Over the past century, Alcoa has developed from a small entrepreneurial venture to a giant corporation; from a one-dimensional, owner-managed firm to a complex managerial bureaucracy; from a domestic company to a multinational enterprise. In the process, Alcoa survived a difficult transition from its long-held position as a monopolist (of aluminum production) to its current status as a firm operating in highly competitive international markets. This book presents Alcoa's history, from its beginnings as a speculative venture seeking to exploit an untested technology, through its rise to become the most successful monopoly in American history. By World War II, no other American corporation had developed its industry's markets more dramatically and then dominated them more completely. The book analyzes the undoing of Alcoa's monopoly by war and antitrust, as well as how Alcoa adapted to evolving forms of competition.
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This is a history of the aluminium giant Alcoa, from its beginnings through its development into one of the most successful monopolies in American history, to its postwar adaptation to evolving forms of oligopolistic and global competition.Review:
"Having access to countless documents dating back to the company's origins, George David Smith provides an engaging account of Alcoa's ingenious development of a market for aluminum as well as its internal organization and management of style. Smith relates an exciting story of the research and development that led to so many aluminum products we take for granted today. Smith's book is captivating and well worth reading." Science
"...brilliantly organized and uncommonly well written...From Monopoly to Competition is thus one of those rare books that can be read with profit by corporate executives (within the aluminum business and beyond) and academics. It also crosses disciplinary lines; economic historians as well as contemporary business consultants will find enlightenment here and not just in the concluding contemporary chapters. Intended mainly as a contribution to corporate self-consciousness, this history of Alcoa necessarily sheds light on many of the major concerns of academic historians: antitrust, foreign investment, research, development and the management of technology, the state and business in wartime, labor relations, and, above all, the structure of enterprise." Journal of Economic History
"...splendid history of Alcoa....Yet this is no mere book by recipe. In addition to many conventional virtues, the author provides some delightful bonuses: a deft capsule history of the rise of big business and its regulation; a primer on the economies of oligopoly; an informed assessment of recent American industrial decline; and a substantial analysis of Alcoa's workforce and labor relations -- a feature usually absent even from some excellent company histories. Overall, Smith's book invites comparison with the very best institutional studies." Thomas K. McCraw, American Historical Review
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