America’s informal empire was a material as much as an ideological configuration. As the above quotes make clear, creating and maintaining a commercial empire required extensive and intensive material investments and complex negotiations. When Cyrus McCormick, speaking on behalf of the newly formed International Harvester (IH) Corporation, finalized plans to construct a major manufacturing
plant outside of Moscow in 1909, he was following a principle of economic geography — with high transport costs, it made economic sense for IH to locate a plant to manufacture its agricultural implements close to its fast-growing market in Russia. Singer Manufacturing Company also began to invest in overseas manufacturing in the late 19th century to help supply the demand for machines created by its spatially extensive and capital intensive sales and distribution networks. As the second quote above suggests, Singer managers visited foreign offices, assessed sales, and implemented changes to increase profits on a regular basis throughout its international network, quite a laborious and expensive monitoring procedure.