Adams, Stephen B. 1955-

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Adams, Stephen B. 1955-


Born 1955.


Office—Perdue School of Business, Salisbury University, 1101 Camden Ave., Salisbury, MD 21801; fax: 410-546-6208. E-mail[email protected]


Salisbury University, Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, Salisbury, MD, assistant professor of management.


Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington: The Rise of a Government Entrepreneur (biography), University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1997.

(With Orville R. Butler) Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric (nonfiction), Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Contributor to periodicals, including Enterprise & Society and California Management Review.


Stephen B. Adams revised his doctoral dissertation into his first published book, Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington: The Rise of a Government Entrepreneur. This biography focuses on the relationship between its subject, twentieth-century businessman Henry Kaiser, and the United States government. Kaiser left school when he was only twelve years old. He worked at several jobs in promotion and sales before setting up his own business as a road paver. By applying the techniques of the assembly line to the road-building process, Kaiser was able to complete his jobs faster than had ever before been possible. Kaiser promoted his business energetically, increased his profits by providing his own construction materials, and learned to work effectively with trade unions and with the state, local, and federal government organizations that became his main source of contracts. In 1931, his businesses were awarded fifty million dollars to build the Boulder Dam, the largest contract ever drawn up by the United States government at that time. Throughout World War II his companies were key players in shipbuilding, steel works, and other important industries. Though he was heavily dependent on the government to keep his empire going, Kaiser also managed to maintain an image of himself as a self-made man. "Adams documents precisely how the relationship between entrepreneur and government worked," stated Brian Balogh in the Business History Review. He found the book "elegantly crafted" and stated it would be of interest to students of both business and political history. Balogh concluded: "As with most case studies, it is difficult to know just how representative Kaiser's story is. The answer to that question awaits more monographs that synthesize business and political history as skillfully as Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington." Michael French also recommended the book, calling it in his Business History review "a detailed and thoughtful assessment of Henry J. Kaiser's capacity to do business so successfully with the New Deal administration."

Adams and coauthor Orville R. Butler provide a detailed history of the Western Electric Corporation and its unique contribution to American business in their book Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric. Though often overshadowed by its more prominent parent company, Bell Telephone, Western Electric's history also spanned the length of the modern communications era. Founded in 1869 as a supplier to the telegraph company Western Union, the company went on to flourish as a supplier to Bell (and its successor, AT&T). In 1984, Western Electric ceased to be a separate entity, with its functions performed by AT&T. The name Western Electric disappeared, but its role as a separate telecommunications manufacturer would return with AT&T's spin-off of Lucent Technologies in 1996. "Adams and Butler have succeeded admirably in producing a fascinating corporate history of considerable value to historians of business and technology," noted Albert Churella in his Business History review of the book. Another recommendation came from Richard S. Rosenbloom, who, in the Business History Review, called Manufacturing the Future "a readable and useful introduction to the history of a noteworthy enterprise."



Business Economics, January, 2000, Edmund A. Mennis, review of Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric, p. 82.

Business History, October, 1998, Michael French, review of Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington: The Rise of a Government Entrepreneur, p. 195; January, 2000, Albert Churella, review of Manufacturing the Future, p. 130.

Business History Review, summer, 1998, Brian Balogh, review of Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington, p. 353; winter, 1999, Richard S. Rosenbloom, review of Manufacturing the Future, p. 764.

Labour and Industry, April, 2000, Russell Lansbury, review of Manufacturing the Future, p. 130.

Library Journal, November 15, 1997, Patricia Hatch, review of Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington, p. 66.


Salisbury University School of Business Web site, (November 3, 2006), biographical information about Stephen B. Adams.