Business History Review


Industrial Home Work of the Dennison Manufacturing Company of Framingham, Massachusetts, 1912–1935

Gloria Vollmersa1

a1 GLORIA VOLLMERS is assistant professor in the accounting area at the University of Maine.


Dennison Manufacturing Company let work out into private homes in surrounding communities and paid piece rates for it for many decades. This work, primarily attaching strings to tags, benefited both the company and the community but contained the potential for abusive child labor. Home work declined when machinery could be substituted for hand labor, but machinery capable of replacing all handwork was never developed. Social and political pressures to reduce or eliminate child labor increased the incentives to end home work; but not until the depression of the 1930s, when national efforts to put men back to work gained momentum, did home manufacture end in the tag and other industries. This article uses internal company documents spanning the period 1912 to 1935 to illuminate the company's policy towards this work. It also relies on the recollections of many of those who performed the work when they were children. This research contributes to a substantial body of literature on home work by providing a case study on one company and enriching it with human testimony.

Gloria Vollmers is assistant professor in the accounting area at the University of Maine. She received an A.B. degree in Religious Studies from Brown University, an M.M. degree in Violin Performance from the University of North Texas, an M.S. degree in Business Administration and a Ph.D in Accounting from the University of North Texas. She has taught at the University of Maine since 1992. Her research has focused on the history of cost accounting in the United States in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Her work has been published in the Accounting Historians Journal, the Journal of Management Accounting Research, the C.P.A. Journal and in Accounting Enquiries