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Bulletin No. 107

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis










For sale by the Suoerintendent of Documents, Washington, D; C. - - - - •
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

- - - - - Price 10 cents
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Letter of transmittaL _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ __ __ _ _ __ _ __ __ _ ___ __ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _
Introduction___ __ ____________ __ __ _______________ _______ __ _______ __ __
Scope andmethod _________________ __________ __ _____ __ _____ ______
Summary _ ____ ___ ____________________________________ ____ ______
F irm interview data_ ________________________ ______ ____ ___ ___
Home interview data _·-----------~--------- -- --- -- - - - --- --- - Results of t echnological changes_ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ __ ___ __ _ _ __ __ _ __ __ _
Labor costs_______________________ ____________________ __________
Produ.ction _ _ __ _ _ __ _ __ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ _ __ __ __ __ _ __ _ __ _ __ _ ___
Employment _____________________ ____ ____ ________ ________ ______
Combination changes ______________________ __ ________ ______ ______
T echnological changes by year of change__ ___ __________ ______ ______
Earnings _____________ __ ________ ________ ____________ ____________
Learningperiod ____ ___ ________________________ ________ _____ ___ __
Opinions of workers__ ___ __ _______________________ ____________ ___
Principal t ypes of technological changes________________________________
Improvedmachines _____ ______________ ___ ___ ____ ______ __________
Results of change to improved machines__ _____________ ______ __
Operating changes or different work set-up _______________ ______ ____
Results of operating changes or different work set-up_ _________ __
Hand to machine_ __ __ ______________________________ ______ ____ __
R esults of change from hand to machine work ___ _____ _________ _
Substitution of one class of workers for another_ ____ ______ ___ ___ ___ _
-Results of substitution__ __ ____ __ __ __ ___ __________ ________ ____
Change in method of payment____ _________ ______ __ __ __ _____ _____ _
Results of change in method of payment_________ __ _______ _____






Air leakage and other t est s for transmitters ___ _______________ ____ Frontispiece

Flexible shaft p ower screw driver on a ssembly line _________________ Facing
Assembling t elephone receivers on conveyor_ __ _______________ ____ Facing
Inserting screws in blank-book covers __ __ __ ____________ ______ ____ Facing
Feeding a soap-wrapping machine ____________________ ____ ____ ___ Facing

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Washington, July 1, 1935.
MADAM: I have the honor to transmit a report based on inquiries
by the Women's Bureau into technological changes involving the
employment of women. Management in 115 factories, including
some of the best-known in the United States, supplied descriptions
of the changes that had taken place between 1921 and 1931-especially
in the second half of such period-and their effects on numbers employed, on wages, on production, and on labor costs. More than
1,000 interviews were had with women affected by the changes, who
supplied personal information, a comparison of the jobs before and
after the changes, and the amounts of their earnings.
I greatly appreciate the courteous cooperation of employers and
of employees in making this study possible.
The survey was conducted and the report has been written by
Ethel L. Best, industrial supervisor. Caroline Manning, industrial
supervisor, assisted in the field work.
Respectfully submitted.
Secretary of Labor.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The serious problem created · by the rapidity of the process of
technological improvement in American manufacturing is the
increased capacity to produce and the inability of the public to buy
enough goods to keep machines and worke_rs steadily employed.
An enormous supply of goods produced by fewer workers at a lower
labor cost does not take into consideration the fact that the consumers' ability to purchase-and consumers are chiefly wage earnersmust keep pace with production if there is to continue the unbroken
round of wage earning and spending, consumption and demand,
production and employment, wage earning and spending, and so on,
that is necessary to prosperity.
The process of mechanization has ~een continuous since the first
tool was created as an aid to man's work. For centuries the change
was slow and spasmodic, but with the invention of power-driven
machinery over 150 years ago the pace was greatly accelerated and
one invention was quickly followed by another. This inventive
process has been tremendously stimulated since the World War.
Competition for both home and foreign markets has become keener
with the increase of technical knowledge in all the countries of the
world. The introduction of a new machine or a new method of
operating may mean the life or death of a factory or even the substitution of the product of one industry for another.
Every effort is being made constantly to render costs lower and
production more efficient by the introduction of new and improved
machines, of more automatic devices, of better tools, and of more
effective use of man power. The effect of these changes increases
the productivity of the worker enormously and reduces the number
of workers required, on some operations almost to the vanishing
point. As a superintendent in a knitting mill expressed it, "Before
long we won't need workers, the machines are so perfect; but unfortunately machines don't wear stockings."
According to indexes of production of the Federal Reserve Board
the output per worker in manufacturing was approximately 45 percent greater in 1929 than in 1919 and this was accompanied by a
decrease of 10 percent in the number of wage earners. This increase
in efficiency at the expense of the number of available jobs is shown
also by the fact that in every previous decade the workers employed
in manufacturing had increased not only absolutely but relatively to
the total population. 1

Douglas, P aul H. Technological Unemployment. American Federationist, August 1930, vol. 37, p. 923.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Mr. Mentor Bouniatian, in an article in the International Labor
Review, points out the fact that productivity per worker in manufacturing industries in the United States during the 14 years from
1899 to 1913 increased 16.3 percent, whereas in the 6 years from 1921
to 1927 it rose 40 percent. 2
Improvements in machines and in operating have taken place in
practically every industry. In the shoe industry the time required
to make 100 pairs of shoes in 1916 was 142.7 hours; in 1923 it was
106. 9 hours. 3 In a cotton mill output per man hour increased 111 percent from 1919 to 1925. 4 The labor cost of manufacturing pint milk
bottles decreased from 75 cents to 10 cents a gross by the introduction
of a new machine. 5
Examples similar to the foregoing could be cited in every industry,
but to obtain a definite picture of the many changes and their effects
in even one industry is an almost impossible task. Miss Elizabeth
Faulkner Baker, in her study of the displacement of men by machines
in the printing industry, presents some of the difficulties of collecting
information and what she says may be widely applied to all industry:
"The present study, therefore, bears witness to the difficulties of
looking in from the outside upon an industry in process of change." 6
In her study the introduction of machines in single shops was gradual--men were transferred from job to job and there was an absence
of records; several methods therefore were used, statistical, descriptive, and inferential.
Technological change is, in short, no finished process, the effects of
which are being studied, but only part of a moving picture that is
being examined as it goes by. The facts and statements obtained in
this study give a picture of what has been going on for many years,
is going on now, and will be for some time to come. The effect on
industry and on the worker varies in proportion to the speed of the
process, and because during the past 15 years the change has been
so rapid its effects have been more widespread and severe than ever
There is a sentence in the report of President Hoover's-Research
Committee on Social Trends that reads, "More widely in the future
than in the immediate past we may expect the growth of thinking
about the meaning of the great masses of social data which we have
become so expert and generous in assembling." 7 The matter of
technological changes in industry is one of the most important
questions that the growing concern of the American people with
industrial and labor problems must grapple with.

All efficiency changes in manufacturing are for the purpose of more
efficient and cheaper production of goods, and they affect not only the
cost at which these goods can be produced but the number of workers
employed, their remuneration, and the conditions of their work.
2 Bouniatian, Mentor.
Technical Progress and Unemployment. In International Labor Review,
March 1933, vol. Zl, p. 328.
3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review, November 1932, vol. 35, p. 1043.
4 Ibid., October 1926, vol. 23, p. 28.
e Barnett, George E. Machinery and Labor. In Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 1925, vol. 39,
p. 546.
6 Baker, Elizabeth Faulkner. Displacement of Men by Machines.
Columbia University Press, 1933,
pp. vii-xi.
7 President's Research Committee on Social Trends. Report. Recent Social Trends in the United
States. Vol. I, p. lxii. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1933.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Information on the different operating changes and their results
especially those to the workers, is relatively slight. There are many
reasons for this absenc~ of data. Technological changes usually are
gradual and frequently are complicated, two or more takilig place
at the same time. Even with the best engineering skill, in many
cases it is a matter of trial and error; the first plan is altered for a
better one or additional changes are introduced. Accurate records
are always difficult to keep and in time of change especially so.
Afterward one can often see what comparisons should have been
~ade and what pertinent records might have been kept, but at the
tune the foresight and even the personnel for this work is lacking in
many cases. For these reasons the effect of changes on output and
costs is difficult to obtain, and there is even greater difficulty in
securing the results of technological change for the worker. As a
rule studies on this subject have been made in as limited a field as
possible, one change in one industry being selected for study, and
little attention has been paid to the effect on the workers and their
reaction to the change.
No attempt has been made in the present study by the Women's
Bureau to investigate all changes that have occurred in any one industry nor to follow any single change through many industries. It
was realized that thousands of technological improvements have
been made and are now taking place that revolutionize methods of
work. No one survey can do more than illumine one angle of the
problem. The Women's Bureau is interested primarily in theeffect
of this continuous process of technological change on the women who
work at the machine and at the bench in the many factories throughout the country. With 1,886,307 women in manufacturing and
mechanical industries, 8 it seemed worth while to collect not only
examples from management of the many technological changes but
from the women themselves the effect of these changes on them and
their work. Neither time nor money was available for an exhaustive
study, so the method used was to inquire into certain types of technological change and their effects on employment, production, and
costs in factories visited by the Bureau over a period of years beginning in 1930. The various types of change reported on, occurring in
many industries, at least indicate the principal kinds of changes in
women's work and their results.
The Women's Bureau, because of its interest in the working woman,
con,gidered it important to ascertain the types of technological changes
taking place where women were most involved, and the effects of
these various changes on them and their employment. Therefore
all the changes selected for study were those in which women were
principally concerned. The changes themselves were of widely
different types and were found in many different industries, very few
changes being peculiar to a single industry. There are certain
changes, such as alteration in method of payment, in the substitution
of one class of labor for another, and in the reduction of hours, that
may not come under a strict definition of technological change, but
they are included in this study because they were made to ~cre~se
the efficiency of the plant and usually were based on engmeermg
s U.

s. Bureau of the Census.
2509 °-35--2
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Fifteenth Census: 1930. Population, vol. IV, Occupations, p. 6.



studies. In a num~er of cases more than one change took place at
the same time, and the results achieved were those from two types
of change i;nstead of from one.
Perhaps the most frequently found and widely distributed change
was that of improved lay-out and better planning and routing of
work. Conveyors or moving belts have been put into use in all
industries wherever possible and often their introduction has occasioned eonsiderable change in the work itself. The introduction of
new and improved machinery also has been constantly carried on in
all types of industry. The change might be from an old to a new
machine, from a hand-feed machine to an automatic feed, from a
single operating machine to a multiple, or from a less efficient to a
more efficient type, but whatever the change there was frequently
combined with it a change in personnel. Either the number employed was decreased, or women were substituted for men, or, more
rarely, men for women. Altogether, these two changes alone, that
involving a new set-up of the work and that bringing in new or
improved machines, comprised well over one-half, 56.1 percent, of
the 212 single examples of change and in addition were a part of each
of the 38 double changes for which records were obtained. The
change from hand to machine work was reported in 42 of the 212 and
9 of the 38 changes, respectively. (See summaries, pp. 7 and 8.)
There were other changes, the principal one being the replacement of
one class of workers by another (men by women in all but one case),
usually termed substitution.
The substitution of women for men, combined with improved
methods of operating, was the largest of the double groups, with 15
cases; the next largest, reported in 6 cases, also involved the substitution of women, but in this instance was combined with a change
from hand to machine work.
It was found possible to obtain information as to effect on numbers
of men and women employed in 241 of these technological changes;
and though this is a fairly large number, it does not, of course, include
all the changes in the areas covered but only the most frequent types
of change and those for which records were available.
From management was obtained a description of the changes and
their effects on numbers employed, on wages, on production, on labor
costs, and on the comparative learning period on the old and on the
new work. Effort was made to obtain the names and addresses and
to visit as many as possible of the workers employed before the
change, whether subsequent to the change their experience had
been on the new work, on different work, or on no work at all. From
these visits were obtained comparative earnings on the old and the
new work, a comparison of the two jobs, and any comments regarding
the change. More than 1,000 interviews (1,035), representing a
fifth of the persons employed before the changes, were obtained.
By far the largest proportion of the women interviewed had been
employed on both the old and the new work; that is, both before
and after the change. They constituted the largest group of women
and were by far the easiest group to locate. Many of those not interviewed were no longer with the firm and could not be found; usually
the only address obtainable was several years old, and many women
had moved, some of them to other cities. Information on age, mari-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



tal condition, and length of service also was obtained from the personal interview with the worker.
The material was collected over a considerable period and covered
a wide geographic area. A total of 115 plants, in 32 cities in 9 States,
were visited. They included some of the best-lmown firms in the
United States. The cities were in the E ast and the Middle West and
furnished a diversity of employment t o women, except a few where
employment revolved around a single industry. Records were
obtained for 250 technological changes occurring in these establishments. Though it was not possible in every case to get all the information desired, for most of the changes the managements were able
to state their effects on numbers employed, on production, and on
labor costs. The information covered the period 19~1 to 1931, but
the great majority of the changes, 88 percent, were in the more
recent 5-year period, 1927 to 1931.
There is every reason to suppose that the various technological
changes reported in this study are indjcative of the general character
of the changes in which women are involved.
Scope-115 plants visited in 32 cities in 9 States.
Period in which changes occurred-1921-31.

Number of cases of change-250.
Types of change, single and combined:
Improved machines.
Operating changes.
Hand to machine.
Substitution of one class of workers for another.
Different method of payment.
Machine to hand.
Shorter hours.
Employment on processes involved:
Before changes______________ _______ ___________________________ 6, 401
After changes ____ ___ ______ __ ____ _____ __ _________ - - __ - _- _- - __ - - 3, 604
Percent decrease (total)_ ________ ___ ______ _________ ______ ___ __ __ 43. 7
Women __ ____ __ ____ ___ __ ________ __ ____ ____________ ___ ____ 42. 0
Men ____ ____ ___ ____ _____ __ ___________ _______ __ ____ ___ __ __ 49. 6
Type of change showing greatest decrease in employment was hand to
machine with 70.5 percent.
Only change r esulting in increased numbers was substitution, with 1.7 percent.
Numbers employed decreased in 53.4 percent of the changes reported.
Numbers increased in 8.6 percent of the changes.
An increase in production occurred in 69.6 percent of the changes reported.
A decrease occurred in 5.8 percent of the changes.
The amount of the increase was from 300 to over 1,000 percent in one-fifth
of the cases reported.
Operating changes had the largest proportion of cases showing increased
Substitution was the change r esulting in the least effect on production.
Labor costs :
Decreased labor costs resulted in 94. 7 percent of the changes reported.
Increased labor costs r esulted from only 2 changes, 1 where the change was
from machine to hand and 1 where weekly hours were decreased.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Labor costs decreased at least 20 percent in 84 of the 106 changes where
per cent decrease was reported, at least 50 percent in 40 cases.
Where labor-saving devices such as conveyors, better tools, and different
work set-up were introduced, labor costs decreased at least one-half in
45 percent of the changes reported.

Number of women interviewed __ _________________________ _____ __ ____ 1,035
Percent t ransferred to new met.hod ______________________________ 84. 3
P ercent on old m ethod or transferred to other work____ _________ __ 11. 1
Percent laid off or quit (only a small number could be located)__ ___
4. 5
Earnings decreased after the change for 47.9 percent of the women reporting.
Earnings increased after the change for 30. 7 percent of the women r eporting.
Of the women earning less than $16 previous to the change, 16.4 p ercent
r eceived less after the change and 51.4 percent more.
Of the women earning $20 and more previous to the change, 59.3 p ercent
received less after the change and 20.5 percent more.
An increase of at least 30 percent over previous earnings was shown for oneffth (20.9 percent) of the women in the group earning less than $16 and
for less than 2 percent (1.8) of those earning $20 and more.
A decrease of at least 30 percent under previous earnings was shown for 2.8
percent of the women earning less than $1 6 and for 17 p ercent of those
earning $20 and more.
Nativity (1,033 women r eporting):
P ercent
Native born ____ ______________ __ ____________ __ ________ ___ __ ____ 79. 3
Foreign born ___ ___ ____________________________________________ 20. 7
From English-speaking countries__ ______ _____________________ 4. 0
From non-English-speaking countries ____________ ______ _______ 16. 7
Age (1,030 women reporting) :
Under 20 years_ _______ ________________________________________
20, under 25 years___ ___ __________ __ __ __ __ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ __ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __
25, under 30 years ____________ ___ _______________________________
30, under 40 years___ _______ __________________ _______ _____ ___ ___
40, under 50 years ______________________________________________
50 and over_ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ __ __ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _



Marital status (1,031 women r eporting) :
Single_ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ __ __ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ __ _ __ _ _ _ __ _ _ 55. 4
Married_ _____ ___ ___ ___________________________________________ 37. 6
Other __________ ___·___ __ _____ __ _____ _____ ____ _______ __ __ _______ 7. 0
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

In a report of President Harding's Conference on Unemployment
the following sentence appears: "Gradually the fact emerged during
the course of this survey that the distinctive character of the years
from 1922 to 1929 owes less to fundamental change than to intensified activity." 9 Perhaps this "intensified activity" is best defined
by Mr. P. W. Martin of the International Labor Office, who says,
"Machines are made to run faster. One man is in charge of more
machines. There has been a greater mechanization of the human
factor itself." 10 It might be added that together with these changes
there has continued the replacement of hand processes by machines
so that the product travels from one machine process to another,
with little human aid. This is described by Prof. Rexford G. Tugwell
as "the serialization of machines which tends to run the product
through all the processes, from raw material to finished goods, without
any, or very little, human intervention", and :in which "the assembly line is the heart of the process, sets the pace, establishes the
rhythm * * *." Another statement by Professor Tugwell is
pertinent and :is confirmed by the findings in this study: "* * *
workers do not now, if they ever did, make or dominate the manner
of work in which they are engaged. It :is the machine, its serialization, the routine it establishes, which :is the dominating condition." 11
In the survey with which this report is concerned many of the
changes were of the character described by Professor Tugwell,
namely, machine :improvements and the operating changes or different
work set-up. These two types, either as sole changes or accompanied
by secondary changes, comprised three-fifths, 59 .6 percent, of the
total number of technological changes on which information was
The following classification of single changes is used in the report:
Total _________________________________ ____ ___ __ __ 212
Improved machines_ _ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ __ __ _ _ _ __ _ __ __ _ __ _ _ _ _ 78
Operating changes or different work set-up___ __ ______ ____ __ 41
Hand to machine_ _ _ _ __ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ __ _ __ _ _ __ _ ___ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ 42
Women for men_ ____________________________ ______ __ 32
Men for women ______________________ ______ ____ _____
Different method of payment___ __ _______ __________ _______ 14
Machine to hand _______ _____ __________________ - - - - - - - - - _
Shorter hours ______ _____ _____ _____________ - _- - - - - - - - - - - 1

Of single changes, the first two listed cover a rather wide variety.
Under the first, improved machines, are included the :introduction
of multiple machines, that :is, where two or more units are turned out
9 President's Conference on Unemployment. Committee on Recent Economic (?hanges
Recent Economic Changes in the United States. Vol. I, p. ix. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1929.
10 Martin, P. W . 'l'he Technique of Balance: Its Place in American Prosperity. In International Labor
Review, October 1929, vol. 20, p . 504.
11 Tugwell, Rexford G. 'rhe Industrial Discipline and the Governmental Arts.
Columbia University
Press, 1933, pp. 57, 61.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



in one operation; the installation of automatic feed attachments; of
machines that combine two or more operations formerly performed
by separate machines; and many improvements in machines so that
more and better work can be turned out. Under the second, operating
changes or different set-up, are included changes from departmental
to line production, including the introduction of moving belts and
conveyors; the bre~king down of work to simpler operations; the
combining of work to eliminate nonproductive labor; the more
efficient routing of the work; the provision of better tools; and the
spreading of the work through better operating methods.
Of the two other changes most frequently found, one was from
hand to machine work and the other was from one class of workers
to another, commonly termed substitution.
There were also, especially in the case of substitution, a number of
instances where accompanying ·the major change was some other
improvement, such as better routing, finer tools, or more efficient
machines. These combination changes are as follows:
T otal _____________________________________ ___ ____
Substitution of women for men and operating change or
different work set-up___________________________ _____ __
Substitution of women for men and hand to machine_______ _
Substitution of women for men and single to multiple m achine_
Substitution of men for women and operating change_ ___ ____
Substitution of men for women and more efficient machine___
Substitution of men for women and single to multiple machine__________________ ___ ____ _______________________
Substitution of men for women and hand to machine________
Substitution of men for women and old to new machine___ ___
Hand to machine and single to multiple machine____________
Old to new machine and different work set-up________ ___ ____
Hand feed to automatic and different work set-up______ _____
More efficient machine and different work set-up____________
Different method of payment and different work set-up______


Labor costs
In all these changes, whether they consisted of a single improvement
or of more than one, the principal objective was greater production
per unit of cost. In every type of change, whether it involved a
direct saving in labor or an indirect saving from more efficient operation, as in the case where hours were shortened or a higher rate of
pay was introduced, the object was either increased production per
worker or reduction in cost per unit of output. The different changes
were successful, judged by the standard of lower labor costs, in all
but 10 of the 187 cases reported; and of these IO, costs remained the
same in 8 cases and were increased in only 2.·
Of the two changes where labor costs increased, one was a change
from machine to hand work and one a decrease in hours.
The most frequent method of decreasing costs was through the
aid of a new or an improved machine, and when this was done labor
costs were decreased in 93.3 percent of the cases and remained the
same in the other instances.
Though in most of the changes in the following list a reduction in
labor costs was achieved by the aid of better machines or more efficient operation, there were two changes where the savings effected
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



were solely through the effort of the workers, namely, where a different
incentive system was introduced and where a substitution occurred
of one work group for another. Decreased labor costs were reported
for these t wo changes in every case but one, though the change consisted merely in a different basis of pay or in the substitution of
women, usually at lower rates of pay, on work formerly done by men.

Type of change

Number of changes causing
labor costs toNumber
of cases ,- - - - - - - - reported

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -·I - - - - -- -- - -

Improved machine _______________ _______ __ _________ _____ _____ _
Operating·change or different work set-up __ _____ _______ _____ __
Hand to machine ____ __ ______ _______ __________________________ _
Substitution 1__________________ _ ____ ____________________ ____ _ _
Different method of payment_ __ ____ _____________ __ _____ ___ ___ _
Machine to hand _________ ____ _____________________________ ___ _
Shorter hours ___ _____ _____ _______________________ --- ______ ____ _
Combination of changes __ __________ _______ __ _______________ ___
1 In















1 -- - ------ - - - -- - ----1 -- ---- -- - - - - - - - -- - -28 -- --- -- - --

all but 1 case women were substituted for men.

The savings effected by these methods-change in method of payment and substitution-were considerable: In only 2 of 22 cases
with percent decrease reported was this less than 10 percent, while in
16 instances it ranged from 20 percent to as high as 50 to 60 percent.
When, however, the change involved some labor-saving device (the
3 changes first listed) the percent saved on the former labor cost was
considerably higher, with four-fifths showing savings of at least
20 percent, and well over two-fifths reporting savings of 50 percent
and more. These findings illustrate the truth of J. A. Robson's
general statement that "Rationalization * * * is a reduction
of the part which labor plays as a productive agent in respect of the
output." 12
Increased productivity or increasing the rate of production within
a given plant is a process that is being continuously experimented
with in practically all manufacturing establishments. New m achines
replace old ones, conveyor systems are introduced, and any operation
that slows down production is studied and the cause of retardation
eliminated. Improvements to lower costs of production and to
increase output per worker have been going on for centuries, but they
are especially important in this twentieth century. As Graham A.
Laing points out, the important thing is the SJ?eed of development.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of centuries between primitive
man and the 18th century peasant. Steam power and electricity
were discovered only a short century ago, and since these discoveries
the rate of change has increased almost beyond belief. 13 Most
records of production per worker in manufacturing do not go back
very far, but in considering the last 36 years, a comparatively recent
period, the productivity per worker has increased greatly. From
1899 to 1913 the rate of increase in manufacturing indu~tries was
12 Hobson, J . A. Rationalization and Unemployment. London, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1930
p. 73.
u Laing, Graham A. Towards Technocracy. Los Angeles, The Angeles Press, 1933, p. 18.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



16.3 percent. 14 Between 1919 and 1929 production per worker
increased about 45 percent, and in an estimate given by Charles A.
Bliss in his article entitled Recent Changes in Production he gives
an estimate, based on relative decreases in employment, hours, and
physical production, that output per man-hour increased approximately 25 percent in the 4 years from 1929 to 1933. 15 From these
figures it would appear that David Weintraub probably is right
when he says that output per man-hour in the manufacturing industries tends to increase in periods of depression. 16
In the present study all the changes took place in the period from
1921 to 1931. Where production figures could be obtained, an
increase in output was reported in 69.6 percent of the cases with the
same number or fewer workers employed. In 13 instances of change
there was a loss in production per worker, but this was compensated
for either by decreased costs or by an improvement in product.
of chan ges

Productibn increased- __ ______ ___ ____ __
Production decreased _________________ _
Production was the same _____________ _


P ercent

69. 6
5. 8
24. 6

In the cases where production was increased the percent of increase
varied from less than 10 percent, reported in 10 cases, to at least
1,000 percent in 6 cases. In one-fifth of the cases with percent
increase in production reported, the increase ranged from 300 to
over 1,000 percent. The following figures show the percent of cases
in each type of change where an increase in _production was reported,
and it is interesting to note that for one-half the cases of increase in
the change from hand to machine the gain was 300 percent or more.

Type of change

Improved machines _________________ _______ __ __
Operating changes or different work set-up_____
Hand to m achine___ _________________________ __
Substitution 1___ ___ __ _____ ___ __ ____________ __ ____
Different method of p ayment_ _____ _________ ___
Machine to hand___ ________ _______________ _____
Shorter hours_ ____ __ _____ ___________ _______ ___ _
Combination of changes__ ______ ___________ _____

Percent of
changes resuiting in
81 1
87. 1
10. 7
64. 3
0. 0
0. 0
73. 5

In all but 1 case women were substituted for men.

The effect of the change on production is least noticeable in the
case of substitution. In this change nearly four-fifths of the cases
reported no difference in output after the substitution.
u Bouniatian, Mentor. Technical Progress and Unemployment. In International Labor Review,
March 1933, vol. 27, p. 328.
1s Bliss, Charles A . Recent Changes in Production. Bui. 51 of National Bureau of Economic Research,
Inc., New York, June 28, 1934, pp. 6, 7.
16 Weintraub, D avid. The Displacement of Workers Through Increases in Efficiency and Their Absorption by Industry, 1920-31. In Journal of American Statistical Association, December 1932, vol 27, p. 398.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



The effects on employment varied according to the character of
the change, but when all changes are combined there appears a
marked decrease in the number employed. As all the changes involved human beings and not merely automatic processes this result
is not surprising. "The general effect of this type (technological)
of improvement", according to Emil Lederer, "and in particular
of rationalization measures, is to reduce the amount of labor
required * * * to produce the same output as before." 17 This
is illustrated by the following figures: Compilations made from
census figures show that in 1925 the number of wage earners per
1,000 population was 16.1 percent smaller than in 1919, in spite of
the fact that there was a 25 percent increase in the quantity of goods
produced, as shown by Federal Reserve Board figures. 18 Since the
depression that began in 1929 there has been a very marked decrease
in the demand for goods and the need of workers. This has resulted
in higher overhead costs and increased necessity for more efficient
operating. Charles A. Bliss, in his study of recent changes in production, finds that "a period of depression is conducive to improvement in labor productivity." 19
In the present study a comparison of the changes effected in
employment and production shows that employment increased in less
than one-tenth (8.6 percent) of the cases reported and decreased or
remained stationary in a little over nine-tenths, while production
increased in seven-tenths and decreased or remained stationary in
three-tenths. Before the technological change 6,401 workers were
employed, but 6 months or more after the change the number was
only 3,604, a reduction of 43.7 percent. This decrease was reported
by the management to be due in each case to improved technology,
not to lessened factory output, and it includes only the groups of
workers affected by the change.
A greater number of women than of men were affected by the
changes included in this report, as would be expected when the selection of change was made on the basis of its importance to women.
Before the changes women comprised more than three-fourths, 77 .8
percent, of the total number, while after the changes they were an
even larger proportion of the total, namely, 80.1 percent, the changes
having eliminated a somewhat larger proportion of the men (49.6
percent) than of the women (42 percent).
There was considerable variation according to type of change both
in the numbers involved and in the percent of decrease or increase
occasioned by the change. The largest group of workers, over twofifths (44.7 percent) of the total number employed before the changes,
were in the group where a machine improvement occurred. The
other three large groups were those where one group of workers was
substituted for another; where improved operating change occurred,
other than machine change; and where the work was changed from
11 Lederer, Emil. Technical Progress and Unemployment. In International Labor Review, July 1933,
vol. 28,-p. 4.
1s U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review, May 1927, vol. 24, p. 17. Comparison of
Employment and Productivity in Manufacturing Industries, 1919 to 1925.
1s Bliss, Charles A. Recent Changes in Production. Bul. 51 of National Bureau of Economic Research,
Inc., New York, June 28, 1934, p, 6.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




hand to machine operation. The proportional increase or decrease
in numbers in each group was as follows:
Percent decrease in employment ofType of change
All employees



TotaL ________ ______ __ _____ ____ _______ ________ ___ __ _____

43. 7

49. 6


Improved machines _____ __ ____ __ __________ ___________ _____ ___
Operating changes or different work set-up _________________ __
Hand to machine
__ _-- --- ----- ----- - - -- -- ----- ---- ---- - --- --Substitution
1 ____ __ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ___ _____ __ _ ______ __ ___ _ _ ______ _

50. 3
39. 3
70. 5

22. 0
47. 4
0. 0
61. 0
56. 6

54. 5
70. 9

Other ____________ _- --- --- -- -- ---- -- -- -- -- -- -- - ------ -- ------ 1

21. 7


In all but 1 case women were substituted for men.

In all types of technological change except where substitution
occurred there was a marked decrease in the numbers employed. The
largest reduction was in the change from hand to machine work,
where machines displaced 70.5 percent of the workers. Where substitution took place, the total number of workers increased slightly;
though the men showed a marked decrease, the number of women rose
from 38 to 482. Due to this large replacement number, the women
did not suffer so much as men from the changes, but when this one
type of change, substitution, is eliminated, the numbers of women are
decreased by the other types of change to an even greater degree than
are the numbers of men. 20
The actual number of changes showing a decrease in employment
was 118, while in only 19 cases was an increase reported.
Number of Percent of
Employment increased ___ _______ ____ ___ _
Employment decreased __________ _______ _
Employment was the same __ __ ____ _____ _


8. 6
53. 4

Combination changes
When a single change is introduced in a plant it is often found that
during its installation, or even in the planning, additional changes are
necessary. Frequently, also, multiple types of change are included in
those classed as single changes. For example, an operating change
such as the introduction of a moving belt may transform the method
of work from departmental to line production and some new tool or
fixture may also be added. This type of change involving more than
one modification would be classed as a single one in most cases, as the
accompanying changes are dependent on and more or less incidental
to the principal one, the introduction of the conveyor. However,
when two changes distinct in type and of equal importance are introduced at the same time, and the results are the combined effect
of these changes, they are classed in this report as "combination
changes." For 36 of the total 38 such cases in the present study the
20 However, as the changes were selected primarily because of their effect on women workers, the results
cannot be consldered typical of technological changes as a whole.
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effects on employment are reported. The number of workers previous
to the changes was 1,150. This total showed a reduction after the
changes of about one-half (49.2 percent ). In 15 of the combination
changes there were fewer employees afterward, but in 17 there was no
difference in numbers.
T ot al com bination changes _____ ___ ____ ___________
Number of wor kers b efor e __ __ ____ _______ ______ ____ _____ 1, 150
N umber of worker s after ___ __ ________ __________________

Labor costs were lessened in all the combination changes reported,
so that there was a saving by some other method even when the actu al
number of workers was not decreased. The better operating methods
resulted i.n increased output per worker, for output was increased in
three-fourths of the cases and in no instance was there a decrease.
Combination changes
Percent of cases resulting inNumber of ,_ _ __ __ _ _ _ __
Decrease N o change
Employmen t_ __ __-- - -- --- - __--- - --- - -- -- -- -- -- - - ---- -Labor costs _____________ ____________________ ___ _______ _
Production ________ __ __ _______ ____ _______ _____ _____ ____

41. 7
47. 2
28 - - - -- -- --- - 100. 0 -- -- -------26.
73. 5 ---------- - -

Technological changes by year of change
In earlier pages of this report figures have been given and authorities quo ted showing the continual change and improvement in t echnological processes during the years 1921 to 1931. Stuart Chase, in his
"Economy of Abundance", declares that this process has continued,
uninterrupted, through periods of prosperity and of depression. 21
The findings of the present study would at least indicate that no
decline in the rate of change occurred during the period from 1927 to
the early part of 1931.


TotaL ______ ________________ __-- -- _- _-- _-- -- -- -- -- ---- - 1Prior t o 1927 1 __ _ _ _ _ ___ _ _____ _ _ _ ____ _ __ _ _______ _____ _ ___ _ ____ _
1927 ----- - ----- - - --- -- -- - - -- --- -- - ------ - ------ - --- - - - - - -- - - - 1928 ____ _- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - 1929 ____ _- __ ____ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -1930 _____ ____ _____ - __- - - _- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1931 a__ ___ --- -- -- -- -- -- ----- -- -- -- -- ----- --- -- -- -- - -- --- - --- --

Number of



- - 1-


Number of
women before changes

Percent decrease in
num ber of
women after


40. 4


1, 306
1, 605

58. 7
32. 4
41. 5
44. 3
48. 6
q _5

6 years.
s Only part o! t he year.


There was a steady increase in t he number of changes reported t o
have taken place from 1927 to and including 1930, but it is not possible
to determine to what extent this is indicative of the existing rate of
change or how much the increase is affected by the fact that records
could more easily be obtained the nearer the changes occurred to

Chase, Stuart . The E conomy of Abundance. N ew York, M acmillan Co., 1934, p . 220.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



the time of the survey . . It would appear, however, that there was
at least no diminution in the number of changes during the period
1927 to 1930.
Probably in any change of job or of method of work, by far the
most vital point to the worker is the effect of the change on her pay
envelop. This was realized at the outset of the study, and an attempt was made to obtain from factory pay rolls comparative records
before and after the change. This information was obtained in some
cases, but there were many plants where no fair comparison could
be made, because of changes in methods of payment, in bookkeeping,
in personnel, or in hours of work. It was decided, therefore, that a
more complete picture could be obtained from the work~rs themselves
concerning their average weekly pay and the number of hours in
which it was earned under the old and the new method of work.
Frequently t hese facts would be accompanied by illuminating comments such as the following:
I like machine work better because pay is better; work goes faster and therefore
is more interesting.
The new machine is easier work-but the old job had the advantage of higher
You work harder on the group bonus; if you don't work hard on the group
you\~ cheating the others.
Do I work harder? I'll say I do. I work and earn 40 cents an hour and only
get 27. They talk a bout lost hours, lost motion-all it is to me is lost money.

From such remarks by the women it is probably true that the change
in earnings affected to a considerable degree their opinion of the
ncreased difficulty or ease of the new work.
The report of the women of their earnings on all the changes
combined showed nearly one-half to be earning less after the change
than before, while about one-fifth experienced no change in earnings
and three-tenths earned more. Of 835 women whose average hourly
earnings on t he old and the new work were obtainable, 404 (48.4 percent) had a lower average after the chai;ige, 257 (30.8 percent) a
higher average, and 174 (20.8 percent) the same as before.
Of the 404 whose earnings declined22.0
30. 7
4. 7


d eclined

less than 10 percent.
10 and less than 20 percent.
20 and Jess than 30 percent.
30 and less than 40 percent.
40 and less than 50 percent.
50 percent or more.

That is, for almost half of the 404 women whose hourly earnings
were lower than before, the decline was from 20 percent to 50 percent
or more.
Whether earnings increased or decreased appears to be somewhat
dependent on the amount of the original earnings. Of the 177
women who were receiving less than $16 a week before the change,
a little more than half reported an increase in average hourly earnings after the change and only 16.4 percent reported a decrease;
the earnings of the remaining women did not change. The effect ·
of the change was much less favorable to the women whose earnings
before the, change were $16 or more. Of the group whose earnings
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



had been $16 but less than $20, nearly one-half (46. 7 percent)
earned less after the change; and of the group whose earnings had •
been $20 and over, almost three-fifths (59.3 percent) reported lower
earnings than before. Therefore the workers who before the change
earned $16 and up showed a larger proportion of their number earning
less after the change than did the lower-paid group at less than $16.
Thus one result of the change was to establish wages nearer a normal
or average, with a smaller number of workers at either end of the
scale who received very low or very high pay. That this leveling
process resulted in a considerable change for the lowest and highest
paid women is shown by the following figures, which give the proportion of each wage group whose average hourly earnings decreased or
increased 30 percent or more.
Percent of women in specifiedearnint_sgroupwhose
ourly earnmgsWeekly earnings before change

Less than $16 ____________________
$16, less than $20 ___ ____________ _
$20 and more __ ________ _____ ____ _

30 percent
and more

30 percent
and more

2. 8

20. 9
6. 6


1. 8

It is apparent that sharp increases in earnings occurred chiefly in
the lowest wage group and pronounced decreases in the highest, thus
concentrating earnings much more closely around an average wage
than was the case before the change.
Interviews were had with 95 women whose work was affected by
the change through a transfer to other work in the same plant.
These women were included in the analysis because their work and
earnings were changed by the introduction of the new method of
work though they themselves were not employed on the changed job.
However, if the earnings of these women are considered separately,
they show a smaller proportion of women with decreased earnings
(42 percent) and a larger proportion receiving an increase (32.1 percent) than was found among the women who went on the new method,
with 48.4 percent having a decrease and 30.8 percent an increase.

Learning period
The majority of changes reported in this study involved some
technological improvement, such as more efficient machines, better
tools, or other aids to the work. In most cases the job itself was
simplified through these aids and less skill was required to perform
the work. Information concerning the time required to learn the
new work, as compared with the time required to learn the old, was
difficult to obtain. In very few establishments had any records been
kept, and the fact that many of the workers had been transferred
directly from the old to the new work, bringing with them their
acquired skill, made it especially hard to get even an estimate of the
learning time required on the new work. Usually the question was
referred to the foreman in charge of the work, and frequently he
gave his opinion on the average learning period before th'e change
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



and the average after the change. In the majority of the 111 changes
for which information was available, the learning time was the same
before and after the change (63); in well over a third the learning
time was shortened by the change (40), and in only 8 cases was the
learning time lengthened. There was, therefore, a considerable
saving effected through the shor ter learning time required for much
of the new work, and in comparatively few cases was there added
expense from this cause.
Opinions of workers
The comments of the workers on the change were unfavorable in
the majority of cases.


T otal comments __ ___ _____ ____ _


100. 0

Un favorable___ ___ ___ ___ ____ _______ __
F avorable ________ ___ ____ __ _____ ____ _
P artly favorable_______ ___ ______ ___ __
No preferen ce ______ __ ______ __ _____ __


53. 8
23. 9
16. 7

This preponderance of unfavorable opinion of the new work as
compared to the old without doubt is due partly to a very general
dislike of change. As one girl said, "You can't do a job for 4 years
one way and then change your way of doing it"; and another remarked,
"It was just like learning a new job."
It is difficult, therefore, to tell whether the new work was really
harder for the majority of workers or its newness and unlikeness to
the old work, combined in almost h alf the cases with a decrease in
pay, were responsible for the large number of women who found the
change unsatisfactory.
The proportion of women expressing an unfavorable opinion of the
change was greater on some types of change than on others. Of the
various changes (considering only those reported by 20 or more women)
the one with the largest percent of unfavorable comments was the
change in method of payment, with 73.6 percent disliking the change.
The next most unpopular, though the total number of women reporting in this group was small, was the change from machine to hand
work, with 69.6 percent reporting unfavorably. Comparing this
with the change from h and to machine work, it is found that just
one-half reported this change unfavorably, showing a considerably
smaller proportion dissatisfied than on the machine-to-hand change.
P ercent of comments that wereType of change



- - - - - - - - -- -- - - -- -1- Improved m achines ___ ___ __ __ ___ ___ __ ____ _______ ____ _____ _
Operating chan ges or different work set-up ____ __ _________ _
H and to m achine. ______ _____ ______ __________ _______ _____ _
Substit ution 2___ _ ___ _ _ _ _ _ __ ___ ______ _ _ _ _ _ ___ _ _ _______ _ _ __ _
D ifferent met hod of paymen t ____ _____________ _____ ______ _
Machine to h and __- - - ---- - - ------ -------- -- --- - -- --- ----Operating chan ge and method of paymen t __ __ ___________ _





- , - - - - . - - - --

---- 43. 6

33. 3
22. 8
23. 9
21. 7
12. 9

54. 0

39. 1
73. 6
69. 6
46. 7

26. 7

Includes only those changes wit h 20 or more women reporting.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Favor- UnfaP artly Noprefable vorable favorable erence




16. 2
17. 4
34. 8
11. 9
21. 7
21. 3

Women for men.

7. 2
8. 7
1. 5
8. 7

5. 3



The change that received the most favorable comments was that
from an old type of machine to a new. One-third of those experiencing this change were pleased by it. One girl said the new ma.chine
was much better and not so dangerous; another reported, "The new
machine is ten times better; it goes much lighter; you don't get tired.
I'd never go back to the old machine." And still another said, "At
first none of us liked the new machines-now we wouldn't change
them." Some of the unfavorable comments on the improved-machine change as well as the improved-operating change were that the
speed of work had been much increased, that there was less time to
rest, and that the work was steadier and more monotonous. The
increased steadiness of the work was complained of also when the
change was from hand to machine work. There was considerable
mention in these three types of change of the strain of '' keeping up" with the machine. "I'd rather have hand work; with the
machines you've got to keep up no matter how fast they set the
machines." The other side of the picture was shown by a girl who
found the machine a great relief; of her old work she said, "Turning
an arm crank all day is a steady pull-not heavy but hard work."
And another said: "We used to be on our own power, now its machine
power. I'm not so tired at the end of the day as I used to be."
With the many modifications included under "operating changes"
the principal complaint was of the steadiness of the work with no
minute to rest. This was especially frequent when a conveyor had
been introduced or the work spread.
On the conveyor we must stay all day, whereas the table group could leave when
the ticket was finished.
Must just work and work, no time to rest.
No time even to sit down, and before found a little time to do that.

But the picture had another side:
Putting in the conveyors saved all that running and carrying boxes, so it was
a great help to us.
I like the conveyor better; it is more fun to be with all the girls and I don't
mind the speed.

Differences of opinion were found also about the change from
individual to group work.
Work is much harder because you've got to keep up, for the whole group is
affected if you take time off.
I like working in a group; it is interesting because we change around on the
belt and take turns at different jobs.

The change that involved a substitution of women for men resulted,
as did some of the others, in new work for the women. Where it
differed most from the other changes was in a transfer to an entirely
new job. The women may or may not have done similar work
previously, but they had not been employed on that specific work.
For this reason a comparison of their work before and after the change
was dependent to a great extent on their previous work, and the
comparison may have been between two distinct jobs and not between
a change of method on the same work.
The new work on which they took men's places was considered an
improvement over their former work by 5 of the 23 women reporting
and was thought not so desirable by 9. Thus, as in other groups, a
larger proportion preferred their old work to the new, but unfavorable
opinions constituted a smaller percentage in this case than in any of
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



the other major changes. Drawbacks to the jobs, such as the heaviness of the work, were mentioned frequently.
The motors weigh 8 or 9 pounds and we average 200 a day. The work comes
a long and you've got to keep right at it. It's r eally a man's job.
This work is pretty hard for girls. (This girl had to carry big boxes and handle
heavy parts.)

The work was not always hard, and some preferred it to their
former jobs:
I like this job--you only put in two screws. It's not heavy-we can stand or
The job is easy; we just move a handle back and forth. (This girl preferred
the new job to her former work where she used an acid that made her sick.)

From the different statements made by the workers, it would seem
that the jobs on which women were substituted for men varied a
great deal in the physical strength required, and also that more care
was taken in some plants than in others to select workers best fitted
to the job.
The only change on which there was no wholly favorable comment
from the women reporting was the change from machine to hand
work. Five of the 23 women reporting on this change found some
things they liked and some they disliked, but none gave unqualified
approval, while the majority (16) would have preferred returning to
their old work on the machine:
I like the machine. It was less work and easier-not so hard on your eyes.
The work on the machine was easier and better paid. Now it is tedious and
we work like dogs.

It is interesting to find that one of the chief complaints of hand
work was monotony, which was also expressed frequently of machine
As previously stated, the large majority of the women visited were
still in the employ of the firm in which they had experienced the
technological change. This overweighting was unavoidable, as in
many cases women who had been laid off in earlier years could not be
found after such a lapse of time. Therefore, only a small number
of those interviewed, 4.5 percent, had been laid off or had quit because
of the change in their work. The great majority, 84.3 percent, were
on the work in which the change had taken place; the remainder who
were still with the firm had been transferred to other work, or in a few
cases remained on the old job.
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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


One of the most constantly occurring technological changes is
t hat of improved machines. In some cases a new attachment may
·be added to an old model or an entire new machine may be intro,d uced, frequently including features of the older one, while still
another machine may combine several operations formerly done on
two or more separate machines. However, a general change that
prevails in most of the new machines regardless of the character of
the improvement is an increase in the automatic performance of
the machine and a decrease in the need for human labor. Such
changes form the largest group in this study with 77 cases reporting
number of employees affected. In these cases 2,861 workers were
employed before the change, 1,421 after.
Number of changes__ _____ __________________ ______ _____
Number of workers:
Before___ ______ __ ______ _____ ______ ____ ___ __ ___ ___ 2, 861
After ____ _______ _____ ____ ____ ____ ________ _____ ___ _ 1,421

Percent decrease (total) ___________ __________ __ ____ _____ 50. 3
Women _________ ____ ____ _____ ___ ___________ __ ____ 54. 5
Men ___ _____ ______ _____ .. ____ ____ ___ _____ _________ 22. 0
Employment decreased in nearly two-thirds, 64.4 percent, of
the c]).anges.
Production increased in 81.1 percent.
Labor costs decreased in 93.3 percent.
Of the women reporting, 33. 7 percent had decreased earnings
after the change and 32.1 percent had increased earnings.
Unfavorable comments on the change were expressed by 40.8
percent of the women; favorable comments by 37 percent.

The following descriptions illustrate the types and effects of machine improvements and combinations.
The installation of hoppers or batteries on machines eliminates
hand feeding and the strain of keeping pace with the machine as
well as the danger frequently involved.
In a printing shop the girls formerly gathered the sheets by dropping
a double sheet across a saddle or rod as it came by. It was important
never to miss, for if one were skipped that copy of the magazine
would be incomplete when published. In the new machines the
girls fillea the hoppers with sheets, which were automatically dropped
on the saddle and were carried along to the stitcher. Not so much
skill was required to keep the hopper full as to keep in rhythm on
the old method. On the old machines it took 9 girls to gather and
place the sheets; on the new machines 3 girls could keep the hoppers
full. A girl was substituted for the man on the stitching machine,
at a lower rate of pay.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



The production of each girl on the gathering process trebled on the
new machines, and as their pay remained the same and fewer girls
were needed, labor costs were reduced. In this shop business was
growing, so it was possible to keep all the workers that this change
otherwise might have displaced. It also was the practice to introduce changes slowly and only as the demand required, so that no
reduction of numbers was necessary even temporarily.
In a plant where formerly 20 women fed and operated punch
presses, machines were introduced with a dial feed and compressed
air chucks that threw out the finished pieces. The pieces were fed
into the hopper by the man who formerly assisted around the machines and who was able to add other duties to this. The 20 women
operators were eliminated, but as the 5 new presses were jntroduced
gradually over a 6-month period, only a few at a time had to be laid
off. Production per machine increased from 2,500 parts a day on
the old presses to 20,000 on the new, so that 5 machines with the
part-time work of one man replaced 20 machines with 20 women
operators and the part time of one man, and turned out twice the
With the many goods now sold in package form, such as cereals,
soap flakes, and so forth, the demand for cheap methods of filling
and wrapping has increased. For many years these packages had
been filled by machine, the operator opening and feeding the box
into the machine, where it was glued and filled, the operator then
inserting a slip, and the package being sealed by the machine.
In the plant reporting on this, there is now in operation a machine
that requires only the filling of the hopper with the flat unformed
boxes. The machine forms the box, fills it, inserts the slip, seals
the box, and finally pushes it onto a moving belt that carries it to
the packing room, without the aid of hands after the placing of
the flat cartons in the hopper. Five new machines do the work of
24 of the old type. Only 1 girl is needed on each new machine
compared to 2 on the old. Two mechanics look after all machines
and 2 girls were given jobs inspecting and preparing boxes, respectively. Twenty girls are now employed on the new machines,
whereas 48 operated the old ones.
In another plant the women formerly operated large punch presses
that cut sheet metal, one woman to each press. Now the machines
have been timed to work in unison, a magazine with automatic feed
has been installed, and conveyors connect the machines so that 1
woman can operate 3. This change yielded about the same production, but as fewer workers were employed labor costs were decreased 66% percent. Of the 9 women who originally operated the
machines, 3 went on the new machines, 2 were laid off, and 4 were
transferred to work in other departments.
Whenever it is necessary in the course of a change to lay off some
of the workers or to shift them to less desirable work it very naturally
affects the opinion of the change even of workers not immediately
concerned, as there is always the fear that further change may elinnnate their jobs. There appears to be a normal antagonism to change,
which is increased by fear of loss of job. Where a wage cut is involved
in addition, there may be expected-as was found in the case of the
punch-press change-the opinion that "The old machine was better
because I could earn more and more people were employed. It is
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



also necessary to watch 3 machines now instead of 1, and that means
running backward and forward."
A change that is found frequently and in many different kinds of
work is that from a single machine-one producing but one piece at
a time-to a multiple machine that turns out a number of identical
parts at the same time.
In a plant doing engraving on metal, the work was done formerly
by a single-spindle machine with one operator. A new machine
with 8 spindles was introduced. At the time of interview 1 man
operated 3 of these 8-spindle machines. The new machine also
did more of the work than the old, such as changing the characters
and indexing the wheel automatically, so fewer operations were
performed by the worker than on the old single-spindle machine.
Production per operator increased from 6 wheels per hour on the
old machine to 86 per hour on the new, or 1,300 percent. Total
labor costs decreased by 89.6 percent. The single operator's earnings
on the new machines averaged 72 cents an hour 1 compared to an
average of 48 cents an hour for the 16 operators on the old machines.
There is another element in any machine change on which there was
great difficulty in obtaining accurate information, that is, the
increased cost of the new machine over the old. In the case of the
engraving machines just cited the management emphasized this
fact and declared that while 16 of the single-spindle machines cost
$1,200, the 3 new multiple machines cost $6,600, over five times as
much, and though it was difficult to estimate obsolescence, without
doubt the additional machine cost must be considered as well as the
increased production and decreased labor costs. No lay-offs were
involved in the change described, as the factory was a large one and
well organized and the extra workers either remained on the singlespindle machines, some of which were still in use for special kinds of
work, or were transferred to other departments. Among the women
interviewed, who were put on the new.machines at first but displaced
by a man, there was a difference of opinion about the machin es:
"It is easy work", according to the statement of one woman, and
several agreed that the new machines were more interesting than t he
old and "turned out such pretty work", while another side was
presented by a slender woman who found the new machines heavier
than the old and when she tried to "pull" it would nearly turn her
over in her chair. This wide difference of opinion of the heaviness or
difficulty of the same work was found frequently and emphasized
the need of careful selection of workers to meet the demands of the
Results of change to improved machines
The introduction of an improved machine or one that combined
the operations of two or more machines did not result in the displacement of nearly so great a proportion of workers as did the change
from hand to machine work. In the first named only one-half as
many workers were needed on the new machines as on the old, and
the numbers decreased from 2,861 to 1,421. Women, employed in
much larger numbers, were affected to a greater extent than were
men. The number of women employed after the change showed a
decrease of 54.5 percent, while the men decreased by only 22 percent.
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Records on labor costs were obtained for 60 of the changes, and all
but 4 showed a decrease; none showed an increase, and in 4 cases
there was no change in costs. Production increased after the change
in 60 out of 74 instances where production figures were furnished, and
in only two cases was there a decrease.
Number of cases result ing in-

Employment_ _____ _____
Labor costs ______ _______
Production _____________


D ecrease




N o change


The earnings of the women who were shifted from the old to the
improved machines and who reported in the interviews increased in
slightly over one-third of the cases, were the same as before in slightly
under one-third, and decreased in the remaining cases.
There were, however, among the women who reported, a slightly
larger number who preferred the work on the old machines to work
on the new:

Old work preferred by __ ___________ ____ __ ___________ ___ _ 40. 8
New work preferred by ___ _ _____________________________ 37. 0
No decided prefere nee expressed by_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 22. 3


In a bulletin on the manufacturing of electric-light bulbs published
by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1933 the following
statement appears: "Technological changes are perhaps most commonly associated with machines. Processes not primarily mechanical in nature should, however, also be included. Methods of economizing space, material, and time are also essentially technological,
even though there is no mechanical innovation." To this is added,
"' Scientific management' is often more effective than scientific
mechanism." 22
The group of changes next discussed are those of management,
and though in some an improved machine may be involved, nevertheless the improvements were primarily in the arrangement and routing of the work and the better adjustment of the worker to the job.
A large number of the changes were concerned with the way that the
work was done, such as the introduction of a conveyor, a moving
belt, or long connected tables, so that work traveled along a line with
one process following another. This method saved the time and
labor of trucking materials from one department to another and
eliminated some inspecting and checking.
Other types of change included in this section are the introduction
of bench fixtures that held the work in place, leaving both hands
free for the work; the combining of one or more operations so that
trucking and ticketing were decreased or eliminated; the breaking
down of a complicated job so that workers less highly skilled could be
used and the learning time greatly reduced; the introduction of a
22 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technological Changes and Employment in the Electric-Lamp
Industry. Bul. 593, 1933, p. 36.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



new tool that simplified the work. All these different types of change
were studied, as were many others that illustrated various methods
used to increase production, lower labor costs, and render the finished
product more perfect and uniform.
N umber of changes___ ____________________ _______ ___ ____
Number of workers:
Before __ ____________ ___ ___ ___________ _____________ 708
After ___________ ____ ______ __ __ ______ ______ ___ _____ 430
P ercent decrease (total) _____________ __ ___________ __ _____ 39. 3
Women___ _______ _______ ___________ _______________ 38. 8
Men ___ _______ __ __ ___ ___ ___ ______ ____ _____ ____ ____ 47. 4
Employment decreased in 66.6 p er cent of the changes.
Production increased in 87.1 p er cent.
Labor costs decreased in 89.3 p ercent.
Earnings decrea sed for 52.3 percent of the women report ing.
Earnings increased for 21.3 percent.
Unfavorable comments on the change were expressed by 53.8
percent of the women reporting; favorable comments by 22. 7

Increased efficiency through the introduction of a moving belt, a
very frequent improvement, ·was found in the packing department of
a candy factory. In the old days each girl had before her on a table
the different varieties of candy from which she packed her boxes.
After the change a moving belt down the middle of a narrow t able
carried the boxes past a line of girls, and as they passed each girl
put in four or five pieces of candy. In this way of packing on the
belt the daily production per girl was about 190 boxes, whereas when
each girl packed her own box directly from the table the output per
girl averaged 100 boxes a day. Though production was almost
doubled by the change, no women were laid off, as there were many
other packing jobs in the plant and it was possible to transfer them
to similar work.
The elimination or reduction of handling the product made possible
by the use of conveyors is important not only for the saving in labor
but because frequently it eases the load of the worker.
In the enameling of part s in a stove factory, under the old method
the pieces to be sprayed were trucked to each worker, who sprayed
the part in her own booth, first scraping off rough places and seeing
that it was smooth for spraying. Afterward she placed the part on a.
rack for drying . These racks were trucked to the furnaces, where.
the baking was done. Men took the sheet s off after baking and
trucked them to the brushers, where they were lifted off the trucks,
brushed, and again trucked to the assembly department. Under
the new method all sheets are prepared by men for spraying. Girls
take the sheets from the table and place them on a moving belt
which carries them past the sprayer (a girl), after which they are
hung by girls on a conveyor that carries them through the ovens.
When baked they are transferred by girls to a revolving table, on
one side of which sit the brushers. After brushing the pieces thesei
men lay them on a truck to be wheeled to the assembly department ..
The work of spraying on the conveyor is hard, as the gun must be.
held steadily and continuously to spray the pieces as they pass by,.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



while on hand spraying the work of scraping and handling the pieces
gave some relief from constant spraying. Because of the steadiness
of the work, the girls on the conveyor line change off, one girl spraying
for a while, then feeding, and then taking off and hanging. The
frequency of this shifting was experimented with, until finally half
an hour on each job was arrived at as the desirable length of the
work spell. Production averaged for the 6-month period .following
the change showed an increase of 60 percent over the average production for a similar period a year earlier. One of the workers who
had been a sprayer in a booth found the spraying on the conveyor
easier because "you work in a team on a conveyor; this rests you and
relieves you from the strain of spraying constantly."
The introduction of a bench fixture or improved tool frequently
results in increased output and easier work. In the assembling of
locks, formerly a girl sat at a bench, held a lock in her left hand, and
dropped in the springs and tumblers with her right. By the introduction of a small fixture on the bench which held the lock, the worker
was able to drop in the springs and tumblers with both hands, as she
no longer had to use one hand to hold t;h.e lock in position. Her
production increased with the use of the fixture from an average of
800 an hour to 1,200. Earnings were the same under the two methods.
A change in the job itself, either through simplification or breaking
down of the work, or througli the opposite of this-the combining
of two or more operations-was found frequently. An example of
the breaking-down of the work was found in the spinning department
of a cotton mill. The spinner's job consisted formerly in piecing
up broken ends, keeping the roving full, and cleaning and oiling
the rolls. She tended from 960 to 1,440 spindles, depending on her
ability and the quality and count of yarn. Under the new method
this work was divided between the spinner and a cleaner. The
spinner pieced up the ends and attended to the roving, while the
cleaner took care of the frames from the roller beam up. The average
number of spindles tended by a spinner varied from 1,921 to 2,098,
depending on the yarn. Efficiency base.p. on production increased
from 90 percent to 96 and labor costs decreased by 17 percent. Earnings were higher by 7.6 percent for the spinners, and lower by 13.4
percent for the cleaners, who formerly were spinners.
As in most cases where the work is changed, some employees found
the new way easier and some found it harder. One spinner declared
that she did not work nearly so hard on the new work as on the old,
where she had had everything to do. Now the cleaning andoiling
being done for her made the work easier. Another found it harder
because of the increased speed of the machine, with "plenty of
breakage now" and never a minute to sit down where formerly there
was a little t ime occasionally to rest. Though a careful study had
been made before the change of the quality of cotton and speed of
machine in relation to thread breakage, and the load planned accordingly, there was a fairly unanimous feeling among the workers visited
that the number of end breakages had not been decreased. Naturally,
the lack of a definite route that the worker must follow in piecing
ends necessitated their "running here and there", probably adding
not only to the actual labor involved but to the strain of "keeping
up", which is nearly always present in machine-tending jobs.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



An entire reorganization of the work in a department of a hosiery
mill combined several types of change. On some operations the
work was broken down, on others two separate jobs were combined;
group work in small units was introduced for some work, while other
jobs were changed from a group to an individual basis.
The job next described illustrates some of the differences resulting
from the change. Formerly a girl whose work on women's hose
was mating and pairing performed these operations: Inspecting,
measuring for length and pairing, mating seconds, folding hosiery
three times, counting number of dozens finished and marking down
the number. Under the new method the work was much simplified:
Measuring for length, matching hosiery for color thread in heel and
toe, matching for shape of foot, and inspecting a little if anything
gets by the inspector.
The inspecting, mating, and pairing formerly were done at long
tables by groups of girls. This was changed to two processesinspecting and sorting, and pairing. Two operators worked together
but were paid individually. Trimming, labeling, folding, etc., and
packing in boxes with final inspection, were operations performed
by two groups, paid on the group plan.
The change resulted in increased output for the department, and
average hourly earnings as shown by pay rolls taken before and
after the change showed an increase from 38.2 cents before the change
to 43.7 cents after. The average number of workers decreased from
266 to 202, while total production increased and labor costs were
There was a variety of opinion among the workers regarding the
change. One girl (a pairer) liked the new method better because, as
she said, "It is easier work, not so hard on the eyes, and there is no
carrying work and usually no waiting around for it." She also felt
that the quality of the work was improved, "because each girl more
or less checks up on the girl she works with." The opposite of this
opinion was expressed by another woman pairer who did not like
the new method because of "the speed and feeling of strain." Each
pairer had an inspector and they had to keep up with each other;
also, if the pairer allowed the work from the inspector to pile up, the
folders and packers did not like it. But, she added, "Under the new
system the same amount of work is finished in less time." As is
found in most line work the pressure to keep up is hard on the slower
The opposite of breaking down the job was found in a factory
making shirts and collars. In this plant the work of joining the
collar to the band was done formerly in two operations: One worker
stitched the band and was called a bander; the other inserted the
collar into the band and stitched it in place, and she was termed the
inserter. It was necessary to truck the bands and collars to the
assembling department and from there to the inserters. Production
records also had to be kept of both handers and inserters. The pay
for these tasks was on a piecework basis. These two operations,
making the band and inserting the collar, were combined and were
performed by one operator. Production per hour decreased slightly
but not enough to offset the savings effected by the elimination of
the assembly department (which had collected the bands and the
collars and tied them in bundles), the abolition of the trucking from
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one operation to another, and the decrease in clerical work. After
the change the earnings of the inserters showed a decrease and those
of the handers an increase. The change was effected during the
slack season so that the workers would have time to learn the new operation before a high rate of production would be required. Further,
it was installed · slowly, so the elimination of workers was gradual,
except in the assembly department, which employed 6 men and 16
women at the time it was shut down.
There was a di:ff erence of opinion among the women concerning
the work before and after the change. Nearly all agreed that the
work itself was more difficult, but some preferred -t he double job
because "it is easier to insert in your own well-made bands than to
have t.o make someone else's bands fit. You can make a much better
job of it." Others had difficulty in learning the new work. As one.
girl said, "After learning a job one way you don't like to learn it overagain." According to a former inserter, it was much harder to do
the bands than to insert; "turning the corners stuck most of us."
But according to a former band maker, inserting was the harder
work. It would seem, therefore, that the newness of the job was,
the stumbling block rather than its char~cter.
Results of operating changes or different work set-up
Improved methods of operating, other than those where the introduction of a new machine was the principal factor, were reported in
41 cases. They occurred in a wide variety of industries; for example:
Metal goods, hosiery, cotton cloth, candy, electrfo bulbs, electrical
supplies, automobiles and accessories, shirts and collars, soap, paper
goods, food products, drugs and pharmaceutical products, and stoves.
Without doubt they are very important changes and probably it is,
true that there is not a single industry that would not show, on.
investigation, some changes of this nature.
The decrease of employment due to operating changes was not sogreat as in machine changes. Numbers decreased after the change
by about two-fifths (39.3 percent). The number of men involved
in the changes was small, only 38, compared to 670 women. Of thecases where effect on employment was reported, 22 showed a decrease,
10 no change, and 1 an increase. With smaller numbers employed
it is not surprising to find a decrease in labor costs in all but 3 instances, and in no case was there an increase. As the changes were
made primarily in an effort to obtain more efficient production-that
is, more goods at less cost-it is not surprising to find a record of
increased production after the change in 27 out of the 31 cases where.
this was reported.
N umber of cases resulting in-

Employment_ ___ _______
Labor costs _______ ___ ___
Production ___ __ ___ ____ _







No change

In many of the operating changes the work was simplified; in_
others the work formerly done by hand was accomplished by mechan--
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



ical ·aid; while in still others some tasks were eliminated. Naturally,
these types of change would result, as has been found, in lower labor
costs. They would not, however, necessarily result in decreased
earnings. Nevertheless, this happened in many cases. Of 235
women who reported their earnings on the new method, a little over
one-half, 52.3 percent, earned less after the change, slightly over
one-fourth earned the same as before, and a little over one-fifth
experienced an increase.
The comments of 225 workers on the new method, expressed a
month or two after the change, were unfavorable in considerably
more than one-half the cases; favorable in well over one~:fifth; partly
unfavorable and partly favorable in one-sixth; and indifferent to
the change in the remainder of the cases.

Though not so common at the present time as some other types of
modification, the change from hand to machine operation is continually going on. In some cases where this transfer is made the work
is lightened for the operator; in others there may be an added strain
from the necessity of adapting the human pace to that of the machine
or from the increased monotony of watching an automatic machine
all day. Whether these strains are equal to or greater than the old
hand method, where often considerable muscular effort was needed,
depends to a great extent on the operation and on the temperament
and physique of the worker, together with the care with which she
has been selected in relation to the work.
Number of changes__ __________________________________
Number of workers:
Before_ _____________________ ____ ____ ___________ __
After__ __________________________________________
Percent decrease (total)___________ _____________________ 70. 5
Women _______ __ ______ ________ __________________ _ 70. 9
Men (only 3 affected)__ _____ __________ _____ ________
0. 0
Employment decreased in 77 .1 percent of the changes.
Production increased in 82.1 percent.
Labor costs decreased in every change.
Of the women reporting, 55 percent had lower earnings after the
change and 29 percent had higher earnings.
Unfavorable comments on the change were expressed by 50.7
percent of the women reporting; favorable comments by 24.7

The following example, according to the women themselves, shows
a decrease in strain with the introduction of the machine. In checking
electric units the girls who were testing sat at tables and measured
the resistance of electric units on a small calibrating machine. They
had to watch the readings closely and throw those that measured
correctly into one box, those that measured higher than the desired
measurement into another box, and those that were lower into still
another. With the introduction of the mechanical process, a girl
sits by the machine and feeds in units, which are automatically
measured and thrown into the correct boxes. Five units are measured
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



at one time, thus enabling the girl feeding the machine to do as much
work as five girls did on the hand-measuring job. It was possible
in this case to transfer the extra girls to other work in the factory,
as the volume of business was increasing. A comparison of the
two methods of calibrating, hand and machine, was made by a woman
who had experienced both. She declared in favor of the machine:
"It is easier, and not nearly so hard on your eyes as where you have
to watch the figures when you are hand checking. You make more
mistakes on hand checking.''
Another example where the introduction of a machine appears to
have benefited the worker was found in the cutting and counting of
paper napkins. Formerly girls unwound the paper roll with the
left hand, the foot operated the cutting treadle, and with the right
hand the cut napkins were taken off and the counting was done as
they were bundled. Now a machine, operated by a man, cuts and
counts the napkins and the girls take off and bundle. Daily production increased from 22,000 packages per person under the hand
method to 40,000 per person with the machine. Labor cost decreased
from 28 cents per 1,000 packages to 14 cents per 1,000. Machines
were introduced gradually so that it was possible to transfer the
women to other departments. The women were divided .in their
opinion of the change. One said, "We had to count and band them.
By having to count all day you could never talk. Now we are freer.
We change jobs throughout the day; it gives you a chance to stretch
your legs a little. Each of us stands about 1 hour out of every 3.
We used to be on our own power; now it's machine power and I'm
not so tired at the end of the day as I used to be. This doesn't
take so much out of your bones." In short, the machine made the
work easier for this girl. Another felt differently, however: "Work
used to run better by hand. Working on the machine makes me
nervous. It's terrible, it goes so fast. By hand the strain was on
the eyes, watching for the dot to cut by; now the strain is on the
whole body trying to keep up." For this girl keeping to the pace of
the machine made the work harder even though the former job
strained her eyes.
Again, in a plant where the labeling and wrapping of bottles were
done by hand a machine was introduced. This machine took the
bottles after they had been washed and filled by machine, labeled
and wrapped them, dropping in a little corkscrew. From the machine they were carried along on a moving belt to be packed· in
large containers. The machine requires 1 girl to supply th0 bottles,
1 to operate the machine, 1 to furnish the corks, 1 box maker,
1 packer, and 1 stripper (putting gummed tape around 1 dozen
boxes), 6 girls in all to work with the machine. The labeling and
wrapping formerly were done at tables and required 15 girls, or 2½
times as many as are needed on the machine. The output increased
from 2,016 a day on hand labeling and wrapping to 26,000 a day on
the machine. Some of the displaced girls were given temporary
work on hand wrapping and some were transferred to other jobs, but
all, whether transferred to the new machine or to other work, received
a cut in pay, amounting in the majority of cases to 25 percent. In
the interviews ·with the women this decrease in pay naturally was a
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



source of dissatisfaction and may have influenced their reaction to
the new work itself. One girl said: "The work is much harder now;
the steadiness of the machines is more tiring than working even
harder at some other job; you have to keep right at it every minute."
This girl voiced the opinions of the other workers, who referred in
their interviews to the "steadiness" of the machine. "Hand wrapping was easiest; I didn't like the steadiness of the machine.''
A change found rather frequently was from a hand process to a
machine one where, as in the case of dial feeding, with the job itself
easier and safer, the keeping up may have equaled the fatigue involved
in the earlier method. Girls wrapping lollipops formerly stood at
tables covered with the candy. At the edge of the tables were stacks
of waxed paper. Each lollipop was picked up, wrapped in the paper,
and a little twist given to the paper to hold it in place. The wrapped
lollipops were thrown into a bin, from which they were taken to be
packed in boxes. With the introduction of the wrapping machine
one girl placed the lollipops in a little slot on a moving belt that
carried them to the machine. Here they were wrapped and thrown
out on a table for another girl to pack into boxes. The girl who
feeds must see that the machine runs properly and the girl who packs
must keep the hopper full of wrapping paper. In this change the
worker no longer has the fatigue of standing all day in one spot,
reaching for lollipops and twisting the papers in the wrapping of
each piece, but has the steadiness of the work in feeding the machine
and in keeping up with the lollipops as they are thrown out. There
was little diminution in numbers due to the change, as the machines
were installed gradually according to the growth of the business.
However, the potential employment, or the number of workers that
would have been needed with the increase in business had machines
not been introduced, was considerably less. By hand one girl could
wrap 80 boxes a day, and the packer could pack for two wrappers
(160 boxes a day), while on a single machine two girls could wrap
and pack 500 boxes a day. Earnings were higher on the machine
work, but as the method of pay was changed as well as the method of
work it was impossible to obtain a significant comparison.
Results of change from hand to machine work
The change from hand to machine work involved a greater decrease
in numbers than any other single change. Where 624 workers had
been employed before the introduction of the machine, after the
change the number decreased to 184, only 29.5 percent of the earlier
number. Only 3 men were employed on the operations affected and
they remained after the change. The number of workers-as
stated, practically all women- decreased in 27 cases and in no case
was their number increased.
In this change, more perhaps than in any other type, the economy
effected was essentially a saving of human labor. All the firms that
reported labor costs declared a saving and in no case did the labor
costs remain as high as before the introduction of the machine.
Production increased in over four-fifths of the cases reporting. It
decreased in only one instance, and here, though the change did not
increase the output, it did lower the cost of production.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Number of cases resulting inIncrease
Employment_ __ ________
Labor costs ___ __ ____ ____
Production ___ __ ____ ___ _



No change





When earnings of all women are compared according to the women's
statements, in most cases they were not so good after the cb.ange as
before. Well over one-half of the women (55.2 percent) reported a
decrease, considerably less than one-third (29.2 percent ) an increase,
just under one-sixth (15.6 percent) no change in earnings.
When only the earnings of women placed on machines are compared
the result is slightly more favorable, with only a little more than
one-b.alf (52 percent) reporting decreased earnings and about onethird (32 percent) an increase.
It is not surprising that favorable and unfavorable comments
followed rather closely the proportions with increased and decreased
earnings. One-half of those transferred to the new method reported
unfavorably and almost one-fourth either were partly in favor and
partly against the change or were indifferent. Not quite one-fourth
of the women were favorable to the change though nearly one-third
earned more on the new work.

In the search for economies of operating, one of the methods
frequently employed is that of substituting one class of help for
another. The change may be to a less skilled group, to more recent
arrivals in the industrial field, or to those whose wage scale normally
is lower. In past years the newer immigrant replaced, on less skilled
work, the older immigrant. During and after the World War
many Negroes went north and were employed on jobs formerly done
by white workers. Where a job is simplified through the introduction
of a machine or a labor-saving device, less skilled workers may:
supplant those more skilled. On these types of work, especially if
great ·physical strength is not required, women have replaced men
on many jobs during the past 70 years. This replacement increased
rapidly during the World War as men were more and more withdrawn from industry. With the return of men after the war they
were reemployed on the work on which women had not proved
satisfactory, but on many jobs women were retained as being more
efficient or less expensive. Though the amount paid in wages should .
be based on the task performed, and in some industries, notably
textiles and clothing, it is so based, yet in much of the work where
women replace men they receive a lower rate of pay largely because
of the idea, based on physical labor, that they are worth less because
possessed of less muscular strength. In some cases of substitution
an adaptation of the work may accompany it, but more frequently
it is only a change in the pay envelop and not in the work done.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Number of changes ___ __________ _____ _______ ___ __ ___ _
Number of workers:
Before ___ ____ ____ ____________ ____ ____ _________ _
After __ ____ __ __ _____ __ __ ______ ______ __ ________ _
P ercent increase (total) ___ _________________ ____ ____ _ _
1. 7
Women __ ____ ___________ ______________ _____ ___ _ 1, 168. 4
Men (decrease) ___ __ _____ __ ______________ ______ _
61. 0
Employment r emained t he same in 71.9 percent of the changes.
Production r em ained the same in 78.6 percent.
Labor costs decreased in all the changes.
An increase in earnings was reported by 50 percent of the women
A decrease in earnings was reported by 35 percent.
Unfavorable comments on the substitution were expressed by
36.4 percent of the women reporting; favorable comments by
22.7 percent.

The following examples give some idea of the process of substitution
and the types of work on which it is occurring today.
Women were introduced on a number of operations in the assembling of electric refrigerators. They learned to screw hinges on the
doors, to fit the copper tube line to dryer pipes and screw them on
securely, to "peg" the food-compartment linings and fasten on the
front coil shield. The superintendent was satisfied with the change,
and, though it probably did not increase production, a saving was
effected in costs because of the lower rates paid the women. Where
base rates for the men had been 42 cents, 47 cents, and 50 cents an
hour, those paid the women were 25 cents, 30 cents, and 33 cents an
hour. T he women were hired especially for the work, and in order
to turn out the same amount as had been done by men the number
of workers was increased slightly. The men displaced were transferred to heavier work in the department.
Sometimes when the work is especially well fitted for women, the
change results in increased production as well as in decreased labor
costs. On a punch-press operation where women took the place of
men, actual production increased 15 percent for the entire department,
largely, according to the management, because the women handled
the work faster. The punch presses were well guarded, whether
operated by men or by women, so the operators could work without
any thought of danger to themselves. Labor costs decreased after
the change, as the hourly rate for the women was 35 cents and for
the men it had been 50. The men were replaced by the same number
of women, but as the change was made gradually it was possible to
transfer the men to other jobs so that they were satisfied with the
When in the course of the work it is necessary to use hand tools,
women in the beginning are at a disadvantage, though they may
become equally proficient after a time. In a certain plant making
springs for auto cushions, it was necessary to use pliers to assemble
the links. Women took the place of young men on the assembling
of smaller springs. It took them longer than the boys to learn the
job, but after 3 months their speed equaled that of the boys. The
piece rates paid the women were lower, so where the labor cost per
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unit had been 5.62 cents with the men, it fell to 4.48 cents with the
women. A further saving resulted from the fact that labor turnover
was less with the women than with the men.
In a knit-goods factory where women replaced men at the cutting
table, it took a little time for them to become proficient in the work,
but after they had learned their output was as great as the men's
had been and with less waste. Labor costs were reduced considerably, as the men received 35 cents per unit of production and the
women 25 cents-a reduction of nearly 30 percent.
In all the changes described here, as is generally the case where
women replace men on the same work, the economy effected was
largely through the lower wages paid the women. In only one
instance where women replaced men with no accompanying change
were the wages of the women the same as those formerly paid to men.
Where together with a labor change there was added a new machine
or a new tool, production increased in almost every case and labor
costs decreased.
A tube-forming job had been done by men, each of whom stood at
a bench in front of a fixture; he inserted the tube in a vise, turned the
forming lever to bend the tube (which required considerable strength),
released the vise, and removed the tube. With the introduction of a
machine to bend the tube girls were put on the job. The girl inserted
the rods into the machine, turned on the power with a hand lever, the
machine bent the tube, and as she released the power the bent tube
dropped into a bin. The work of the girl therefore consisted in turning
the power on and off and seeing that the rods were properly fed to the
machine. None of the work involved strength. This change increased production greatly, as a girl with a machine could turn out as
much as four men with the hand lever. Labor costs decreased from
$35.10 a day to $5.84, or somewhat over 80 percent, for not only
were fewer workers needed but the earnings of a woman operating
the machine were only two-thirds as much as that of a man producing
less work under the old method.
Very much the same result of increased production with less skill
required was accomplished by the introduction of a tool and a change
from men to women in the striping of automobile bodies. Formerly
the decorative lines on automobiles were drawn free-hand by a highly
skilled body of men, "super-painters." As the industry grew it was
difficult to obtain in the busy season enough men who were skilled at
striping and so the work would jam at this point. A small barrel
container was invented with a gear-fed nozzle attachment for forcing
paint out through the narrow needle at the end. With a little practice
this could be operated by anyone, and it entirely supplanted the
free-hand method of striping. By hand it used to average about an
hour and 12 minutes to stripe a single car. With the gun the time
averaged 12 minutes a car, includin~ the time allowed for cleaning the
gun, changing colors, or relief. This shorter period needed to do the
job naturally resulted in fewer workers. Where formerly 22 men were
employed on strip'ing, the force decreased to 1 man and 4 girls; and
where the wages paid to the skilled painters had been from $1.50 to
$1.75 an hour, or about $1.77 for the work on one automobile, the
cost of striping one car decreased under the new method to 12 cents,
with average earnings for the girls of 60 cents an hour when work was
steady. When the change was made the painters were laid off and
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the women were transferred to the striping job from other work in
the factory.
When the substitution of one class of labor for another is done in
order to obtain more efficient production this does not necessarily
involve a change from a higher- to a lower-paid group, though without
doubt this is the more common form of change. In the present
study, facts were obtained in 10 cases where men replaced women.
The change was combined, in most instances, with some alteration
in the work; either a new and heavier machine was introduced or
helpers were eliminated so that the work required more heavy lifting
and handling. In the winding of large stator coils girls were employed
on a semi-automatic machine. They sat at their machines, one girl
to each. Her duties were to insert the wire, start the power, guide the
wire, and watch the indicator to see when the machine must be stopped
and the wire cut. She must then tie the coil, fasten on the plate, and
repeat the operations until the winding of four or five coils was completed, the number necessary for a single stator. The girl must
watch carefully and wind as evenly as possible. Nevertheless, by this
method a good many uneven coils were wound. An automatic machine was introduced. On this new machine a· man brings up and
inserts the heavy wire rolls at the rear of the machine, turns on the
power by a foot treadle, and watches to see that the machine runs
smoothly. The machine stops automatically when the winding is
completed. He must then cut the wire and remove the coils. Each
man operates two machines, and the winding is more even on the
automatics and the hourly production a little greater.. Though the
men's rates are higher, labor costs are somewhat less, as the men tend
two machines instead of one.
In the finishing departme;nt of a paper mill the final finish was
obtained by passing sheets through a calendar roll, one girl feeding,
another taking off. A machine was introduced that was fed with
heavy rolls of paper instead of sheets, and these required men to do the
lifting as the rolls were too heavy for women. Formerly there were
13 of the sheet-fed calendar rolls and 26 women fed and took off.
With the larger machines fed from a paper roll only 3 machines were
needed, and these required 6 men to operate, the 6 men replacing the
26 girls formerly employed. The daily production of the 13 old
calendars was 3 tons, while on the 3 new calendars it was 6 tons, a
100 percent increase. The hourly rate of the men was 60 cents and
that of the women 35 cents, but as fewer workers were necessary the
labor costs on the machines decreased 80 percent.
In a plant where no machine change accompanied the substitution
of men for women in the cutting of cloth, the change was made in
order to eliminate nonproductive labor. Before the change the women
cut the cloth, but as the rolls were heavy men did the trucking,
lifting, and spreading. By the introduction of men to do the cutting,
these helpers were eliminated, as the men cutters served themselves.
The group before the change consisted of 5 cutters (girls), 1 subforeman, 1 stencil man, and 2 truckers. This group was replaced by
5 men cutters who performed all these tasks. The rate of production
remained the same after the change but labor costs were reduced, in
spite of higher rates paid the men c1,1tters, because of the elimination
of the nonproductive labor.
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Results of substitution
There were 33 cases where the only change was a substitution of
workers of the other sex so as to bring about economies of operation.
In 32 instances women took the places of men and in 1 instance men
replaced women. The effect on employment was the opposite of that
produced by most technological changes. Instead of a decrease in
numbers there was a slight increase in the total number employed
and a marked growth in the number of women. In the 32 cases the
number of women increased from 33 to 482, while the opposite occurred with the men, who showed a decrease from 702 to 270. In the
single case where men replaced women, described in the foregoing
text, the number in the group changed from 4 men and 5 women to
5 men.
In the 32 cases of substitution where labor costs were reported they
were decreased. Output showed less change, as it remained the same
in 22 of the 28 instances reported, increased in 3, and decreased in 3.
Number of cases resulting in-

Employment_ _____ _____ _
Labor costs _________ _____
Production __________ ____






No change


The result of substitution when it was combined with :machine or
other operating changes, as was frequently the case, presented a
rather different picture from that caused by substitution only. When
the substitution of men for women was combined with another
change, numbers e:mployed decreased 55.8 percent. This decrease
a:ff ected women only, the men increasing from 8 to 4 7. In the
other type of substitution, where women replaced men, when combined with a secondary change numbers decreased 45.6 percent,
both men and women being affected. The proportion of decrease
was nearly three-fourths, or 72.8 percent, for the men, but was only
19.3 percent for the women.
The results in the cases of substitution of men for women combined
with another change, and in the cases of substitution of women for
men also so combined, are presented in the summary following:

Number of cases resulting inIncrease
Employment_ _____ ___ ___ _______________ _________ __________________ _
Labor costs _________ ________________________________ __ ___ _____ _____ _
Production ________________________ _____ ___ ______ __________________ _



No change







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Home visits with women who had displaced men showed that as
a result of this change average hourly earnings had increased for
half the 20 women reporting, remained the same for 3, but had
decreased for 7. No women affected only by the replacement of
women by men were visited, but of 21 cases where this was part of
a combination of changes earnings showed an increase for 5 women,
a decrease for 7, and no change for 9. The substitution of women
for men combined with some other change resulted in increased
earnings in 2 cases, a decrease in 3, and no change in 1.
The opinions of the women after the substitution varied according
to the nature of the work. One woman who was placed on striping
an automobile said it was the best job that she had ever had and that
the work was easy and clean. A woman put on spring assembling
found the work difficult and also complained about the difference in
rate of pay from that formerly earned by the men, as she was doing
the same work. This last comment was very frequently heard,
especially where the work was unchanged. Unfavorable comments
on substitution of women for men were expressed by about one-third
of the women reporting. Slightly more than one-fifth expressed
themselves in favor of the new arrangement and about one-third
were partly favorable to it.

The change from time or piece rate to a method of payment designed
to promote cheaper production probably should not, strictly speaking,
be classed as technological. It is included as such a change in this
report for two reaEons: It is installed usually after scientific study
and it is a change that is supposed to increase the efficiency of operating. Further, the result of this change is similar to that of strictly
technological changes and it is introduced with the same end in
view, lower production costs. It differs from other so-called technological changes in that the extra efficiency is the direct result of the
effort of the workers, in most cases without the introduction of any
improved machinery or better methods of work. The cost to the
management usually consists of an engineering study previous to the
introduction of the new system and in some cases increased bookkeeping after the change. This additional cost is supposed to be
covered by the extra effort on the part of the workers.
During the period from 1900 to 1920, more and more jobs were
changed from a method of time payment to one based on actual
amount produced, or piecework. This resulted not only in an increase of speed, as the worker wished to make all she possibly could,
but the elimination for the manufacturer of payment for waiting
time and for imperfect work. In the present study the change in
method of pay found most frequently was a change from piecework
payment to some other form of incentive payment. One very significant change was to a task-and-bonus system. A task-that is, a
certain output-is required, and for this a definite hourly rate is
paid; for all production of more than the required amount an extra
sum, or bonus, is paid. Another change that occurred with considerable frequency was from an individual method of incentive
payment to a group method of payment. Sometimes _these changes
involved operating changes as well. In most cases a time study was
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made of actual performance, of routing, waiting time, and so forth,
and minor improvements were introduced. An example of this
found frequently was when the change from individual to· group
pay.ment was accompanied by line production or better methods of
bringing up and taking away the work.
In all incentive methods of payment other than straight piecework
the fairness of the task set is the crucial point. If the change is
made from a piecework method of payment where the worker is
already doing her best to earn as much as possible, there is great
danger of overstrain if the task requirement is set too high. A pieceworker has her good and bad days. As one girl said, ."You can't
go at a certain speed every day"; and she added: "The man that
timed us only did it for a few minutes-anybody could work fast for
a few minutes, but it's all day every week for us and we can't do it."
The need of allowing for this variability is too seldom considered
in the setting of tasks.
Number of changes._ ______ _____ ___ _____ __ _____ __ ____ ___ _
Number of workers:
Before ____ ______________ __ ___________ ___ ___ _____ ___ 305
After _______________________________________ __ __ __ 198
Percent decrease (total) __ ______ ___ ___ ____________ _______ 35. 1
Women ___________ __________ __ ___ ___ ____ __ ___ ___ __ 35. 1
Men ______ ___ ~___ ______ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ __ _ _ __ _ No men affected
Employment decreased in 5 out of 9 changes.
Product ion increased in 9 out of 14.
Labor costs decreased in 7 out of 8.
Earnings decreased under the new method for 57.5 percent of the
women reporting.
Unfavorable comments on the change were expressed by 74.7 percent of the women reporting; favorable comments by 12.6 percent.

The strain involved in trying to make the task is especially marked
when the operation is performed by hand. In one plant the change
was made from individual piecework to individual task-and-bonus
system with no change in the method of work. The girls worked
standing. It was a distinctly hand job and although the work was
not heavy it involved considerable reaching. The result of the
change may have been satisfactory from the viewpoint of the management, for production per operator almost doubled and labor costs
declined to an even greater degree as the unit of pay was lower. The
workers, however, considered the result in quite a different light.
"They don't keep you unless you make the bonus. It is not an
easy job; you stand and reach all day." "If too many mistakes,
you go out and stay out forever." The girls who were interviewed
were practically unanimous in their opinion of the tremendous speed
necessary " to make your task." "It'll just wear you out in 2 years",
one girl said.
Another frequent form of change was from payment based on
individual performance to the output of the group. Such a change
was made on a wrapping and packing operation. One girl inspected
and wrapped, the second girl boxed the wrapped product, and the
third sealed the box. The pay was changed from individual to group
piecework but no change was made in the method of work. Production was increased about 10 percent by the change, as the girls on
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group payment would help each other so that the slowest girl would
not hold back the others. Costs were cut because less supervision
and bookkeeping were required. Earnings decreased slightly as the
premiums were lowered, though the base rates remained the same.
It was felt also by the management that the group system might
increase cooperation among the girls and eliminate disputes over the
work. It seems doubtful whether this hope would be realized in
view of comments made by the women where a similar change took
place. The results for the management in this second plant were
much the same as in the one just reviewed. Production per worker
increased about 10 percent and average hourly earnings increased by
2 percent, while the numbers employed decreased from 48 women to
42. According to the management, the poorer workers left "automatically", either· of their own accord or at the request of the other
workers because they slowed down production. The workers themselves in the majority of cases did not like the change. "One girl
can hold up a whole group." "The slow workers are carried by the
group ", and there are "some who will not and some who cannot
work fast." "One unfair thing is that when a new girl comes into
the factory they give her 3 days to learn the job in and then she goes
on a group. She can't really learn in less than a month. It means
the group is carrying the company's burden of teaching beginners,
and that's not fair."
In an optical factory a change was made from the individual piecework system to a task-and-bonus system. On the new method a
fixed hourly rate based on average hourly production was given to
each worker and for all output above that a bonus was given. The
standard hourly output required was _valued at 60 points and for
all production above this amount a bonus, figured in points, was given.
The entire department went on the new system of pay and the foreman was paid his bonus according to the hourly output of the department; that is, as the workers' efficiency increased, the pay of the
foreman also increased. The principal operations on which the
women were engaged were grinding and polishing, cleaning blocks,
and washing lenses. J_'he girls, with one exception, stood at their
work and seemed rarely to glance up. All worked tensely, and all
but two on work requiring great care. The management in setting
the rates, which had been done after careful time study, had set an
allowance of 15 percent of the work time for rest and personal needs.
This, according to the workers, was seldom taken. One said ''We
never have a rest period," and another " /Haven't time to sit or even
take a drink a t the bubbler." Production increased approximately
10 percent and the number of employees remained the same. If, due
to the increased speed, the work was finished more quickly than
formerly, fewer hours were worked. Therefore, though average
hourly earnings for the department increased by 2½ cents (5½ percent), there was a division of opinion as to the effect of the change on
weekly earnings, some declaring that they earned more and some less.
All were agreed, however, that the work was harder. "We work
much faster now. Before the bonus I had 6 machines; they gave us
a cut and added 2 machines-I tend 8 now." Another said: "Before
we had to change our grinders every hour and a half; they would get
dull by that time. Now we have to change every three-quarters of

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an hour, and changing means you lose a lot of time. Before, I did
354 lenses a day, now I do 460. I feel much more tired at night."
In spite of such speeding the average hourly production for the group
at this time was only 10 points above the base of 60, and though
according to the management an average operator should have an
output registering an efficiency of 80 points, not one of the efficiency
ratings posted on the bulletin board reached that figure.
On piecework and all other forms of incentive payment, the
tendency is for the worker to drive herself so that earnings may be as
high as possible. When the system of payment includes a bonus to
the foreman or superintendent based on the production of the department or factory, there is additional pressure from above to work to
the limit.
In a knitting mill where all but the general help. had been paid on
a straight piecework basis, a new method of pay was introduced
where an hourly rate for standard production was given and all output
in excess of the standard was paid by the piece. A standard of production was set for the entire department and for all production
above the standard the foreman received a bonus; further, if the
production of the whole mill was above, the superintendent also
received a bonus. Some routing changes that saved time and labor
were introduced. Work was brought to all the stitchers but the
seamers, who still fetched their own work, and was then passed along
from one worker to the next. The cost of trucking and waiting time
was saved.
Actual production increased by 5 percent after the change and
labor costs decreased by 25 percent. The number of workers was
89 before the change and 64 afterward, but the average efficiency of
the workers increased from 80 percent to 112 percent, as only the
better workers remained. According to the management, average
hourly earnings increased by 2 cents or almost 7 percent, but this
increase in earnings was not reported by ·the workers visited, who
complained of harder work and less pay. "They talk about lost
hours, lost motion-all it is to me is lost money." Another woman
said: '' The changes are not made for the people. Our boss gets a
part of what we make, so he wants us to work every minute we are
there." "We used to go to a truck for work; now girls back of me
throw it in a bin beside me; when I finish it I throw it in a bin in
front. We don't save so much by that and it was a little change from
work to get up and walk across the floor."
Results of change in method of payment
The decline in numbers was not so great as in changes that involved
the introduction of new and better machines or of new methods of
work. Nevertheless, the number of workers decreased a little over
a third without such aids to productio_n as better machines or other
improved equipment. No men were affected by this change, as the
operations selected were those employing only women. Labor costs
decreased in all but 1 of the 8 cases where costs were reported, and
in the 1 instance where there was no decrease the costs were the same
before and after the change. Output increased in 9 of the 14 cases
reporting production, was less in 2, and the same in 3 cases.
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Number of cases resulting inIncrease






Employment_ __________
Labor costs _____________
Production _____________


No change

Earnings after the change in method of payment were less for
almost three-fifths (57.5 percent) of the 200 women who reported
their earnings before and after. About one-third reported an increase
and the remaining 8 percent reported no change. The commen ts of
the women showed more dissatisfaction with this change than with
any other of the principal ones, and three-fourths complained of
harder work or lessened earnings after the change. A marked feature of this change was a speeding up of the work combined with a
lack of adequate rest periods.

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