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Coping with Competition: Cooperation and Collusion in the US Stove Industry, c.1870–1930


This article examines the attempts of several generations of manufacturers of cooking and heating appliances to manage competition in their very unconcentrated industry. They started with overt price-fixing, which soon failed, then moved on to a variety of more effective techniques—particularly joint regulation with the aid of a strong craft union, and the adoption of uniform cost-accounting and price-setting systems. The article illuminates the numerous ways in which a trade association could make cartel-like behavior work in an industry whose structural characteristics were apparently unfavorable and also the importance of state intervention to shaping and eventually limiting this strategy.

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G. Cullom Davis , “The Transformation of the Federal Trade Commission, 1914–1929,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 49 (1962): 437–55 at 448–50

Gerald Berk , Louis D. Brandeis and the Making of Regulated Competition, 1900–1932 (Cambridge, 2009), esp. ch. 8

Howell J. Harris , “Inventing the US Stove Industry, c.1815–1875: Making and Selling the First Universal Consumer Durable,” Business History Review 82 (2008): 701–33, esp. 731–33

‘The Stove Trade Needs Change Continually’: Designing the First Mass-Market Consumer Durable, ca. 1810–1930,” Winterthur Portfolio 43 (2009): 365406, esp. 392–400

George Stigler , “A Theory of Oligopoly,” Journal of Political Economy 72 (1964): 4461

Margaret C. Levenstein and Valerie Y. Suslow , “What Determines Cartel Success?Journal of Economic Literature 44 (2006): 4395

Robert F. Himmelberg's discussion of both arguments, “Does Antitrust Matter? A Comparative History of Antitrust Policy and the Evolving Corporation in Britain and the United States,” Reviews in American History 21 (1993): 273–78

Margaret L. Stecker , “The Founders, the Molders, and the Molding Machine,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 32 (1918): 278308

Howell J. Harris , “The Rocky Road to Mass Production: Change and Continuity in the US Foundry Industry, 1890–1940,” Enterprise & Society 1 (June2000): 391437, esp. 413

Berk and Schneiberg , “Varieties in Capitalism, Varieties of Association: Collaborative Learning in American Industry, 1900 to 1925,” Politics & Society 33 (2005): 4687 at 47

Andrew Wender Cohen , The Racketeer's Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900–1940 (Cambridge, 2004)

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Business History Review
  • ISSN: 0007-6805
  • EISSN: 2044-768X
  • URL: /core/journals/business-history-review
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