The Gilded Age was an era from the late 1800s to the early 1900s when business began to grow at a rapid rate. This era was known for the great amount of corruption taking place in the political world. Mark Twain first came up with the term Gilded Age to describe how America appeared to be perfect on the exterior, but it was truly rotten on the inside. The most important event that happened during this period of time was the development of the United States' economy due to the quick growth of large corporations. Furthermore, many important businessmen, like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller, significantly influenced the American population during this age.
One of the most essential reasons as to why the economy began to develop at such a rapid rate was the establishment of large corporations. They played a huge role in the advancement of industrial production. Some of the most important corporations were the Carnegie Steel Corporation, Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company, and The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company. Rockefeller controlled 90% of oil refineries in the United States and Carnegie's Steel Corporation produced about 25% of steel in America. Many of the entrepreneurs who owned these corporations were seen as robber barons, due to the fact that they lacked morality and ethics. They would often find ways to get rid of or take over competitor companies. According to The Gospel of Wealth, a set of articles written by Carnegie, entrepreneurs would perform these cruel strategies for the greater good of the country. The triumph of these notorious companies can be credited to two tactics known as vertical and horizontal integration. Carnegie was well-known for using vertical integration. On the other hand, Rockefeller used horizontal integration. Furthermore, the expansion and growing of these corporations was due to the lack of interference from the government because of the laissez-fair policy. The federal government would also provide support to these large corporations.
During the Gilded Age there were many important entrepreneurs who shaped the industrial economy. They influenced society as a whole with their views on wealth and the economy. Some of the most renowned captains of industry were Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and George Pullman. They all shared strong beliefs in the accumulation of wealth. However, Andrew Carnegie's opinions were the most well-known. Carnegie wrote a set of articles known as The Gospel of Wealth in which he explained his views on wealth and the economy. Carnegie strongly believed in philanthropy, the act of giving money to causes that will benefit society in the long run. The rest of the businessmen also stood by this act. Carnegie gave away 90% of his wealth to establish libraries, and universities and Rockefeller had part in the founding of the University of Chicago. These notorious entrepreneurs also believed that the less fortunate where in that position because they did not work hard enough or they did not have enough motivation. The businessmen thought that the underprivileged citizens deserved to be in that situation, and that they were unworthy of any help if they did not work for it. The beliefs and views of the captains of industry had a great effect on how society viewed the economy. They're beliefs continue to inspire many businessmen to this day.
Of course, not everyone agreed with the tactics used by these entrepreneurs, so Hebert Spencer came up with the theory of Social Darwinism to defend their merciless strategies. Social Darwinism was a theory that justified the actions of robber barons. It stated that survival of the fittest applied to business. Basically, it meant that they had the right to mistreat their workers and take over companies because they had demonstrated to be better than everyone else. This helped the businessmen defend themselves to the public. In their eyes their behavior was not morally wrong. This theory was also used to prove how African Americans were inferior to them. Many citizens applied Social Darwinism in any situation that they would be benefited from.
The Gilded Age was a very significant era in history. It helped transform the economy with the help of large corporations. The captains of industry played a huge role during this era. Whether they were seen as captains of industry or robber barons, they revolutionized not only the country's economy, but also people's views on wealth. They set an example that is still followed by many billionaires today.
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