Following America into the Second Industrial Revolution: New Rules of Competition and Ontario's Farm Machinery Industry, 1850-1930

Article excerpt

En depit de l'hiatus dans l'expansion du parc agricole entre 1880 et 1900, la societe canadienne Massey-Harris est devenue une grande societe multinationale competitive l'orsque des usines-succursales americaines ont fait leur arrivee en l'Ontario. Cette baisse de performance de l'industrie canadienne de fabrication d'outils et d'engins agricoles pose des problemes sur le plan de l'explication de l'economie des usines-succursales canadiennes. Pour la plupart des analystes, cette situation serait due a une politique nationale malconcue. Celle-ci aurait favorise et protege une industrie inefficace, et ainsi frustre le developpement industriel. En passant en revue ces analyses, je procede a une serie de comparaisons systematiques, d'une part des usines entre elles et, d'autre part, entre les industries de New York, de l'Ohio et de l'Illinois. J'avance que la Politique nationale canadienne etait une politique industrielle efficace qui a su promouvoir une industrie de fabrication d'outils et d'engins agricoles competitive dans le cadre de la technologie de l'epoque victorienne et de ses contraintes. Des problemes, qui ont fait leur apparition au cours des annees 1880, suite a l'adoption par les societes de Chicago de la production de masse des moissonneuses, ont perdure suite a l'arrivee en masse des tracteurs a essence apres 1900. Ce rut un moment tres difficile pour les societes de l'Ontario mais elles reussirent a battre leurs concurrents de New York et de ?Ohio qui etaient leaders de l'industrie en 1880. Dans l'industrie des engins agricoles, le sort de l'economie des usines-succursales etait decide Chicago, par des ingenieurs en mecanique agricole, non a Ottawa, par des hommes politiques.

Mots-cles: Innis, Politique Nationale, economie d'usines succursales, investissements etrangers directs, industrie de fabrication d'outils et d'engins agricoles, mondialisation


This paper reviews conflicting interpretations of the Canadian farm implement industry's performance to 1930. Previous research levels four charges at the industry. It suffered from halting domestic market growth, never attained economies of scale, suffered technological dependence on American industry, and was coddled behind tariffs under a poorly thought out industrial policy. Despite disagreement over specific charges, Canadian analysts generally rely upon a demand-led model of industry development. Large corporations developed first in the USA because of more massive demand, then invaded the distinct Canadian economy with branch plants. Canadian analysts stress made-in-Canada problems: Canadian politicians and business leaders failed to develop a robust national economy.

In rejecting both of these charges, I argue for closer attention to technical constraints in the transition to mass production. Victorian era and second industrial revolution technologies constituted distinct contexts for performance. Firms on both sides of the border faced technical constraints. In reviewing the four charges, I rely on comparisons between US and Canadian firms, regions and industries. Although a stagnant farm frontier limited demand from Canadian agriculture during 1870-1900, Ontario manufacturers captured an increasing share of the continental implement industry. Technical constraints frustrated large-scale production under Victorian era technology. Massive demand did not automatically translate into large-scale production with economies of scale for American firms. New production technology was required. Canadian firms mastered Victorian era technology, grew, and were ably supported by the National Policy (1) in developing and acquiring new product designs. They flourished through regional transfers of parts, materials, labour and licensed technology within the North American Manufacturing Belt. In harvesting machinery, licensing networks constrained opportunities for independent innovation, inter-regional trade and industry leadership north and south of the border. …


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