American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900
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In this grand-scale narrative history, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands brilliantly portrays the emergence, in a remarkably short time, of a recognizably modern America.
American Colossus captures the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century, when a few breathtakingly wealthy businessmen transformed the United States from an agrarian economy to a world power. From the first Pennsylvania oil gushers to the rise of Chicago skyscrapers, this spellbinding narrative shows how men like Morgan, Carnegie, and Rockefeller ushered in a new era of unbridled capitalism. In the end America achieved unimaginable wealth, but not without cost to its traditional democratic values.
particular quarter section. For several months the young man kept other claimants away with the assertion that he was holding it for his brother-in-law, who was coming from Iowa. But as more people arrived in that county, his ruse wore thin. He was tempted to lie about his age and file a preemption claim. But should his lie become known, his claim would be revoked and he would lose the improvements he made to the property. He had a female friend, however, the daughter of a neighbor, who agreed to
those classes that would benefit most might blanch at its implications. “It is difficult for workingmen to get over the idea that there is a real antagonism between capital and labor. It is difficult for small farmers and homestead owners to get over the idea that to put all taxes on the value of land would be to tax them unduly. It is difficult for both classes to get over the idea that to exempt capital from taxation would be to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer.” Such resistance simply
railroads—the farmers could easily believe that capitalism was failing them. Or perhaps they were failing capitalism. Either way, capitalism had to be radically transformed. The obvious means was democracy. Farmers didn’t reach this conclusion all together or all at once. Many, viewing their problems as chiefly economic, at first sought to tackle them by economic means. With capitalists consolidating into trusts, and workers into trade unions, many farmers sought to consolidate into
weak. They see wealth and poverty side by side. They note great inequality of social position and social chances. They eagerly set about the attempt to account for what they see, and to devise schemes for remedying what they do not like. In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration, they forget all about the rights of other classes, they gloss over the faults of the classes in question, and they exaggerate their misfortunes and their virtues. They invent
amount of business for the time—sixty carloads of refined oil products per day—in exchange for a discount. Because railroads, as Gould explained more than once to Ulysses Grant, chronically suffered from seasonal swings in demand for transport, the guarantee of a Rockefeller trainload per day, season in and season out, was worth a lot of money. Rockefeller told the Lake Shore just how much it was worth: 75¢ per barrel, deducted from the posted price of $2.40. The Lake Shore agreed. Both parties