The Bosses at Sheaffer Pen

I grew up in Ft. Madison, Iowa – a typical Midwestern Industrial town in the late Forties and early Fifties – with the Santa Fe Railroad in the West End of town – and the Sheaffer Pen Company in the East End of town. There is nothing in Ft. Madison now, and its buildings stand vacant.

But I want to talk about back then – from information I have to piece together myself, since no one else wants to talk about that time.

Sheaffer Pen was formed – to capitalize on a new invention – the Fountain Pen.You could fill the pen with ink, using a collapsible bladder, and write with it for a long time, before you had to refill it again. Everyone had to have one, and a factory was build to manufacture them.

And a new social organization was utilized to do this – the Bosses, that ran the plant.

The workers did Piece Work – they made a piece of the Pen. These workers did routine work, the same thing, over and over – supervised by a Boss – later to be called a Manager. The Bosses were organized in a hierarchical manner – and everyone knew the importance of each Boss.

Two things appeared at the same time – Piece Work and the Bosses – and the Corporate Culture that accepted this as inevitable. Workers were not to think on their own – someone else would do that for them.They just showed up for work – and were shown what to do.

They functioned as robots, in effect, easily trained and – after a Century of Labor Bargaining – were decently paid.

The factories are now gone, but the hierarchical management system still exists. Although it is being challenged as inefficient, compared to Computer-Controlled systems.

The people that write the software that controls these systems – do have to think, and think very accurately. For which, they are very well paid.

People Smarts is being replace by Software Smarts – called Artificial Intelligence – or AI.

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One thought on “The Bosses at Sheaffer Pen

  1. I was back in Ft. Madison last October and was pleased to see that it seems to be prospering. The downtown area looks the best I have seen it in years!

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