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The Men Who Built America🏗️

John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan rose from obscurity and created modern America in the process. On street signs, their names hang, are carved into buildings and are part of the fabric of history.

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)

The founder of the Standard Oil Company, John D. Rockefeller became one of the richest men in the world and a major philanthropist. Born in humble conditions in upstate New York, he entered the then-fledgling oil industry by investing in a refinery in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1863. He founded Standard Oil in 1870, which operated some 90 percent of U.S. refineries and pipelines in the early 1880s. In order to achieve a monopoly in the industry, critics accused Rockefeller of engaging in deceptive activities, such as predatory pricing and colluding with railroads to remove his rivals. The U.S. in 1911, Standard Oil was found by the Supreme Court in breach of anti-trust laws and ordered to be dissolved. Rockefeller contributed more than $500 million to different philanthropic organizations during his lifetime.

Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877)

Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad tycoon, was a self-made multi-millionaire who became one of the 19th century's richest Americans. He worked with his father as a boy, who operated a ship carrying goods between Staten Island, New York, where they were living, and Manhattan. Vanderbilt went into business for himself in the late 1820s after serving as a steamship captain, and ultimately became one of the largest steamship operators in the world. In the meantime, the Commodore earned a reputation for being highly competitive and ruthless, as he was publicly dubbed. He changed his attention to the railroad industry in the 1860s, where he established another empire and helped to make railroad transport more successful. He was worth more than $100 million when Vanderbilt died.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

Andrew Carnegie, who was born in Scotland, was an American industrialist who earned a fortune in the steel industry and later became a major philanthropist. Before rising to the post of division superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1859, Carnegie worked as a boy in a Pittsburgh cotton factory. He invested in numerous businesses, including iron and oil companies, while working for the railroad and making his first fortune by the time he was in his early 30s. He entered the steel sector in the early 1870s and became a dominant force in the industry over the next two decades. He sold the Carnegie Steel Corporation for $480 million to the banker John Pierpont Morgan in 1901. Carnegie then dedicated himself to philanthropy, giving away more than $350 million ultimately.

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Henry Ford designed his first horseless carriage driven by gasoline, the Quadricycle, in the shed behind his home while working as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and the company produced the first Model T five years later. In order to satisfy the overwhelming demand for the revolutionary automobile, Ford introduced revolutionary new mass production techniques, including massive manufacturing plants, the use of standardized, interchangeable components, and the first moving assembly line for automobiles in the world in 1913. Ford was also vocal in the political arena and enormously influential in the industrial world. During the early years of World War I, Ford attracted controversy for his pacifist posture and received widespread condemnation for his anti-Semitic views and writings.

J.P. Morgan (1837-1913)

One of his era's most influential bankers, J.P. Morgan sponsored railroads and helped organize the United States (John Pierpont) Iron, General Electric and other significant businesses. In the late 1850s, the Connecticut native followed his wealthy father into the banking industry, and formed a partnership with Anthony Drexel, a Philadelphia banker, in 1871. Their company was reorganized in 1895 as J.P. Morgan & Company, a forerunner to JPMorgan Chase, the modern-day financial giant. During many economic crises, including the panic of 1907, Morgan used his leverage to help stabilize American financial markets. He faced criticism, however, that he had too much influence and was accused of exploiting the financial system of the nation for his own benefit. The titan of the Gilded Age spent a large portion of his fortune amassing a huge collection of paintings.

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