September 24, 2007

The cost of business in New York, circa 1940

When the 1940 WPA Guide to New York State wrote of "smokeless factory chimneys," they weren't talking about environmentalism, but rather another long-standing problem here:

In every city of the State, and there are 60 of them, the presence or absence of geographical advantage and flexible, intelligent enterprise accounts for prosperity or the lack of it. Few, if any, New York State manufacturers have a competitive margin with respect to low labor costs. This circumstance accounts for neat and pleasant housing, generally speaking, but here and there it explains some smokeless factory chimneys as well. (4)

I don't think New York's been a low-cost state since, oh, probably 1817, as work on the Erie Canal started driving up demand for laborers. It's interesting to see the impact of this described so bluntly in 1940, though, well before the more recent 1950s date I suggested earlier for New York's loss of advantage.

Posted by simon at September 24, 2007 8:48 AM in ,
Note on photos