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The last decades of the nineteenth century saw tremendous development ion the industrial and economic sectors. The boundless economic expansion was triggered and augmented by the entrepreneurs like Carnegie, Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan etc. the innovations of the Thomas Edison. This scientific and technological adventures coupled with entrepreneurial risks and innovations introduced by great businessmen pushed America toward a new industrial era and helped it develop as an industrial-economic power.
The history fabricated by many historians illustrates that late 19th century of American history is marked with the economic exploitations of “robber barons” that deprived American citizens of the potential benefits of industrialization and collected huge profits for themselves. But some of the great industrialist and businessmen of the 19th century America like Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller helped America to establish itself on sound economic footings and constructed huge infrastructures of banks, railroads, steel mills and cities etc.
Although these entrepreneurs were market oriented businessmen but whatever their ambitions and objectives were, they contributed in the industrial and business sector. Andrew Carnegie remained the greatest industrialist in American history. His entrepreneurial competencies and his business acumen were the foremost qualities that capacitated him to grasp every opportunity to build a well-advanced business empire. Livesays (1975) manifests that his ability “to recognize the potential of a new service or product and to seize upon an auspicious moment to associate himself with it.
Time and again he manifested this acumen, shifting his talents from factory to telegraph, from telegraph to railroad, from railroad to iron and then steel, meanwhile investing his money in express companies, oil fields, sleeping cars, and telegraphs before he finally fused his energies and capital in Carnegie Steel” (19). Rockefeller and Morgan were the other businessmen who set an impetus for heavy industry; mass production and merger of small industries. They further capitalized on the new ideas, activities of scientist and technologists like Edison whose experimentation revolutionized the industrial world.
Mergers and acquisitions were an important phenomenon that capacitated the American industry to grow by leaps and bounds. Morgan arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thompson-Houston Electric Company in 1892 and hence the great industrial conglomerate i. e. General Electric came into being. Morgan further established Federal Steel Company and later on merged it with Carnegie Steel Company. In 1901, he further assimilated many small steel and iron mills to establish the United States Steel Corporation.
In this perspective, life of the laborers in this industrial domain was subject to long working hours and dangerous working settings. Several of the policies of the industries had only obligations for the workers but there rights were never recognized and granted. This resulted in the low production output as workers were not satisfied. This background led many labourers to try to institute the rights of the workers in the form of labor unions regardless of well-organized resistance from entrepreneurs and the courts.
After the recognition of these labor unions, collective bargaining resulted in much improved wages and working conditions for the laborers as well the productivity. So the industrial development further progressed. So it is quite clear from the above-mentioned facts and supported arguments that American industrial and economic development in the last decades of the 19th century was primarily due to the endeavours of the great entrepreneurs, scientific and technological innovations and the emergence of labor unions.