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Grand Plans: Business Progressivism and Social Change in Ohio's Miami Valley, 1890-1929

by Judith Sealander

Availableweb pdf$35.00x 978-0-8131-5949-2
Availablecloth$35.00x 978-0-8131-1653-2
272 pages  Pubdate: 10/17/2014   x   illus

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Scholars may have widely differing views of the Progressive Era, but all see business as holding the key to the reforms of that period. In this new book Judith Sealander amplifies our understanding of the relationship between business leaders and reform through a detailed examination of Dayton and the Miami Valley of Ohio. She focuses specifically on four progressive projects that made this nine-county region nationally known as a center for reform activism.

The four “projects" include an extensive program of employee benefits instituted at the National Cash Register Company; the creation, in the Miami Conservancy District, of a massive flood prevention system; the institution of a new businesslike city-manager government in Dayton; and a new experimental approach to education in the region's public and private schools.

Well grounded in the scholarly literature on progressivism and drawing from a rich trove of local manuscript sources, Judith Sealander has provided an integrated analysis of the role of business leadership in these four reform areas that corrects the exaggerated treatment business has often received. She shows how this one group of businessmen functioned as reformers, the "grand plans" they had for changing society, their merger of scientific engineering, business management, and moral fervor, and the benefits and costs of their kind of progressivism.

Grand Plans contributes new insights into the Progressive Era and will interest scholars of that period as well as historians of American business, urban affairs, and reform.

Judith Sealander is associate professor of history at Wright State University.

A worthy contribution based on careful archival research, convincingly argued, and well written. This book is in many ways a model monograph. -- Journal of American History