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Subject: Saga in Steel and Concrete - 302-312
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 10:03:48 -0700


The following selection is taken from "Saga in Steel and Concrete:
Norwegian Engineers in America" by Kenneth Bjork published by the
Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) in 1947. The volume is
still available from NAHA at where you will
also find the first 33 volumes of Studies and Records online. This
chapter is published with the kind permission of NAHA. The book this
selection is drawn from is under copyright and permission has been
granted for educational purposes and it is not to be used in any way for
commercial purposes.

While Barth's difficulties with personnel, such as he had, came from
foremen and managers, he was unwilling to say that the conduct of
business should be taken from management. He explained:
The way business is conducted today there can be no other way than that
management lays down the general policy. For instance, I do not think
that anybody today could find exception with the management for either
wanting to introduce a system like ours or for not wanting to . . . . It
would be impossible at the present state, when the system is so
absolutely misunderstood, not only by most workmen but even by most
managers, to get an expression of opinion that would be worth anything
whatsoever; and for this reason the general policy of management must
still be vested in the management.
Asked if he did not think it wrong that management should have absolute
power in dealing individually with workers, Barth answered:
On that score I used to feel and think a great deal, as a younger man. I
keenly felt, and still feel, the injustice of the present order of
society. I have suffered much because I have expressed opinions against
it to people who are satisfied with things as they are. I have arrived at
the conclusion, however, that whatever general conditions exist at any
one period of the world's history is, in the main, part of a natural
development which can not easily be changed into anything better except
through further slow and painful development of each individual rather
than of the development of society as a whole.
I have learned to look upon myself as one of the little bricks in the
building up of the future grand humanity, and I want to try to be as good
a brick as I can with my limited abilities and opportunities; and in my
present work I believe that I have found a little niche in the world that
I can fill, not only without detriment to anybody, but even with some
beneficial influence on my immediate surroundings. I am a product of
these surroundings; and I have to work in these surroundings as I find
them; and I do not see how I can work as an engineer without accepting
the proposition, the ordinarily accepted theory, that the manager or the
owner of a business has a right to lay out the general policies; because,
as a rule, he is a broader man than the men who work for him, and because
as an individual he has more at stake, as things are now constituted.
I am very much concerned that the statesman, as his enormous task in the
world, shall eventually find a solution for the present wrong order of
society, and as one part of that solution the proper distribution of all
wealth produced. But I do not consider that it is given me to become a
statesman and meddle with these affairs, so I have resigned myself to my
fate of doing my share of the world's work as an engineer, whose business
it is to do all he can to produce wealth without in any way oppressing
any individual or class of individuals, but, on the other hand, to do it
along so broadminded lines that he helps men to develop, so far as
possible, into the highest type of normal human beings.
While Barth and others like him understood the plight of the American
worker, there was an unmistakable tendency among some employers so to
utilize scientific management as "to speed up production but to ignore
the incentive wage." {45} Barth may have failed fully to grasp the
significance of turning all production problems over to engineers --- and
thus of encouraging ruthless employers --- but no one acquainted with his
career can question his concern that the effects of scientific management
should add up to positive benefits for the individual worker. And time
alone will fully determine whether or not Barth was right in assuming
that the laborer's position, in the long run, would be bettered only when
his output was increased -with the aid of scientific management.
Parenthetically, it may be remarked that Barth considered labor unions
essential to guarantee a just portion of the national income to workers;
but he deplored the rapacity and shortsightedness that made them a
necessity in modern society.
Until his death in 1915, Taylor was undisputed leader in exploiting the
new science of production. After 1915 Barth took his place as the leading
exponent of the system that he helped develop during a long and intimate
association with the "father of scientific management." Spurning
attractive offers for the cheap commercialization of his system and the
slide rule, Barth, unlike many, remained faithful to Taylor's basic
principles. His contributions after 1915 might be grouped together as a
general refinement of the program already laid out. According to Miss
Manning, "It was the thorny path of the pioneer that Barth had to follow.
. . . Barth gave himself without stint in long, tedious hours of
experimental work, sacrificing . . . refining, revising and reducing the
work wherever possible to mathematical formulae." {46}
Barth was particularly interested in the standardization of machine
tools. In 1916 he pleaded brilliantly before the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers to induce members "to adopt certain standards for
machine tools" which he considered essential to the installation of the
Taylor system. {47} Two years earlier he had argued forcefully before the
Commission on Industrial Relations for a "common standard of speeds and
feeds so that, for instance, the drilling of a one-inch hole in a certain
grade of material might be done with the same speed and feed in
accordance with a standard practice, and hence, in exactly the same time
the world over." {48} One can only imagine the effect on production, had
Barth's policy been put into effect, as one day it may be.
Barth was a pioneer, too, in the field of wage incentives to stimulate
worker output and abolish "soldiering" on the job. His method, the Barth
premium system, called for close cooperation with the worker and
automatically took care "of different rates of hourly pay based on the
capacity of different men to produce varying amounts of work." {49} He
was perhaps the greatest authority in his day on the subject of the
transmission of power by leather belting. {50} He was a strong advocate
of the central planning room "that deals with each manufacturing
department as does a local planning room in each of the several
manufacturing departments deal with its individual machines and other
work places." {51} Of inventive mind, Barth had a number of American
patents to his credit, individually or in cooperation with others. {52}
Eager to apply the mathematical method to social and economic questions,
he contributed interesting and original studies on the subjects of labor
turnover and the income tax. {53} Fortunately he has left written records
of most phases of his work.. {54}
Frequent references are found in Barth's writings to a desire to teach
others, whether fellow workers or younger students; and mention has been
made of his experiences as a teacher at Horten's Technical School, the
International Correspondence Schools, and the Ethical Culture School. In
1911 Barth went to Harvard as a special lecturer on scientific
management, and continued his association with this school until 1923. He
lectured in a similar capacity at the University of Chicago during the
years 1914-16. The fact that his associations with the great universities
of this country were restricted to a relatively few lectures did not
indicate a lack of effort on the part of the schools to enlist his
full-time services. During his connection with Taylor at Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania State College offered Barth a professorship in machine
design, as did Lehigh University. Earlier he had been offered a chair at
Cornell. The handsomest offer, however, came during his work with Taylor.
When Harvard was planning its graduate school of business and finance,
Professor Edwin Gay was empowered to find a man qualified by experience
and scientific training to take charge of the school. Gay turned first to
Taylor who, in refusing the post, pointed to Barth as the only other
person qualified for the position, but added, "You can't have him, he
does far more useful work in the industrial world than he could do at
Harvard." Gay twice offered the position to Barth, although he was past
the usual age limit of forty-five and had no academic degree. Recognizing
his lack of educational background, Barth declined the invitation but
agreed to lecture on scientific management. {55} In 1923 Barth retired
from active work. Much of his time thereafter until his death in 1939 was
devoted to his two hobbies --- music and pure mathematics. Fond of music
but no performer, he was, as might be expected of one with his
experience, vitally interested in the intricacies of rhythm. His major
efforts, however, were made in the mathematical field. Continuing a
project begun thirty years before his death, he worked out an independent
interpretation of the fundamentals of differential and integral calculus.
Though it was his ambition to see his simplified study published as an
improvement over the conventional Newtonian approach, in this he was
A widespread recognition of his contribution to the American economic
revolution, however, was given long before his death. Of the many
tributes paid Barth by contemporaries, none better sums up his work than
a statement made by the Taylor Society upon conferring an honorary
membership, "Because of his application of pure science to the uses of
management, do we thus honor ourselves and him."
Other Norwegian engineers contributed, though in smaller measure, to the
growth of scientific management. Christian Paulsen Berg, after graduating
from Horten in 1901, was employed by the Link-Belt Company of
Philadelphia and while there devoted his energies to time-study and shop
methods. After 1907 he worked for the same firm in Chicago until five
years later, when he began professional consulting practice in industrial
management as a member of Drake and Berg, Incorporated. In 1910 Berg was
awarded the Chanute medal of the Western Society of Engineers for a paper
on the "Heat Treatment of High-Speed Tools." In 1932. he returned to the
Link-Belt Company and there devoted his remaining years to systematizing
shop and office routine. At the time of his death in 1936 a news release
by his employers spoke of him as "a man who contributed a lifetime to
reduce lost motion, systematize shop practice, and establish scientific
management, with the aid of time-study and motion-analysis surveys." {56}

Two men who worked intimately with Barth were Gulow A. Gulowsen and Johan
Martin Fredrik Øyen. Gulowsen, a graduate of Horten's Technical School in
1878, began his work in scientific management in 1888, when he joined
Taylor at the Midvale Steel Company in Philadelphia. Employed first as a
designer and later as chief draftsman, he came under Barth's direction at
Bethlehem. One day he displayed drawings of a belt bench which he had
designed at home; Barth and Taylor at once recognized its value, since
keeping proper tension on belts was an important feature of their
equipment technique. This job had formerly been done by a belt fixer who
carried a heavy tension scales clamp to each machine whose belts needed
tightening, attached the clamp to the belt in its working position, and
turned a crank until the required tension showed on the scales.
Gulowsen's proposal was to bring the belt to a bench on which the clamps
were permanently attached. His bench had two pulleys, one fixed and the
other movable; the belt was stretched around the pulleys, its ends
pinched in the clamps, and a crank was turned until the scales registered
the required tension, when the belt was cut to length and the job was
completed. Later, Øyen, working with Barth, adapted regular weighing
scales to the bench and was granted a patent on the device. {57} Gulowsen
was considered one of the ablest designers of his day. He developed an
eight-spindle drilling, milling, and undercutting machine for the
automatic cutting of square and oval holes in headers for boilers made at
the Babcock and Wilcox Company at Bayonne, New Jersey. He was also the
inventor of intricate automatic machinery for the production of fine
dental tools at the S. S. White Dental Manufacturing Company in Princes
Bay, New York. {58}
J. M. F. Øyen, as Bjørndal has suggested, "belongs to two generations, to
two great periods of immigration." A graduate of Christiania's Technical
College, he left for America immediately following the completion of his
training in 1898. Joining Taylor and Barth at the Bethlehem Steel
Company, he became one of the eager group of disciples who made
scientific management possible. His association with Barth continued at
Yale and Towne, 1905-08, at Smith and Furbush in the next year, and again
at the Pullman Company, Chicago, in 1913-14. Øyen is quoted as saying
that he thought of his work under Barth until 1909 "as the serving of an
apprenticeship. Barth was both a model and despair to any young engineer.
He was the fastest draftsman in existence and his work was simply perfect
both in appearance and engineering design." Before Barth went to
Bethlehem, Øyen was asked by Taylor to assemble data on the machine tools
then in use, which facilitated the preparation of slide rules; he was
also employed in standardizing the work on machine-tool drives. Before
returning to Norway in 1914, Øyen did significant designing of a drilling
machine at Babcock and Wilcox Company; in the Old World he sought to
introduce, without too great success, the methods he had learned in
America. Coming to this country a second time in 1923, he has had varied
experiences, including employment with Henry Kaiser in California during
World War II." {59}
E. K. Wennerlund's name is identified with the introduction of scientific
management into the automobile industry in America. He was born in 1875
in Porsgrund, Norway, but received his technical training at the
University of Minnesota, graduating in 1899. He therefore belongs in a
slightly different category from the other men discussed in this volume.
While working for the Atchison and Saute Fe Railroad at Newton, Kansas,
during the early years of this century, he became interested in
scientific management and from 1907 to 1910 had charge of the wage and
shop systems of the American Locomotive Company. After a brief experience
as assistant vice-president with Allis Chalmers Company in Milwaukee,
Wennerlund joined the General Motors Corporation in 1911 and remained
with them until his retirement in 1932. {60}
Wennerlund had known Taylor when the latter was introducing scientific
management, and he became one of his strong admirers. "All that the rest
of us have done," Wennerlund once said, "is simply to take his basic
ideas, refine them, and adapt them to big-scale, modern production." The
young engineer rightly understood that what Taylor was attempting to do
was "to get maximum production from equipment." {61} An apt pupil of
Taylor's methods, Wennerlund was asked by W. C. Durant to smooth out
production for General Motors. An idea of what he found when he took
charge of the shop system for all General Motors plants may be had from a
letter written many years later. It reads in part:
I knew nothing about cars, had never driven one. But these were hard
times in the automotive game, only the rich could afford them, some
plants were closed, there had been over production. My job was then to
line up the plants on a unified manufacturing basis. But the crisis was
overcome. Ten years later G. M. built the largest office building in the
world, profits became large and with better roads cars were more in
demand. G. M. prospered and soon became one of the world's industrial
giants {62}
Elsewhere he is quoted as saying:
In those days there was little thought to the proper location of
automobile plants with respect to other plants and railroads . . . . I
was sent to Buick once when they were demanding a new plant.
Rearrangement of the floor space there already had enabled us to close
four existing plants . . . . Taylor believed, as I do, that a man should
be rewarded for producing more than a quota. Our system was to figure the
proper output, and then subtract one-tenth, to allow for stoppages,
breakages, and the like. {63}
Wennerlund was soon appointed director of production engineering for all
General Motors plants. His work included design for new plants, selection
of equipment, floor space arrangement, and the general setup essential
for a smooth flow in production. All requests for capital expenditures
came over his desk and a large group of specialists worked under his
direction. The duties of his office expanded with the growth of General
Motors itself. Such plants as Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Oakland,
Frigidaire, and Opel (in Germany) were added and many more projects were
considered but later dropped. Before each addition Wennerlund made a
careful study of the new line, sometimes favoring and at other times
arguing against the acquisition. "We laid out many plans in our
department," he wrote at a later date, "much study was required and we
had to consider so many suggestions of adding new lines. We grew and grew
until at the close of the 20's there were a quarter million employees."
In the hands of Wennerlund, according to his own appraisal, scientific
management was simplified: {65}
System became a fetish in many cases, [and this] resulted in losing sight
of the main purpose in the detail systematization itself. When applied to
large organizations, it just got so big that it was beyond handling....
It is now realized that system has its place only where it simplifies
production routine. As a result, the systematizer-for-the-sake-of-system
has been replaced by the practical man who applies system as a method of
simplifying production control. {66}
One exceptional contribution toward simplification in scientific
management was Wennerlund's group bonus plan, conceived as a wage
incentive during 1918, when labor was scarce and production increase
essential. This plan was adopted throughout the entire General Motors
setup. {67} The plants were thus able to eliminate much of the high cost
of handling wage incentives on an individual basis. "It was found,"
according to Wennerlund, "that some of our plants had as many as 25,000
job tickets a day, all of which had to be extended, audited and credited
to individual accounts. Under the group plan we have been able to do away
with job tickets, using only the in-and-out clock cards and giving credit
for finished good product. This has been a great saving in clerical
detail in our factories, it has cut inventories of work-in-process, and
has on the whole stimulated production efficiency." {68} Primarily
suitable for "repetitive work arranged in progressive production lines of
sequence operations," it had as its object the speeding up of the
production rate per employee, and in this it was successful. {69}
Like Barth, Wennerlund saw clearly that scientific management, when
misunderstood or abused by employers, can do infinite harm to the
workers. Having declared that scientific management increased efficiency
at General Motors to the point where three men did the work five men had
done before, he said:
I still maintain that it means progress. What I believe we need is men in
the fields of finance, marketing, transportation and government, just as
smart as the men who have used scientific management to remake the world.
I also admit that scientific management in the hands of unscrupulous
employers can be a dangerous thing for humanity. But scientific
management is responsible for the shorter work day and shorter work week.
Workers generally don't have to work as hard today as they did under old
conditions. In the last analysis, all the abuses labor complains of could
be corrected by proper management. {70}
Anyone familiar with American industry, especially its metalworking
phases, needs no further reminder of the importance of scientific
management, and consequently of the work of men like Barth, Wennerlund,
and others who contributed to its growth. The influence of the ideas set
into motion by the followers of Taylor, however, was greater than many
suspect, as a look at recent war production in the United States will
clearly indicate. Though unevenly utilized, the dominant ideal in
American industry is the application of science to production. Rejected
in large measure by the French and British, scientific management was
vital to the rationalization of German industry in the years between two
world wars. The Soviet productive experiment, too, frankly borrowed the
basic Taylor principles as means to a non-capitalistic end. Greatly
increasing output, scientific management also naturally increased man's
capacity for both good and evil.

<45> Lois Macdonald, Labor Problems and the American Scene, 588 (New
York, 1988).
<46> Manning, "Carl G. Barth," 8.
<47> "Standardization of Machine Tools," in Transactions, 38:895-916
<48> Quoted in Manning, "Carl G. Barth," 36.
<49> American Machinist, vol. 32, part 1, p. 464 (March 25, 1909). See
also synopsis of the proceedings of the twelfth annual convention of the
National Metal Trades Association, April 13 and 14, 1910, reprinted in
Industrial Engineering and the Engineering Digest, 8:214 (September,
1910); Iron Age, 85:1068-1070 (May 5, 1910); Management and
Administration, 8: 71-73 (July, 1924).
<50> Carl G. Barth, "The Transmission of Power by Leather Belting," in
Power Transmission, 29-103 (American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
Papers, no. 1230 --- n.d.). The paper was presented at the New York
meeting in January, 1909.
<51> Taylor Society, Bulletin, 4:23-25 (April, 1919).
<52> Flanging machine (September 8, 1891), with Walter L. Clark;
feed-operating device (October 8, 1895); testing machine (January 7,
1896), with William Sellers and John S. Bancroft; slide rule (March 8,
1904), with Henry L. Gantt and Frederick W. Taylor; lathe (May 15, 1917);
method and means for measuring belts under tension (December 25, 1917),
with Frederick Øyen; method and means for re-forming wheels having worn
threads and flanges (October 7, 1924).
<53> Labor Turnover, a Mathematical Discussion," in Taylor Society,
Bulletin, 5:52-58 (April, 1920); "The Income Tax, an Engineer's Analysis
with Suggestions," revised reprint from Engineers' Club of Philadelphia,
Journal, 35:280-297, 342-345 (June and July, 1918).
<54> "Some of Barth's articles not cited above are "The Distribution of
Pressure in Bearings," in Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, Proceedings,
10:1-15 (January, 1893); "Betterment of Machine-Tool Operation by
Scientific Metal Cutting," in Engineering Magazine, 42:586-592 (January,
1912); A New Graphical Solution for Time Allowances in Task Setting," in
Management and Administration, 9:143 (February, 1925); "Approximating an
Ellipse by Circular Arcs," in American Machinist, 67:963-965 (December
22, 1927); and "The Making of Special Slide Rules," in Mechanical
Engineering, 48:593 (June, 1926).
<55> Magnus Bjørndal, "Carl G. Barth." Similar information is given by
the same writer in Nordisk tidende, November 30, 1939.
<56> American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Transactions, vol. 60,
record and index, p. 48 (1938).
<57> Number 1,250,943 (December 25, 1917); information supplied by J.
Christian Barth.
<58> Information provided by Øyen through the courtesy of Magnus
<59> Information from an unpublished biography of Øyen prepared and put
at the writer's disposal by Magnus Bjørndal.
<60> Much of this information was obtained in conversation with
Wennerlund at Detroit during 1940-41.
<61> Quoted by Russell Barnes, in Detroit News, November 14, 1937.
<62> Willmar (Minnesota) Daily Tribune, January 22, 1940.
<63> Detroit News, November 14, 1937.
<64> Willmar Daily Tribune, January 22, 1940.
<65> Christian Barth maintains that the Taylor system only seemed
cumbersome to those who did not fully understand it; that it actually cut
down red tape, and was quite simple.
<66> "Simplification Is the Keynote in Production Management," in
Automotive Industries, 61:506 (October 12, 1929).
<67> A detailed account of Wennerlund's group bonus plan is given in
Wage-Incentives, the Group-Bonus Plan, a reprint of an address given by
Wennerlund, before the Society of Automotive Engineers (Detroit, 1923).
<68> Automotive Industries, 61:506.
<69> It is only fair to state that group incentive was also used under
the Taylor system.
<70> Detroit News, November 14, 1937.

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