Friday, June 5, 2015

Captains of Industry

Working With Each Other, Not Against Each Other

The end of the school year is near, and that means preparing for finals week. Final exams usually consist of a huge amount of multiple choice and open response questions that the teacher comes up with covering the things we learned during second semester. For History this year, the process is a little different. Every History class that Mrs. Gallagher has will have three weeks to learn three new topics, and create 40 questions at the end of each week that are about what they learned that week. Instructions for the weekly plans can be found here. Week one is coming to an end, and the topic that my classmates and I learned about was Carnegie & Rockefeller. This is referring to entrepreneurs Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller. To start the unit, we made a class Google Doc that was shared with every student, and watched overview videos from ABC-CLIO. We took notes on main ideas, key people, important events, and essential terms. We then read the biographies we were provided on Rockefeller and Carnegie. There was also a primary/secondary source lesson that included documents and pictures, which we also analyzed as a class using the Google Doc. The essential question my class came up with today was; "Were the captains of industry a positive or negative impact to the public?".  

John D. Rockefeller

Political cartoon representing Rockefeller.
From ABC-CLIO "The Players" video.
John Davison Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839 in Richford, New York. He helped create the American petroleum industry, and is known to some as the greatest business leader in American history. He gained the money he needed to become a business mogul by supporting the Union Army during the Civil War. Rockefeller had a mostly positive impact on the public, considering he donated over $500 million to charity and for the advancements of education, medicine, and science. However, in 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and that's when the public started viewing him differently. By 1880, his company ended up securing a virtual monopoly over oil refining and transportation and had become one of the largest corporations in the U.S. The public was convinced that all Rockefeller's actions were motivated by greed. This proves that he also had a negative impact on the public. He was quoted in an interview with William Hoster in the book God's Gold; "I believe the power to make money is a gift of God ... to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience." This sort of makes Rockefeller seem full of himself, but also shows that he truly wants to use his money for good. (remember how he donated over $500 million by the end of his lifetime?) To answer the essential question, I believe that Rockefeller had a positive impact on the public, despite his bad reputation. Actions speak louder than words.

Andrew Carnegie

A photo of Andrew Carnegie.
From ABC-CLIO "The Players" video.
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland. He rose from poverty to become one of the richest men in the world by gaining virtual control of the U.S. steel industry. Similar to Rockefeller, he also gave millions of dollars to advance education, establish public libraries, and promote world peace. This was a clear positive impact he had on the public. Carnegie amazingly learned to distinguish the wire sounds in telegraphs without using the instruments and became one of the first operators in the country to be able to take messages "by sound". He was promoted from delivery boy to operator in the telegraph office. Carnegie ended up being the superintendent of the eastern military and telegraph lines. During the Civil War, he helped coordinate rail transportation for the Union Army and organized the telegraphic system for the army. He became the best read and traveled American businessman of his time after traveling extensively through Europe. Carnegie started an interest in his new venture, steel, in the early 1870s. This was a smart move on his part, because the United States' need for steel during the Civil War boosted production, but Great Britain still produced more higher quality steel and dominated the market. Carnegie invested a majority of his fortune in steel production in 1873. He teamed up with Sir Henry Bessemer, who instructed Carnegie to make high quality steel for a lower cost. The U.S. surpassed Great Britain and became first in steel production, and Carnegie had a lot to do with that. This was another positive impact on the public. However, Carnegie's reputation was ruined by the Homestead Strike. The strike revealed Carnegie's plans to ruin the iron and steel workers' union. This outraged the public and quickly changed what people thought of him. By 1900, Carnegie became the second richest man in the world. He sold the Carnegie Steel Company to J.P. Morgan, who turned it into the United States Steel Corporation. Carnegie donated a lot to schools and public libraries, which is why I believe Andrew Carnegie also had a mainly positive impact on the public.
The Captains of Industry John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie both had an impact on society, and in my opinion, had a mostly positive impact on the public.

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