Nelson, Daniel 1941-
Nelson, Daniel 1941-
Born August 28, 1941, in Indianapolis, IN; son of Melvin A. and Josephine Nelson; married Lorraine May, June 15, 1963; children: Catherine, Debra. Ethnicity: "Northern Europe." Education: Ohio Wesleyan University, B.A., 1963; Ohio State University, M.A., 1964; University of Wisconsin—Madison, Ph.D., 1967. Politics: Independent. Religion: Congregationalist. Hobbies and other interests: Environmental action, politics.
Home—Akron, OH. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Delaware, Newark, assistant professor of history, 1967-70; Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, Wilmington, DE, specialist in industrial collections of Eleutherian Mills Historical Library, 1967-69, coordinator of Hagley fellowship program, 1969-70; University of Akron, Akron, OH, associate professor, 1970-77, professor of history, 1977-2000, professor emeritus, 2000—, director of graduate studies, 1974-79, department chair, 1995-98. University of Akron Press, director, 1988-92. Medina-Summit Land Conservancy, president, 2003-05.
Clarence A. Kulp Award, 1971, for Unemployment Insurance: The American Experience, 1915-35; book award, Ohio Academy of History, 1989, for American Rubber Workers and Organized Labor, 1900-1941; "outstanding academic book" citation, Choice, 1998, for Shifting Fortunes: The Rise and Decline of American Labor, from the 1820s to the Present; article award, Alaska History, 2004.
Unemployment Insurance: The American Experience, 1915-35, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1969.
Managers and Workers: Origins of the New Factory System, 1880-1920, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1975, revised edition published as Managers and Workers: Origins of the Twentieth-Century Factory System, 1880-1920, 1995.
Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1980.
(Editor) A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management since Taylor, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 1992.
Farm and Factory: Workers in the Midwest, 1880-1990, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1995.
Shifting Fortunes: The Rise and Decline of American Labor, from the 1820s to the Present, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 1997.
(Editor) Alfred Winslow Jones, Life, Liberty, and Property, 2nd edition, University of Akron Press (Akron, OH), 1999.
Northern Landscapes: The Struggle for Wilderness Alaska, Resources for the Future (Washington, DC), 2004.
Contributor to books, including Yankee Enterprise, edited by Otto Mayr and Robert C. Post, Smithsonian Press (Washington, DC), 1981; Le Taylorisme, [Paris, France], 1984; Masters to Managers, edited by Sanford Jacoby, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1990; and Industrial Valley, revised edition, ILR Press (Ithaca, NY), 1992. Contributor to periodicals, including Alaska History.
Some of Nelson's books have been published in Japan.
Daniel Nelson is an expert in the field of U.S. business and labor history. His book Managers and Workers: Origins of the New Factory System, 1880-1920 been called the preeminent text on the development of the American factory system. It covers topics such as the relationship between technological and organizational innovation, including the rise of mass production, scientific management, and personnel work, and incorporates important scholarship on these topics from the 1970s through the 1990s.
In a review of a revised edition of this work, Business History contributor Michael Huberman mentioned the "concise and well-documented" narrative of the first edition and noted that it had stimulated some of the later scholarship that was incorporated into the next edition. Though Huberman cited a lack of "the new literature on the economic history of labour markets" in the book, adding that it "suffers from a lack of international comparisons," he labeled it a standard work in its field, one whose "argument has stood the test of time."
Alex Keyssar, writing in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, called Nelson's work American Rubber Workers and Organized Labor, 1900-1941 "an important, colorful, and intriguing" story. Using the rubber workers of his native Akron as his base, Nelson presents an account of their organizing efforts and political activities from the era before rubber tires were prevalent to the dramatic, sometimes violent events of the 1930s and 1940s. Keyssar also cited what he called Nelson's narrow focus on "opportunity and response" and on the effects of the business cycle. Keyssar said that the book is an "institutional account" that gives little attention to the social history of rubber workers' lives. In Business History Review Stephen Amberg wrote a more positive review, noting that Nelson's book "is a generally excellent work that explains unionization by linking it to developments in technology, industrial organization, business strategies, and politics…. It will become the definitive study of the unionization of the rubber industry."
Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management is Nelson's account of Taylor's efforts to transform the factory system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nelson also collected eight essays by different authors that deal with the effects of Taylor's work in A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management since Taylor. In the Business History Review, Hindy Lauer Schachter commented: "This book suggests that a final verdict on whether Taylor was hero or villain cannot emerge from the work of his followers, because his ideas have appealed to people embracing many contradictory programs. The essays contribute to our knowledge of Taylorism's impact by underscoring the diversity of activities and attitudes emanating from scientific management."
Farm and Factory: Workers in the Midwest, 1880-1990 outlines the ways Midwestern industrialization and farm mechanization changed the face of the nation. Dennis Deslippe wrote in Business History Review that the book is really "an industrial history of the Midwest" rather than a treatise on the lives of workers. According to Nelson, the Midwest was ripe for industrial development because of its abundant natural resources and its ready pool of labor. The success of the Midwestern economy, he writes, tended to discourage innovation, eventually leading to a decline beginning in the 1950s, when manufacturers started to flee to other areas. Deslippe noted Nelson's "attention to detail" and said that he is "especially effective in emphasizing the importance of technology." Deslippe pointed out a number of questionable assertions in the book, however, and noted that the book is "not a work about ideology or culture." Yet he felt that it thoroughly presents "vast economic, political, and demographic data" and found it useful for academicians in the field.
In Shifting Fortunes: The Rise and Decline of American Labor, from the 1820s to the Present, Nelson traces labor history from the nineteenth-century mines to the firing of air-traffic controllers by President Reagan in the 1980s, stressing three themes: the increasing autonomy of workers, the benefits of joining labor unions versus the fear of management reprisals, and the condition of the economy at the time he wrote the book. According to Robert Bussel in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Nelson emphasizes "the importance of external factors" on the history of labor unions, "specifically downplaying the importance of ideological and structural concerns." Bussel felt that this approach "tends to underestimate the crucial roles of leadership and human agency"—for example, the importance of union leaders like A. Philip Randolph or Cesar Chavez. Neither does Nelson, according to Bussel, address recent attempts by unions to increasing their organizing activity. However, "his perceptive, judicious, and unsentimental analysis is a valuable contribution to the renewed discussion about the prospects for union growth."
Nelson told CA: "During the last decade I have devoted my attention almost exclusively to environmental issues. My research has emphasized public lands legislation and management and the momentous decisions that reshaped the political economy of Alaska in particular. I have continued to reexamine the politics of the 1970s with a study of the career—really the career in environmental politics—of John F. Seiberling, a key figure in the Congress during that period. I see Seiberling's activities as part of a larger revision of public lands management that marks the years 1970-1985 as a turning point in American environmental and political history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Business History, July, 1997, Michael Huberman, review of Managers and Workers: Origins of the New Factory System, 1880-1920, p. 161.
Business History Review, spring, 1989, Stephen Amberg, review of American Rubber Workers and Organized Labor, 1900-1941, pp. 206-209; winter, 1993, Hindy Lauer Schachter, review of A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management since Taylor, pp. 655-666; spring, 1997, Dennis Deslippe, review of Farm and Factory: Workers in the Midwest, 1880-1990, pp. 127-128.
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, April, 1990, Alex Keyssar, review of American Rubber Workers and Organized Labor, 1900-1941, pp. 491-492; January, 1999, Robert Bussel, review of Shifting Fortunes: The Rise and Decline of American Labor, from the 1820s to the Present, pp. 326-328.
Library Journal, October 15, 1997, Harry Frumerman, review of Shifting Fortunes, p. 75.