Interview with Luther D. Reed, 1968 May 28 [audio](part 2)
- Wages; World War I; prices of everyday objects; DuPont's expansion into other ventures; working in Arlington, New JerseyKeywords: Arlington, New Jersey; bookkeeping; cellophane; dyes; fabrikoid; money; prices; pyralin; rayon; wages; World War (1914-1918)Transcript: Wilkinson: Could we talk wages and salaries? Would you care to discuss what the workmen and office personnel were getting?
Reed: Wages were still on the very low side. As I previously stated when I left Repauno they were 17 1/2 and 22 1/2 cents an hour. For a long time they never got above 30¢ per hour at Hopewell. I know, for the job I did down there I got $250.00 a month. $250.00 a month for that job and other wages paid in proportion. There was one big thing that did arise at Hopewell which changed the wage picture somewhat. We worked a 10 hour day and a 14 hour night as was the case at Repauno. That was the only practice we knew up to that time. And then the 8 hour shift was introduced.
Wilkinson: In 1917?
Reed: 1915 and 1916. The DuPont Company was the first company to adopt the eight hour shift. That of course meant the employment of an additional shift of men. And it swelled our payroll to a very great extent. Then we had to pay wages as much in 8 hours as in 10 hours, or maybe slightly more.
Scafidi: You said you made about $250 a month. Did you have enough to put some away in a savings account when you made that much?
Reed: Well, ever since I had made $60 a month I put something away in a savings account. I've explained earlier when I got $1,000 a year I thought the millennium had come. We lived a comfortable life there and our rentals were very low. I was assigned to a house which was one of the better houses in the community. I think it cost me $30 a month. So you can see that things there were just about as relative as they are today.
Wilkinson: What did you pay for a pair of shoes?
Reed: $5. $30 for a suit of cloths. If you were economical you probably paid $15 or $20.
Wilkinson: When did you buy your first car?
Reed: Not until I went to Arlington, New Jersey. They gave me one at Hopewell. It was a busted down Ford which would ride over fields, ford streams - that was a truck - that wasn't an automobile but it was a good one. I'll never forget it.
Wilkinson: When did production begin to taper off? Any preliminary announcement that the war was coming to a close?
Reed: There was no preliminary announcement until Armistice. No one knew what was going to happen until the Armistice. They were going full production.
Wilkinson: Then what happened when the Armistice came?
Reed: I will have to give you that as a matter of hearsay because I left Hopewell slightly before they closed the plant. They paid a severance wage to people that they had to discontinue and endeavored to find jobs elsewhere in the DuPont Company for others that they wanted to keep. In building up a plant like this you acquired some very valuable individuals. Very valuable. And they were good enough to keep. The Company wanted to keep you. And if they didn't have a place in what they had already manned they were absorbed in DuPont's expansion - dyes, rayon, cellophane, etc. One must remember that this situation not only existed at Hopewell but at all other munitions plants in the DuPont system.
Wilkinson: Wasn't the Company beginning its major diversification at this time?
Reed: Creating new work. I want to get into that more in detail. I think it is a good place here to inject this. When we came up to the point of disbanding that activity the company foresaw it sometime beforehand, and they acquired Harrison Paints in Philadelphia, the Arlington Company and the Fabrikoid business. I don't remember the original name of the Fabrikoid owners but they acquired those three firms that were dependent upon nitration. The reason I say that - Harrison, while they made paint and heavy chemicals - there has always been a big question whether they acquired Harrison because they made paint or sulfuric acid, which was needed at Hopewell, or for future expansion. I've heard that argued with some very high people in the DuPont Company, and there is no real understanding. As it turned out apparently they acquired it for expansion purposes. Arlington nitrated cotton for so-called pyralin which was just a form of celluloid. And nitrated cotton formed the coating on cloth for Fabrikoid or imitation leather, as they called it at that time. Then they started to send men abroad, particularly to France, and they studied the rayon and cellophane business, so that by the time the conflict ended DuPont was pretty nearly ready to branch out and meet other lines. It was the real beginning of a largely diversified DuPont.
Wilkinson: We think of 1911 - 1913 as the years when diversification really starts.
Reed: Well, I would say that in DuPont the diversification really started just about 1919 - I don't know what was going on in Wilmington but it became apparent about 1916.
Wilkinson: With the beginning of the Chambers Works?
Reed: That was one I omitted. They went abroad to study the dye industry and then finally got a couple of German chemists over here to assist them in formulating dyes. Now, as I understand it they were not brought over here to violate any trade secrets from Germany. But at least to advise that certain approaches had been tried and failed. In other words to advise what not to do, rather than what to do.
Wilkinson: But in the immediate post-war period weren't there many German patents on dyes and other German products that were transferred to American manufacturers?
Reed: Not to DuPont. They were transferred really earlier to German-owned plants in the United States. The same way with films and cameras. These plants later were taken over by the U. S. Custodian of Alien Property.
Wilkinson: When those plants were seized by the U. S. government didn't the Custodian of Alien Property have the authority to do something with them?
Reed: Apparently he didn't as far as DuPont was concerned. DuPont worked its way out of this and established the dye industry, the rayon industry and cellophane, and improved on these things very largely. What we got from France by way of rayon you wouldn't look at today. And the same way they made cellophane moisture proof, which gave it a constructive position in the economy rather than just a wrapper of some kind.
Wilkinson: Now, let's go back to your moving from Hopewell to Arlington. How did this come about?
Reed: The company acquired Arlington and for some reason or other they had the manager of the Arlington plant come to Hopewell. His name was Richardson. He was given to me for a day to show him around the plant and what was being done and what I had done, and on his return to Arlington he asked for my transfer there. We could foresee that this operation at Hopewell was coming to an end so I was transferred to the Arlington plant.
Wilkinson: Were you asked or were you just told?
Reed: I was just told. They never come out and say, you must do this, rather, how would you like to take this job at Arlington? The approach is always softened very nicely. However, I was asked very early in my employment with DuPont if I would be willing to travel for the Company. My remark to that was, "I'll go to Australia if you want me to." So from that time on if I wasn't transferred to another position every two or three years I didn't think they were paying any attention to me. Arlington is right outside of Newark, New Jersey.
Wilkinson: Would you like to tell us something of your years there?
Reed: Well, they were years of great variety. They manufactured nitrocellulose sheeting in both transparent and in colored form. The transparent sheeting had a large market in the automobile trade since it became the transparency in automobile curtains. The closed car had not yet appeared on the market. The colored sheeting was sold to producers of plastic articles. It was sold in thicknesses from paper thin to 3/4" in thickness. They also produced many finished articles from their sheeting, dividing the plant into sheeting and articles divisions. The articles consisted of combs, brushes, mirrors, various other toilet articles and probably three or four hundred other types of merchandise. I was sent up there as office manager over the entire operation of cost and book keeping, routines I hadn't been in since I left Repauno. I'll tell the world I was in over my head. My first observation was that detail was defeating itself. We had to get out of this situation in some manner whereby we wouldn't expend large amounts of clerical labor for incorrect results. So I spent some time doing it and then since a large part of the work was along that particular line and another manager had then replaced Richardson - his name was E. W. Wiggins - they brought him from Hopewell. Having no direct assistant, I assisted him. However, when hostilities stopped and they started dismantling powder mills I immediately went to Hopewell to recruit a group of people for Arlington. I secured some very good Southerners, but they couldn't stay out of the South. They migrated back very shortly. However, some stayed and made very good employees. We also absorbed some from the other powder mills. And some of them arrived in the long run and held very high positions.
- Activities at DuPont's Arlington, New Jersey Plant; implementing DuPont's first safety recordKeywords: "Chick" du Pont; Arlington, New Jersey; bookkeeping; Don Carpenter; DuPont; hazards; Jack Pickard; labor; manufacturing; risks; safety; TaylorismTranscript: Wilkinson: Did DuPont make a multiplicity of consumer items in pyralin at Arlington?
Reed: Yes, but I'd rather you wouldn't talk to me about it. It's a nightmare today. There was really no way to keep an actual cost of manufacture because by the time you would spend the labor doing it you added 100% to the cost of each article itself. My approach was to make time and motion studies of each operation, determine cost factors which could be applied to any group of items produced. Adjustment had to be made between first and second class merchandise. This approach saved detail and consequent expense and served the purpose. However, time and motion studies were a constant procedure. After approximately two years Manager Wiggins retired and was replaced by R. W. Brokaw. He came from the Nashville Smokeless Powder plant. Also, at that time I was asked again to take over the labor element. Very, very bad morale in a very bad community. Metropolitan New York as you might call it. I had supervision over all service matters except purchasing. Safety, fire protection, employment, personnel, public relations, etc. and my job was to build this morale back to what it should be.
Wilkinson: Were they unionized?
Reed: No, the plant was not unionized. In those days we had no great fear of unions. They were rather in their infancy and rather quiet. That's one reason why we got by so beautifully at Hopewell, because being a man's neighbor you wouldn't dare pick on him. However, my approach to the morale problem was very simple. I found first in their files several hundred suggestions coming from employees that had never been looked at. We examined each suggestion and were rather liberal in our rewards for those that we accepted and very careful in replies to those that we could not accept. I made a personal acquaintance with a great many of the employees; I associated with them. I produced the first major safety record in the DuPont Company at the Arlington plant. We had a plant where every risk was present. There were inflammable materials, corrosive liquids, all the mechanical risks, dangerous rolling machinery where the incorporation of plastics took place, and they hardly went a week without a lost time accident. Finally I hit upon the idea to make this thing the pride of the employees. One morning at the entrance gates, of which there were two, a big signboard bearing only the numeral "1" about four feet high stood there. Nothing was said about it. Next day it was "2", and then "3" and finally somebody began to ask questions. Well, that was the number of days we had gone without a lost time accident. And then it took hold in the plant and finally the community took hold of it, and finally the commuter train into New York - we had the same number over on the railroad side so the commuters could see it. And we went 184 days with no lost time accidents. That was the first big record in the DuPont Company. That wouldn't stand today. But it was the incentive that pushed other parts of the company to do similar things. In fact, I was brought to Wilmington and entertained, and I went around to other plants of the company talking about this thing, and I do take that as possibly one of the outstanding contributions I made to the DuPont Company.
Wilkinson: In addition to that direct approach to the employees themselves, what practical things were done in the plant? Can you illustrate?
Reed: Well, of course we employed safety engineers and followed up unsafe conditions of the machinery, escapes in time of accidents, and everything that a safety engineer would do. I did produce however, a basis on which to approach the safety feature, which was the theory of probability and possibility. How probable is an accident, how possible is it; if it's possible, is it probable? There was no such thing as an act of God. Of that we were sure.
Wilkinson: Either the machinery went bad or a man was careless?
Reed: Yes, in fact the man who broke the record of the 184 days was the most heartbroken individual we had in the place. Now, showing the authority however that I had in handling personnel matters and safety, we had a very call stack on a nitrating house and my safety engineer drew my attention to the fact that he thought that stack was leaning, so we had a transit put on it, and it was somewhat out of plumb. So once a week we kept that transit on the stack and after about a month we found that it was progressing. We reported it to the plant manager and of course he was agreeable to what we were doing to watch it. It was a comb shop. Possibly a couple hundred people were employed in this process, mainly women, and one day this thing looked rather dangerous, and I ordered the comb shop shut down. Well, a cry went up about that because they needed the production, they needed the shipments, but nevertheless I stood firm and the shop shut down. And the next day the stack fell, cutting the building almost in two.
Wilkinson: Arlington, I have noted, has been a training ground for men who have gone on to higher echelons. Any explanation for this?
Reed: Well, there is. The student operator started to take hold about that time. And Arlington took its share of trainees. I can well remember a great many of them, and they fell under my direction. In other words I interviewed them every so often and saw that they were transferred from one job to another so that they were worked through the plant to find out what their capabilities were, what their likes and dislikes were, whether to head toward research or manufacture or sales, and I shall remember young Don Carpenter, Chick du Pont and Jack Pickard were among our student operators. Don and Chick stuck, and Jack left the company after doing a pretty good job in sales. I had a rather unique experience. I would send literature to these fellows every so often, a lot of literature crossed my desk, things that might be somewhat of an inspiration to these boys. When Don Carpenter was at Remington I was up there one day, and he asked me to go to lunch with him. "I have a distinct purpose in having this lunch in that I want to thank you for something you did for me. When you were at Arlington you sent me a pamphlet entitled "Non-Financial Incentives in Industry." He said, "I made that the basis of my plan of management." The idea of it was pitting one group against the other, one shift against the other, making employment something of a game in addition to turning out a good product and earning a living.
Wilkinson: The competitive spirit?
Reed: Yes, competitive spirit. Now at Arlington I encountered something else. Up to this time you will notice I never mentioned sales. But I ran into the sales side of the picture, concerning which I had never had any experience. And there was something which I had to catch up with. Because in the accounting work there I had not only the cost of manufacturing but the cost of sales. And that put me in touch with every sales activity and every sales convention, and it just put me into another field where I had to do considerable questioning and pay a lot of attention to learn what was going on. I shall never forget the first sales meeting that I attended. There was a branch office manager from Chicago. He seemed to stand out head and shoulders over all the rest of them. His apparent understanding and his address and his personality were different and he turned out to be Arnold E. Pitcher who later became general manager of the Plastics Department. This sales experience stood me in very good stead for later activity that I encountered in the company.
Wilkinson: You were in Arlington when?
Reed: Well, I went there in early 1918 and was there until 1924.Now, with all of the work we did in personnel we organized an employees club. We organized entertaining features for employees at night, we had our baseball team, we had our plant band and we just took this condition from the depth and put it up where it should be. These were innovations but all essential to turning out a quality product. Now, another thing was housekeeping. One word here can suggest something else. That plant was not in a very good state of repair. I coined a phrase that you could not produce a quality article in chaotic surroundings. On that basis we cleaned the plant up. And that contributed largely to our good safety record. I did have a very, very good fire chief. We had a system of fire pumps over the plant, we didn't need to move the fire apparatus from here to there. We had a very fine system of piping which meant we could get water no matter what happened in any area. This man was what I would term a fire eater. Fire drills were conducted as part of the safety program. This fellow would just go in at a most unexpected time and pull a fire alarm. That was highly essential because of the inflammable nature of the product although at times not agreeable to the supervision.
Wilkinson: These are the years when time and motion studies were being made?
Reed: They were just coming into prominence.
Wilkinson: Did your Arlington plant undergo any surveys of this kind?
Reed: I had two men working constantly on time and motion studies.
Wilkinson: These were your own personnel?
Reed: These were our own personnel, but they were experts in their field.
Wilkinson: Men like Gilbreth and Taylor?
Reed: They were not the type of Gilbreth or Taylor or Hoff, but they were good practical men rather than sky-high theorists. They were the people who could sit down and present their findings and discuss the matter with management until it came to a conclusion.
Scafidi: This was a new thing. If the time and motion men said it should be done everybody did it without asking any questions?
Reed: Not always. There was the usual resistance at times to anything new, but it was something we could do then which you couldn't do today on account of the pressure from labor unions which would immediately become suspicious. We always tried to sell these things to the men on the basis that it was going to be to their advantage and that it was a joint move affecting the profits of the plant and affecting their own profits. We never had any serious resistance.
- Leaving the Arlington plant; student operators and training new management at DuPont; DuPont's paper mills; moving to Parlin, New Jersey; working in Parlin, New JerseyKeywords: Asbury Park, New Jersey; Duco; DuPont student operators; human resource management; management; Maywald Rubber Company; nitrocellulose; Norwich, Connecticut; Nutley, New Jersey; paper mills; papers; Parlin, New Jersey; trainingTranscript: Wilkinson: You finished your work at Arlington as assistant plant manager?
Reed: No, I finished my work at Arlington as Service Superintendent. I relinquished the assistant manager job because I felt I could do a very much better job down to earth. I had developed very high grade people. We developed standards for all jobs and possibly classified many jobs for second and third class rates of pay. Of course in our work there we hired some very high grade mechanics as die makers because all these articles had to be stamped out.
Wilkinson: Going back to the student operators. Were these young men hired out of college?
Reed: Out of college.
Wilkinson: By the Wilmington people?
Reed: No, they were hired by the Personnel Department of Wilmington on a statement of how many we could take.
Wilkinson: What if you found that one of these young men wasn't measuring up to your requirements. What did you do? Or didn't you ever have this sad experience?
Reed: Well, we never had that experience, but it usually worked out that the fellow didn't progress. In other words if he came up to a point, and he didn't show promise, he stayed there. Maybe he stayed there and then quit. So it took care of itself. I don't know anywhere where they fired a student operator in the DuPont Company.
Wilkinson: He's in a rut?
Reed: Yes, and it is the same today. They have a method which they use today, following certain employees as prospects for bigger jobs in the future and if one of those comes up to a point and he falters, then he doesn't go any further.
Wilkinson: Is there anything else about Arlington and your career there?
Reed: No, I think those are the high spots of Arlington. We tried to be a good citizen. With the other duties I had there I took on politics and public relations. I will just briefly say I handled the board of tax assessors and the town council rather adroitly. I had a very peculiar experience while there. When I first went to Arlington there was a lot of meadow land adjoining the plant, and we discovered that on a certain portion of it the taxes had not been paid for a number of years. I was instructed to take this land over at a tax sale. So I went to the town hall and found the conditions and gave them a check for $4,000 in taxes. That gave us a tax title. We couldn't get a legal title for 20 years, and unless somebody came and reimbursed our money with 6% interest we had the use of the land. We used the land that way. When I went into this tax office it was attended by a woman about 35 years of age. Naturally I looked her over and I made up my mind: you are either crooked or fast, I don't know which. Very shortly afterward she was arrested for having embezzled $90,000 of the taxpayers money. And my $4,000 was amongst it.
Wilkinson: Did that abolish your right to use the land?
Reed: No, in fact 20 years later we were given a court title. I had a number of similar experiences with the city. We were blamed for eroding the city's sewers. We used to put waste water from the nitrating house into the city sewers, which eats out the concrete, and we were being blamed for that all of the time. I had to handle that situation because we were rapidly approaching a point where we were not going to nitrate any more cotton in the city because of various complaints. I didn't want to get into the position where we had to build a new nitrating house. Well, the city fathers visited us one day to see for themselves. I quickly had some of our men rig up a neutralizing bath in which all of the water, all of the waste from the nitrators passed through a lime bath so that the waste was very definitely neutralized before it went into the city sewers. Something else must have been eating the city sewers. Later I made an examination of the sewer with the city engineer and did find that at the water line the concrete had been eroded to a depth of about three inches. I guess we did have something to do with the damage. We were also blamed for destroying the good citizens' clothing because on humid days fumes from the nitrator house would get into the air and form globules of weak acid which would fall on the clothing hanging out on wash lines and so convert them into porous knit. This was made an issue by various candidates for city council in every political campaign regardless of party.
Wilkinson: Did they want to shut you down, or what?
Reed: They didn't want to shut it down, but they wanted to get rid of the nitration, which we had to do sooner or later. Well, on my little shoulders fell the job of defending all of that. And I got so that I really liked it.
Wilkinson - You enjoyed the battle?
Reed: I enjoyed it. I had to be a Democrat in Hudson County and a Republican in Essex County. I found out that I was quite adaptable. I think that gives you the high spots of Arlington until Duco came into the picture. I haven't said much about the employment of help at Arlington. I had it in charge of a man by the name of Montague A. Clark - a man just devoted to this line of endeavor. He was of great assistance in establishing job specifications, classifications and pay rates. He knew the local labor market thoroughly. In later years he became a nationally known personnel man. I will recite just one instance where an emergency had to be met. The local market did not supply our needs for carpenters necessary to a fast completion of a construction job. Clark went into the south to see what could be found and being unsuccessful he asked me to join him in Norfolk. While there we conceived the idea to go to Hampton Institute for possible leads. At that time Hampton Institute was a vocational school for colored boys. I was very much impressed with the school and we came away from there having hired fourteen carpenters from that year's graduating class. In the north we could not put them on our payroll at rates at which they were hired, so we hired another individual to pose as a contractor and all our further dealings were through him. The job was completed on time and the contractor released the men who returned to Virginia. Now, one reason I think that the Company had acquired Arlington was that in addition to nitrocellulose plastic, which was pyralin, they made a clear lacquer. Up until that time lacquer was only known to be A clear. They were never able to make a lacquer that would form a vehicle for a pigment or a color. when Duco came into the picture the situation was just this. They had already transferred the lacquer business from Arlington to Parlin because Parlin was making a series of lacquers. During the process of making photographic film, by mistake, somebody got some pigment into a solution of photographic film waste of some type. In other words there was a nitrated liquid that came off photographic film that they discovered related itself favorably to pigment. It became a vehicle. This was the first time they discovered they could make a colored lacquer, and that is the history of Duco.
Wilkinson: A sheer accident?
Reed: Now, it took a lot of chemical research and a lot of perfecting before they finally reduced that to a process, but when they succeeded a business sprang up overnight at a small plant at Parlin. Realizing that I have already said a great deal concerning my stay at Arlington I feel I should recite something concerning a rather forgotten industry in which DuPont was engaged as a part of the manufacture of plastics. While there I supervised the operation of two small one unit paper making mills. One was located at Nutley, New Jersey and the other at Norwich, Conn. These plants made a very high grade tissue paper which in turn was shredded and nitrated as a basis for nitrocellulose plastic. It had to be practically pure white paper since a defect could readily show up in the back of a high grade article. Both of these mills were in the hands of very capable men. At the Nutley mill the water supply was piped from a dam located on a stream flowing through the property. The state of New Jersey had a very energetic Mosquito Extermination Commission and in periods of drought we did not liberate enough water down stream which could have caused some stagnation giving rise to a greater mosquito population. Handling this commission was more difficult than the operation of the mill. When the nitration operation was discontinued at Arlington the Nutley mill was sold to the Maywald Rubber Company. It was reported that the machinery in this mill was the oldest paper making machinery in the country. Unfortunately the Maywald people destroyed it to make room for their needs. The Norwich plant was also sold.
Wilkinson: You mentioned that a small plant sprang up overnight at Parlin. Where is Parlin located?
Reed: Parlin is southeast of New Brunswick. Up to that time it had been an obscure little place, but it sprang into prominence very quickly. I was picked upon to go down to Parlin because I was accustomed to doing things in a rather big and fearless sort of way. And I then found myself back in accounting again.
Wilkinson: Mr. William P. Allen was in Parlin at this time?
Reed: No, Mr. Allen was in Wilmington. A man by the name of Joseph Moosman, a very fine individual assisted by E. M. Flaherty. I went down as a total stranger and again the first thing I had to do was build an office and staff and meet the problems from day to day.
Wilkinson: Parlin had been a powder plant before?
Reed: Yes, they adapted a powder plant to a lacquer producing plant and they built a separate plant there for the manufacture of photographic film. Two different managements. I never was on the photographic film end other than casual contact with it because of being a neighbor to it. The experience there was rather routine - after you get into these things that are over your head you either sink or swim and you work out of them. I had some rather mean prejudices to overcome.
Wilkinson: Of what nature?
Reed: They were a rather closely-knit community and anybody from the outside wasn't altogether welcome.
Wilkinson: Was this in your residential or plant operation?
Reed: Both. There was one fellow there by the name of Capt. Novak, an ex-Army man and he was called Quartermaster. Now there again the Company had a small industrial village, but also we had a lot of people who commuted from other places as well. Mr. Novak tried out his Army tactics on me, and he didn't get by with it - a great big towering man, and me a little guy looking up at him. I told him where to get off.
Wilkinson: What was the nature of his military tactics?
Reed: Well, he first tried to tell me how I should conduct my house; I shouldn't use so much electricity, that I lighted my house up like a pavilion. I was getting into some of his work which he guarded very closely, and I went over into his territory. I informed him that I was going to do as I pleased and he would hear more of me the longer I was in Parlin. If you look in some information I left with Miss Ottey in the Library you will see where Joe Moosman recommended me to another job, stating that I had overcome some very extreme difficulties. They had a few people there who were favorites. There was one fellow by the name of Russell that I took a dislike to, a purchasing man. You get your little scandals in these places and Ed Flaherty came to me one day and said, "Luther, this fellow Russell is paying a lot of attention to a girl you have down in the Shipping Department. How about your letting the girl go?" I said, "How about your letting Russell go?" "Russell is a more valuable man." I said, "So is the girl. When you come down tomorrow if they are both out of line, we are going to keep both of them or let them both go." So we kept both of them. Russell was let go for crookedness some time later. I don't know what became of the girl. I always liked her myself. These are some of the human factors you run into in a community like that. I know that when I first went to Parlin I was not at all welcome so one night they were going to put up a game on me - try me out. So I was picked up by the crew and we started down toward Asbury Park. They were quite a drinking outfit, and I wasn't sure what I was up against that night - it was either going to make or break me. We wound up down at Asbury Park. They wanted to come back - I wanted to go on to Atlantic City. The next morning they came to me and said, "You'll do."
Wilkinson: Did Mrs. Reed like these transfers?
Reed: Yes, we were organized in such a way that we could pack up in a day and unpack in another day. We became adaptable to that kind of move, and she was a very good sport. She hated Parlin. Word reached her that when you go down to Parlin you're going to be invited to a certain place and they are going to look you over. She got down there and she wouldn't go to this certain place. She wouldn't play but I called their bluff. We came away from Parlin with some very good friends.
- New Jersey vacation home; helping to organize the Rayon Company; reforming DuPont's pension plan; DuPont's Technical Service DepartmentKeywords: Buffalo, New York; college recruitment; John Krauss; market research; pensions; Rayon; Rayon Company; sales; trends; viscoseTranscript: Wilkinson: Was it about this time that you decided your summer home was going to be in New Jersey?
Reed: No, I bought that when I was at Arlington. I bought that place back in 1921. Green Pond near Newfoundland, New Jersey, 3 well secluded location. I was getting along rather comfortably at Parlin when all of a sudden I was asked to go to Buffalo. The Rayon Company then had plants at Buffalo, Nashville, and Richmond and operated with quite a large number of employees. They then wanted to organize like the DuPont Company. The Rayon Company was a distinctly separate corporation and I was to take over the position as service superintendent covering their entire organization. I already had considerable past experience to guide me in this endeavor. However, I was then part of the Technical Department and I handled all of the personnel work. There are many people in the Company today whom I first employed, and of course they drifted from the Rayon Company throughout the Company. We had quite a large recruiting service and recruited at colleges as well. Our student operator program was a rather big one. I handled directly the safety, fire protection, personnel, plant activities, and all of the plants, which meant that I traveled quite a great deal. I also had charge of the technical library, and finally I inherited traffic and purchasing.
Wilkinson: This service covers a tremendous number of functions.
Reed: Well, that more or less teaches you to be adaptable or causes you to become adaptable. I was always taught in my management study that an executive will always surround himself with better people than himself, and that is what I always endeavored to do. I never forgot the admonition given me by W. P. Allen, that if you want to take a week off to go fishing you should be in shape to do it. I never wanted to leave any job without having someone who could do it as well or very much better than I did.
Wilkinson: Did you know John Krauss, one of the early DuPont men who did college recruiting?
Reed: John Krauss. I knew him here in Wilmington very well.
Wilkinson: He was concerned with recruitment of college men.
Reed: John was in a peculiar position. He was not a college man himself, but he really built up the college recruitment service in the DuPont Company. John is a fine individual. He made the very grave mistake of quitting the Company and going into business, but then he came back to the Company and was personnel man over at the Dye Works.
Wilkinson: We interviewed him a few years ago and picked up his story. Rayon, as against real silk, today has almost gone out of business in the garment trade.
Reed: Viscose rayon is about out of the picture. The original fiber with which the Company started was taken over through a French purchase. They improved it from time to time. Research people here in Wilmington really went to work on rayon because it was a cheap substitute for silk. I have always said in my talks to employees what the Company gave to society in general and what they did for the cost of living and the pride of the individual in particular. A person could be dressed in a rayon garment that looked like silk or wear a pair of patent leather shoes (Fabrikoid) that would do a society dowager credit, at a very low cost.
Wilkinson: How long were you at Buffalo?
Reed: I was only in Buffalo for three years when the Company decided to absorb the Rayon Company as a Department and I found myself out of a job. While located at Buffalo Miss Frances Perkins, then Commissioner of Labor for the State of New York, had an inspection made of the Rayon industry in the state. It consisted of DuPont Rayon Company and one other very small concern. When the report of this inspection was received it contained so many errors and misstatements that it was necessary to call on Miss Perkins and discuss it. This fell to my lot. There was quite an argument and I requested the recall of the report. This was refused and I threatened to take it to the newspapers. After some further discussion the report was recalled. Later she appointed me to her Chemical Consulting Committee. She later became Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt. After the DuPont Company decided to absorb the Rayon Company I was sent to Wilmington where I worked with W. Z. Foster. His name must come up very frequently.
Wilkinson: Tell us about him.
Reed: Well, Bill Foster was the original Service Department man in Wilmington - that is now the Employee Relations Department - and Billy was a very, very good personnel man. He was very hard working, continually trying this, that, and the other experiment in the handling of men and the employment of men, anything that concerned personnel, very likable fellow. I came to Wilmington and was made a member of that unit for a short time and was handed the job to study the DuPont pension plan. And particularly to weed out in the Company the so-called concealed pensioners. There was no compulsory pension age. You pensioned a man when he became useless or desired to be pensioned. The Company had had a pension plan since 1904. Maybe I stated earlier in my "dynamite" interview that my introduction to the DuPont Pension Plan wasn't one of formal literature like that put out by the Company today. T. W. Bacchus sitting on the other side of the table said, "Here Reed, you stay with us long enough, you get a pension. That was it. However, I went through the payrolls and I remember finding one man with 70 years of service. This is a mistake! So I started to dig into it and I found it. It was with E. I. DuPont de Nemours Co. of Pennsylvania. He had started to work at 14 years of age and at 84 he was holding down a job (meaning doing nothing) in the Machine Shop. So the 70 years were valid. The result was that those concealed pensions were cleaned up, and it put the Company in a better position to move toward a compulsory retirement policy some years later. At the same time I had the opportunity of going through the General Motors Pension Plan at their New York City office. The DuPont Company enjoys certain industrial "firsts", i. e. Workers Pensions, the eight hour shift, and the five-day week. I had the extreme pleasure while in the Service Department of making the study that resulted in the adoption of the five-day week. My experience in sales then asserted itself and I was asked to take over a job With Mr. J. C. Pickard, who was then a vice-president, in setting up rather scientific sales management. The average Sales Director will carry his records in his pocket. He is a man who will personally direct, very rarely is he given to analysis or history. There was already an elderly individual named George H. Kerr on that job. Again apparently they wanted somebody more progressive and somebody that would take these newer industries over and adapt a procedure that was then used in the Explosives Department to these newer industries. Mr. Kerr's mistake was taking this over bodily, and there is no one system in one of DuPont's departments that will absolutely fit into the other. You've just got to build something to suit the particular needs of that department. I entered into it in a more progressive way. The idea is an up-to-date daily market research. Salesmen are required to give detailed reports of the principal calls they make. They are rated, however, so that the work isn't too heavy. Customers of the DuPont Company are now classified 1, 2, 3, 4. One gets the greatest number of calls because of gross sales, 2 a lesser number, 3 still a lesser number, and 4 on convenience. Having an up-to-date report brings in the information that the sales director and the trade analyst under him should have. The analyst got these reports. They were digested and filed as a history of a particular customer, and it was a very, very interesting job. In fact later in my work in this particular field, I spoke before various engineering conventions. Like the American Society of Civil Engineers or Mechanical Engineers. There is one of my talks in your Library now. The talks were on engineering itself and on engineering in selling in the DuPont Company. Technical men must sell a technical product. He must talk to technical men. Men experienced in technical procedures. They must understand process and adapt a product to it to the advantage of the customer. He must win the confidence of a consumer. If competitive products are involved, get the advantages or disadvantages. Recognize weaknesses in his product or help develop something to suit the real needs of the trade. Assist the customer to make the most advantageous use of his product. We always approach the customer on the basis of the more we know about his business the more we can help him.
Wilkinson: The Technical Service Department is really an arm of this?
Reed: Oh, yes, of course the Company now has a laboratory at the Experimental Station. Although a portion of that is directed toward pioneering research, entirely new theory, entirely new discovery, other parts of it concern helping to make a product more useful to a certain line of trade. Now that has been enlarged upon with great laboratories out at Chestnut Run which are entirely adapted to that line of work. And a great deal of the information we get in these trade reports finally reaches its effective end in those places.
Wilkinson: Did you do this for a multiplicity of commodities and materials for a number of departments?
Reed: We did this for every commodity we sold and for every department that sold it. Reports mounted up in the thousands every day and from those reports we were always in a position to do special research. Market trends could be recognized when it was found that a number of salesmen from different geographical areas reported similar information. This gave us clues to the picture of a product or the quality of a product or of an economic condition. You discovered a trend and it really became what I always termed "engineering in selling." Well, I carried that on through, and then I inherited the so-called reciprocity activity which was absorbed in our name "Trade." We then not only operated under sales but we operated under purchasing to some extent.
- Explanation of reciprocity; retraining salespeople personnel relationsKeywords: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; J.W.McCoy; personnel relations; public relations; reciprocity; retraining; sales; unionization; W.F. Harrington; World War (1939-1945)Transcript: Wilkinson: Explain how reciprocity works.
Reed: Well, that is a thing that we never made a great deal of noise about. There is no greater practice of reciprocity than in the United States government, and there is nobody that is more opposed to it than the United States government. So we never talked of it out loud to a great extent. It appeared several times in court. However, we would continually have a vendor salesman come in to us and say, "Our concern buys so much from you people and I can't sell you anything. Why?" Well, how are you going to answer it? And enough of that started the idea of reciprocity in the Explosives Department where they set it up on a small scale. I had a group of people there who recorded all of the sales to a customer and all of the purchases from that same customer; and when a person came in and put a query like that to the Sales Department, the Purchasing Department would call for a reciprocity picture on this outfit, or if they came to me directly I would get the record and look. "Well this isn't so bad, we've sold you so much; yes, and we bought so much from you." Then we got into the position where we couldn't work it on that basis, and they were given an opportunity to bid on the next lot. Well, you can't ask for anything better than that - when they can't beat the other fellow out on a bid was their problem. Then this record operated in another way. If a department had a little argument with a customer we were always approached with it and we could point out other departments in the Company who had relations with that customer so that they would know better how to handle the argument without endangering the relationship of the other departments. It was highly essential because the department having the argument might be selling them $500 a month and the other department selling them $50,000. And then I ran into the situation of trade conditions. Now on the back of the invoice of everybody that you buy anything from you will find a whole lot of fine print. The DuPont Company did the same thing, but so did everybody else; we were given the job of studying those trade conditions under which we were buying. Some of them were pretty onerous. We worked out a better relationship with a lot of people as far as our buying conditions and their selling conditions were concerned. This gave me a very close connection with the Legal Department. I mentioned that I had read law earlier, and in the meantime I had completed the LaSalle extension course in law; I worked on this for about three years. It gave me a knowledge that helped out a lot in terms, conditions, etc., and particularly the law of contracts, with which I was mixed up. During World War II the buying conditions were very bad we had to watch them very closely. The government would put on certain conditions to a contract and the contractor would try to push those conditions onto us; at times we just wouldn't take those conditions because we were not the original con- tractor - just the supplier of materials. This would be a constant argument.
Wilkinson: Did you have to go to Washington to talk with people in person? Or could you handle it by telephone and correspondence?
Reed: We didn't bother. Our relationship wasn't with Washington; it was with the contractor. However, there was a condition which sprang up during the War where a lot of our commodities sales just stopped. We hadn't anything to sell. Our business was so taken up with war materials and war plants that we just had to say to many customers, "We just can't fill your order." That gave rise in the cellophane department to the decision to bring in a lot of their salesmen and give them a refresher course. They had nothing to do in the field except turn down orders, so they brought them here to Wilmington, and for some reason they brought their program to me. I looked it over and I said, "Your program is fine, with one exception. It has the serious fault of keeping your salesmen within the four walls of cellophane. You are not letting them go out as representatives of an institution much larger than cellophane."
Well, I outlined this for them and they thought it was a pretty good idea. They thought it over and came back to me and wanted me to do it. That brought me back into personnel again. I didn't really want to do it, but I took the work over. I got in groups of cellophane salesmen once a week and talked on the broad subject of DuPont as an institution. We went into the history of the Company, its practices and its other products. These fellows had the idea the DuPont Company made nothing but cellophane but when they found out other departments also contributed something to the welfare of society they got a broader view of the Company, and thereafter they were able to go to their customers and talk DuPont and answer questions the customer would ask about the Company. It gave them a pride in their employment -they were employed by something big. This same instruction was extended to other Company departments.
One day I was called into a General Managers' meeting in the Board of Directors Room where Mr. W. F. Harrington addressed the General Managers' meeting on the subject of labor unions. He said the foremen at the Baton Rouge plant had organized, which he was very sorry to hear. He said he just didn't know what to do about it. There was some discussion on this. At that time I was reporting to J. W. McCoy, Vice President, and I went back to him and said, "W. F. Harrington made a statement to the General Managers that I don't altogether agree with. He said he didn't know what to say about this unionization down at Baton Rouge." J. W. was an individual; he'd throw you overboard at every opportunity just to have the pleasure of seeing you get out. So, he reached over and picked up the telephone and called Harrington, "Buck, Luther Reed is going to come down and tell you how to do it." Mr. Harrington was a vice president, in charge of manufacturing. I was overboard then, but my nerve stayed with me, so down I went. I said, "I was in your meeting this morning, I heard what you said, and I believe I have a couple of ideas to offer." I told him I had had this experience with the Cellophane Department, carrying it on quietly, and we had a lot of moving pictures Within the Company and a lot of information, and a lot of people who could talk on DuPont. "We Should build up a pride in DuPont; we have a good advertising department and a good public relations department and something like this could be put together to cause foremen to feel a part of management." He looked at me and said, "You know, Luther, I think that's the clearest thinking I've ever heard on that subject." A few days went by and finally I was called back and he said, "Luther, we'd like you to do this."
Then we started this program on a bigger scale. We did nothing with the Baton Rouge situation - they were unionized. The DuPont Company had five or six plants that were organized under national unions. Well, we got about 20 employees each week coming from different parts of the country and from different plants. We wanted employees to get to know each other and outside of their particular department. I addressed them on the DuPont organization and on products of the Company, policies, government relations, etc. We'd take them over to the country club at night and give them a first-class dinner and some entertainment. Here there was no business whatever; just good fellowship. This worked out very well.
- Reed's personal compensation at DuPont; management, personnel relations, and DuPont plant unions; complaint against the Nylon department; retiring from DuPont; organizing DuPont's 150th anniversary celebration; directing the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation; reflections on being a life long learnerKeywords: Arlington plant; customer relations; DuPont; DuPont's 150th Anniversary; Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation; Hopewell May; Hopewell plant; J.W. McCoy; nylon; personnel management; public relations; staffing; W.P. Allen; Warren KinsmanTranscript: Wilkinson: Other than this method of building up morale and goodwill toward the Company, what was done in the practical way i.e., your career with the Company, your salary, etc.?
Reed: I haven't said much about my own advancement, but by that time I was fairly comfortable.
Wilkinson: I mean, when you brought these people in, didn't you have something practical to say to them, "This is likely what will eventually happen, if you stay with the Company."?
Reed: I didn't make any promises at that time. That had to be taken care of in keeping with the economics of the time, but I showed them examples of how men did advance in the Company and the overall picture of the development of the Company; where it had been and what it was today, and, in some instances, where it was going. I was making foremen and supervisors a part of management, which they talked about in many industries but never did anything about. I met with these people in the Board Room and I used their language. I told them, "You are now temporarily occupying the chairs which the brass hats sit in. We trust that someday some of you may be here in a more permanent way." I didn't make a direct attack on unionization. I stayed out of arguments. I gave them the positive side. A lot of times I got this reaction from them: one fellow said to me one day, "Egg I can answer their questions." I told these people a lot of things that had always been considered confidential- our relationship with the government, our relationship with certain elements of the public, all the details of the trial where we were accused of being a munitions manufacturer, etc. This whole thing was to give them a complete understanding and speaking knowledge of their Company.
Wilkinson: Is it true the Company has kept ahead of average union demands?
Reed: They've kept ahead, yes, but as I see it now they copied... in other words, if there is a decision made in the steel industry and it is coming in September and it looks like so much an hour, DuPont isn't going to wait and be forced to do it.
Dr. Wilkinson asked about the approximate percentage of unions within the Company today.*
Reed: Every plant has its own union...a plant union. I forgot to tell this, but I was chairman of the first plant union at Arlington. I met with the employee representation and the management representation and carried on the bargaining. We used to exchange visitations with the one at Carney's Point. It was a nice group at Arlington; we had wage requests and requests for better working conditions, etc. Arlington employees today, hold an annual reunion - even thought the Arlington plant has been abandoned and sold. There is a young woman here in the Company in Wilmington who gets a group together at the DuPont Country Club every year. One fellow by the name of John Daugherty came a few years ago and said, "The only reason I came was to meet you again." He was the company representative and we used to argue employees demands but we always kept it on a friendly scale. And talking about reunions... when the Hopewell plant shut down, the management members of that group started to hold a reunion every year up until W. P. Allen's death. I was elected permanent secretary of it and a fellow by the name of Armstrong was elected permanent president. We didn't want to take up any time with the election of officers. We used to meet in New York City and would have one grand soiree. It was just good fellowship. We'd get together and each would boast about what he did at Hopewell and finally we started to believe what we said! Three of us sat in New York one day just wondering what we could do, and on my retirement I tried to keep my remarks on the humorous side, so referring to my stay at Hopewell I said, "Nome, Alaska had its Lily, but Hopewell had its May. I said I wasn't going to state any knowledge of any individuals present, so they could rest easily. However, we did erect a monument to Hopewell May "Who Also Served," and we had radio hook-up into W. P. Allen's hospital room here in Wilmington. This was a class reunion of no uncertain type. Many I still hear from; I gave to Grace Ottey a picture of the Director of Sales which I had taken while I was still active. I think about 40% of them have passed away. I remember that I had to speak to a group of salesmen at Niagara Falls, and I think I was the first individual in the DuPont Company who used stereopticon slides - the old three inch glass slides - to illustrate his points. It went over big. It sort of made me a sought after speaker at sales conventions. I actually became an assistant to J. W. McCoy. He started to lean on me for certain studies for his personal use, and I think I can say that I am somewhat responsible for the present public relations department. He came to me one day and said, "Charlie Westen is about to retire, and Fred Burns will retire shortly thereafter, and we would like to get a good man in public relations." He told me to look around the Company and see what I could get for $700 a month. I thought of a man who was working in the laboratory who would have done for the time being, but I thought we ought to go higher than this. There was a man working for the local newspaper we could get for $15,000 a year, who was a newspaper reporter and had traveled with President Harding in his various campaigns. Ted Charlton was finally hired and he brought in Harold Brayman, and Harold Brayman brought in Glen Perry. I always maintained local business and personal contacts of a rather broad variety. One day I was informed by one of my Hebrew friends -also the local secretary of the Jewish Federation that he had been informed by the New York Federation that one of our employees had made derogatory remarks concerning the use of nylon in the Jewish trade. This could have endangered the sale of a great deal of yarn. I went to his office and heard the complaint which involved taking the stretch out of nylon in order to get a greater number of articles from a pound of nylon. The remark was supposed to have been made to a visiting class of amateur weavers during a laboratory demonstration. I reported it to the General Manager of the Department and the charge was denied. My Jewish friend then suggested that we visit the woman who made the complaint and that I should pose as a representative from the Federation in New York. We did and with as good a dialect as I could muster we got her story which I had to believe. Again I went back to the General Manager and he got a confession that our employee had made such a remark. He was required to apologize and invite the person and her friends to visit the laboratory at any time. A letter then had to be written to the Federation which fell to my lot to do. It was rated an outstanding piece of diplomacy and a copy is now in the Library.
Wilkinson: The last few years before your retirement, you were assisting Mr. McCoy?
Reed: I retired in 1950; I continued personnel work for three years after I retired on a per diem basis. Yes, I worked in trade analysis and public relations and personnel work. After I retired that was the only real money I ever made in my life; they paid me $100 an hour. Of course I only worked one hour, as a consultant and speaker. $100 a lecture. I remember one time I spoke to the DuPont Round Table in Chicago and the manager of the Chicago plant was there and he asked me to come out and talk to his foremen the next day at the plant. I didn't know his foremen or the type of work. I'd never been to the plant before. I had to size up the situation very quickly to be able to talk on something they'd be interested in.
Wilkinson: Could you tell us something of your retirement party?
Reed: Well, I came up for retirement. I was called before the Executive Committee and given some very nice treatment. Then I was asked in what condition I was leaving the activity, and I was able to tell them I had a man whom I thought was superior to myself and who would carry on - Harold Ladd. Ladd started with the Company in cellophane -Trade Analysis Division. His background and experience fitted him perfectly for modern market research. On transfer to Wilmington of the Rayon Company a market research division was set up in the Advertising Department. I argued that what Market Research had done for the Advertising Department was just to bring back favorable reports and justify their advertising campaigns and that it should be in an unbiased location. We still reported to a vice president; McCoy had retired and Warren Kinsman took over. There was a big difference between Warren Kinsman and McCoy. Warren later got mixed up with the Internal Revenue Service over taxes. In the meantime he was a rather over-powering individual, and while we two got along fairly well, there was all the difference between the two men. One argument I had with him started when another department wanted my office space, and I was quite willing to give up the office space, provided I had equal or better office space elsewhere. The General Manager of this department complained to Mr. Kinsman that I was reluctant to accommodate them. So, I wrote a six page letter single space to Mr. Kinsman. It wasn't long after that I got the most desirable office space. However, on the morning we moved into the new office a huge bouquet of flowers came in from Mr. Kinsman. In the middle of the bouquet was a long envelope, and when I opened it, it contained the six-page letter I had written him that he didn't want in his files. My retirement came due, and I had set up the department in a way that it would carry on as well or better, and then, to my surprise, Frank Evans, who was head of the Employees Relations Department, started to organize a retirement party. I don't think there was one before and there hasn't been any since like it. I had representation there from the office boy to the Board of Directors. I was very happy to have most of the executives there. J. W. McCoy spoke and so did Kinsman; I was rather flattered to hear J. W. McCoy recite some of our experiences. It was in the DuBarry Room of the Hotel du Pont and there were about 250 present. I was asked to reminisce some of my experiences, and I chose the humorous things rather than the serious. However, about the time of my retirement, I was approached by J. W. McCoy to organize and produce the Company's 150th Anniversary celebration. He told me that they had reviewed a great number of individuals and they'd gone over and over them, but every time they came back to me. For one reason. My knowledge of organization and adaptability. So I took over the Anniversary celebration and completed it, which was a two-year job. There was no record of the 1902 celebration and, frankly, I had never attended anybody's anniversary celebration. Then about the time that this thing was completed, J. W. McCoy approached me one day, in very much of a hurry, and asked if I'd consider taking over the Directorship of the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation.
Wilkinson: Did you have a vacation between your retirement and the start of being the Director of the Foundation?
Reed: Vacations were almost an absent thing in my life. I very rarely took any vacation. If I took any, it was generally a day at a time, or at weekends. Maybe that was wrong. I advise everybody to take all the time they can get. I had my summer place close by in New Jersey that I used for holidays and weekends. When I retired from the Company we were still only getting three weeks vacation; now it is six weeks. I want to say this...as you know I started out with a high school education, but While at Arlington I studied under a Mr. Hoff who was a so-called efficiency man that the Company employed from time to time. I got into New York University where I studied in management, and then when I went to Parlin I studied at Rutgers. I took some courses in cost keeping by correspondence. From the time I went into the job at Gibbstown I subscribed to business magazines. One time I was in the hospital for a little stay and I read six or eight volumes on applied psychology. As a self educated individual, I think I am somewhat of an outstanding example. I almost forgot this and it might be interesting. During my employment with the DuPont Company I was very fortunate to be associated with some very outstanding individuals. I think a lot of those people rubbed off on me. I was always very inquisitive and always asked the questions "How do you do this and "Why did you do that." I think back on men like T. W. Bacchus who became a pillar in Hercules, and Ira Pierce, who was an outstanding chemist early in the DuPont Company and who was made the first superintendent of the Barksdale plant, and was killed in an explosion; George Norman, who also became a pillar in the Hercules Company; J. W. McCoy, H. B. Yancey, who became a vice president; Bill Ward became a vice president; W. P. Allen became a vice president; Fred Crawley who was an outstanding man and worker; H. A. Stillwell, an outstanding engineer and inventor. I mentioned H. G. Chase; E. M. Harrington, who was an outstanding chemist, from whom I learned a lot of the chemistry of explosives. I was always exposed to engineering and mechanical detail and at each location I again learned the chemistry of the products manufactured. I don't think I ever passed an opportunity to learn. In this interview I could only recite a few of my many interesting experiences to illustrate the character of the work in which I was engaged at a given location. There were many more. The work at times was difficult, occasionally over my head and frequently nerve wracking. However, all in all, I enjoyed it, and now reflect on the past with a great deal of pleasure.
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