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This Thing Called Goodwill: The Reynolds Metals Company and Political Networking in Wartime America

Perchard, Andrew


Andrew Perchard


This article examines the Reynolds Metals Company’s political networking activities in Washington, D.C., and the state capitals of the U.S. South in the 1940s and 1950s. It argues that Reynolds’ astute recruitment of senior staff from federal and state governments, its adept building of elite networks in the legislative and executive branches, its judicious espousing of key political rhetoric (antitrust, regional development, national security), as well as its nurturing of Democratic circles in the South were crucial to their attainment of competitive advantage. This saw the company rise from being a new entrant in the U.S. primary aluminum production during World War II to the second-largest national producer by 1946 and a major global player by the mid-1950s. This same political networking was critical in maintaining that advantage after World War II in the face of competition from the Aluminum Company of America and the Canadian multinational Aluminium Company of Canada. Both “wartime” (covering the period from World War II and into the Cold War) and the legacy of government intervention (from the early twentieth century until the 1960s, including the New Deal) provided a fertile context for RMC’s business strategy. The company’s success owed much to founder Richard S. Reynolds Sr.’s acumen in hiring the right people, creating or joining the right networks, having the right social capital, as well as his experiences and connections accrued from working with his uncle, the noted tobacco magnate R. J. Reynolds. The article offers insights into the nature of U.S. business–government relations.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 20, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 27, 2019
Publication Date 2019-12
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2022
Journal Enterprise & Society
Print ISSN 1467-2227
Electronic ISSN 1467-2235
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 4
Pages 1044-1083
Public URL

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