Industrial Leaders as Robber Barons

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Between 1865 and 1900, the last of the western frontier was being occupied. Gold and silver strikes sent people into areas such as Colorado, Nevada, or Montana. The wild herds of cattle roaming over Texas following the Civil War led to cattle drives, and the promise of free land from the Homestead Act sent hopefuls out west. At the same time, the United States experienced a large industrial growth, and a boosted economy due to the vast amounts of natural resources such as oil and coal; a steady arrival of immigrants who, due to being unskilled and poor, served as a cheap labor supply; development of new technologies that increased productivity; and entrepreneurs who could manage the massive commercial and industrial enterprises that resulted from the industrial increase. While these companies allowed for the United States to become an international competitor, they did so at the cost of the workers and average consumer. These industrial leaders are justifiably characterized as “robber barons.”
Perhaps the industry that had the largest impact on the development of the United States; the railroads were the first big business in the nation. They divided the nation into four time zones and encouraged mass production and mass consumption. Most importantly they created stockholder corporations, complex finance structures, and regulation of competition. The problem of competition was a result of overbuilding, mismanagement, and fraud. An example of this would be a speculator such as Jay Gould, who made millions by inflating the value of a corporation’s assets and then selling the stock to the public. This made it difficult for the railroad business, who then had to offer discounts to shippers while charging extremely high rates to far...

... middle of paper ... him to a single market, reduce the price of every class of labor connected with the trade, throw out of employment large numbers of persons who had before been engaged in a meritorious calling and finally…they increase the price to the consumer…(Document D)” This fear led to the antitrust movement and the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890, which was not really enforced as the government favored the businesses.
The industrial leaders of the 1895-1900 era are justified as “robber barons.” The owners of railroads used them to get rich and then monopolies were created that raised prices dramatically for poorer farmers. In the steel industry, workers were underpaid and then their union was broken so the company and the owners could have more money. The oil industry was made of trusts which are beneficial more to the men in charge than the workers who keep it running.
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