MAPI 80: A Look Back…1933-1942

This is the first of a series chronicling MAPI’s rich 80-year history. Research and writing provided by Jessica Larkin.

In celebration of its 80th year, the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) is taking a look back at its rich history in an eight-part blog series. Woven together with pieces of U.S. and manufacturing history, and milestones from its member companies, this series examines how MAPI has contributed to the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing, and become the established organization it is today.

James W. O’Leary, MAPI’s first president (1933-1937), and others like him, assumed the task of educating the American people on how a vibrant manufacturing sector, in a society where workers are given incentives to produce, could help the country achieve economic progress.

The Birth of U.S. Manufacturing

The Industrial Revolution was a major turning point in history, ushering in a transition from hand production to machines. Industrialization brought an era of unprecedented economic growth to America. Average income and population began to see sustained growth and living standards improved.

  • Initiated in Great Britain, it spread to the United States when Samuel Slater founded the first U.S. cotton mill, powered by water, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
  • The introduction of the steam engine in the late eighteenth century allowed various stages of manufacturing to be combined.
  • Following the Civil War, a second industrial revolution sprang up in America as the country expanded into new territory.
  • With the assistance of the assembly line manufacturing process, Oldsmobile built the first mass-produced automobile in 1901 and the Ford Model T began operation in 1913.

Heading into the 1930s, America was still experiencing rapid growth and change.

MAPI’s First Decade (1933-1942)

By 1933, the U.S. was beginning to pull itself out of the Great Depression. The administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt prepared to lead the country through trying economic times with the New Deal, which promised to bring recovery and reform.

  • December 1933: Edwin Howard Armstrong patents wide-band FM radio.
  • July 5, 1935: The National Labor Relations Act became a law, allowing private sector employees to form unions and engage in collective bargaining.
  • May 12, 1936: A new standard for rail travels emerged as the first passenger train between Chicago and Los Angeles begins service.
  • October 24, 1938: A minimum wage of $0.25 was established under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Within this whirlwind of action, MAPI opened for business on July 20, 1933, as the Machinery and Allied Products Institute. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, the organization also opened a working branch in Washington, DC. MAPI’s initial charge was the administration of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) codes for the industries it represented. MAPI also worked to educate the public about the significance of manufacturing to economic prosperity, a role it continues to serve today. After just a handful of years, MAPI grew its membership from 8 trade associations to 58.

During this time, many MAPI member companies were also hard at work innovating new products.

  • In 1936, as a result of the Great Depression, Hubbell Incorporated went public to raise capital and prepared for better manufacturing times by innovating new products, including a series of locking connectors for industrial use, and heavy-duty, circuit-breaking devices.
  • That same year, A.O. Smith patented the glass-lined water heater, making hot water an affordable convenience for homeowners.
  • In 1938, Philip M. McKenna of McKenna Metals, later to become Kennametal Inc., developed a tungsten-titanium carbide alloy for cutting tools that resulted in a productivity breakthrough in the machining of steel.

On December 7, 1941, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor officially pulled the United States into World War II. The following year, sales of new cars were banned to save steel, and the country began rationing gasoline. With the U.S. at war, companies would soon begin making their own contributions.

In the next installment of MAPI: A Look Back… learn how MAPI members Lincoln Electric Holdings, Rockwell Automation, and Kaman contributed to the war effort and the industry.