White Shirts and Stopwatches: The Emerson Efficiency Engineers and Work Reorganization within Pennsylvania Firms, 1900–1920

James P. Quigel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Harrington Emerson, a pioneer in early industrial engineer-ing, formulated “efficiency engineering” to distinguish his work reor ga ni-za tion methods from those of Frederick W. Taylor’s principles of scientific management. His company—the Emerson Efficiency Engineers—functioned as a prototype management consultancy, giving rise to a new business and profession. Pennsylvania’s rapid industrial expansion and key industries became a proving ground for the development and application of Emer-son’s innovations in the fields of work reorganization and personnel man-agement. His experience in the commonwealth provided the foundation for a successful business model in marketing efficiency to a diverse clien-tele. Pennsylvania became contested terrain in the rivalry between Taylor and Emerson for ascendancy in the industrial consulting field. Emerson promoted his philosophy of efficiency in numerous published works, speak-ing tours, and efficiency clubs, diffusing the concept of efficiency beyond its industrial context to a wider public audience and application in the Progressive Era’s drive for rationalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-245
Number of pages36
JournalPennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History

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