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Published: July 4, 2011

International Harvester Co.

Once the largest manufacturer of farm machinery in the United States and a pioneer in company-operated educational programs for its employees. Now called Navistar, International Harvester was one of the first companies to adopt a policy that sought to combat growing unionism at the turn of the century by building employee loyalty with generous, wide-ranging programs of free services. Although recreation was one element of such programs, education formed the core. Harvester and other companies made generous contributions to local public schools to improve education of employee children. It sponsored homemaking classes and sewing schools and a wide-ranging Americanization program that included education in English and civics and the promotion of libraries and social clubs. It was among the first companies to publish house organs with articles on employees, inspirational messages and other articles designed to unify the company community.
In 1908, Harvester established a formal, company-wide education program that started with a school for apprentices but eventually expanded to include a range of courses from mechanical drawing to shopwork and, eventually, any courses for which there were five or more employee applicants. Although Harvester and other companies succeeded in developing a generation of loyal workers, massive unemployment during the economic depression of the 1930s left millions of industrial workers devoid of any faith in their companies to provide guarantees of lifetime security, and so they turned to labor unions.