric
returned to consumer markets in the 1970s through its offerings in Phone
Center Stores. Lucent Technologies now sells phones, answering machines
and other electrical devices-including alarms.
in international markets, Lucent Technologies travels another path once
trod by Western Electric. In 1882, the year it joined the Bell System,
Western Electric subsequently manufactured in every country with
significant telephone systems, until spinning off its international
operations in 1925, and its Canadian manufacturing holdings after 1956.
Consequently, Lucent Technologies competitors such as Alcatel N.V.,
Northern Telecom and NEC all share Western Electric roots.
Technologies is a manufacturing company that is actually older than its
onetime "parent." Western Electric did not spring from the
brow of Bell Telephone, but existed before Alexander Graham Bell made
his invention. Before Bell came along, Western Electric was the
principal manufacturer for Western Union, the telegraph company. Bell's
subsequent acquisition of Western Electric was crucial in the
establishment of a nationwide phone system, a system characterized by
its early, primary emphasis on the production and distribution of
1980's, Victor Kiam became one of the most recognized executives in
corporate America through a series of advertisements in which he
explained his purchase of the Remington Company as the act of an
extremely satisfied customer. More than a century earlier, former
Oberlin College physics professor Elisha Gray made a similar testimonial
on behalf of a tiny Cleveland manufacturer of fire and burglar alarms,
and other electrical devices, on which he relied for parts and models
for his various experiments. Professor Gray had previously offered to go
into business with one of the company's two owners, but George Shawk had
recoiled from the proposition because "Gray would want to put every
man in the shop into his darned inventions." That is just what
Shawk's partner, Enos Barton--who recognized the market potential of
Gray's inventions--wanted. Barton encouraged Gray to buy Shawk's
interest, so the company's best customer became half-owner. Enos
Barton's recognition of the value of Elisha Gray's inventions began a
tradition of manufacturing innovation that characterized its subsequent
life as the Western Electric Company, and is sustained in Lucent
Barton's company had roots in the telegraph business. In 1856, twelve
years after Samuel F.B. Morse opened his first telegraph system, various
scattered telegraph companies consolidated into the Western Union
Company. The various manufacturing shops associated with those telegraph
companies were also consolidated into two shops, one at Cleveland, Ohio,
the other one in Ottawa, Illinois. George Shawk purchased the Cleveland
shop, which made working models of inventions, and manufactured
telegraph instruments. Enos Barton, who had been chief telegraph
operator for Western Union at Rochester, New York, became Shawk's
partner for a brief period in 1869, until Gray bought out Shawk.
year, Western Union general superintendent General Anson Stager became a
third partner with Gray and Barton, and convinced them to move the shop
to Chicago. Stager's career in telegraph had already spanned more than
two decades, beginning in 1846 as a telegraph operator in Philadelphia.
In the early 1850's, he helped organize some telegraph lines, which
later became part of Western Union. During the Civil War, Stager served
General George McClellan as Chief of United States Military Telegraph.
Stager convinced his boss, Western Union president William Orton, to
invest in the Chicago manufacturing enterprise. Gray and Barton
reorganized as the Western Electric Manufacturing Company, a company
with strong ties to Western Union. Three of the company's five directors
were also directors of Western Union. Furthermore, one-third of the
capital for the newly named Western Electric Company came from Western
Union's William Orton; one-third came from Western Union's Anson Stager;
and the remainder came from Gray, Barton and their employees. Western
Union further demonstrated its commitment to Western Electric by closing
its Ottawa plant in the expectation that Western's Chicago plant would
meet most of its needs for telegraph equipment.
mid-1870's were a heady time for Western Union. The well capitalized
giant had established a network of wires and offices connecting every
city or town of consequence from coast to coast. Even before the 1869
completion of the transcontinental railroad, Western Union had emerged
as America's only truly nationwide company, and was poised to reap the
fruits of a monopoly on transmission of news to America's newspapers. As
Western Union's principal supplier, Western Electric also seemed
positioned to capitalize on the telegraph's position on the cutting edge
of communications--until 1876.
Electric gained prestige at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia,
when its products won five gold medals. In addition to telegraph
equipment, the company offered a variety of electrical products,
including various forms of alarms and mimeograph pens. The most
significant product to the company's future, however, was one unveiled
at the Exposition in June by Alexander Graham Bell: the telephone. On
February 14, Bell had sent one of his financial backers, Boston lawyer
Gardiner Hubbard, to file a patent for his new telephonic device.
Hubbard arrived at the U.S. patent office only hours before Bell's
closest competitor: Elisha Gray, who had sold his interest in Western
Electric in 1875 and retired from the business.
Less than a
year after the cash-strapped Bell's patent was approved, Hubbard offered
to sell the telephone patent to Western Union for one hundred thousand
dollars--and Orton turned him down because he saw little future for the
telephone. A year later, Orton changed his mind, and Western Union
established the American Speaking Telephone Co., and Western Electric
agreed to manufacture telephones for the new company. Western Electric
brought divided allegiances to that arrangement because they had already
become a distributor of telephone equipment for Bell. For some time,
Western Electric straddled the fence, acting as distributor for Bell and
as captive supplier to its only competitor. Western Union finally won
undivided allegiance--just as a battle for control of the telephone
erupted between the deep pockets of Western Union and the thinly
lasted just over a year. Its brief duration was not a surprise; the
outcome, however, was. The upstart Bell won. How did David slay Goliath
this time? Bell's principal ammunition was his 1876 patent. In September
1878, Bell Telephone Co. sued to protect Alexander Graham Bell's patents
from infringement by Western Union; by June 1879, testimony in the
patent suit was complete, and it did not look good for Western Union.
Five months later, Western Union abandoned the field. Western Union also
faced attack from another front.
In the late
nineteenth century, a laissez-faire environment nurtured industrial
concentration in the United States. The result was the rise of a few
powerful captains of industry, whose Olympian battles shaped the
economic landscape below. One such battle pitted Titan against Titan for
control of Bell's antagonist. Angling to take over Western Union from
William Vanderbilt, Jay Gould started the American Union Telegraph
Company, in the hopes that the competition would reduce the value of
Western Union stock. At the same time, Gould approached Bell general
manager Theodore Vail with the intent of combining interests. Months
later came what the Federal Communications Commission later called the
"surprising capitulation of the powerful Western Union to the
diminutive Bell Company."
Western Union was frightened by the proposed Gould/Bell alliance, its
greatest concern was threats to its core telegraph business. Western
Union abandoned telephone rights and patents to Bell. In exchange, Bell
agreed to transfer all telegraph messages to Western Union, to pay a 20
percent royalty on any telephone rental income they received in the
United States for the next seventeen years, and not to use the telephone
business for "transmission of general business messages, market
quotations, or news for sale or publication in competition with the
business of Western Union." Gould finally wrested control of
Western Union from Vanderbilt in 1882; by then, Western Union's onetime
supplier/owner had entered into an agreement to manufacture for the
American Bell Telephone Company.
individuals such as Victor Kiam and Elisha Gray purchase a company of
which they are loyal customers, it is considered a testimonial. When a
corporation purchases a supplier, it is called backward integration--and
that is what Bell Telephone did with Western Electric. The company
Western Electric hooked up with in 1881 was already substantially
different from the original Bell Telephone Company. None of the four men
responsible for the company's founding-- Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas
Watson, Gardiner Hubbard, and Thomas Sanders-- played any technical or
administrative role in the American Bell Telephone Company.
Electric joined the Bell system in 1881, when Bell purchased a
controlling interest in its stock. Prior to that time, manufacture of
telephones for the Bell system had undergone two phases. Beginning in
1877, it had been done in Charles Williams, Jr's Boston shop, which had
been the site of Bell's early experiments. Within two years, increasing
volume overwhelmed the Williams shop, and Bell had licensed additional
manufacturers in Baltimore, Chicago, and Cincinnati. This interim
arrangement solved Bell's difficulties in meeting demand promptly, but
the licensees were difficult to control. That led Bell to search for a
single manufacturer with the resources to handle large volume. Bell
found it in Western Electric, which by then was the largest electrical
manufacturer in the United States.
Western Electric and Bell signed an agreement that made Western Electric
Bell's exclusive manufacturer of telephones in the United States, while
Western agreed to sell only to the American Bell Telephone Company
(which in 1899 became AT&T), which then leased the phones to
regional "operating" companies, who in turn leased the phones
to end users. Those two contracts combined with AT&T's agreements
with its licensees to form the three pillars of the nascent Bell System,
and provided the system's organizing principle for the next century:
long distance service--inaugurated in 1881 between Boston and
Providence--was handled by the parent company, local service by the
operating companies, and manufacture by Western Electric.
Research and the Bell System
contracts alone would have meant little without a source of innovation
for the development of new products and the improvement of existing
ones--especially after Bell's patent expired. There were two directions
Bell could go for technical innovation after 1894: to depend on outside
inventors for innovation by purchasing their patents, or establish an
in-house research organization to cultivate invention. A 1906 memo from
AT&T's chief engineer to the president of the company shows the
direction in which Bell initially moved: "Every effort in the
Department is being executed toward perfecting the engineering methods.
No one is employed who, as an inventor, is capable of originating new
apparatus of novel design. In consequence of this it will be necessary
in many cases to depend on the acquisition of inventions of outside
men." One such man was a Columbia University electrical engineering
professor named Michael Pupin.
the archetypal independent inventor, even down to the eureka moment he
experienced mountain climbing in Switzerland. Pupin had envisioned the
loading coil, a method of amplifying the voice by long-distance
telephone. Pupin's idea became the single most important
telephone-related invention between 1876 and 1913. Pupin sold the patent
to AT&T in 1900. Meanwhile, the Western Electric engineering
department concentrated on improvement and adaptation rather than
in 1907 when, during a financial panic, a syndicate of bankers took over
AT&T and convinced Theodore Vail--company president in the
mid-1880's--to return. Vail, in turn, chose John J. Carty as chief
engineer. Carty had been one of Bell's original operators in the late
1870's, before women replaced the teenaged boys. In 1881, Carty had
demonstrated the advantage of two-wire telephone circuits, and
subsequently acquired two dozen telephone patents. Carty became head of
Western Electric's Cable Department, and chief engineer of the long
distance company. Now, the self-educated Carty championed of the idea of
the company assembling scientists to perform research, rather than
relying exclusively on outsiders.
assistant, Frank Jewett, who had a doctorate in physics from the
University of Chicago, was in a better position than Carty to recruit
top university talent. When Robert Millikan, America's foremost
physicist, began sending Chicago's top students to Jewett, including
Harold D. Arnold, Western Electric's engineering department developed a
new "research branch." The Research Branch grew from Arnold
and his handful of assistants in 1911 to more than one hundred by
1916--at a time when business conditions forced the company to cut back
in other engineering departments. Thus was born the organization that
would become Bell Laboratories, the greatest corporate research
organization in the world.
Transcontinental Telephone Line
thrives on striving for a goal that appears attainable only with a
superhuman effort. Such efforts, when they succeed, are called
"miracles"; examples include Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine,
and John F. Kennedy's promise to put a man on the moon before the 1960's
were over. During its formative years, Western Electric made just such a
superhuman effort to meet the challenge of providing AT&T with the
ability to offer transcontinental telephone service to coincide with the
expected completion of the Panama Canal. The company's efforts towards
that end would make an impact beyond the immediate goal, ultimately
transforming the face of many industries.
In 1909, on
a visit to the West Coast, John Carty promised to make available
transcontinental telephone service in time for the scheduled 1914
opening of the Panama Canal. To that point, the major breakthrough in
long-distance telephone had been the introduction of loading coils,
which reduced the tendency of a signal to grow weaker the longer the
line over which it was transmitted. The use of loading coils in the
absence of further technological advance was about to reach its limit:
service from New York to Denver. Longer distance calling would require
technology that had not yet been developed.
In 1912, Dr.
Lee DeForest provided that technology, developing the audion, a
three-element vacuum tube that could not only send radio waves more
effectively than existing devices, but could amplify them. Western
Electric's Dr. Harold Arnold , who had the training in electron physics
DeForest lacked, quickly grasped scientifically how the audion worked.
Arnold thus knew how to turn it into a practical electrical amplifier,
which is what Carty knew was needed. The result was development of a
"high-vacuum tube" for amplifying sound in telephone cables in
April 1913--and AT&T's purchase of the audion patent from DeForest.
The new tube allowed Western Electric to span the continent in 1913 and
1914. The circuit was successfully completed in June 1914, and
successfully tested on July 29. Carty's challenge had been met.
of the Panama Pacific Exposition were less fortunate; the opening was
postponed until 1915. Therefore, after hurrying for five years, AT&T
had to wait six months to demonstrate its breakthrough. It was worth the
wait: on January 25, 1915, 39 years after the first telephone
conversation, the original participants reprised their roles: Alexander
Graham Bell, from New York, called his associate Thomas Watson, who sat
in San Francisco. After some initial pleasantries, Bell said, "I
have been asked to say to you the words you understood over the
telephone and through the old instrument, 'Mr. Watson, come here, I want
you."' From across the continent, Watson reminded Bell, "It
would take me a week to get there now!" It would not take another
39 years to reach Europe. By 1927, a Western Electric radio-telephone
link-up from New York to London established transatlantic service.
As so often
happens, a technological breakthrough in one area had a wide-ranging
impact in others. Development of the high-vacuum tube amplifier did more
than make possible the first transcontinental telephone line. It
revolutionized communications, leading to creation of new industries
including radio, television, and sound motion pictures. In a sense,
Arnold's breakthrough marked the beginning of a new electronic age.
Among the most immediate results of Arnold's breakthrough was the
development of public address systems. The high-vacuum tube made
possible development of the "loud-speaking telephone" (or
loudspeaker), allowing many people to hear what conventional telephone
receivers had limited to an audience of one. Further developments in the
loudspeaker made possible its use in large crowds, at stadiums or in
convention halls. Indeed, Western Electric public address systems were
used at the 1920 presidential conventions, and at Warren Harding's 1921
inauguration. On Armistice Day (November 11) that year, Harding
dedicated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National
Cemetery. His address was sent by telephone lines to New York, and
cross-country to San Francisco. In both cities, loudspeaker systems
broadcast Harding's speech. In 1924, nearly 40,000 people attended
dedication ceremonies for the first public address system ever installed
at a manufacturing facility. The site was Western Electric's enormous
Hawthorne plant near Chicago, where employees enjoyed the benefit of a
system they had helped design and build.
The Hawthorne Plant
Electric founder Enos Barton, still president of the company in 1905,
was responsible for moving the company's main manufacturing plant that
year from downtown Chicago to a more rural setting on the outskirts of
the city. Barton's urban-to-rural move contrasts with his move 36 years
earlier, when he mortgaged the family farm in Jefferson County, New
York, to raise money for his original investment in his Cleveland based
partnership with George Shawk.
Hawthorne plant became a virtually self-sufficient city, with a power
plant, hospital, fire brigade, laundry, greenhouse, a brass band, and an
annual beauty pageant. Hawthorne boasted a staff of trained nurses--who
made house calls! Hawthorne absorbed the operations of the company's
existing plants in New York and Chicago and by 1914 it was Western
Electric's only manufacturing facility. During the next seven decades,
the Hawthorne works--including more than 100 buildings--would produce
telephones, cable and every major telephone switching system plus the
equipment necessary to make it work. Western Electric even owned and
operated the Manufacturer's Junction Railway at Hawthorne, "the
biggest little railway in the world," which transported raw
materials and completed cable around the plant. Hawthorne was also the
cradle of industrial psychology, with a series of experiments that began
in 1924. [Sidebar #2--Hawthorne Experiments]
acting as purchaser and as manufacturer for the Bell System, Western
Electric also supplied its parent with executive talent. AT&T
presidents from Harry B. Thayer to Frederick Kappel to Haakon Romnes
each served as Western Electric president beforehand. The AT&T
executive who presided over the biggest changes in Western Electric, and
who served longest as AT&T president, Walter Gifford, started at
Western but never became its president. Gifford began at Western in 1904
in the Chicago payroll department. By the time Gifford moved on to
AT&T in 1908, he had become an Assistant Secretary at Western
Gifford ascended to the presidency of AT&T, he redirected the
business of Western Electric: he established Bell Laboratories as a
separate entity, set up a separate corporation for the company's supply
business. and sold the international business. Gifford established the
separate entity called the Bell Telephone Laboratories Inc., which took
over work previously conducted by the research division of Western
Electric's engineering department. Bell Labs was 50 percent owned by
Western Electric, and 50 percent owned by AT&T. Nine years later,
AT&T's development and research group also joined Bell Labs.
reorganization of the company established the institutional
responsibilities which lasted until the 1980's: Bell Laboratories
designed the network, Western Electric manufactured the telephones,
cable, transmission equipment, and switching equipment, the operating
companies installed the phones and billed customers, and AT&T long
lines operated the long distance network.
sold Western Electric's international business (except Canada), which he
deemed a "distraction," to the International Telephone and
Telegraph Company (ITT). (ITT has since sold a majority stake in its
overseas telecommunications business to form the joint venture Alcatel
N.V., which remains one of the world's top two producers--along with
Lucent Technologies--of telecommunications equipment). Overseas
manufacturing was a long-standing tradition at Western Electric by 1925.
By establishing factories and management all over the world, Western
Electric had become one of the first modem multinational corporations.
In 1882, shortly after Bell had brought Western Electric into the fold,
Western opened a manufacturing plant in Antwerp, Belgium. A plant in
England followed shortly thereafter. Western Electric's international
operations expanded to include every country with a major telephone
Western Electric first sold equipment in 1890, then in 1899 helped form
the Nippon Electric Company (NEC). This was Japan's first joint venture
with an American firm; Western Electric's original stake was 54 percent.
The joint venture originally distributed telephone equipment from the
United States for the Japanese Ministry of Communication, the
predecessor to Japan's telephone utility company, now called NTT Public
Corporation. NEC began manufacturing soon after, and in the second
decade of the century began to import electrical appliances, such as
electrical fans, from Western Electric. A memo written in the 1960's by
NEC president Koji Kobayashi reflects the strong ties his company still
felt to Western Electric: "Western Electric is the foremost
manufacturer of communications equipment in the world, and as its
offspring our company has a glorious heritage. That is why we have
sometimes been called 'the Western Electric of the Far East."'
so often to companies that either were first movers or achieved early
industry dominance, AT&T and Western Electric both created the
entities that ultimately proved to be their greatest competitors. In the
case of AT&T, this meant the regional Bell Companies in the United
States; in the case of Western Electric, this meant international
competition: many of Western Electric's principal competitors--including
Northern Telecom, Alcatel N.V. and NEC--had roots in Western Electric.
first two decades of the 20th century, Western Electric became one of
the largest distributors of electrical equipment in the United States.
In some respects, this was a continuation of the original business of
Gray and Barton: selling call bells, burglar alarms, etc. As demand
increased, Western Electric stocked items made by dozens of electrical
manufacturers, including Sunbeam lamps, sewing machines, electric fans,
washing machines, vacuum cleaners--even toy ranges. The company's
catalogue grew to 1,300 pages, as the Western Electric name in
electrical appliances rivaled those of General Electric and
In 1925, the
company announced that what was once called the supply department would
be organized as a separate corporation called the Graybar Electric
Company, Inc. (after Western Electric founders Elisha Gray and Enos
Barton). Three years later, ownership of Graybar passed to its
The Great Depression
Electric News, the company organ since 1912, ended its run in 1933. The
next year, The Hawthorne Microphone temporarily ceased publication.
There would have been little good news to report. The Depression's
shrinkage of the American economy was deeply felt at Western Electric,
where sales fell from a high of $411 million in 1929 to less than $70
million in 1933. Employment at the Hawthorne plant fell from a high of
43,000 in 1930 to about 6,000 by 1933. The company, like the federal
government, resorted to a "Make Work" program at its three
major plants in Baltimore, Chicago, and Kearny, New Jersey. The company
paid its employees to make "articles in general demand" from
furniture to cigarette lighters in order to keep them employed, then it
distributed the goods--at cost--through the company stores.
At the time,
telephones were not "articles in general demand." The 1930's
were the only decade in the twentieth century when the number of
telephones in the United States decreased. During the depths of the
Depression, the number of telephones in use fell from 16 to 13 per 100
population; by the late 1970's, the number had surpassed 75 per 100
population. In the 1930's, then, telephones were still a luxury enjoyed
by a minority rather than a necessity available to most. The 1936
Presidential election provided an indication of the nature of phone
demand at the time. The Literary Digest conducted a telephone poll
asking respondents which presidential candidate--the Democrat Roosevelt
or the Republican Landon--they preferred. The poll's respondents chose
the Republican challenger; President Roosevelt--whose criticisms of
"economic royalists" were not designed to curry favor with the
upper middle class who had telephones--won in the greatest landslide in
history. In a time of great economic distress, spending on anything but
necessities usually falls, and the telephone had not yet attained the
status of necessity in America--hence Western Electric's hard times.
World War II
World War II
revived America's economy, including demand for Bell System services.
During the first year of American involvement in the war, 1942, the
number of telephones in the United States had increased about 50 percent
from 1933 levels. From 1939, when the telephone was first employed as a
"weapon of preparedness," until 1945, the number of Bell
System long distance calls quadrupled. The nature of demand had changed
significantly. Most of Western Electric's products for the Bell System
during this period were radio and wire communications equipment for war
use at Army and Navy bases and defense contractors across America.
Western also created the communications nerve center used to direct the
entire defense effort, installing the world's largest private branch
exchange (PBX) at the Pentagon in 1942, with 13,000 lines of dial PBX
equipment and 125 operator positions.
also produced equipment for overseas use. New telephone centers sprang
up in previously sparsely populated areas all over the world, to keep up
with the needs of America's far-flung military installations. The
company manufactured cable and wire, switchboards, and other equipment
to meet Lend-Lease commitments in foreign countries. Western Electric
also produced specialized communications equipment for observation of
the enemy, most notably in the area of radar.
RADAR--RAdio Detection And Ranging--is a method of detecting, or
measuring distance from, objects that are either far away or hidden by
clouds or darkness. It uses radio waves to detect and locate either
fixed or moving objects. It is similar to radio communication in that it
involves one-way communication, but it is different from radio
broadcasting because it gathers information rather than giving it out.
Radar was invented in the mid-1930's in England, where it was
effectively used against the Luftwaffe during 1940's Battle of Britain.
By then, Western Electric had already contracted to build radar for the
American government. In October 1941, the first group of twelve field
engineers were assigned to train enlisted men in how to use radar; by
1943 the group had grown to 600. The number of varieties of radio
offered by the company had grown, also, to a total of 70 varieties. At
the outset of the war, the radar capacities of Germany, England, and the
United States were roughly equivalent, but thanks to the innovative
efforts of Bell Laboratories, America was the world leader by war's
end--and Western Electric had provided roughly half of the country's
radar needs. Army ground and air forces, Navy ships, submarines, and
planes, and Marine landing forces all employed Western Electric radar
systems. Radar comprised about 50 percent of the company's war
production--the rest going to radio and wire communications equipment
designed for war purposes.
for radar systems taxed Western's production capabilities. The
Hawthorne, Kearny, and Point Breeze plants took on what work they could,
set up sixteen satellite plants, including a former shoe plant and a
former laundry, in nine cities, then fanned the rest out to thousands of
subcontractors. A slot machine manufacturer produced antennas, a bicycle
manufacturer built metal frames. Manpower was another challenge: there
were not enough men to do the job, so Western hired increasing numbers
of women. In 1941 women comprised 20 percent of the company's workforce;
by 1944, they were 60 percent.
World War II
proved a watershed for Western Electric. On the eve of the conflict,
roughly 90 percent of demand for Western Electric's products came from
one customer: the Bell System. By 1944, roughly 85 percent of demand for
Western Electric's products still came from one customer, but that
customer was now the federal government, for which the company provided
more than 30 percent of all electronic gear for war. While the immediate
aftermath of the war brought a swift reduction in defense needs, Western
Electric's performance established a relationship that continued
throughout the Cold War. When a 1956 consent decree ordered the Bell
System to abandon non-telephone business, the one major exception was
years following World War II appeared to offer Americans realization of
their fondest hopes and their gravest fears simultaneously. Any
expectations of a postwar return to Depression were soon put to rest by
the greatest period of prosperity any nation has ever experienced. At
the same time, Americans paid a stiff price for their good fortune: an
extended arms race with the Soviet Union punctuated by periodic threat
of another World War. During this uncertain time, Western Electric was
actively engaged in both helping Americans realize their hopes--meeting
the consumer demands of "the Affluent Society"--and in
assuaging their fears of Soviet attack. For the first time, the company
was fully engaged both in meeting demand for civilian goods and
services, and in fulfilling major defense contracts.
Electric's relationship with the government, which had greatly
accelerated during World War II, had not ended in 1945; it was just
beginning. In the post-World War II era, the increasing role of
electronics in military defense meant that Western Electric continued to
provide important service to the federal government. This involved a
range of projects, from guided missiles to military communications to
radar to atomic energy. By the end of the 1950's, about 18,000 Western
Electric employees were engaged in defense work alone.
much to work on, from the Nike guided missile program beginning in 1950
to computer-assisted air defense centers in 1958 to the emergency
installation of switchboards and long-distance channels in Florida
during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
challenging of all the projects was done during an earlier volatile and
dangerous phase of the Cold War--the mid-1950's. Western Electric acted
as general contractor for the erection of one of the biggest military
engineering jobs in history--a 3,000 mile system of radar outposts
across the Arctic to detect approaching bombers, called the Distant
Early Warning Line (DEW Line). Awarded the contract in December 1954,
Western Electric used the development work of Bell Telephone
Laboratories and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and enlisted
the assistance of 2,700 U.S. and Canadian suppliers and contractors.
threat to the project did not come from the Soviets, but from the
forbidding Arctic weather. To protect themselves against -40 degree
temperatures, compounded with stiff winds, Western Electric men wore 30
pounds of clothing and carried twenty-pound sleeping bags whenever going
out for a stroll. The logistical challenges were enormous, involving
bulldozers, enormous quantities of steel and cement, hundreds of miles
of cable, not to mention provisions for the workmen. Supplies had to be
shipped during the few weeks in late summer when the Arctic Ocean was
sufficiently free of ice to navigate safely.
segment of the job was completed on schedule in July 1957. In the Spring
of 1959, Western Electric completed communications and electronics
phases of the 700-mile westward segment of the DEW Line through the
Aleutians, and in November 1961 completed the 1,200-mile eastern segment
to Iceland. The New York Times called the DEW Line "one of the
modem wonders of the world."
The 1956 Consent
that the government perceived in Western Electric's defense work was
recognized in 1956. The culmination of an antitrust case filed by the
Department of Justice in 1949, the 1956 consent decree ordered the Bell
System to divest all of its non-telephone activities--except those
involving national defense.
decree also called for Western Electric to relinquish its 40 percent
interest in Northern Electric of Canada, the last vestige of its
international operations. Begun as the mechanical department of Bell
Canada in 1882, Northern Electric & Manufacturing Company Limited
was incorporated in 1895. In 1914, Northern Electric merged with a
manufacturer of rubber-coated wire for the electrical industry. The
consolidated company expanded well beyond telephone equipment. By the
1930's, Northern Electric was selling radio and broadcasting sound
equipment, electric sound equipment, and other lines of electrical
equipment. Throughout this period, Northern acted as a branch plant of
government's decree not only shrank the Bell System, but it created a
new competitor, now called Northern Telecom. Today, this onetime Western
Electric subsidiary is a global giant, selling products in more than 80
countries manufactured in its plants in Canada, France, China, and other
countries--including the United States. In 1990, Northern Telecom, the
world's sixth largest supplier of telecommunications equipment, vaulted
into the third spot by purchasing the British firm STC PLC--a onetime
manufacturer for Western Electric.
The Affluent Society
AT&T's vice president of publicity, Arthur W. Page, made a
revolutionary proposal: to provide the public with a choice of various
styles and colors of phones. Page noted that Western Electric made 142
different kinds of switchboard cable, but customers were only allowed to
choose between "one black desk set, a hand set, a wall set, and one
of those black buttoned inter-communications systems." The lesson
of Henry Ford and automobiles was fresh in Page' s mind: "He made
one little black instrument, too, and it did just what ours did: when it
got started, it went fine, and so did ours. But, you know, Henry has
recently come to the point where he realized he had to make a change and
I think now that he has made a lady out of Lizzie, we might dress up
these children of the Bell System."
Depression and World War II temporarily stemmed America's tide of
enthusiasm for choices of style and color. The post-World War II era
brought the United States the greatest harvest of economic abundance any
country has ever experienced. Postwar re-conversion addressed pent-up
demand in all sectors of the economy, including telecommunications.
Civilian orders had accumulated (called "held orders"), until
about two million people were waiting for telephones. Freed of war
commitments and now able to address civilian concerns during the first
full year of peace, Western Electric delivered roughly two and one-half
times its 1941 civilian output.
vision for the telephone consumer was not realized until the 1950s, when
demand for telephones skyrocketed. By 1957, the number of telephones in
the United States was three times its 1939 level, and more than 70
percent of American households had the device. Meanwhile Western
Electric's engineers had been working for years on realizing Arthur
Page's vision. In 1954, Western Electric mass-produced color telephones
for the first time, and the next year began work on the Princess
telephone. Industrial designer Harry Dreyfuss, who had assisted Bell
since the early 1930's, worked with Bell Labs engineers and Western
Electric's Indianapolis Model Shop to create a model that was lighter
and smaller--designed for use on night tables--than the standard model.
The Princess had an illuminated dial, and came in five colors. Test
marketed in Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, the Princess
was a smashing success.
proved to be just one of many Western Electric innovations at the time.
The Indianapolis Model Shop was also working on other phones we now take
for granted: phones with a dial in the handset, and touch tone phones.
At the same time, the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company was
experimenting with a novel way to market Western Electric's products.
The new Telephone Shop in Minneapolis, forebear of today's Phone Stores,
demonstrated telephone equipment and services in the store to customers,
who could then order it "just as they would order merchandise from
any other store."
& the Transistor
The boom in
telephone use required other innovations which were not as visible as
the Princess phone. By the 1960's, projected phone use was so great that
the existing network might soon be unable to keep up with demand. In
1963, the Western Electric's first electronic switching system, a
private branch exchange (PBX) was introduced at Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Two years later, at New Jersey Bell's Succasunna exchange, the first
commercial electric central office appeared. By 1970, there were 120
such offices, servicing nearly two million customers.
The road to
electronic switching had been a circuitous one, which started in the
1930's, and had led to the development of the transistor. In 1936, Bell
Labs director of research, Mervin J. Kelly, told physicist William
Shockley of the vacuum tube division how important development of an
electronic telephone exchange might become. Shockley, working with Bell
Labs physicist Walter Brattain, sought to develop an amplifier which
required less power and generated less heat than the vacuum tube. Just
as their research got going, the two were diverted to war work.
war, a third physicist, John Bardeen, joined Shockley and Brattain on
the project. In December of 1947, they succeeded in creating the
transistor, thereby ushering in the modem electronic era, the era of
communications satellites, the computer industry--and the electronic
switching of telephone calls. In 1956, Bardeen, Shockley and Brattain
were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work, which thus far has been the
most famous achievement by Bell Labs.
post-World War II era brought a number of other developments out of Bell
Labs, from the solar cell to the laser, with wide-ranging implications.
One advance in the 1960's dealt more directly with telephony, allowing
people to conveniently use the phone system from moving vehicles. By
then, the Bell System had a long history of development in mobile radio
telephony. As early as 1924, Western Electric had designed a system of
mobile communications for the New York City Police Department. In 1946,
the Bell System introduced the first mobile telephone system in St.
Louis. Over the next few years, the service spread throughout the
country. But as there was a single antenna site in a region, only a few
calls could be handled at any one time. In the 1960's, Bell Labs had
made the breakthrough which established mobile telephone as we know it
today: a series of radio transmitters in hexagonal "cells." As
a vehicle moves from one cell to another, electronic switching equipment
transfers the call to another transmitter. The system of relatively weak
transmitters and concomitant multiple use of radio frequencies yields
calling quality similar to that of home or office, and the ability to
get a line quickly.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside frequencies for mobile
communications, AT&T field tested its new system in 1978 in Chicago.
Three years later, the FCC authorized commercial usage of the system, a
move AT&T vice president James R. Billingsley said "pulled the
regulatory cork on a technological triumph that's going to work wonders
for our nation over the years." AT&T's "Advanced Mobile
Phone Service," began operation in Chicago in 1983. AT&T
manufactured the antennae, receivers, transmitters for the local
cellular companies, and the phones themselves--for awhile. Japanese
competition drove AT&T out of the telephone market in 1986, and left
the company as a leading supplier of the phone company equipment, which
it remains today.
In the early
1990's, however, an astonishing thing happened with respect to cellular
phones. AT&T conducted a survey, asking respondents whose cellular
phone they preferred to use. AT&T placed second, although the
company no longer made such phones! The company got back into the
market, and is now one of the leading cellular phone manufacturers, a
rapidly growing market of more than 25 million in the United States
Just as the
FCC was sanctioning AT&T's addition of commercial cellular phone
service, the Department of Justice was engaged in a larger exercise in
subtraction: the breakup of the Bell System. Through the years, AT&T
had been the target of antitrust investigation. In 1913, after
discussions with the attorney general's office, AT&T vice president
Nathan Kingsbury agreed to allow other telephone companies to engage in
toll service over Bell System lines, and to dispose of the controlling
interest in Western Union stock AT&T had acquired in 1909; in
return, the government sanctioned the Bell System's limited monopoly and
national telephone system.
"Kingsbury Commitment" did not put an end to government
investigation of the Bell System. The Federal Communications Act of 1934
had established the Federal Communications Commission, with jurisdiction
over telephones previously held by the interstate Commerce Commission.
One of the FCC's first acts was to investigate AT&T, paying
particular attention to the relationship between Western Electric and
the operating companies: did Western overcharge for its equipment, and
recover the excess over "market" price in exorbitant rates to
consumers? The FCC 's principal investigating attorney, Holmes Baldridge,
became chief antitrust litigator of the Justice Department after World
War II, and pursued the Western Electric/operating companies
relationship again. The Eisenhower administration's Justice Department
was less antitrust-minded than its predecessors, so the 1956 Consent
Decree allowed the Bell System to keep Western Electric in the fold, but
stripped the Bell System of most of its non-telephone business, and its
interest in Northern Electric.
In 1974, the
Justice Department began antitrust proceedings to seek dismemberment of
AT&T, which was the largest corporation in the world. Eight years
later, as a Modification to the 1956 Final Judgment (MFJ), AT&T
agreed to divest its 22 wholly-owned operating companies which provided
local exchange service. AT&T's work force shrunk from more than a
million to less than four hundred thousand. In exchange for the
divestiture, AT&T was allowed to compete in non-telephone
businesses--which the 1956 consent decree had forbidden--such as
computers and information services.
also abandoned two names which had been associated with the company for
more than a century: Bell and Western Electric. The government ordered
that AT&T forfeit use of the Bell name and logo to the operating
companies (excepting the name Bell Laboratories). Western Electric
disappeared as a separate entity when AT&T restructured according to
its new competitive situation. One of the two primary parts of the new,
smaller, AT&T was the old company's long lines department, now
called AT&T Communications, which offered regulated long distance
service. The second part of the new company, called AT&T
Technologies, inherited the other two segments of the old Bell System:
equipment manufacture and supply (the old Western Electric) and research
and development (Bell Laboratories).
Technologies, the name of which symbolized the company's long-standing
heritage of research and innovation, included five segments. Network
Systems, the largest segment, represented the heart of the old Western
Electric: production of telecommunications equipment. Information
Systems explored the possibilities of integrating voice and data
capabilities into information networks. Consumer Products serviced the
new market for the sale of residential telephones and telephone
equipment through Phone Stores and other retail channels. Technology
Systems concentrated on computer applications of Bell Laboratories
research, from components to systems, and government work. Finally,
International pursued overseas markets for switching and transmission
to 1984, the company restructured AT&T Technologies, and abandoned
its name. Until September of 1995, the Network Systems Group included
the largest segment of the old Western Electric charter, including the
company's growing presence in international markets for
Going Global (Again)
to disappearing as a separate entity, Western Electric had returned to
overseas markets after a long absence. The company's 1977 agreement to
supply the government of Saudi Arabia a microwave system of about 300
radio relay systems and its 1979 contract to provide the government of
Taiwan with an electronic switching system, marked Western Electric's
first overseas ventures since 1925. The two agreements did not, however,
a global giant make: at the time of the 1983 divestiture, AT&T had
fewer than 100 employees outside the U.S.
MFJ, AT&T intensified its overseas efforts, forming a joint venture
in the Netherlands with N.V. Philips to produce telephone network
equipment. This joint venture eventually became AT&T Network Systems
International, in which N.V. Philips no longer plays a role. Joint
ventures in Italy, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Korea, and Japan followed in
the 1980s. The company also established manufacturing plants in
Singapore and Thailand to manufacture consumer telephone equipment, and
in the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Korea to produce switching equipment.
1991, AT&T displayed a spectacular example of its growing
international capabilities. A convoy of AT&T employees and equipment
followed US troops into just-liberated Kuwait to restore telephone
service: Operation Desert Storm was followed by what later was dubbed
"Operation Desert Switch." Using a seven-meter satellite dish,
AT&T switch and phones, the company restored outgoing international
service less than 48 hours after Kuwait's February 28 liberation. A few
months later, AT&T delivered two switches and an earth station to
restore full service.
AT&T signed a historic agreement with the People's Republic of
China, involving research, development and manufacturing of switching
and transmission systems, wireless systems, and customer equipment.
China, with only two phones per 100 people (compared to more than 80
phones per 100 people in the United States), represents the largest of a
number of overseas markets which AT&T was poised to explore; by
1993, AT&T had more than 53,000 employees abroad.
establishment of a global business offered the company new
opportunities, but in many respects, a global presence was nothing new
for the old Bell System. On the eve of World War 1, Western Electric's
overseas locations included Antwerp, London, Berlin, Milan, Pairs,
Vienna. Budapest, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Sydney--and St. Petersburg.
Technologies sells phones in Russia and Ukraine, marking the latest
chapter in the company's roller-coaster relationship with Russia and the
Soviet Union. Before the 1917 Russian Revolution, Western Electric had a
manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg. The superintendent of the
plant was murdered in his living room by revolutionaries, and the
operation was nationalized. Western Electric's next contact with the
Soviet Union came when the company produced telephone systems for
America's ally during World War II. The subsequent onset of the Cold War
changed Western Electric's relationship with the Soviets again.
In 1990--before the crumbling of the Soviet Union--the company reached
an agreement to provide switching and transmission equipment to Armenia,
which became the first Soviet Republic to establish independent
international phone service. Previously, all of the Soviet union's
international calls routed through Moscow--where central authorities
determined which calls had priority, and where limited capacity created
overload problems. In January of 1992, only 44 days after Ukraine
declared its independence, AT&T, PTT Telecom of the Netherlands, and
the Ukrainian State Committee of Communications formed a joint venture
to build, operate, and own a long-distance network for the new republic.
At the system's February 1993 inaugural, Ukraine Minister of
Communications, Oleh Prozhyvalsky, said: "This marks a milestone in
the modernization of our telecommunications infrastructure." It
was, however, much more than that. By offering communications services
to Armenia, the Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Poland, and Czechoslovakia,
AT&T helped usher in the new post-Cold War world.
AT&T, the New World Order was both an international one, and a very
competitive one--especially in consumer products. In the first couple of
years after divestiture, AT&T reached a low point in the residential
telephone equipment market. FCC regulations once allowed telephone
companies to dictate to customers whose equipment they could use. This
meant that the vertically integrated Bell system could assure that their
manufacturing branch, Western Electric, would have the same market share
providing equipment that the phone companies did in providing service.
Telephones were leased only, and a part of an end-to-end service
package. That changed in the 1970's, when the FCC ruled that customers
could connect their own equipment to the telephone network. It further
required that each manufacturer of telephones equip them with standard
plugs which fit into jacks provided by phone companies. These changes
opened the door for independent manufacturers of telephone equipment,
and by 1978, one million phones were sold in department stores and
electronics shops. AT&T responded by accelerating their production
of phones in various styles and opening phone stores which allowed
customers to choose a phone, take it home and plug it in, rather than
wait for a repairman to do so.
In the years
immediately following divestiture, telephone customers chose
increasingly to buy, rather than lease phones. AT&T rental revenues
declined form $7.2 billion in 1984 to $3.0 billion in 1988. That would
have done AT&T little harm if the company made up the difference by
selling phones. It didn't. AT&T phones had been designed for a lease
environment: they lasted forever, and were pretty homogenous. Customers
in 1984 and 1985 flocked to cheaper phones with more features. AT&T
considered abandoning the market entirely, as they briefly did with
cellular phones, but decided instead to fight back.
Laboratories designed less costly phones, which AT&T marketed more
aggressively. By 1987, AT&T sold phones through 7,000 retail outlets
plus 450 Phone Centers. The company also successfully entered the
markets for cordless phones and for telephone answering machines. In
1987, the Washington Post reported: "Not all companies decide to
raise the white flag in the face of a competitive battle ... and (some)
come out of the fight a winner. American Telephone & Telegraph is a
case in point." AT&T recaptured leadership of the market for
residential telephones. One reason is that while in the mid-1980's, the
company reduced costs in the consumer products area dramatically--50
percent in three years--superior quality remained.
on growing consumer impatience with the low-quality, "throw
away" telephones, AT&T ran a series of successful commercials
calling attention to the problems of the competition's
"second-class phones." By contrast, one consumer reported that
after his AT&T cordless phone fell on the driveway and was crushed
by a half-ton truck, "I picked it up, switched it to talk, and
couldn't believe it still worked." After gluing the pieces
together, he continued to use the phone. Little wonder that a 1988
Gallup survey rated AT&T one of America's top ten companies in
quality, and the company continued to win plaudits in the 1990's.
Electric and the Quality Movement
1994 AT&T Power Systems became the first U.S. manufacturer to win
Japan's Deming Prize, which salutes companies for successful dedication
to the concepts of Total Quality Management. Two years earlier, AT&T
Transmission Systems had won a Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award. While
some saw these awards as evidence that American business had finally
caught on to Japanese management principles, Western Electric had long
been a seedbed for the modem quality movement. Andrew M. Guarriello,
chief operating officer of AT&T Power Systems noted that "the
roots of today's Total Quality Management can be traced to the work of
three AT&T scientists and quality pioneers--Walter Shewhart, W.
Edwards Deming, and Joseph Juran. This award tells me quality in
manufacturing has come full circle."
years, quality assurance methods at Western Electric and elsewhere have
evolved along with changes in the relationship between workers and their
output. At the time of the company's founding, individual artisans
checked their own work. In 1876, the seven year-old Western Electric was
recognized for the quality of its products at the Philadelphia
Centennial Exhibition, winning five first-class medals for its
apparatus. While the company proved that it could create products of the
highest quality, doing so consistently for large-scale output was
something else entirely. At the time of the company's 50th anniversary,
H. F. Albright, Western Electric's vice president in charge of
manufacturing, recalled the challenges of the 1880's: "We were
supposed to produce forty-eight telephones and transmitters a day. Some
lucky days we got perhaps as high as a dozen or two accepted. Other days
our whole shipment was rejected. The shop superintendent quit in
despair, but the shops kept everlastingly at it and at last succeeded in
shipping telephones that would stay shipped."
By the turn
of the century, Western Electric had trained individuals as inspectors
to assure specification and quality standards, in order to avoid sending
bad products to the customer. In the 1920's, Western Electric's Dr.
Walter Shewhart took manufacturing quality to the next level--employing
statistical techniques to control processes to minimize defective
output. When Dr. Shewhart joined the Inspection Engineering Department
at Hawthorne in 1918, industrial quality was limited to inspecting
finished products and removing defective items. That all changed in May
1924. Dr. Shewhart's boss, George Edwards, recalled: "Dr. Shewhart
prepared a little memorandum only about a page in length. About a third
of that page was given over to a simple diagram which we would all
recognize today as a schematic control chart. That diagram, and the
short text which preceded and followed it, set forth all of the
essential principles and considerations which are involved in what we
know today as process quality control." Mr. Edwards had observed
the birth of the modem scientific study of process control. That same
year, Dr. Shewhart created the first statistical control charts of
manufacturing processes, which involved statistical sampling procedures.
Shewhart published his findings in a 1931 book, Economic Control of
Quality of Manufactured Product.
Shewhart's work had limited impact beyond Western Electric manufacturing
until the late 1930's. W. Edwards Deming of the War Department--and
briefly an employee of Western Electric--invited Shewhart to give a
series of talks, which Deming later edited for publication. In 1947, the
newly-formed American Society for Quality Control began recognizing
individuals with the Shewhart Medal for contributions to the field. The
first recipient of this annual award: Dr. Walter Shewhart. By then,
Joseph Juran of Western Electric and Harold Dodge of Bell Labs had made
major quality control contributions to the federal government's quality
efforts. During World War II, they and other engineers and statisticians
from Western Electric and Bell Labs worked for the War Department,
creating a series of sampling inspection plans that were published as
the MILSTD (military standard) series. MILSTD set the standards that are
still used in America and throughout the world.
war, America exported quality expertise to Japan. The Civil
Communications Section (CCS) of the General Headquarters of the Supreme
Commander for the Allied Powers was rebuilding Japan's
telecommunications system--and improving its quality. CCS arranged for
Western Electric and Bell Labs engineers to teach fundamentals of
quality to a generation of Japanese equipment manufacturing
executives--who then showed the world how valuable those lessons were.
notable agents of this effort were Juran, who spent the first dozen
years of his career at Western Electric, and Deming, who had spent two
summers working there. Juran, influenced by his experiences at Western
Electric, emphasized the value of training programs in quality. Only
through the use of such programs could every worker in the company learn
the necessary quality control techniques--a necessary condition to the
goal of continuous quality improvement.
Electric, this expertise on quality was communicated to the shop
floor--most dramatically by Bonnie Small who joined the Hawthorne
quality assurance department in 1940. Her experiences there during World
War II convinced her that Shewhart's abstract ideas alone were of little
help to newly hired workers, so she set out to translate the ideas of
Shewhart into practical methods. After joining the Allentown Plant in
1948, Small assembled a committee of quality professionals throughout
Western Electric to write a handbook for the factory. This handbook
represents the confluence of Western Electric's long-standing traditions
of quality control and of education and training. Much of the material
for the book was based on Western Electric training courses given to
managers, engineers, and shop floor people from 1949 to 1956. The
"Western Electric Statistical Quality Control Handbook"
appeared in 1958, and has been the shop floor bible of quality control
throughout the world ever since. It remains in print, available from the
technical innovation have become two of the hallmarks of success in
today's global competition in manufacturing. Quality and technical
innovation are also the basis of Western Electric's heritage in
manufacturing, which Lucent Technologies will inherit.
Motion Picture Sound
Research Administrator E. B. Craft decided to direct the company's
developments in amplifiers, loudspeakers, microphones, and electronic
recording in a new direction: towards sound motion pictures. Efforts
towards that end had been tried since the dawn of motion pictures in the
1890's, most notably the introduction of the Kinetophone from Thomas
Edison's laboratory in 1913. The Kinetophone's poor synchronization and
sound quality proved more a distraction than an enhancement to films.
Edison's failure made Hollywood moguls wary of expending much time or
effort on sound--offering an opportunity to other innovators outside of
the motion picture industry.
By 1923, a
number of companies were working on sound developments, but Craft was
undaunted by the competition. He wrote Frank Jewett, vice president in
charge of research, "it seems obvious that we are in the best
position of anyone to develop and manufacture the best apparatus and
systems for use in this field." Craft turned out to be right.
Western Electric developed an integrated system for recording,
reproducing and filling a theater with synchronized sound. By 1924,
Western Electric was ready to sell its system to Hollywood.
attracted the attention of a second-tier motion picture studio called
Warner Bros., and the two companies formed a joint venture, the
Vitaphone Corporation, to experiment in the production and exhibition of
sound motion pictures. Four months later, the new system, called
Vitaphone, debuted with the opening of "Don Juan," starring
John Barrymore, at the Wamer's Theatre in New York City. Preceding the
film were a series of short sound films, rather than the usual live
vaudeville acts. As for the main feature, an electrical sound
system--carrying the recorded strains of the New York
Philharmonic--replaced accompaniment by live musicians. The system was a
hit, even if the film wasn't: Quinn Martin wrote in the New York World,
"You may have the 'Don Juan.' Leave me the Vitaphone."
Electric formed a subsidiary the following January to handle Western's
non-telephone interests. Electrical Research Products, Inc. (ERPI)
developed and distributed studio recording equipment and sound systems
to the major Hollywood studios. Recognition for Western Electric's
contributions to the film industry soon followed. In 1931, ERPI won an
award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for technical
achievement. ERPl's system of noiseless recording was cited as
"outstanding scientific achievement of the past year." ERPI
also made sound equipment for movie theaters, which it leased, rather
than sold- just as the Bell System had leased out the telephone
equipment Western produced. ERPI equipped 879 movie theaters in 1928,
and 2,391 in 1929. By 1932, only 2 percent of open theaters in America
were not wired for sound. Western Electric proved better at wiring the
nations' theaters than at maintaining that customer base, however, and
ERPI abandoned the motion picture theater business in 1937. The company
continued to produce sound equipment for movie studios until 1956, when
as part of the consent decree it abandoned most non-telephone
enterprise. The company left a legacy in the motion picture industry,
one reminder of which is the credit at the end of many films from
Hollywood's Golden Age: "Sound by Western Electric."
Experiments (Sidebar #2)
éclaircissement, the new illumination, that came from the research."
The experiments raised the possibility that, as Thomas J. Peters and
Robert Waterman put it, "it is the attention to employees, not work
conditions per se, that has a dominant impact on productivity."
until 1933, the Hawthorne plant was the site of a series of experiments
conducted under the auspices of the National Research Council. The
initial studies involved the impact of changes in lighting levels on the
productivity of several groups of workers. The first two sets of tests
showed that increased levels of supervision played a much larger role in
productivity increases than levels of illumination.
involved of the experiments, the relay assembly test room experiment,
involved isolating six women, then measuring their production, health,
and social interactions in response to changes in working conditions,
such as the number and duration of rest periods, length of the work day,
and the amount of food they ate. Productivity increased as each
improvement was introduced, until the crucial twelfth test, in which
researchers removed the special conditions. Productivity increased
again! One of the researchers called the twelfth test "the great
of the experiments has been felt worldwide, and by many generations. In
the 1950's, a number of Japanese executives visited Western Electric and
told their hosts that, Management and the Worker, a book summarizing the
findings from the Hawthorne experiments, was required reading in
Japanese schools of management. The phrase "Hawthorne effect"
has come to mean any unexpected outcomes from non-experimental variables
in social or behavioral sciences. The Hawthorne experiments have been
elevated to what one historian calls the "status of Creation
myth" in many fields that study the workplace, from sociology to
psychology to anthropology.
Return to top of page (table of contents)
following article was contributed to this web site by Loren Haroldson:
Electric’s factory tours for its own workers and their families -- and
a good time had by all.
from "Current History, January 1939" - © 1938, 63 Park Row,
day a committee representing the 15,000 workers at Western Electric's
biggest plant -- Hawthorne, near Chicago -- appeared in the front
office. Their grievance was a rather odd one. "All of us work on
parts of things," they said. "We never see the complete
product put together. Couldn't we figure out some way for all our people
to go through the whole factory, and see what the others are doing, and
understand the whole process that goes into the stuff we make?"
way was figured out. I didn't see it work at Hawthorne, but I did go to
the Baltimore plant and to the Kearny, N. J., plant when Open Houses
were held at those places.
the fortnight of Open House, the hours of the working day for key
workers in the departments were changed: 2:15 in the afternoon to 11
o’clock at night. Then, every afternoon and evening, after the regular
working day was over, the rest of the employees had opportunity to pass
through the factory - into corners they did not know existed, past
operations they had never seen before.
the interesting thing, to me, was the fact that the touring workmen
brought their families with them - their wives and children, their
in-laws and sweethearts and fellow lodge members, to see what sort of
place Joe worked in, what he did to make a living and how he went about
flocked through the immense factories in fascinated crowds, about 5000
of them every night. It took three hours of tough walking to see what
was to be seen. But they had a wonderful time, and for a simple reason:
That remote and rather forbidding abstraction, "The Factory'' where
Dad or Cousin Joe worked, was being rendered then and there into a human
sort of place which all the family could understand and talk about over
the supper table.
tours for the general public through the big automobile factories, steel
mills, power plants and coal mines are now commonplace. But this Open
House of the Western Electric Company is different. Since Western
Electric makes telephone equipment and for all practical purposes has
only one customer -- the
Bell System -- it need not impress the general public. But in these
good-will tours for its own workers it has found something new in
industrial relations -- something affecting the family and social circle
of every employee.
followed one family for a while: Dad all dressed in a blue serge suit
and a derby hat, Mom in her best party dress, two high school boys and a
girl of ten. For a while they walked past machines that Dad himself had
never seen before, workmen who were strangers to him. He was deeply
interested, and asked questions of the men at the machines, explaining
carefully who he was. Then, as we gradually drew near his own part of
the factory, you could see the pride begin to rise in him.
do we get there, Dad?" the boys would ask. Dad lifted his hand
deprecatingly. "Take it easy, he said. "It won't run
away." He laughed. "Not that baby."
went down a broad aisle, and presently Dad stood back, his hands in his
pockets and his hat on the back of his head, looking up at a very brute
of a machine, an immense punch press that shrugged its shoulders and set
down a ten-ton foot upon a plate of steel, pressing it into some weird
Dad said, "there she is." They stared in blank-faced
admiration. The boys said," Gee-e-e!”
Mom, trying to conceal her interest, said, "From what you've
been saying, I'd have thought it was twice that big." But she
didn't mean it, and he knew it.
were four of the machines in a row, and Dad's was being, operated now by
a tall, lean-faced man. Dad introduced him to the family, and introduced
the men at the other machines, too. For the last of them, he had a
particularly warm grin.
now, Mom," he said, "you can
shake hands with Bill Nagle himself."
she said, "after all those cribbage games I've heard about, it
seems like I know you already."
right," said Mr. Nagle. "I have to beat the old boy here every
day at lunch hour."
beat him?" Mom pretended to be outraged, and they all laughed. It
seemed that Dad had been working alongside Bill Nagle for three years.
But their homes were miles apart, and they never got together at
night. It seemed, furthermore, that there was a Mrs. Nagle and divers
Nagle children, and arrangements were made forthwith for the women folks
to get together and cook a beefsteak dinner for all hands.
settled down to explain his machine, in meticulous detail, to the boys.
And Mom watched, with no want of pride in her round, quiet face.
over the plant, encounters of a like sort were going forward. Above the
hum and beat of the machines, voices wandered on as men explained their
work and women and children listened eagerly.
Baltimore and at Kearny numerous girls are employed, their nimble
fingers working incessantly upon the more delicate contraptions that are
part of transmitters and condensers and such. When the plans for the
Open House were going forward, these young ladies had presented
something of a problem. They had announced that they would not be
content with ordinary work dresses for the occasion, but intended to do
themselves out in proper style. This seemed an admirable idea until they
showed up for work the first day -- in silk evening dresses and the more
complex variations of the modern hair-do. The crowds, quite
understandably, banked deep about them.
the boss decided that this was hardly in the mood of industrial
production, and with what diplomacy he could command suggested that they
wear something a trifle less ravishing in the future. The girls
compromised on party frocks and dirndl prints, but even thus tamed down
it was a matter for note that during all the Open House period
production if anything improved. The girls worked better when they had
an appreciative audience.
matters may seem frivolous. Perhaps there is nothing of real or lasting
importance in the spectacle of homey little family groups gathered about
a machine, or of girls allowing vanity to impinge upon the simple
business of earning a weekly wage. But I assure you that such things
made a very striking contrast to the picture one ordinarily gets of that
troubled mystery, the Labor Situation. People, it seemed, were not
emphasizing their differences with their employers, but their common
interests. Nobody seemed to be going hysterical at the ceaseless rhythm
of the machines.
the contrary, I think everybody (including myself) was a little
astonished to discover that the factory was a pretty decent sort of
place to work in and that the bench and the stools were peopled by quite
ordinary human individuals - not nameless atoms in that amorphous
But I am no expert in these affairs. I can only report that it seemed a
sensible thing, and certainly a pleasant one, to invite families and
friends in to see what really lies behind the pay envelope that Dad
brings home every Friday.
Return to top of page (table of contents)
A History of Western Electric
Adams, Stephen B. and
Orville R. Butler
Published by EH.NET (February 2000)
Stephen B. Adams and Orville R.
Butler, Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. xi + 270 pp. $34.95
(cloth), ISBN: 0-521-65118-2.
Reviewed for EH.NET by Eric John
Abrahamson, The Prologue Group.
For more than a century, Western
Electric supplied equipment to AT&T's long distance and local
telephone companies as the manufacturing arm of the old Bell System.
Regulators around the country hated the situation. Many believed
that AT&T hid excess profits or bureaucratic inefficiencies in
Western's charges to Bell System customers. Repeatedly, the federal
government tried to force AT&T to divest the company. AT&T
fought these efforts and made enormous concessions to the government
to retain its vertical integration - until 1995. That year, AT&T
announced that it would divest what remained of Western Electric and
portions of Bell Laboratories to create a new company - Lucent
Dan Stanzione, who became the
president and chief operating officer of Lucent, recognized in the
birth of this new company both a need and an opportunity to confront
the past. He commissioned historians Stephen B. Adams (Gordon Cain
Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation) and Orville R. Butler
(historian for the Academy of Management's International Management
Division) to research and write Manufacturing the Future: A
History of Western Electric, and he gave them license to tell
the story "warts and all." Stanzione hoped that their
story would convey the heritage of Western Electric to both retirees
and employees of the newly independent Lucent. But Adams and Butler
have done much more.
Manufacturing the Future
chronicles the history of Western Electric from the formation of its
predecessor, Gray & Barton, in 1869 to the creation of Lucent
Technologies in 1996. It offers a classic story of vertical
integration, but treats that integration as a process that evolved
over nearly four decades, rather than as a single event. Throughout
the book, Adams and Butler show the enormous influence of the
regulatory environment on the evolution of the Bell System's
strategy and structure. They also trace the tension between
innovation and implementation within the context of an enormous
Indeed, Western Electric and Bell
Laboratories (formed as a joint venture between Western and AT&T
in 1925) proved capable of tremendous innovation in science,
manufacturing, and human relations. The company was an early leader
in global manufacturing. It developed breakthrough technologies in
typewriters, vacuum tubes, radio, television, motion pictures,
radar, and transistors. One could almost say that they invented the
things that made the twentieth century work. In manufacturing,
Western Electric supported groundbreaking innovations in the field
of statistical process control and exported these methods to Japan
to give birth to the modern Total Quality movement. In human
resources, studies from 1924 to 1933 at Western Electric's enormous
Hawthorne plant outside of Chicago sparked the development of the
field of industrial psychology. And in the 1960s, Western Electric
emerged as a leading corporate advocate of civil rights and
affirmative action. According to the authors, AT&T's desire to
remain in the good graces of the federal government motivated many
of these initiatives as scientific discovery, manufacturing
efficiency and even defense contracting became hallmarks of the Bell
System's commitment to universal service and good public relations.
Yet Western Electric was often unable
to reap the returns from its own innovations, and in many ways
Western Electric's story is a spectacular tale of paths not taken.
As Adams and Butler point out, corporate pressures to maintain the
company's focus on domestic equipment manufacturing led to the
divestment of businesses in radio, motion pictures, electrical
supplies, and international manufacturing. To settle the
government's antitrust suit in 1956, AT&T agreed to confine its
manufacturing business to telephone equipment and license any new
technologies it developed to others. Statistical process control
languished in Western Electric manufacturing until the 1950s,
despite regulatory pressure on the Bell System to provide assurances
of Western Electric's efficiency. And not withstanding the enormous
amount of information collected from the Hawthorne studies, the
creation of a counseling program for employees marked the only
visible outcome of this effort. As Adams and Butler conclude, the
company's monopolistic situation produced "an abundance of
ideas and innovation, but slow implementation or change."
Manufacturing the Future
provides a valuable overview of Western Electric's history, an
excellent teaching tool for undergraduates studying the American
economy. Adams and Butler deftly summarize important chapters in
Western Electric's history that have been covered more richly in the
historiography of the Bell System. They also enrich that literature
by refining our understanding of historical processes, especially on
vertical integration and affirmative action. However, many
historians will finish the book feeling unsatisfied.
In many ways Manufacturing the
Future raises as many questions as it answers. How did Western
Electric influence the Bell System and its culture of engineering,
especially in the 1950s and 60s when two of Western Electric's
presidents went on to become presidents of AT&T? Given the
drumbeat of literature extolling the virtues of competition and its
influence on innovation, why were Western Electric and Bell Labs so
prolific with new ideas? And what about the regulator's concerns
about efficiency and profits? Adams and Butler suggest that the past
is traditionally believed to foreshadow the future. With Lucent,
however, the future may inform the past. Perhaps Western Electric
achieved "a pattern of efficiency" that explains Lucent's
success on Wall Street and in the marketplace today.
However, even the authors acknowledge
that this is not a sufficient answer. The question of Western's
efficiency and AT&T's use or abuse of its captive relationship
leads to many of the issues at the heart of regulatory politics and
antitrust activity in the United States. Indeed, the history of
Western Electric and the Bell System opens windows onto many aspects
of the culture and economy of the United States in the twentieth
century. The writing of Western Electric's history remains an
unfinished project, but Adams and Butler have given us an admirable
guide to the territory ahead.
Eric John Abrahamson is founder and
principal historian of the Prologue Group, a California-based
historical consulting firm. Among many projects, he has written a
history of the breakup of the Bell System and its impact on
California for the Pacific Telesis Group. With Lou Galambos, he is
currently working on a history of AirTouch Communications and the
global wireless industry.
Copyright (c) 2000 by EH.NET. All
rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational
uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other
permission, please contact the EH.NET Administrator (email@example.com;
Telephone: 513-529-2850; Fax: 513-529-3308). Published by EH.NET 04
Feb 2000. All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/bookreviews
|Citation: Eric John
Abrahamson, "Review of Stephen B. Adams and Orville R.
Butler Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western
Electric" Economic History Services, 04 Feb 2000,
URL : http://www.eh.net/bookreviews/library/0211.shtml"
Return to top of page
(table of contents)
The next image on this page
and the original caption have been donated by Science Service and are
presented to you as they appeared in period publications. The caption was
written by Science Service journalists and have been transcribed exactly.
Although this image is protected by copyright, we encourage you to use
them for academic and non-commercial pursuits. -
National Museum of American History.
CD 1966086 E&MP33.019
On the framework to which this engineer
points are ten telephone receivers through which a phonograph shouts all
day at ten transmitters just below them.
This is one of many tests to which transmitters are put in Western
Electric laboratories of the Bell System.
Original Caption by Science Service
two images are from April 6, 1951 and a special thank you to Lorraine
Moretti and the Humane Society of Alamance County in Burlington, North
Carolina for their special donation.
"I have come across via a yard sale a picture of the
Western Electric Co. Radio Shops of the Burlington Western Electric Plant
from 1951. It's contents has to do with "Certificate of Safety
Achievement" from the North Carolina Department of Labor and US Department
of Labor. My husband and I both worked at the plant in the 1980's
when it was AT&T."
"Certificate of Safety Achievment"
"Certificate of Safety Achievement"
Shuford, Labor Commissioner, who on behalf of the State and Federal Labor
Departments, presented the "Certificate of Safety Achievement"; F.E.
Henderson, Manager of Western Electric Company's Winston-Salem Shops; S.C.
Donnelly, Supt. of the Burlington Shops; and F.R. Lack, Vice-President of
the Radio Division, Western Electric Company, New York City.
"Certificate of Safety Achievement"
Approximately 1900 employees and visitors witnessed the
presentation of the North Carolina Department of Labor and United States
Department of Labor "Certificate of Safety Achievement" presented to the
Burlington Western Electric plant April 6, 1951. This was the fourth
consecutive year that the plant had maintained an accident frequency rate
of more than 75 percent below the State and National average for similar
industries. The employees had worked in excess of 12,000,000
man-hours since April 15, 1946, with less than one lost injury per one
million hours worked.
AT&T unveils historic statue in downtown Dallas
The Dallas Morning News,
Jul 07, 2009
For months, AT&T has been working on a complete remodeling of its
corporate headquarters at 208 S. Akard Street downtown.
renovation is complete, and the company has just unveiled the showstopper
that seems sure to become an instant landmark for downtown.
Boy" or "The Spirit of Communication," a 28-foot, soaring bronze statue of
a winged man clinching lightning bolts with a raised arm, stands in the
was sculpted in 1916 by artist Evelyn Beatrice Longman and gilded in
thousands of pieces of gold-leaf.
it stood atop AT&T's New York headquarters on Broadway.
It has been
some time since it has been on public display.
said little publicly about the unveiling, but at City Hall it's taken as a
symbol that the company is in downtown Dallas to stay.
Update: AT&T spokeswoman Sarah Andreani provided some details on
Golden Boy's unveiling in Dallas.
has been at AT&T corporate buildings since 1916, and we wanted the statue
to be here as well. It's a symbol of one of the world's largest
corporations, so we're really excited to have it here," she said.
years, Golden Boy stood atop the AT&T headquarters on Broadway in New
York. In 1983, it was moved to the lobby of the company's Madison Avenue
it has been at two AT&T locations in New Jersey and was taken off public
display for years.
of the new corporate headquarters is open to the public during normal
Some of the
statue's recent and more distant history is available in
this New York Times article from 2000.
AT&T's historic "Golden Boy" moves to Dallas
The Dallas Morning News,
Jul 27, 2009
Golden Boy may — or may not — be one of the
masterpieces of American sculpture, but Dallas residents of a certain age
might remember him from the cover of a phone book.
"Spirit of Communication," better known as "Golden
Boy," was the second-largest sculpture in New York — after the Statue of
Liberty — when it was first installed in 1916. The 28-foot gilded bronze
statue resides in the lobby of AT&T's headquarters on Akard Street, its
latest home in 93 years as a symbol of one of the nation's most famous
In the company's glory days, Golden Boy towered over
Lower Manhattan, 9 tons of bronze covered in the thousands of sheets of
gold leaf that gave him his nickname.
For most of the 20th century, the statue turned up
on company letterhead and stock certificates, and for much of the middle
part of the century on local telephone books.
After the Bell System was broken up in the 1980s, he
was exiled to New Jersey, where he was eventually consigned to an office
park. Now, after SBC acquired AT&T, adopted its name, and moved its
corporate offices to downtown Dallas, he's here.
Lee Sandstead, who hosts the Travel Channel's Art
Attack, is enthusiastic, almost effusive.
"This is absolutely a serious work of art, and it's
absolutely a masterpiece," said Sandstead, an art historian. "It's perhaps
the most beautiful depiction of the male figure in American art."
Sandstead is considered the leading expert on Evelyn
Beatrice Longman, the statue's sculptor.
The arrival of Golden Boy gives downtown Dallas its
second corporate icon with classical allusions. The first, of course, is
Pegasus, the flying red horse that has crowned the top of the Magnolia
Building since 1934. (A full-scale copy, for those afraid of heights, is
at ground level in the Old Red Museum of Dallas History & Culture.)
Golden Boy is the older of the two works. Sandstead
said the design was chosen in a national competition, and the statue was
hoisted, with great fanfare, to the top of AT&T's headquarters on lower
Broadway in 1916. It was the second-largest sculpture in New York, behind
the Statue of Liberty, he said, and doubly notable because of its
Longman is one of the few women in American history
to create monumental sculpture.
"The work was considered too physically demanding
for a woman," he said. "It required lifting heavy equipment up and down
scaffolding, and bending metal."
She was a protege of Daniel Chester French, working
with him on the design of the Lincoln Memorial. She is now largely — and,
Sandstead thinks, unfairly — forgotten.
"If she had been born 30 years earlier, she would
have been more famous," he said. "By 1915, her kind of art was beginning
to wane in popularity, critics were beginning to be attracted by the
modernist movement, which was more abstract."
The sculpture was moved in 1984 to the company's new
building, whose postmodern-notched roof — it was nicknamed the Chippendale
Building — meant Golden Boy had to be moved to the lobby.
A persistent Internet rumor says that officials,
concerned that the male nude could now be viewed up close and eye level,
ordered Golden Boy un-gendered. Not true.
The sculpture was moved to one site in New Jersey in
1992, then to another 10 years later. Earlier this year, it decamped for
A former AT&T chairman once explained Golden Boy's
nomadic existence by saying, "He goes where we go."
An AT&T spokeswoman last week said the company still
feels the same way.
"It's always been with the corporate headquarters.
It's absolutely fitting that he should be here now," Sarah Andreani said.
The work now commands the lobby facing AT&T Plaza.
Company employees on a recent morning seemed already used to Golden Boy's
presence, scurrying to their jobs without glancing up.
But visitors seemed impressed, snapping photos on
their cellphones and peppering the reception desk with questions.
"I take it it's not real gold," one woman said.
"Just in small sheets," the receptionist explained.
"Well, I think he's cool," she replied.
The Genius of
Electricity ("Golden Boy") Trademark of Western Electric.
Renamed "The Spirit of Communications" by the local Bell
designed by Evelyn Beatrice Longman. The statue was mounted in 1916
at the top of AT&T headquarters, 195 Broadway in New York City. It
16 tons, is 24 feet in height - the wings extend nine feet from the body -
434 feet above the ground. It became the standard Bell System directory
beginning in the 1930's. Miss Longman wanted "The Genius" to
Mercury's speed, the era's continuing sense of mystery about all things
and the modern Messenger, the telephone. Theodore N. Vail and the
distinguished American sculptor, Daniel Chester French, selected the final
"The Telephone Book" by H.M. Boettinger, 1983 edition.
building seen behind the statue above is/was the World Trade Center which
was destroyed on September 11, 2001 by terrorists; however, no harm was
done to the former AT&T building or the statue.
FOR THE GOLDEN BOY - "A Corporate decision has been made to relocate
Golden Boy to our new Operational Headquarters in Bedminster, NJ.
This was announced by CEO Mike Armstrong in October 2001."
- Margaret R. Berry, District Manager, AT&T Corporate Resolution Group
AT&T's Golden Boy offered as donation
Golden Boy, AT&T's mighty Greek godlike nude
statue entwined-in-cables, may be donated to the
New York City Parks department, if they can find a spot
for it. The 60-year old symbol of the "Spirit of Communication" has stood
in front of corporate HQ in Basking Ridge, NJ, for decades since it was
saved from the top of AT&T's original Manhattan headquarters. Faced with
$50-100k in anticipated restoration expenses [same symptoms as
Vulcan?], the corporation is hoping to find a new home for their
lightning bolt-tossing 16-ton hero. For now, his metallic buttocks
continue to greet visitors at the windows in the main lobby.
July 2009: Golden Boy has been
unveiled in the latest headquarters of AT&T at 208 South Akard St.,
February 2009: Golden Boy has been
removed from the old AT&T headquarters in Bedminster and sent to the new
SBC-reskinned-as-AT&T corporate HQ in Dallas, Texas.
Update, 2002: Golden Boy was moved south to AT&T's
headquarters in Bedminster, NJ, after sale of the corporation's Basking
Ridge facility. Our photo shows him being prepared for his move; his head
preceded him. The statue is no longer open to the public, however glimpses
can be caught on southbound I-287 through the trees to the right, before
the Bedminster 202-206 exit. Appears he is here for the long haul.
Western Electric Logo wasn't always done in the famous "lightning
bolt" or "electric effect" font. Here is the how it
became that way (thanks to Rick
Maddox for this contribution):
download the True Type font for your computer (Windows operating system)
of the Hawthorn font by clicking here.
The patent for this font can be viewed by clicking
to Fred Coady for the True Type font and patent information.
Western Electric Stock
"Hawthorne had also added a new wrinkle: the
"Hello Charley" phenomenon.
In the early 1920s, someone sent a postcard
addressed only to 'Charley, the Western.' Amazingly, it reached its
destination, a popular employee named Charlie Drucker. Wags began to
call Western Electric "Charley Western." In 1930, Jean O'Rourke was
crowned the first "Hello Charley" beauty queen, inaugurating a
fifty-year tradition. Her likeness appeared on "Hello Charley" stickers
as Western employees took their mandated two weeks of vacation in July.
When Western employees spotted another car with a sticker, they honked
in solidarity; even on vacation, Hawthorne brought people together. "
"The crowning of 'Hello Charley' queen was a part
of a tradition of Western Electric beauty pageants that lasted from 1930
- From pages 122 - 123 of
"Manufacturing the Future - A History of Western Electric" by Stephen B. Adams and Orville R. Butler.
Excellent book! Recommended reading if you can find it.
A visitor to my website named Grace H. Minnock sent the following
information and scanned image to me. Her photo is on this
"My mother kept it all these years and I found it among her
belongings when she passed away. It is actually one of the luggage
stickers (they had car stickers as well as luggage stickers) that all
the employees were given.
The pageant started in Kearny in 1948; I have no idea when they
stopped. They also gave us all the pictures that were taken of the
coronation ceremonies, which are in excellent condition (they are in
an album and have been well protected from the elements).
I worked in the Kearny plant after my graduation from High School
in January 1952 and I left there after I got married and moved away in
1956. It was my first job and the experiences I had there can never be
I decided to return to work in Kearny in 1969. However, there were
quite a few changes in the interim and I decided to leave after two
years (before they started phasing out and letting their employees
Home page about the Reading Works plant in Reading,
two photos were taken by Paul Wills
AT&T headquarters in
Basking Ridge, NJ, USA:
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Logo used up until 1969
Logo used from 1969 to 1983