Robber Baron or Hero of Industry

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Was the big businessman a “Robber Baron” or a hero of industry? A “robber baron” was someone who employed any means necessary to enrich themselves at the expense of their competitors. Two big Businessman/ industrialists during the 1800’s-1900’s were John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Each businessman contributed something during their lifetime that made people question whether or not they were Robber Barron’s or a hero of Industry. Did each of these businessmen fall into that category or was he one of the “captains of industry”, whose shrewd and innovative leadership brought order out of industrial chaos and generated great fortunes that enriched the public welfare through the workings of various philanthropic agencies that these leaders established or were they really “Robber Barron’s?” The wave of industrialism that we have been studying was often driven by a few great men known as industrialists. There can be no mistaking their motives: wealth. There is some debate, however, on the how history should portray these industrialists. Some feel that the powerful industrialists of the gilded age should be referred to as "robber barons." This view accentuates the negative. It portrays men like Rockefeller and Carnegie and cruel and ruthless businessmen who would stop at nothing to achieve great wealth. These "robber barons" were accused of exploiting workers and forcing horrible working conditions and unfair labor practices upon the laborer. Another view of the industrialist is that of "captain of industry." The term captain views these men as viewed ingenious and industrious leaders who transformed the American economy with their business skills. They were praised for their skills as well as for their philanthropy (charity). In reality the debate over robber barons and captains of industry mirrors views of industrialism itself. Just as there were both positives and negatives to industrialism there were positives and negatives to the leaders of industrialism...
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