Business History Review


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

Howell Harris


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.

HOWELL HARRIS is a professor of history at the University of Durham, England. He wishes to acknowledge the contributions of commentators and participants at the Penn Economic History Seminar, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and the LSE Business History Seminar, to which earlier versions of this paper were presented; and also the invaluable critical input of the BHR's anonymous reviewers and editors, together with Edward Balleisen, the late Thomas McCraw, Laura Phillips, Mark Wilson, and his colleagues Graeme Small, Philip Williamson, and Christine Woodhead.