22. Standardizing a Culture

Herbert Hoover as Secretary of Commerce

In one of his most highly publicized campaigns, Secretary Hoover pushed American industry to standardize products ranging from milk bottles and tires to kitchen plumbing and lumber sizes. By reducing manufacturing costs and boosting productivity, standardization created jobs and made it easier and more economical for do-it-yourselfers to build a house or tighten a screw.

Some critics found fault with identical goods and the monotony of the assembly line. But like the engineer that he was, Hoover preferred to concentrate on the practical benefits of commercial uniformity. For instance, even though most automobiles resembled that of a million other motorists in the 1920s, the Commerce Secretary encouraged uniform safety measures and uniform auto parts. Then if a breakdown should occur, the car could be fixed anywhere, not limited to a particular garage! 

"The man who has a standard electric light, a standard radio, and one and a half hours more daily leisure is more of a man," he insisted. He has "more individuality than he has without these tools for varying his life."