|Die Kunst der Fuge
| # jul/14|
Gustavus Franklin Swift (June 24, 1839 – March 29, 1903) founded a meat-packing empire in the Midwest during the late 19th century, over which he presided until his death. He is credited with the development of the first practical ice-cooled railroad car which allowed his company to ship dressed meats to all parts of the country and even abroad, which ushered in the "era of cheap beef." Swift pioneered the use of animal by-products for the manufacture of soap, glue, fertilizer, various types of sundries, and even medical products.
Swift donated large sums of money to such institutions as the University of Chicago, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He established Northwestern University's "School of Oratory" in memory of his daughter, Annie May Swift, who died while a student there. When he died in 1903, his company was valued at between US$125 million and $135 million, and had a workforce that was more than 21,000 strong. "The House of Swift" slaughtered as many as two million cattle, four million hogs, and two million sheep a year. Three years after his death, the value of the company's capital stock topped $250 million. He and his family are interred in a mausoleum in Mount Hope Cemetery in Chicago, IL.
"Everything but the squeal"
In response to public outcries to reduce the amount of pollutants generated by his packing plants, Swift sought innovative ways to use previously discarded portions of the animals his company butchered. This practice led to the wide scale commercial production of such diverse products as oleomargarine, soap, glue, fertilizer, hairbrushes, buttons, knife handles, and pharmaceutical preparations such as pepsin and insulin. Low-grade meats were canned in products like pork and beans.
The absence of federal inspection led to abuses. Sausages might incorporate rat droppings, dead rodents, or sawdust, and meat that had spoiled or meat mixed with waste materials was sometimes packed and sold (Swift once bragged that his slaughterhouses had become so sophisticated that they used "everything but the squeal"). Transgressions such as these were first documented in Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle, the publication of which shocked the nation and led to the passing of the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906.
The meat packing plants of Chicago were among the first to utilize assembly-line (or in this case, disassembly-line) production techniques. Henry Ford states in his autobiography "My Life and Work" that it was a visit to a Chicago slaughterhouse which opened his eyes to the virtues of employing a moving conveyor system and fixed work stations in industrial applications. These practices symbolize the concept of "rationalized organization of work" to this day.
Swift adapted the methods of the industrial revolution to meat packing operations, which resulted in huge efficiencies by allowing his plants to produce at a massive scale. The work was divided into myriad specific sub-tasks, which were carried out under the direction of supervisory personnel. Swift & Co. was broken down organizationally into various divisions, each one responsible for conducting a different aspect of the business of "bringing meat from the ranch to the consumer". By developing a vertically integrated company, Swift was able to control the sale of his meats from the slaughterhouse to the local butcher shop.
Swift devoted a great deal of time to indoctrinating employees and teaching them the company’s methods and policies. He also motivated his employees to focus on the company's profit goals by adhering to a strict policy of promotion from within. The innovations that Swift championed not only revolutionized the meat packing industry, but also played a vital role in establishing the modern American business system, with an emphasis on mass production, functional specialization, managerial expertise, national distribution networks, and adaptation to technological innovation.
Homenagens prestadas a este empreendedor tão importante na história do principal alimento do mundo.