UnitedLife 03

Successful entrepreneurs of the 19th century


Filip Orth
Student at Santa Clara University, Freelancer
Bratislava, Slovakia

A period when America started to boom was at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. During this period the names such as J.D. Rockefeller, A. Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, H. Ford and C. Vanderbilt became famous to the whole world. All these gentlemen had something in common – they were massively producing, selling and they offered services with a great interest of the large part of population.


   Oil, electricity, iron, railroads and also cars for an everyday use were asked at that time in whole America and later in the world too. Realizing of these things to sale made the mentioned gentlemen not only successful entrepreneurs but also appreciated personalities.

   The mentioned entrepreneurs laid the foundations of their business in the buying up their competitors in large, till they became global international companies such as the wellknown General Electric, J.P. Morgan Chase, U.S. Steel, Ford Motor Company and many other at present. One of the first entrepreneur who started with such methods was Cornelius Vanderblit called Commodore. He controlled the railway transport including all railway routes in the whole America and when it was possible, he absorbed and eliminated the competition to gain the space for his own company. That were the first monopolistic practics.

   At that time, the entrepreneurs wanted to bring their services and goods to the top and immediately after it to rule the market for themselves. The common population in America was bearing the bad work conditions at that time, because there were no regulations, number of working hours or hygiene. People payed for it with their lives, but on the other hand they were glad to have a job, because the great unemployment reigned.

The monopolistic practics were definitely solved by the antimonopoly law and in 1911 the state succeeded to break up the biggest monopoly in the world, Standard Oil, which owner was J.D. Rockefeller. The court ordered him to break up the basic structure of the company to 90 different companies. The company, which he founded in 1870 in Ohio as a small firm Standard Oil Co. Inc., was broken up to firms such as Standard Oil of New York and Standard Oil of New Jersey, today known as ExxonMobil and Chevron.

   Andrew Carnegie was a mogul in steel industry. His company Carnegie Steel Company is today known as U.S. Steel Corporation. The rename came after repurchase by J.P. Morgan and consolidation of the sector in the value of 13,2 billion USD. Carnegie’s dream was to get his goods to high level and to be the top in the market. J.P. Morgan was born in a banker family and he was expected very much already from the beginning. Already from his 8 years, father was giving him the account books and claims to sort, but he liked the idea of investments and support of business enterprise. In the time of development of devices for processing the electricity, he connected with Edison and introduced the world his first electric light bulb. But the Morgan family did not like it, thus they did not support him and they asked him to devote to the family bank tradition. However, Morgan saw his way in investing and today it seems that he belonged to the first pioneers of the investment banking in general. Besides, J.P. Morgan invested for example in construction of the Panama Canal, what was at that time very risky and financially very demanding transaction.

   Few years later the generation of first industrialists was replaced by the second wave. Its main representative was Henry Ford. Ford was known not only for his cars but also for his inventions which were later called „massproduct“ or „mass (flow) production“. Ford had the idea to make automobiles which could buy also common people, because at that time the cars were only for rich people. He met apart from others also with the bureaucratic obstacles, when they did not want to approve him the automobile production. Even after remaking of his car he got the necessary permissions and started to produce the famous Model T. Ford was proceeding in his idea to produce the cars for everybody and he found out, that it is necessary to built the flow production. His aim was the improving of production effectivity and the potential to make more. Later, his method of car production through flow production started to use also the other brands as Max Factor (cosmetics) or Hersheys (chocolate).

   All these entrepreneurs had something in common. It was the competivity. They invested in different projects to be on the top and later, when they realized their status, they started to look for the new metas. Philanthropy became one of them. Each of them liked to earn but later, they got the feeling of joy also from the meaningful giving out. Carnegie donated during his life 4,8 billion and Rockefeller even 7,1 billion USD. These allowances were directed on different charitable organizations, schools, universities, hospitals, researches of diseases and libraries all over the world. They supported the communities and surroundings too. Also thanks to them America is so strong and beautiful today.

   When America was entering World War I, it was an industrialized country with the strong economy. Also therefore it became a subduing element in the worldwide community and just in this period the vision about „American dream“ originated. For the first time in history the strong middle class existed with the needs and the ability to buy goods and services so important for economy growth of the country. These facts enabled the origin of the super-world power which is up to now one of the strongest in the world.

   However, lots of people do not realize that what happened in America was possible only at that time and only these few entrepreneurs managed to realize their dreams with the conditions which they had at that time and at that place. Just in America.

Filip Orth


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