Don’t Fear the Reaper

15 November 2012 at 11:21 pm 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

An important contribution to the history of technology and the relationship between technology, organization, and strategy:

Gordon Winder’s The American Reaper is a solid and significant contribution to the history of American grain harvesting implements. Winder offers several revisionist challenges to standard accounts, both those that have treated Cyrus McCormick as a heroic inventor, as well as those that have touted the International Harvester Corporation (IHC, formed in 1902) as a path-breaking model of a vertically integrated and internationally dominant firm. . . . Reaper manufacturers forged licensing agreements, subcontracted with suppliers and branch factories, shared expert personnel and innovations, hired widely dispersed sales agents, and formed alliances to protect patent advantages in order to remain competitive.

Read the rest of the EH.Net review here.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Food and Agriculture, Innovation, Strategic Management.

A Response to Reviewer 3 Pomo Periscope XXIII: Becker on Foucault on Becker

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe Champion  |  19 November 2012 at 8:40 am

    Australians invented a kind of reaper, along with a few other things.

    http://www.whitehat.com.au/australia/inventions/InventionsA.html

  • 2. stevepostrel  |  21 November 2012 at 8:50 pm

    This subject always reminds of a great learning experience that Peter Temin provided to us naive first-year grad students in his economic history course. He had us read and discuss Paul David’s article on the diffusion of the reaper, then assigned this article for us by Olmstead:

    Click to access Olmstead,_The_Mechanization_of_REaping_and_Mowing_in_American_Agriculture,_1833-1870.pdf

    The “you mean there is no Santa Claus” looks on our faces as we realized that David had systematically misstated the institutional and technological facts about the reaper in the antebellum US midwest were priceless. And I learned to always check for my wallet when reading one of Paul David’s high-concept history papers, which served me well when the QWERTY stuff came out.

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