American Entrepreneur : The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 9/23/2009
  • Publisher: Amacom Books
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Weaving together vivid narrative with economic analysis, "American Entrepreneur" vividly illustrates the history of business in the United States from the point of view of the enterprising men and women who made it happen.

Author Biography

LARRY SCHWEIKART, PH.D. (Centerville, OH), a history professor at the University of Dayton, is the author or coauthor of many books, including A Patriot’s History of the United States and 48 Liberal Lies About American History. LYNNE PIERSON DOTI, PH.D. (Orange, CA) is a professor of economics at Chapman University and the editor of Essays in Economic and Business History.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Entrepreneurs: The Essence of Enterprisep. 1
European Settlement and Business Enterprise in the New Worldp. 23
Entrepreneurs in the New Nation: 1787-1840p. 53
The Entrepreneurial Explosion: 1820-1850p. 81
The Rise of Managers: 1850-1880p. 114
Entrepreneurs in the Age of Upheaval: 1850-1880p. 151
The Big Business Backlash: 1870-1920p. 189
The Emergence of a Consumer Market: 1880-1920p. 231
Deliverance and Despair: 1920-1939p. 273
Business in War and Postwar America: 1940-1960p. 311
Business's Winter of Discontent: 1960-1982p. 346
Business in Renaissance: 1982-1989p. 375
The New Economy: The 1990sp. 408
Americans and the Global Marketp. 437
Epilogue: The Recession Returnsp. 461
Notesp. 465
Indexp. 519
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


<html><head></head><body><p style="margin-top: 0">CHAPTER 1 Entrepreneurs: The Essence of Enterprise </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">Sometime in 2001, shoppers began to see an odd sight: Kids in malls </p><p style="margin-top: 0">would appear to walk a few steps and then strangely seem to glide on </p><p style="margin-top: 0">their heels. A closer look revealed they were wearing &#8220;Heelys,&#8221; athletic </p><p style="margin-top: 0">shoes with wheels in the heels. Heelys are the brainchild of Roger </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Adams, who invented the shoes while taking time off with &#8220;a midlife </p><p style="margin-top: 0">crisis.&#8221;1 Adams was a manager who was constantly on call and &#8220;totally </p><p style="margin-top: 0">burned out,&#8221; and he was on vacation at Huntington Beach, California, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">in 1998 when he saw kids going up and down the sidewalk on their </p><p style="margin-top: 0">inline skates. Suddenly Adams had the idea for a combination shoe and </p><p style="margin-top: 0">skate&#8212;a shoe that could roll on command when the wearer shifted </p><p style="margin-top: 0">body weight. He cut up some Nike running shoes, put some skateboard </p><p style="margin-top: 0">wheels in the back, and a prototype was born. Adams started his company </p><p style="margin-top: 0">in December 2000, went public in 2006, and sold out his stock in </p><p style="margin-top: 0">hours. In June 2007, Heelys, Inc., was worth $800 million and was number </p><p style="margin-top: 0">one on BusinessWeek&#8217;s list of &#8220;Hot Growth Companies.&#8221;2 Just getting </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to that point was a journey of its own: On his way to Texas to meet </p><p style="margin-top: 0">with an investor, his car was rear-ended and caught fire. His prototype, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">his business plan, and even his clothes were in that car. A short time </p><p style="margin-top: 0">later, however, the son of a patent attorney showed Adams&#8217;s promo- </p><p style="margin-top: 0">tional film to a friend, whose father was a venture capitalist. </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Impressed, the father backed Heelys. The product had &#8220;arrived&#8221; when </p><p style="margin-top: 0">former Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O&#8217;Neal ordered a pair of the </p><p style="margin-top: 0">shoes in size 22 and R &amp; B star Usher appeared in a music video wearing </p><p style="margin-top: 0">a pair. </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">Business historians will look back at the introduction of Heelys and </p><p style="margin-top: 0">ask why they were developed. While the answer may seem obvious to </p><p style="margin-top: 0">some people (okay, some young people), historians often make the </p><p style="margin-top: 0">obvious complex. For example, Adams claimed that he harkened back </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to the fun of his childhood, but did he contrive the recollections of his </p><p style="margin-top: 0">youth as a justification after the fact? Did vast, sweeping social forces </p><p style="margin-top: 0">make 2000 &#8220;the right time&#8221; for such an invention? Did Adams perceive </p><p style="margin-top: 0">great profits and leave other, unrelated work to create his product? In </p><p style="margin-top: 0">short, does the economy operate from entrepreneurs upward or from </p><p style="margin-top: 0">large invisible forces downward? And what is the role of success in creating, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">and sustaining, business? </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">To understand how success and failure, birth and death are essential </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to the entrepreneurial process, it is necessary to ask yet another set </p><p style="margin-top: 0">of questions. What is it that entrepreneurs do? How do they differ from </p><p style="margin-top: 0">managers who oversee an existing business? How do other people, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">even others around the world who have no awareness of entrepreneurs&#8217; </p><p style="margin-top: 0">efforts or specific businesses, benefit from entrepreneurs&#8217; successes? </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Perhaps more important, how do those same people benefit </p><p style="margin-top: 0">from entrepreneurs&#8217; failures? </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">This book, while tracing the history of American business from its </p><p style="margin-top: 0">European origins to contemporary times, will examine these questions </p><p style="margin-top: 0">through a focus on entrepreneurs. To a considerable extent, this book </p><p style="margin-top: 0">is a celebration of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. We do not </p><p style="margin-top: 0">intend to delve deeply into the contributions of labor or on the social </p><p style="margin-top: 0">forces that shaped labor movements. Instead, the entrepreneur, and </p><p style="margin-top: 0">those forces that directly affect entrepreneurs, will receive central </p><p style="margin-top: 0">treatment. At the same time, defining entrepreneurship has proved </p><p style="margin-top: 0">more difficult for economists and business historians than might </p><p style="margin-top: 0">appear at first glance, and that definition has expanded or changed </p><p style="margin-top: 0">over time. We have therefore chosen to examine the context in which </p><p style="margin-top: 0">the concept of entrepreneurship appeared in a comprehensive framework. </p><p style="margin-top: 0">It begins not with a businessman, but with a professor at the </p><p style="margin-top: 0">University of Glasgow, Adam Smith. </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">ADAM SMITH, ECONOMICS, AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP </p><p style="margin-top: 0">The essence of entrepreneurship is capitalism, an economic system </p><p style="margin-top: 0">elaborated by Adam Smith in his famous book written in 1776, An </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.3 Smith </p><p style="margin-top: 0">did not invent the market system: He only laid out in a systematic form </p><p style="margin-top: 0">an explanation of economic practices as old as time itself. But Smith is </p><p style="margin-top: 0">worth examining in detail at this early point for two reasons. First, his </p><p style="margin-top: 0">theory is as valid today as it was in 1776. Challengers still remain, but </p><p style="margin-top: 0">increasingly they have retreated into debating the effects of capitalism </p><p style="margin-top: 0">on spiritual grounds, where proof is impossible and faith is essential. </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Second, Smith&#8217;s explanation of human behavior is particularly important </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to the point of this book: entrepreneurs and their contributions. </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">Adam Smith explained economic wealth creation as a process of </p><p style="margin-top: 0">making products or providing services with the goal of personal gain. </p><p style="margin-top: 0">For most people, gain means material gain. It must be remembered that </p><p style="margin-top: 0">in the eighteenth century, most people had so little that material gain </p><p style="margin-top: 0">often meant survival for yourself and your family. In that context, aside </p><p style="margin-top: 0">from those dedicated individuals on the planet entirely motivated by </p><p style="margin-top: 0">religious, ideological, or artistic factors (Mother Teresa or Tibetan </p><p style="margin-top: 0">monks come to mind), people operate to a substantial degree out of </p><p style="margin-top: 0">concern for material gain. Even for Mother Teresa or Tibetan monks, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Smith&#8217;s &#8220;rational self-interest&#8221; could be a motivation. After all, if you </p><p style="margin-top: 0">are absolutely certain that there are rewards to come in heaven or in </p><p style="margin-top: 0">the next life, wouldn&#8217;t a few more &#8220;good deeds&#8221; be worked into your </p><p style="margin-top: 0">schedule? (Of course, in some poor countries, becoming a monk can be </p><p style="margin-top: 0">a path to a better material life, too.) Certainly some individuals crave </p><p style="margin-top: 0">power instead of wealth, but usually the trappings of power include </p><p style="margin-top: 0">most material goods, including houses, transportation, food, and personal </p><p style="margin-top: 0">assistants. Other people want fame, but fame, too, usually produces </p><p style="margin-top: 0">wealth as a by-product, making it difficult to separate a desire for </p><p style="margin-top: 0">one from the other. Whatever the case, a good rule of thumb for life is </p><p style="margin-top: 0">that when people say they are &#8220;not in it for themselves,&#8221; watch out! </p><p style="margin-top: 0">They are in it precisely &#8220;for themselves.&#8221; Smith understood that rational </p><p style="margin-top: 0">self-interest was the most important motivating force in the world </p><p style="margin-top: 0">under normal conditions. More important to Smith, he observed that </p><p style="margin-top: 0">society as a whole benefited and improved materially as individuals </p><p style="margin-top: 0">pursued self-interest. </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">Critics of capitalism have viewed this as a paradox: How can society </p><p style="margin-top: 0">thrive if the key economic tenet is self-interest? Perhaps it cannot; </p><p style="margin-top: 0">but Smith never equated self-interest with selfishness. Instead, he saw </p><p style="margin-top: 0">capitalism as a moral system. Smith was a man consumed by moral </p><p style="margin-top: 0">questions. His previous book, A Theory of Moral Sentiments (1764), </p><p style="margin-top: 0">established his view that self-interest was a guide for empathetic </p><p style="margin-top: 0">humans who could not know what was best for others, because they </p><p style="margin-top: 0">did not have access to &#8220;the big picture.&#8221; The market system, or prices, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">ensured that individuals, each person acting according to this internal </p><p style="margin-top: 0">mechanism, would behave in a way that would ensure the outcome </p><p style="margin-top: 0">best for all. Although Smith sought to explain the overall functioning of </p><p style="margin-top: 0">the economy&#8212;really, as a capstone to his broader discussion of morality&#8212; </p><p style="margin-top: 0">he did so through analysis of individual markets and examples. </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Thus his famous quotation: &#8220;It is not from the benevolence of the </p><p style="margin-top: 0">butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we can expect our dinner, but </p><p style="margin-top: 0">from their regard to their own interest.&#8221;4 People are &#8220;encouraged&#8221; to </p><p style="margin-top: 0">serve others in a market system. Because he already had written extensively </p><p style="margin-top: 0">on morality, Smith assumed that the reader already would have </p><p style="margin-top: 0">grasped the spiritual elements of his economic theory. Thus, the references </p><p style="margin-top: 0">in Wealth of Nations to &#8220;self-interest&#8221; were intended to describe </p><p style="margin-top: 0">an element of human psychology that ensured people would respond </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to the needs of others. </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">Smith thus began his investigation with the &#8220;natural wants&#8221; of people, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">and noted that the range of human wants made people dependent </p><p style="margin-top: 0">on the labor of others. This resulted in a division of labor that made </p><p style="margin-top: 0">capitalism especially vibrant. Any person, he theorized, could perform </p><p style="margin-top: 0">almost any labor to one degree or another. As he put it, &#8220;By nature a </p><p style="margin-top: 0">philosopher is not in genius and disposition half so different from a </p><p style="margin-top: 0">street porter, as is a mastiff from a greyhound.&#8221;5 However &#8220;no one ever </p><p style="margin-top: 0">saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange with another dog,&#8221; in </p><p style="margin-top: 0">spite of the obvious advantages the above-mentioned dogs might have </p><p style="margin-top: 0">in joining their resources to increase their consumption possibilities.6 </p><p style="margin-top: 0">To Smith, then, it did not seem logical for every person to try to do </p><p style="margin-top: 0">everything (farm, build, philosophize, and so on), but rather to specialize </p><p style="margin-top: 0">in what the person did best, to maximize the return, allowing others </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to do those tasks they did better. This resulted in more total production, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">but also made people dependent on others. Self-interest was what </p><p style="margin-top: 0">made people pay attention to the desires of others and ensured that </p><p style="margin-top: 0">that dependency could not be ignored. </p><p style="margin-top: 0"></p><p style="margin-top: 0">But while division of labor was a key element in capitalism, Smith&#8217;s </p><p style="margin-top: 0">theory consisted of far more. He observed that self-interest created </p><p style="margin-top: 0">competition between people, either to produce goods and supply services </p><p style="margin-top: 0">on one side of the equation, or to acquire goods and services on </p><p style="margin-top: 0">the other. Human nature meant that people thought highly of themselves, </p><p style="margin-top: 0">regardless of religious training or government suasion. </p><p style="margin-top: 0">Individuals therefore tended to ask for as much payment as possible for </p><p style="margin-top: 0">their own labor and sought to purchase goods made by others for as little </p><p style="margin-top: 0">as possible. Or, in Smith&#8217;s vernacular, &#8220;sell dear, buy cheap.&#8221; Smith </p><p style="margin-top: 0">realized, however, that everyone could not &#8220;sell dear&#8221; and &#8220;buy cheap&#8221; </p><p style="margin-top: 0">simultaneously. This observance eventually led to exploration of the </p><p style="margin-top: 0">role of the entrepreneur. Instead of pursuing that concept, Smith went </p><p style="margin-top: 0">on to explore the nature of value and price. Smith noted that because all </p><p style="margin-top: 0">sellers wanted high prices and buyers wanted low prices, it caused competition </p><p style="margin-top: 0">to appear, creating a market wherein all goods and services </p><p style="margin-top: 0">would reach a specific price. Thus, he introduced the supply-and-demand </p><p style="margin-top: 0">model now considered so essential to economic understanding. </p></body></html>

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