The Hawthorne Works was a major Western Electric plant facility near Cicero, Illinois. It opened in 1905 and lasted until 1983. Hawthorne employed 45,000 people at its peak, producing vast quantities of telephone equipment as well as consumer goods. The Hawthorne effect is called after the works’ industrial investigations in the 1920s. The Hawthorne Works complex was established in 1905 near Cicero Avenue and Cermak Road. Hawthorne Works was named after Hawthorne, Illinois, which became Cicero. There were numerous buildings in the plant, and a private railroad, Manufacturers Junction Railroad, moved products to a nearby Chicago, Burlington and Quincy freight depot. The factory complex grew rapidly in the early decades.


1925 aerial image of Hawthorne Works Both images were taken from the same viewpoint. The Hawthorne Works made a lot of telephone gear. Western Electric also made consumer goods and electrical equipment like refrigerators. The factory employed up to 45,000 people at its peak. Workers rode bicycles to and from work. Due to AT&T’s demise and the dissolution of the Bell System, the Hawthorne Works ceased in 1983. The late Donald L. Shoemaker bought it and replaced it with a shopping center. One of the earliest towers stood at 22nd and Cicero.


The Hawthorne Works was the subject of famous industrial studies due to its importance in American industry. The works are called for the effect. Joseph Juran called the Hawthorne Works “the seedbed of the Quality Revolution.” Walter Shewhart and Edwards Deming’s careers also intersected at Hawthorne Works. Mechanic Paul Mattick worked here from 1928/9 to 1932. On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland capsized in Chicago, killing 220 Hawthorne employees, many of them were Czech immigrants. A person’s conduct changes when they realize they are being monitored, which is known as the “Hawthorne effect.” The term was coined by Henry A. Landsberger after observing it in data from the Hawthorne Works collected by psychologist Elton Mayo. The Hawthorne Works Museum presents the narrative of the factory, its products, and its people. Exhibits include Western Electric goods, Bell Laboratories inventions, local immigrant employees, and local history.

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