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Harvard. Corporation and its Regulation. Syllabus and readings. Mason and P. Sweezy, 1939-40


The teaching duo of Edward S. Mason and Paul M. Sweezy taught a popular course on the theories of socialism at Harvard as well as the course of today’s posting that provides the syllabus and reading assignment for a one semester course on corporations. Also two problem sets discussed in the recitation sections were found filed with the course outline and are transcribed below. 

This course was a prerequisite for Mason’s second term course “Industrial Organization and Control”.


Course Description, 1940-41

Economics 61a 1hf. The Corporation and its Regulation. Half-course (first half-year). Tu., Th., Sat., at 11. Professor Mason and Dr. P. M. Sweezy.

This course deals with the development of the modern business corporation, and corporate accounting, and financial practices. Particular attention will be paid to the internal organization of the corporations including the relation between security owners and management. State and Federal regulation of incorporation and security issue and the nature of the government corporation will form a part of the course.

Source: Division of History, Government, and Economics Containing an Announcement for 1940-41, Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XXXVII, No. 51 (August 15, 1940), pp. 56-57.


Enrollment 1939-40

[Economics] 61a 1hf. Professor Mason and Dr. P. M. Sweezy.—The Corporation and its Regulation.
Total 169: 2 Graduates, 51 Seniors, 84 Juniors, 19 Sophomores, 2 Freshmen, 11 Other.

Source: Report of the President of Harvard College, 1939-40, p. 99.


Economics 61a



Date Lecture Subjects Reading
Sept. 27-30 Introduction
History of the Corporation
C. C. Abbott, “The Rise of the Business Corporation” [Ann Arbor, 1936]
Oct. 1-7 History of the Corporation
Capital and Capitalization
Financial Problems
Dewing I: 2-4
Oct. 8-14 Valuation and Depreciation
Valuation and Depreciation
Dewing III:1-4,   IV:3-5
Oct. 15-21 Corporate Reorganization
Case Studies in Corporate Reorganization
Dewing IV:7-8, VI: 1-2
Oct. 22-28 Ownership, Management, and Control
Case studies of individual companies
Berle and Means I:1-6, II: 5-6
Oct. 29-Nov. 4 The Economics of the Firm
Size and Efficiency
Clark, “Economics of Overhead Costs” Chs. 4,6;
[Henry] Dennison, Management in
[Recent Economic Changes in the United States, New York, 1929], Vol. 2
Nov. 5-11 Management Problems
Corporation and the Theory of Profits
Knight “Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit” Chs. 7, 9, 12
Nov. 12-18 The Corporation and Private Property
Case Study
Corporate Concentration of Economic Control
Berle and Means IV:1-4;
Structure of the American Economy, Chs. 7,9; Appendices 9-13
Nov. 20-26 The Stock Market
Sale of New Securities
Ownership of Securities
20th Century Fund “The Security Markets” Chs. VIII, IX, XI, XIII
Nov. 27-Dec. 3 Ownership of Securities
Section Meeting
“The Security Markets” Chs. III, IV, VI
Dec. 4-10 Institutional Investment
Development of Corporation Law
Development of Corporation Law
Berle and Means, Book II
Dec. 11-17 The Securities Act and the Securities and Exchange Commission
The Government Corporation
4th Annual Report of the Securities and Exchange Commission
J. H. Thurston “Government Proprietary Corporations” Chs. I, VI


Economics 61a
Section Meeting
Oct. 13-14, 1939

  1. Discuss the significant differences between the modes of raising capital of the following firms, as indicated by their capital stock and funded debt:
    1. United States Steel Corporation (1934)

Common Stock


Preferred Stock




Bonds guaranteed by U.S.S.C.


Not guaranteed


Purchase Money Obligations



  1. International Harvester Company (1937)

Common Stock


Preferred stock





  1. Associated Gas and Electric Company (1937)

Capital Stock and Surplus


Minority Interest


Convertible Bonds


Other Funded Debt



  1. New York Central Railroad Company (1937)

Capital Stock




Equipment Obligations


Mortgage Bonds


Debenture Bonds


Collateral Trust Bonds



  1. Discuss the influence of dividend policy on the interests of the following types of shareholder:
    1. Common stock.
    2. Non-participating, non-cumulative preferred.
    3. Non-participating, cumulative preferred.
    4. Participating, non-cumulative preferred.
    5. Participating, cumulative preferred.
    6. Debenture bond.
  2. Until about 1930 the courts generally held that non-cumulative preferred shareholders had a claim against the company for dividends equal to the stated percentage in their shares provided such dividends had been earned but not declared. Does this mean, in effect, that no company could really issue non-cumulative preferred stock prior to 1930? Can you see any reason why the courts should take such a stand?


Source: Harvard University Archives. Syllabi, course outlines and reading lists in economics, 1895-2003 (HUC 8522.2.1). Box 2, Folder “1939-40 (2 of 2)”.


Reading Period Assignment
Jan. 4-17, 1940

Economics 61a: Read one of the following:

  1. Kennedy, E. D., Dividends to Pay.
  2. Flynn, J. T., Security Speculation
  3. Gordon, Lincoln, The Public Corporation in Great Britain.
  4. Crum, W. L., Corporate Size and Earning Power.


Source: Harvard University Archives. Syllabi, course outlines and reading lists in economics, 1895-2003 (HUC 8522.2.1). Box 2, Folder “1939-40 (1 of 2)”.

Image Source: Edward S. Mason and Paul Sweezy from Harvard College Class Album 1937.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier