Directors of Industrial Research (U.S.).
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
3.3 linear ft.
The Directors of Industrial Research was formed in 1923 by and for the directors of America's foremost industrial research laboratories, and has functioned as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on topics of mutual interest. Charter members represented the National Canners' Association, the National Carbon Research Laboratory, Singmaster and Breyer, Western Electric Company, the National Research Council, the National Lamp Works, the Dorr Company, the Engineering Foundation, Eastman Kodak, International Nickel Company, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company, Westinghouse Electric, United States Industrial Alcohol Company, and General Electric. The group met first at the suggestion of Dr. Robert M. Yerkes of the Laboratories of Comparative Psychobiology at Yale and Chairman of the Research Information Service of the National Research Council, Dr. Charles L. Reese of Du Pont, Vice-Chairman of the Research Information Service, and Alfred D. Flinn of the Engineering Foundation, Vice-Chairman of the eesearch Information Service. After an informal dinner in March of 1923, the guests formed a habit of lunching together monthly and in November of that year elected officers, including a secretary. Some of the D.I.R. charter members had been accustomed to meeting sporadically during World War I to discuss topics of mutual interest. As recalled in 1948 by Dr. Frank B. Jewett of Western Electric and AT&T, these men were eager to continue their wartime associations, and welcomed the opportunity to do so in the framework of an organization. This organization was and is, like its parent organization the National Research Council, committed to the progress of scientific research. But the members of the D.I.R. wished to focus on this research specifically as it applied to industry and within the context of the industrial research laboratories. The D.I.R. declared itself separate from the National Research Council several years after its inception. Meetings continued at monthly luncheons. At each, a talk was given by either a member or an invited speaker. Subjects included relations between research laboratories and other departments of their companies, the effects of economic conditions and of pending legislation on industrial research in progress by members and others. There is some question as to the effect of the exchange of information on such subjects by D.I.R. members, but it may well have led to informal consensus in policies employed by members in running their laboratories. The D.I.R. has traditionally acted collectively only in an informal way, as in their annual outings. However, they did some lobbying in regard to several bills regarding patents and a research association proposed by Maurice Holland of the National Research Council in the late 1930s. The group eventually abandoned the taking of official positions on such subjects. A sub-group on analytical chemistry was formed in 1944 by D.I.R. members for the purpose of discussing methods of chemical analysis. It broke up in 1945 and was re-established in 1948 with the plan of providing a forum for discussion and information exchange in much the same way as its parent organization did. The Analytical Group was initially composed of men selected by D.I.R. members, each research director nominating a representative from his own company. The records of the Directors of Industrial Research are an important collection primarily for its documentation of the development of industrial research. These records provide ample opportunity for the study of a powerful elite of corporate researchers, and a close-up view of certain aspects of the relationship between science and big business in the twentieth century. The minutes span the entire history of the organization and seem to be present for all of the meetings with the exception of a very few of the early ones. The minutes are standard in format, noting the names of members, attending guests, and guest speakers, the subject of the guest speaker's talk, the dates of the preceding and succeeding meetings, and membership changes. Occasionally a yearly report and membership roster from the Analytical Group is included. The general correspondence covers the lifetime of the organization. In the earliest years of the D.I.R., all subject correspondence was included in the general correspondence, and secretaries frequently saved copies of both letters received and those sent in reply. The separation of correspondence into general and subject-related correspondence was a gradual process beginning in the early 1940s and completed in the mid- and late-1970s. As this separation occurred, both copies of letters were saved less frequently, and the "general correspondence" heading came to be a repository of odds and ends that fit nowhere else. While subject headings were consistently used to divide correspondence from the early 1960s onward, the divisions do not seem to have been especially strict. Items belonging under one heading occasionally appear in another. Subject headings in use in 1982, the most recent year for which Hagley possesses the records, were: a) membership lists; b) meeting attendance lists; c) duties of the Chairman and Secretary; d) D.I.R. Analytical Group; e) questionnaires; f) annual outing ; and g) menus. Clear identification by the Secretary of material relating to the Analytical Group is sporadic. Some of the material may be elsewhere, as the annual reports and membership rosters appear occasionally in the D.I.R. minutes, but most is probably lost. The Analytical Group never kept official records like the D.I.R. did. The years for which material relating to the Analytical Group is separated and identified as such are 1947-52, 1953-57, 1970-71, and 1978. This material includes some correspondence, some information on the Group's origins and history, and some membership lists and other information on membership. The questionnaires were constructed by D.I.R. members, and distributed among them exclusively. They were to be employed by the members in evaluating the efficacy of, and comparing notes on, their respective facilities. The questionnaires were concerned with job classifications and qualifications, wages, budget allocations, and the use of patents, among other subjects. Some summaries of members' replies, broken down by company, as well as correspondence containing individual replies, are included. These questionnaires cover the years 1929-46. A complete run of these records is present in the collection. Annual reports, which were primarily budget summaries, exist for most years. Present for every year are bills and receipts for the expenses incurred for the monthly lunches and honorariums for guest speakers. A collection of bank statements, deposit slips, and cancelled checks for the years 1978-80 has also been preserved.