How best to provide management with useful information about the underutilization of factory and machinery are old cost accounting questions. The literature from the turn of the century up through the 1950s reveals that the topic interested many. This paper resurrects those historical discussions. The objective is twofold, to demonstrate the sophistication and innovation of early writers emphasizing why they thought the topic important, and, to explore some theories about why this interest dissipated within the accounting literature. The possibilities include the effect of the great depression, wartime regulations, the withdrawal of the industrial engineer from costing and the growing importance of income measurement. This research ends in the 1960s, by which time idle capacity as an independent topic has largely disappeared.

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