Purpose – Histories of American public administration during the Progressive era (1890‐1920) tend to highlight the positive contributions of its major founders, skimming lightly over nativist, anti‐democratic and racial writings. The purpose of this paper is to broaden the given narrative by setting the record straight regarding the latter writings of three major figures: Frederick Cleveland, Frank Goodnow and W.F. Willoughby. Not intended as an exercise in presentism, the goal is a more nuanced understanding of public administration history. This research approach can be used internationally by other management historians to examine cultural biases by other management theorists. Design/methodology/approach – Mainstream qualitative research techniques in management history and a close literary examination of lesser known and out‐of‐print writings. Findings – The three major public administration figures on President Taft's Commission on Economy and Efficiency (1910‐1913) expressed nativist, racial and anti‐democratic views in their published writings, before and after serving on the commission. These views are little known and need to be added to the given historical narrative. The three deemed that only limited populations were qualified to govern a democracy and provide efficient public administration to the masses. Research limitations/implications – Internationally, scholars can apply this approach to the forgotten or largely hidden publications of other key management theorists. Originality/value – Management histories of early American public administration have passed lightly over the works of its founders with nativist, racial and anti‐democratic views. This has had the effect of sanitizing the historical record by ignoring publications that provide a fuller contextual understanding of the worldviews of these major figures.
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 11, 2011
Keywords: Historical research; Government; Public administration; United States of America; Black people; Management history