What is the Legacy of the Business Tycoons?
Business tycoons like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt had a huge role in spurring America’s industrial growth. Yet even today, historians debate the real legacy of those men.
Josephson (1899-1978) was the political and economic historian who coined the phrase ‘robber barons.’ Burton W. Folsom, Jr.
Folsom (born 1948) is a historian who has described the great businessmen of the time as entrepreneurs
“To organize and exploit the resources of a nation upon a gigantic scale… and to do this only in the name of an uncontrolled appetite for private profit – here surely is the great inherent contradiction whence so much disaster, outrage and misery has flowed.”
“In 1870, when Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, kerosene was 30 cents a gallon. Twenty years later, Rockefeller had almost 90 percent market share and kerosene was only eight cents a gallon. Customers were the real winners here, because Rockefeller’s size allowed him to cut costs…”
1. What is the basic difference between Folsom’s and Josephson’s views of these businessmen?
2. What do you think? Based on your reading and these two quotes do Business Tycoons deserve to be called Robber Barons or Captains of Industry?