James Hartness (1861-1934) was an inventor, company president, aviator, and governor of Vermont; he was a man of endless curiosity and innovation. He was awarded patents for numerous inventions, including lathes, sundials, and telescopes.
Hartness wrote extensively of the need to respect workers and consider their needs in manufacturing processes. In 1912, he published an influential book, Human Factors in Works Management, in response to Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management published a year earlier. As well as presenting financial and operational reports at annual company meetings, he also presented “Human Reports” concerning the status and condition of workers. These reports outlined “elements of harmony,” “degree of contentment,” and opportunities for advancement.
At age 53, in 1914, Hartness purchased his own Wright Flyer. The Flyer was still being developed, was inherently unstable, and personally risky, but he was determined to master this new technology. He developed an airfield outside of Springfield, Vermont, and took flight instruction from the aviator Howard Reinhart, a friend of the Wright brothers. James Hartness became one of the first certified pilots in the United States. But aviation was not just a hobby; he served in an advisory capacity in the development and manufacture of airplanes for the army during WWI.
Hartness had a brief political career as a one-term governor of Vermont. He served on several state commissions and in 1920 he was nominated as the Republican candidate. His platform promised an improved transportation system and more manufacturing to supplement the traditional agricultural economy. He won the election by a wider margin in the state than Warren Harding, who carried Vermont in the presidential race that year. Hartness was determined to shake things up, removing politically appointed functionaries and installing competent professionals to head state agencies. His relations with the legislature were “stormy,” but he said “I am having the time of my life – never had so much fun before.”
Dorothy Canfield Fisher said of Hartness, “When I saw him he was the head of one of the biggest metalworking factories in the country, a good many hundred men working for him and devoted to him… I never saw a happier man. I never saw a life more completely fulfilled.”
Hartness died at home in Springfield, Vermont at age 72.
Roe, Joseph W. James Hartness: A Representative of the Machine Age at its Best. New York: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1937. Print.
Wicks, Frank. “Renaissance Tool Man.” Mechanical Engineering Magazine Online, 1 Nov. 1999. Web. 4 Nov. 2005 .