1940/50-Era Employee Relations and Practices at Bliley Electric

A Research Paper by MBA Student, Rebecca Hobbs, Edwards Air Force Base, California


In January 2003, I was contacted by Rebecca Hobbs, an MBA honor student1 and Environmental Engineer/Project Manager at Edwards Air Force Base, in California. She was approaching the end of her studies (11 of 15 courses completed) when her class was divided in three and each group given a task of finding and analyzing a small business in one of three eras: 1900s, 1950s and 2000s. Her group was assigned 1950s. An Internet search lead her to the Bliley Electric Company history site and to me.

The objectives of their study was clear:

Look at:
  • People --Workers, Managers, Owners, Families
  • Groups -- Unions, Worker teams, Engineers, Managers, Staff Workers
  • Organization -- Identity, Personality, Philosophy, Structure, Public or Private Ownership
  • Analyze:
  • Insurance
  • Retirement
  • Treatment of Workers
  • Social Security
  • Work Hours
  • Working Conditions
  • Labor Laws
  • The goal was to compare and contrast businesses over the past century.


    Rebecca Hobbs

    Rebecca Hobbs at work.
    (Photo courtesy Edwards AFB)

    I was delighted to think that a perfect stranger was interested in the company with a totally fresh perspective. She received Xerox copies of approximately 400 pages of material including the W.W.II union contract and campaign materials, duplicate originals of the employee handbook, advertising materials, Christmas cards, pension plan, and many other relevant items from this time period.

    Rebecca spent many hours pouring over the material and was the principal person who, in the end, produced a 5,000 word report.

    Footnote: 1 Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA; course MNGT 5590--"Organizational Behavior and Leadership"


    Rebecca at table

    Rebecca poring over the original materials from the Bliley Electric archives in her classroom in California.

    Composite of comments in post-presentation e-mail messages:

    "We presented our paper last night in class. Our instructor had hoped that we would be able to compare and contrast working conditions in the 1900s, 1950s, and 2000s. Our instructor had thought that we would select companies that were"typical" for their time periods. Because we chose your father's company, and because he was so progressive, the comparisons were not very dramatic.

    Cliff Cardwell, our instructor, stated that Dawson Bliley was very progressive. He implemented business practices in the 1950s that companies are still trying to get right today. He later stated that Bliley's was at the leading edge in philosophies that companies are trying to implement today.

    Everyone enjoyed the 1944 company booklet [newsletter for employees called "The Radio Beam"]. Several people started laughing as they read the jokes.

    [One of our classmates] was very surprised that Mr. King [Afro-American radio engineer] was included in company life. She initially suspected that he may have been light-skinned, which could explain why he was so readily accepted. I showed her a picture of Mr. King. After she saw that he was not light-skinned, she was even more surprised that he was photographed with the other company members as early as 1938. If the story of Mr. King is ever written, she'd like to read it.

    Bruce [her husband and fellow classmate] believes that it would have been exciting to work for Bliley's in the 1930s and 1940s. The company was at the leading edge of technology, and was able to influence the future of the industry.

    I mentioned at the close of the presentation that we believe you are justifiably proud of your father's business policies and procedures. Everyone in class agreed.

    This project has been a lot of fun!"


    Rebecca gave me permision to post her paper on the Web and to make it available to others doing research for not-for-profit educational or historical articles.

    Online: | HTML | PDF (120k) |
    | PDF (ZIP/32k) | RTF (ZIP/32k) | MS Word 95 (ZIP/24k) |

    We would apprecaite knowing who is downloaidng the file and how you are going to use it. An e-mail to me would be apprecaited and it will be passed on to Rebecca Hobbs.

    And finally, thanks to Rebecca for her efforts and willingness to share her work with the World.

    Charles A. Bliley
    March 14, 2003