Finals is coming around the block for my history class this year, and regardless of how technology-oriented the class, we are to prepare for an exam. It was decided that our exam be on the topic of famous captains of industry, such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. To be on the fairer side, our class gets to draft our own questions that will appear on the exam. Before writing the questions, a thorough research on the topic had to be done, and with the resources given by our teacher, we collaborated together to learn the information. We watched videos on the ABC Clio database on the age of industry and got an overview of the subject of industry. We then read biographies of the two men and analyzed primary and secondary images and documents. During this time, our class took notes on the essential terms, key people, important events, and the main idea on shared Google Doc. After compiling a good amount of background research, we each had to decide whether Rockefeller and Carnegie, being one of the most important men in the industry, had a positive or negative impact on the public society.
John Rockefeller was known for his huge contribution in creating America's petroleum industry. He gained the wealth needed to raise such a business empire by supporting the Union Army during the Civil War. With his ambition and hard-work, he founded the Standard Oil company in Ohio to provide a more flexible organization in 1870. He created a monopoly by taking advantage of
Americas nature fossil fuels. He bought several companies under fair terms, but a he also utilized cutthroat attacks to eliminate others. He often bribed politicians, and many suspected Rockefeller to be an underhanded businessman. It was thought that all his actions were motivated from greedy intentions. In the political cartoon by Udo J. Keppler, Rockefeller's Standard Oil tank is shown as an octopus. With its tentacles wrapped around the White House, US Capitol, State House, and shipping, steel, and copper industries, the octopus depicts Rockefeller's so-called selfish motives.
|Political Cartoon by Udo J. Keppler|
depicting Rockefeller's Standard Oil Tank
Due to his success in the industry field, Rockefeller's bank balance peaked to 900 million dollars, making him the wealthiest man in America's history. In an interview with William Hoster, Rockefeller said the following: " Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience." From this wealthy balance, Rockefeller donated over 500 million dollars to charity and education. His efforts in supporting several charities helped eradicate yellow fever. Rockefeller was a believer in philanthropy and in two decades of philanthropic, he raised enough money to find the University of Chicago and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, more commonly known as the Rockefeller Institute. In 1903, he established the General Education Board by spending $129 million to further advocate and encourage education in America.
Regardless of his reputation in the industrial field, he spread his wealth and promoted education in America. Therefore, From his actions throughout his life, I believe Rockefeller had a positive impact on public society.
A story of rags to riches can be found in the life of Andrew Carnegie, a leading figure in the US steel industry. Originally an immigrant from Ireland, he began at the bottom of the ladder as a bobbin boy in a textile mill, with a weekly salary of $1.20. Soon he became a messenger in a telegraph office and amazed many by being able to differentiate the wire sounds without using the instruments, becoming one of the first operators in the country to take message by "sound". As he was promoted through several positions, such as the superintendent of telegraph lines, he was given advice and loans from a close friend of his, Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and he began to invest in telegraph, oil, iron, bridge, and railroad companies. Soon his annual income jumped to an astounding $50,000.
|"Forty-Millionaire Carnegie in his Great Double Role,"|
(July 1892) A cartoon depicting Carnegie's double role
of being a philanthropist while destroying the steel and
iron worker's union
Carnegie decided to retire and take up a scholarly life; he traveled extensively throughout Europe to expand his management and business skills. Carnegie decided to seek out a new path in steel manufacturing in the early 1870s. By teaming up with leaders of Great Britain's steel industry, particularly Sir Henry Bessemer, Carnegie was able to learn a process that allowed a higher quality of steel to be manufactured at a low cost. By introducing this method in America, US steel production surpassed that of Britain's in 30 years, and all thanks to Carnegie's efforts. However, his reputation was affected by the violent Homestead Strike, which revealed Carnegie's plans to take down the steel and iron workers' union. As shown in the cartoon on the left, Carnegie was seen as a dual figure in society. By 1900, the Carnegie Steel Company collected a total of $350 million, controlling the bulk of US steel production, and making Carnegie the second richest man in the world. In 1901, he sold his company to JP Morgan and dedicated the rest of his life to scholarship and philanthropist.
Similar to Rockefeller, Carnegie made donations to public that totaled to about $350 million. This money went to thousands of public libraries and churches, to promote higher education. One of his philanthropic donations funded large pensions and benefits to former workers of the Carnegie Company. He established several institutions and schools such as the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and the Carnegie Institute of Washington. He well known for aiding funding the schools that make up the Carnegie Mellon University, that advocated education for African-Americans at the time. He distributed several other funds towards educational and medical research purposes. He also supervised the construction of the three Temples of Peace in Costa Rica, Netherlands, and Washington DC.
After analyzing Carnegie's actions, I believe his efforts in introducing the revolutionary steel manufacturing method changed America's stance in the steel industry. His several contributions to benefit and encourage education was a purely positive impact on society.