Hawthorne Works

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Aerial view of the Hawthorne Works, ca. 1907.

The Hawthorne Works, in Cicero, Illinois, was a large factory complex built by Western Electric starting in 1905 and operating until 1983. It is well-known for the industrial studies held there in the 1920s, and the Hawthorne effect is named for the works.[1]


The Hawthorne Works was build early 20th century, and was opened in 1905. Hawthorne Works was named for Hawthorne, Illinois, a small town that was later incorporated into Cicero. The facility consisted of several buildings and contained a private railroad to move shipments through the plant to the nearby Burlington Northern Railroad freight depot. In the first decades the factory complex was significantly expanded (see image).

Aerial view of the Hawthorne Works, ca. 1925. (This image and the image above are created from the same angle.)

The Hawthorne Works produced an enormous output of telephone equipment. Besides telephone equipment, the factory produced a wide variety of consumer products, including refrigerators and electric fans. At the height of its operations it had 45,000 employees. Workers regularly used bicycles for transit within the plant.

The Hawthorne Works was in operation until 1983. It was purchased in the mid-1980s by the late Donald L. Shoemaker and replaced with a shopping center. One of the original towers remained at the corner of 22nd Street and Cicero Ave.

In addition to its enormous output of telephone equipment, Hawthorne Works was the site of some well-known industrial studies. The Hawthorne effect is named for the works. North American Quality pioneer Joseph Juran referred to the Hawthorne Works as "the seed bed of the Quality Revolution".[2] The career arcs of other notable quality professionals such as Walter Shewhart and Edward Deming also intersected at the Hawthorne Works.

Hawthorne Works Museum[edit]

The last vestige of the Hawthorne Works. This tower can be seen in the center-left of the aerial view (above).

The Hawthorne Works Museum, operated by Morton College, tells the story of the Hawthorne Works facility - its products and its employees. Exhibits include Western Electric products such as telephones, communications and electronics equipment, inventions by Bell Laboratories, local immigrant workers and local history.

In 2014 a book by Dennis Schlagheck and Catherine Lantz was published by Arcadia Publishing. The book draws on the Hawthorne Works Museum to give pictorial history of the plant and its workers.


  1. ^ Weber, Austin (August 1, 2002). "The Hawthorne Works". Assembly Magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  2. ^ Juran (1995). A History of Managing for Quality. ASQC Quality Press. p. 557. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Hawthorne Works at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 41°51′00″N 87°44′24″W / 41.850°N 87.740°W / 41.850; -87.740