Robber Barons or Captains of Industry
Robber barons were business leaders who built their fortunes by stealing from the public and captains of industry were business leaders who served their nation in a positive way. These three entrepreneurs were robber barons, for they either did many good things for the nation but had tricks up their sleeve, or were just leaders that treated people unfairly.
Henry Ford, John D.Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie were robber barons during the 1900’s. John D. Rockefeller was a robber baron because he monopolized the oil industry, barely donated to the community and led the workers to harsh conditions. When Rockefeller monopolized the industry, it was bad enough that he was going against the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, which stated that having a monopoly was illegal. He even stated, “The coal oil business belongs to us,” after owning most of the companies due to his monopoly. The trick behind this act was to lower the prices of oil so everyone could afford it.
Even though this sounds very beneficial for the community, it was bad once Rockefeller was able to own every single company and raise the prices back up, leaving the people with no choice. Since automobiles were also much cheaper and more consumers were buying them, it would lead to more consumers buying oil from Rockefeller and only him. People stated he was a captain of industry because he helped people in poverty, but raising prices back up would not make it any better. Rockefeller also donated $8 billion to the economy, along with controlling 1. 52% of it.
Even though $8 billion was an extreme amount of money, it was nothing compared to his $66. 3 billion dollars. Finally, Rockefeller’s workers were working in harsh conditions and treated unfairly. Even though he gave bonuses and high wages so they could work harder, only the unemployed men were allowed to work and had to follow strict rules. Since the workers did want to obey these harsh rules, it led to the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 where Rockefeller sent out the National Guard to stop them, killing 13 strikers and 32 women and children. Overall, Rockefeller’s tricks and immoral decisions led him to be a robber baron.
Andrew Carnegie was another entrepreneur that was a robber baron. He treated his workers badly, had a monopoly, and bribed people through vertical integration. Worse than Rockefeller, Carnegie’s workers were in an even worse situation. Carnegie barely paid them anyway and he cut their wages, leading them closer and closer to a strike. The working conditions were also dangerous, leaving them with injuries due to their fingers or arms getting cut off in the machines. This resulted in the Homestead Strike, refusing to let the strikebreakers take over their jobs.
Shooting broke out, leaving some strikers dead. Carnegie also used the methods of vertical integration and horizontal consolidation. Vertical integration is when Carnegie bought out all suppliers to control all the stages of the manufacturing process, such as transportation, raw materials, and etc. One of his good friends, Theodore Roosevelt, was an example of whom he bribed so he can buy out his suppliers with no one knowing. Horizontal consolidation was when Carnegie bought out all competing companies, soon creating a monopoly and owning 80% of the steel industry.
Even though Carnegie built schools, libraries, homes, and railroads with most of his money, he still wanted profits from everything and tricks to bribe people into getting more. Finally, Henry Ford was also a robber baron. He glorified only himself, bribed his workers, and was anti-Semitic. Ford was seen as a great man for building hospitals, museums, etc. , especially since he was deeply appreciated for his good impact on America. But when he was glorified for expressing his love for American customs, the background story of this was that he deeply wanted his workers to be “Americanized”, teaching them English during work.
Unfortunately though, he intruded on their personal lives and always made sure they were home at night, weren’t out drinking, or doing any other actions he restricted. He was also glorified for sending out ships to Europe to stop WWI with no profit, but when he arrived at Europe, he went right back to America. He made no impact on the war, and didn’t even care that the U. S. would have to get involved soon, even though he said he wanted to help them in the beginning. The first thing he was known for was scientific management and strengthening the mass assembly line, which would make the workers work harder but be happier.
Although, this led to mass production, which gave him the benefit of higher profits. Ford also bribed his workers. Although he paid them very high wages and reduced their working hours, he only did this so they would not form a Union to rebel against him. Since the workers could also only purchase things from where they work, Ford got back their wages most of the time, which was also a good reason to increase their wages. Finally, Ford was anti-Semitic. When buying out the ‘Dearborn Independent’, people appreciated that he expressed his beliefs, but his hatred against the Jews was going way too far.
He did not let them work in his factories, did not stop his publisher’s harsh words against them, and believed that they were immigrants who were here to take away the jobs of Americans. Overall, Henry Ford, John D. Roosevelt, and Henry Ford were three entrepreneurs that should be classified as robber barons in the 1900’s. Roosevelt and Carnegie had monopolies and were controlling leaders, were tricky business partners just like Ford, who was also selfish and glorifying for all the wrong reasons. Each entrepreneur are not captains of industry, but robber barons; people who manipulate the people for their own benefit.