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National History Day Topics 2011-12
Elimination of Waste – Reforming American Industry in the 1920s

One of Herbert Hoover’s prime goals as Secretary of Commerce was the elimination of waste in American industry.  Hoover felt that by simplifying practices and improving efficiencies that American industries could realize tremendous increases in productivity.  He used every tool available to him as Secretary of Commerce to insure that industries voluntarily cooperated in improving our national progress and improving Americans’ standards of living.  There were no products or industries too mundane to be reformed: flash light cases, bricks, lumber, chinaware, and mattresses all merited primers on elimination of waste.

Hoover Library primary sources:
Herbert Hoover Commerce Papers. box 145 – Commerce Simplified Commercial Practice and
            Boxes 190-191 – Elimination of Waste in Industry
Priest, Ernest L., A Primer of Simplified Practice, Washington, GPO, 1926
Secretary of Commerce, Twelfth Annual Report, Washington, GPO, 1924

Online primary sources:
Volume 2 of Hoover’s memoirs, especially chapters 6 and 10
Library of Congress’ American Memory website has a copy of Hoover’s January 1925 address to the Chamber of Commerce on ‘The Problem of Distribution’ accessible via:

Secondary sources:
Clements, Kendrick, Hoover, Conservation and Consumerism:  Engineering the Good Life, University Press of Kansas, 2000.
Tanner, William R., ‘Secretary of Commerce Hoover’s War on Waste, 1921-1928’ pp. 1-36 in
            Carl Krog and W. R. Tan
ner, Herbert Hoover and the Republican Era, University Press
            of America, 1984.

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