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Captain of Industry or Robber Baron

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Captain of Industry or Robber Baron

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  • Feb. 21, 2005
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The period of invention after the Civil War set the stage for immense industrial growth (Cayton 237). This period of time in the late 1800's is known as the Industrial Revolution. Two prominent names in big business were John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. There is no doubt that these people left their mark on business and on history. However, there is some dispute over how these individuals should be portrayed. Some people say that they were robber barons, while others insist that they were captains of industry. A captain of industry is someone who is perceived to have helped the nation through their business skills and their philanthropy. On the other hand, a robber baron was someone who was considered a ruthless businessman. In the public's opinion a robber baron wouldn't let anything stop them from obtaining wealth. In my opinion Rockefeller and Carnegie were captains of industry.

John D. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company in 1870. One of the first things that he had to deal with was the high cost of transporting the barrels of oil to his refineries in Cleveland, Ohio. He negotiated a deal with a railroad company that lowered his shipping costs. This allowed him to lower the cost of his oil which resulted in more sales (www.spartacus.schoolnet.com). By doing this Rockefeller could undersell his competitors.

Rockefeller wanted to expand his business even more. He figured that if he could buy out his competitor's companies then he could create a giant oil company and lower his prices even more. His method is called horizontal consolidation, which involves the bringing together of many firms in the same business. The law stated that one company could not own the stock of another. Rockefeller got around this by creating a trust. Eventually forty companies joined the Standard Oil trust (Cayton 238). In my opinion that was a smart move, not an immoral one.

Not only was Rockefeller a savvy businessman, but he was also a philanthropist. By the...