Ida Tarbell's "The History of the Standard Oil Company", published by McClure's Magazine 1902-1904, was ranked number five in a list of the top works of journalism this century ("Journalism's Greatest Hits" in The New York Times. March 1, 1999) - Ida Tarbell Home Page
Thorstein Veblen in Absentee Ownership (1923) compared the Gilded Age with feudalism: " Here certainly began that absentee ownership" that rested thereafter on a form of "divine right" by strong men who acquired riches like barons of old "not by virtue of having produced or earned them, but because they own them."
Matthew Josephson in The Robber Barons (1934)
"society under lax political institutions would be wholly directed by interest"
Cornelius Vanderbilt was the first "captain of modern industry," exploited steamship lines and railroads
Daniel Drew owned Erie Railroad, watered stock: "He who sells what isn't his'n, Must buy it back or go to pris'n"
Illinois Central was a "land-jobbing" project in speculation
Jay Gould was a "master of trick and deceit" like the "projectors" of Daniel Defoe, a "Mephistopheles" who was crafty and sardonic and scoffing
Jay Cooke in the Civil War was "the first modern American" who colored his actions in patriotism and the ballyhoo of a religious crusade, gained A charter for Northern Pacific Railroad in 1869
Jacob Schiff was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1865, married the daughter of banker Solomon Loeb in 1875, joined Kuhn, Loeb and Company, rose to lead the company by 1885. He purchased the Union Pacific Railroad and attempted to gain control of the Northern Pacific in the 1890s.
J. P. Morgan sold 5000 defective carbines to Gen. Fremont, practiced "pillage, fraud, distortion" and gained control of great properties by "Morganization" through the instrument of the voting trust, adding costs to operations and reducing value of original bondholders: "I owe the public nothing"
Rockefeller and Henry Flagler forced a secret rebate from railroads for high volume shipments, paying 15 cents less than normal rate of 40 cents per barrel of crude oil
William Vanderbilt inherited $94 million in 1877, the first industrial fortune, an "economic monolith" that doubled in 8 years because "the public be damned" and railroads conspired to set rates
positive contributions of "enlightened businessman"
Allen Nevins in The Emergence of Modern America (1927) argued that constructive aspects were more important in the long run than destructive; profit motive less important that achievement and self-expression
Fritz Redlich in History of American Business Leaders (1940) found achievements of "creative entrepreneurs" in steel and banking
Ron Chernow in Titan (1998) writes of Rockefeller: "What makes him problematic-and why he continues to inspire ambivalent reactions--is that his good side was every bit as good as his bad side was bad. Seldom has history produced such a contradictory figure." Rockefeller sought rationalization, not monopoly: "To have high-volume, low-cost production, the Standard needed huge guaranteed sales. This forced Rockefeller to integrate vertically the entire industry, controlling everything from the wellhead to the consumer." He was a philanthropist: "As his fortune grew big enough to beggar imagination, John D. retained faith that God had given him money for mankind's benefit. Rockefeller regarded his fortune as a public trust, not as a private indulgence."