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America's Assembly Line


  • Nye, David E.

    () (University of Southern Denmark)


The assembly line was invented in 1913 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It is the most familiar form of mass production. Both praised as a boon to workers and condemned for exploiting them, it has been celebrated and satirized. (We can still picture Chaplin’s little tramp trying to keep up with a factory conveyor belt.) In America’s Assembly Line, David Nye examines the industrial innovation that made the United States productive and wealthy in the twentieth century. The assembly line—developed at the Ford Motor Company in 1913 for the mass production of Model Ts—first created and then served an expanding mass market. It inspired fiction, paintings, photographs, comedy, cafeteria layouts, and cookie-cutter suburban housing. It also transformed industrial labor and provoked strikes and union drives. During World War II and the Cold War, it was often seen as a bastion of liberty and capitalism. By 1980, Japan had reinvented the assembly line as a system of “lean manufacturing”; American industry reluctantly adopted this new approach. Nye describes this evolution and the new global landscape of increasingly automated factories, with fewer industrial jobs in America and questionable working conditions in developing countries. A century after Ford’s pioneering innovation, the assembly line continues to evolve toward more sustainable manufacturing.

Suggested Citation

  • Nye, David E., 2013. "America's Assembly Line," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262018715, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262018715

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Guonan Ma & RobertN McCauley, 2008. "Efficacy Of China'S Capital Controls: Evidence From Price And Flow Data," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(1), pages 104-123, February.
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    9. Chi-Young Choi & Young-Kyu Moh, 2007. "How useful are tests for unit-root in distinguishing unit-root processes from stationary but non-linear processes?," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 10(1), pages 82-112, March.
    10. Levy Yeyati, Eduardo & Schmukler, Sergio L. & Van Horen, Neeltje, 2009. "International financial integration through the law of one price: The role of liquidity and capital controls," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 432-463, July.
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    12. Prachowny, Martin F J, 1970. "A Note on Interest Parity and the Supply of Arbitrage Funds," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(3), pages 540-545, May-June.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:gam:jsoctx:v:6:y:2016:i:2:p:16:d:69337 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2014. "Were Antebellum Cotton Plantations Factories in the Field?," NBER Chapters,in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 245-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:zbw:espost:172007 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Huo, Jingjing, 2015. "How Nations Innovate: The Political Economy of Technological Innovation in Affluent Capitalist Economies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198735847, June.
    5. Sabine Pfeiffer, 2016. "Robots, Industry 4.0 and Humans, or Why Assembly Work Is More than Routine Work," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(2), pages 1-26, May.

    More about this item


    history of technology; business; social history;

    JEL classification:

    • M2 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Economics
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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