In American business, the 1910s was the decade of organization. Across the country, large corporations sought ways to make their production more efficient. They hired managers in great numbers, and it was the manager's job to get employees to increase production. Many of these managers followed the thinking of an engineer named Frederick W. Taylor (1865–1915), who preached the principles of "scientific management." These new management techniques emphasized efficiency and order and getting the most out of workers. Managers also looked to automation, as more and more American businesses used assembly-line processes to produce their goods. The Ford Motor Company was the shining example of what organization could do for a company; Henry Ford (1863–1947) and his car company boosted automobile production to 730,041 units by 1917.
When President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) brought his progressive political ideas to the White House in 1913, critics feared that his pro-reform administration would be antibusiness. In fact, progressive legislation helped business operate more efficiently. Both the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 and the creation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) helped restore healthy competition to American business by eliminating monopolistic (single company dominance) and anticompetitive business practices. Other acts increased exports by promoting free trade with other nations, helped provide farmers with low-interest loans, and protected workers' rights.
The American economy was boosted dramatically by World War I (1914–18). Before it entered the war in 1917, the United States provided food and other goods to all of the warring countries. Once America entered the war, it was free also to provide military weapons and heavy industrial goods to its allies, France and the United Kingdom. President Wilson's government helped American companies organize their activities to ship war goods; labor unions felt it was unpatriotic to strike; and the economy boomed. During the course of the decade, the value of goods and services produced in the United States rose from $35.3 billion in 1910 to $91.5 billion in 1920. Even more importantly, the United States was now exporting more goods than ever before. Exports exceeded imports by $273 million in 1910. By 1920, they exceeded imports by $2.88 billion.
By the end of the decade, the American economy was the undoubted leader of the world. American companies shared in the boom. The Ford Motor Company, General Motors, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, DuPont, and other companies grew to have values greater than many small nations. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) laid telephone lines from New York to San Francisco, paving the way for transcontinental telephone service—and for AT&T to become the world's largest company eventually.
Individual Americans also enjoyed the country's economic growth. The income of the average American rose from $580 in 1914 to more than $1,300 by the end of the decade. Advertisers and a growing retail industry persuaded Americans to spend some of their disposable income. Department stores such as Wanamaker in Philadelphia and grocery stores like Piggly Wiggly in Tennessee adopted scientific management techniques to sell people more goods. L. L. Bean (1872–1967) founded his outdoor goods company in 1912 and soon shipped goods across the country to people who had received his catalog.