Labor Market Politics and the Great War: The Department of Labor, the States, and the First U.S. Employment Service, 1907-1933

By William J. Breen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Industrial Northeast Connecticut

T he geographical distribution of government war contracts during the war reinforced the existing pattern of industrial concentration in the United States. Three-quarters of all government contracts for war purposes, excluding those let by the U.S. Shipping Board, were concentrated in seven states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois. One-quarter of the war contracts went to New York alone, and three states -- New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio -- absorbed one half of the total. Contracts let by the Shipping Board for vessels were more dispersed because of the requirement of deep waterways, but the contracts for shipbuilding accessories followed a geographical pattern that was similar to other war contracts.1 The geographical concentration of war contracts created an insatiable demand for labor in the band of industrial states stretching from Boston to Chicago. It also resulted in a very serious shortage of housing and other social amenities in these industrial areas.

Although geographically diminutive, Connecticut was one of the most industrialized states in the Union when America entered World War I.2 By the second decade of the century, it was the fourth most densely populated state in the Union, with two-thirds of its population concentrated in urban areas. It was also one of the most industrialized states in the Northeast, with over 50 percent of the work force engaged in manufacturing. The state's industrial base was quite diversified: machine tools, firearms, metals (particularly brass), hats, silks, sewing machines, textiles, insurance, finance, and hardware all contributed to this diversity. Almost all these industries switched to government contracts during the war, so that by 1918, four- fifths of Connecticut's industries were producing goods for the war effort.3

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