During a time of industrial economic revolution there were few people who were recognized as major contributors to the country”s evolvement. Among these people were Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Thomas Edison. These three men possessed incredible intuition, genius and personal determination that shined brightly throughout their extraordinary lives. Each individual proved to be nothing less than successful in his career by striving to surpass his competitors and by constantly trying to reach goals that were practically unattainable.
In this essay I will cover each individuals life and accomplishments, identify how these men helped the nation fix its domestic economic flaws and explain why I think they were successful over achievers rather than “robber barons. ” Andrew Carnegie was one of these individuals. Although he was born poor, he did not let his financial disability get in the way of success. He started out his career at the bottom of the social latter. In fact his first job was working as a bobbin boy at a textile mill. He labored more than sixty hours a week receiving $1. 20 for each week”s work.
As horrid as this seems, he displayed his potential by becoming Pittsburgh”s fastest telegraph reader. Unbelievably he read the telegraph by reading the sounds of the keys by ear. After decoding many of the city”s business leader”s messages, Carnegie developed an insider”s view of their operations. Finally, in 1852 a superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Tom Scott, hired Carnegie as his secretary and personal telegrapher. He worked as the railroad”s telegrapher for seven years until Scott was promoted to vice president of the company. This enabled Carnegie to be promoted to Scott”s former position.
Now that he had the ability to “stretch his legs” he showed just how valuable of an employee he was. He did this by doubling the company”s road mileage and quadrupling its traffic. Not too long after, his annual income rose to almost $60,000! Even though Carnegie had already embodied the “rags to riches” dream he was not satisfied. In the 1870″s he decided to build a steel mill. He furnished it with nothing but state of the art steel producing technology. He named it the J. Edgar Thompson Mill. With the combination of his management knowledge and intuition he learned how to produce steel much more cheaply than his competitors.
He did this by salary cutbacks and by making sure no materials were wasted. “Watch the cost, and the profits will take care of themselves. ” This was his motto and what he firmly believed in. Because Carnegie could see the “big picture,” he began vertical integration (controlling all aspects of manufacturing). This gave him the ability to control every thing from the extracting of raw materials to the selling of the finished product. Basically, Carnegie had built a monopoly (exclusive control over the entire steel commodity). By now Carnegie had help in running his company.
Along with his business associates, he developed a partnership with Henry Clay Frick who eventually became the chairmen of Carnegie Steel. With Frick”s leadership, profits constantly rose giving Carnegie more time to focus on his philanthropy. Carnegie felt that “fortunes corrupted their possessors”, so he donated over three hundred million dollars to philanthropy projects! This funding helped establish foundations and proved to be beneficial to universities, libraries as well as his popularity.
About ten years later, the aged Andrew Carnegie agreed to sell Carnegie Steel Company to J. Pierpont Morgan. It was agreed that Morgan would buy the company for five hundred million dollars. Once the transaction was complete, United States Steel was born. Carnegie proved himself to be a self made man of success who started at the bottom and trudged his way to the top. With his amazing intuition and decision making ability he built an empire that made a notch in American history and helped bring about the industrial revolution. John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil Company, also played a role in the industrial revolution. He too longed for wealth and prosperity.
He went about this by making many little decisions rather than huge ones. He did this by adjusting every single aspect of his oil company until it was a finely tuned money making machine. He stressed the importance of “providing a reliable product” and used the latest techniques in ensuring the quality of his products. Like Carnegie, his crude business techniques along with his extraordinary intuition in the understanding of the industry provided for a complete monopoly over the industry. He displayed his power by pricing his products below cost.
This caused his competitors and merchants that refused to sell his products to go under financially. By 1879, Rockefeller owned ninety percent of the nations oil refining capacity. Unlike Carnegie, Rockefeller devised a plan to merge all of the competing companies into one giant system. He did this by persuading stockholders of forty companies to exchange their stock for certificates of trust. He formed a board of trustees to run all of the companies. This proved to be a remarkable idea indeed because within three years the Standard Oil Trust had cut the number of refineries in half.
This resulted in a rapid growth of Standard Oil and its spread to several other continents. Because other fields of manufacturing began to catch on to Rockefeller”s tactics, monopolistic control began to rise in different areas of the country. This provoked the public to ask for an investigation of trusts and their operations. In 1890, Senator John Sherman led Congress into passing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act which outlawed trusts and contracts or combinations in restraint of trade. It also established fines and jail times as penalties.
Because the government vaguely defined “trust” and “restraint of trade” few were prosecuted. When Rockefeller and Standard Oil were finally challenged in 1892, he simply transformed his nine trustees into the board of directors of Standard Oil. This helped the company elude prosecution and caused the continuation of growing profits. Like Carnegie, Rockefeller found the loophole in the economic system and took advantage of it. But he also displayed his keen sense of intuition and decision making by making decisions that helped his company adapt to the changing laws.
He too showed that through hard work, determination and understanding of one”s surroundings a person could be successful. The third of these successful individuals is Thomas A. Edison. An inventor born in 1847, he believed in hard work and self-promotion. Like Carnegie and Rockefeller, Edison envisioned an interconnected industrial system founded. This though was being founded on the basis of technology. Through out his life he had many inventions having the stock quotation printer as his first.
The profits he received from the sale of the printer”s patent gave him enough money to build his very own “invention factory”. After the invention of the telephone, Edison focused on electric light. During this time he invented the phonograph which gave him even more determination and self-motivation to develop a new filament for incandescent light bulbs. He finally perfected a process of generating electricity and found a filament that would glow dependably in a vacuum. Backed by J. P. Morgan in 1882, the Edison Illuminating Company opened a power plant that furnished light for eighty-five buildings.
Even though Edison was prospering, he did have competitors stealing his ideas. One example would be George Westinghouse. Westinghouse developed a system that used alternating currents of electricity to provide cheap high voltage power. Of course Edison sued, but it cost two million dollars to defend his patents and relinquish control over his enterprises. Like Carnegie and Rockefeller, Edison merged with a competitor in 1892 to form General Electric. Just four years after, GE agreed to exchange patents with Westinghouse in order to dominate the market.
Edison continued to pump out invention after invention. By the time he was done, he had 1,903 patented inventions and had put together an estate worth over six million dollars. Thomas Edison did not quite achieve the financial status Carnegie and Rockefeller did, but he did follow the same path and ended up with a fortune. His presence is still felt every time someone turns the light on. That is definitely an admirable achievement. His inventions helped shape our nation and contributed greatly to the industrial revolution.
Although Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Thomas Edison were considered “robber barons” or tycoons, the big picture can be over looked. During their time many things such as industrialism and business techniques were evolving into a new era of technology and business. It is obvious that these three men were born with an incredible intuition for the industries they were in. It”s not to say no one else of their time shared this ability, but they were among the few who “reached for the stars” instead of a weekly pay check.
These men put into perspective what pursuing the American dream is all about. It was their personal determination and work ethic along with their keen intuition that enabled them to be successful. Many people feel as if it was their greed that lead them to monopolize their chosen industry, causing other competitors to suffer. I think it hadn”t much to do with greed at all. Like any successful person they set their goals beyond their limits. They did nothing more than try to accomplish as much as possible in their lifetime.
Doing so they found flaws in the nations economic system and capitalized on them. If anything, this provided for the correction of these flaws and the betterment of the nations domestic business structure. Of course there were those at the bottom of the social chain that suffered, but that still lives on today. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Thomas Edison not only contributed to our country”s industrialization and economic growth, but also proved that the “American dream” does exists and can be achieved if one puts forth enough of himself to grasp it.
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