Location and Technological Change in the American Glass Industry During the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Naomi R. Lamoreaux, Kenneth L. Sokoloff

NBER Working Paper No. 5938
Issued in February 1997
NBER Program(s):   DAE

Scholars have attempted to explain geographic clustering in inventive activity by arguing that it is connected with clustering in production or new investment. They have offered three possible reasons for this link: because invention occurs as a result of learning by doing; because new investment encourages experimentation with novel techniques; and because there are local information flows that make inventors more fertile in areas where producers are concentrated. In this article we test these theories by studying geographic patterns of production and invention in the glass industry during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We find that the patterns deviate significantly from what the theories would predict, and offer the alternative hypothesis that inventive activity proceeded most intensively in areas where markets for technology had developed most fully that is, where there were localized networks of institutions that mobilized information about technological opportunities and mediated relations among inventors, suppliers of capital, and those who would commercially develop or exploit new technologies.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5938

Published: as "The Geography of Invention in the American Glass Industry, 1870 1925" Journal of Economic History, Volume: 60 Issue: 03 (September 2000) Pages: 700-729

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