THE stimulus for this monographic study was a remark by Professor Donald Dewey in his industrial organization course that no satisfactory history of the 1895–1907 merger movement had as yet been written. What follows can hardly be said to fill this gap; but perhaps it can be said to mark the first step in a necessary second look at and reinterpretation of that crucial decade in American history, a decade which witnessed a sudden and dramatic change in the structure of this country’s manufacturing sector. While this monograph covers only a single industry, it would seem to be a reasonable working hypothesis—at least until complementary studies in other industries show otherwise—that what occurred in sugar refining provides an instructive guide to what happened contemporaneously in other industries.
It is currently fashionable in some quarters to talk about the “new economic history.”1 Whether this monograph falls under that rubric is for others to judge. Certainly it does not make use of the econometric techniques which have come to be associated with that phrase. On the other hand, it does attempt to apply—for the first time, really—current industrial organization theory to the substantial body of information which exists on the 1895–1907 merger movement. Previous studies of this period, numerous as they have been, have generally suffered from the lack of such a theoretical structure for organizing and evaluating the available materials. In terms of technique, the use of industrial organization theory to help interpret a historical epoch may be the most important contribution which this monograph has to make.
The application of economic theory to history, however, has its dangers as well as its advantages. For while the theory can provide many important insights, it can also blind one to the process of cumulative change, an awareness of which is the sine qua non of a “historical” sense. It is the lack of such a historical sense which vitiates some of the most noted examples of the “new economic history.” This monograph, it is hoped, has exploited the possibility without falling victim to the trap.
To Donald Dewey I owe much more than just the subject of this monograph, originally a dissertation written under his supervision and completed in the spring of 1966. He has influenced my approach to this and other economic questions in ways that I am only dimly aware of but for which I am deeply grateful. The relationship between a graduate student and his faculty sponsor is a unique one, and, like all meaningful human relationships, is best appreciated only as it comes to an end.
In revising the original manuscript for publication I have been most fortunate to have the benefit of criticisms and comments by Professors Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., of The Johns Hopkins University, and Louis D. Galambos, of Rice University. As a result of their helpful suggestions, the manuscript has been improved considerably, as any reader of the original version will be able to testify. Among other things, they are responsible for the monograph’s being more sharply focused on its main themes.
Professor Louis Hacker served as the second reader of the original dissertation and, it would appear to me, carried out that office with a devotion far beyond the normal call of duty, reading through the entire manuscript with careful attention to every detail. To him I am truly indebted for a historian’s keenly critical review, as well as for many helpful suggestions. However, as in the cases of Professors Dewey, Chandler, and Galambos, he should not be held responsible for the errors, omissions, and faulty judgments that still remain in the manuscript. Professor Julius Rubin, now of the University of Pittsburgh, performed a similar service when the original dissertation was in its early stages of development, and I wish to acknowledge that substantial debt. I also want to thank Professors Carter C. Goodrich, also now of the University of Pittsburgh, and Joseph Dorfman for their help and encouragement. This list of intellectual obligations would not be complete without mention of Professors Aaron W. Warner and Eli Ginzberg. Their contribution to this monograph has been indirect rather than direct: the opportunity I have had to work closely with them both over the last eight years has comprised the equivalent of several graduate and post graduate educations.
This monograph would have been far more difficult to write had it not been for the co-operation I received from the American Sugar Company, its president, William F. Oliver, and, most important, Robert T. Quittmeyer and Ernest P. Lorfanfant of the company’s legal department. I wish to express my gratitude to them, and to Courtney C. Brown, former dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Business, for his interest and assistance. In addition to the materials received from the American Sugar Company, Henry L. Huelin, of Willett & Gray, Inc., publisher of the Weekly Statistical Sugar Trade Journal, was kind enough to put at my disposal his firm’s copies of its early issues. Since these early volumes are not to be found at any library—though they are an important source on the early history of the sugar refining industry—I am very grateful to him. Lastly, I would like to thank the librarians at the many collections I visited during the course of my research for their help and advice, particularly the librarians at Columbia University, the New York Historical Society, the National Archives, and the Stimson Collection at Yale University.
The final, and perhaps most important, acknowledgment must be to my wife, Barbara, who not only had to suffer through the agony of the dissertation process but also, to compound matters, typed the entire final copy. I would also like to thank Miss Jane Stein, Mrs. Robert Stein, Mrs. Belle Joyce Kass, and Mrs. Eva Gilleran for typing earlier drafts of various chapters.
Alfred S. Eichner
1 See the discussion “Economic History: Its Contribution to Economic Education, Research and Policy,” 77th Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association, reprinted in American Economic Review, 55 (May, 1965), especially the contributions of Douglass C. North and Robert W. Fogel, pp. 86–98.