From the Boardroom to the War Room

From the Boardroom to the War Room

America's Corporate Liberals and FDR's Preparedness Program

Richard E. Holl


University of Rochester Press



This book chronicles the ideological changes experienced by the corporate liberals between World War I and World War II, illustrating how this group overcame a number of constraints to help reconfigure the American economy and prepare the country for war.
Between World War I and World War II, America's corporate liberals experienced a profound ideological change. In the 1920s, corporate liberals embraced company-specific solutions to economic problems. They believed that if every company, in every industry, employed advanced managerial techniques -- such as granting workers non-wage benefits to increase their job satisfaction -- employment, production, and profits could be stabilized and prosperity sustained indefinitely. The Great Depression, of course, made a mockery of this idyllic vision. Corporate liberals admitted that private efforts failed to maintain the nation's economic health, ultimately endorsing large-scale government intervention to bail out the stricken economy. By 1935, the corporate liberal conversion from privatism to business-government partnership was well under way.
Corporate liberals served President Franklin Roosevelt throughout the Depression and preparedness periods. Marion Folsom of Eastman Kodak Corporation, Edward Stettinius, Jr. of United States Steel, and others joined New Deal agencies struggling to re-employ workers and bring about social security. Later, at Roosevelt's request, they entered emergency preparedness bodies to ready the United States for the possibility of war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the reconfigured American economy (which the corporate liberals had done so much to create) proved capable of mass producing weapons and other equipment. The bottom line, staunchly revisionist in nature, is that the corporate liberals ran an effective mobilization campaign, overcoming isolationist resistance to rearmament, Roosevelt's reluctance to grant them genuine authority, and other constraints.

Richard E. Holl is Professor of History at the Lees College Campus of Hazard Community and Technical College. His latest article, on Axis prisoners of war in Kentucky, won the Collins Award of the Kentucky Historical Society.


August 2005
12 black and white illustrations
202 pages
9x6 in
ISBN: 9781580461924
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
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Table of Contents

Meet the New Era Corporate Liberals: Supporters of Welfare Capitalism and Hooverian Associationalism
Bad Times and a New Deal: The Corporate Liberals Accede to Sustained Business-Government Collaboration
The Unready State
The Corporte Liberals, the War Resources Board, and Industrial Mobilization Planning
Preparedness Proper: The Corporate Liberals and the National Defense Advisory Commission
One Step Short of War: The Corporate Liberals and the Office of Production Management


An important and balanced study that engages the reader and belongs on any book shelf that deals with the bridge between business and government. It is an insightful study that sheds new light on FDR's relationship with liberal corporate leaders who helped lay the foundation for the phenomenal production of the war years. --Keith W. Olson, author of Watergate: The Presidential Scandal That Shook America (2003)

Richard Holl's book, From the Boardroom to the War Room, significantly contributes to the understanding of the merger of corporate liberalism and the government before American entry into World War II -- a combination that served as the foundation for America's wartime political economy. --Dr. Daniel L. Lykins, Oregon State University

(This book) is deserving of careful and thoughtful consideration by all students of corporate liberalism, World War II mobilization, and the American regulatory and welfare state. The book also has an excellent bibliography and is a pleasure to read. REGISTER OF THE KENTUCKY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Ellis W. Hawley)

Author Bio

Richard E. Holl is professor of History at the Lees College Campus of Hazard Community and Technical College.