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Robber Barons

Rutherford Hayes

Robber Barons: Rutherford Hayes was the 19th American President who served in office from March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881. One of the important events during his presidency were the increasing power of the Robber Barons.

Definition and Summary of the Robber Barons
Summary and definition:
The term 'Robber Barons' was a derogatory term applied to powerful, wealthy industrialists, the captains of industry who monopolized the railroads, the steel industry, the tobacco industry, the oil industry and the financiers who controlled the banks and used unfair business practices.

The Robber Barons emerged during the United States Industrial Revolution of the 1800's. The Robber Barons changed the lives of Americans forever, bringing about complex social and economic changes that led to riots, strikes and the emergence of the unions.

The Rise of the Robber Barons for kids: The Great American Capitalists
The Robber Barons amassed wealth and power during the period of intense economic and industrial growth following the American Civil War. The Robber Barons were businessmen, the great American Capitalists, who created massive business organizations, known as trusts, that enabled them to monopolize major industries which gave them the power to regulate the supply and price of products and commodities - refer to Rise of Big Business and Corporations. It was a turbulent time in American history when the super-rich 'Robber Barons' took their ruthless control over major industries that sparked demonstrations protests from workers that resulted in riots and strikes in the towns and cities of the United States during the US Industrial Revolution.

Robber Barons Definition
Robber Barons Definition: These men earned the title of 'Robber Barons' due to their greed and ruthlessness, their unethical business practices, unscrupulous tactics and their total lack of concern for their workers, their customers or their competitors.

Robber Barons or Captains of Industry?
Were these powerful men Robber Barons or did they deserve respect for being 'Captains of Industry'. The Captains of Industry were also entrepreneurs. But the Captains of Industry were not just motivated by money, they were also philanthropists who not only made a significant contribution to the nation but also to the welfare of American citizens.

The Power of the Robber Barons
The power of the Robber Barons grew. They could not, or would not, be controlled by the federal government during their heyday. The lack
of government regulation resulted in new forms of ruthless corporations and companies headed by the 'Robber Barons'. Their goal was to increase their profits and they resorted to any methods to achieve their objectives.

  • The Robber Barons cared little for the working conditions and safety of their employees.

  • The Robber Barons kept wages at a minimum, and reduced wages as they felt fit.

  • Many families were on the breadline and their children were also forced to work to enable them to survive.  

  • Workers were forced to work long hours

  • Workers were banned from joining unions or labor movements by the Robber Barons

  • Robber Barons used bribery and corruption to gain support from politicians and government officials

  • Some Robber Barons manipulated the stock market

  • The Robber Barons made it impossible for competitors to survive as they monopolized the major industries 

Effect and Impact of Robber Barons on the Workers
Whilst the Robber Barons enjoyed opulent and luxurious lifestyles, many of their workers survived in appalling housing and suffered a poor standard of living - refer to the article on the Industrialization in America. Workers demonstrated and mounted protests. Some formed workers organizations and unions. The Robber Barons were unsympathetic and ignored the demands of the workers which led to civil unrest involving riots, strikes and bombings. The federal government supported the Robber Barons sent out US troops to quell the uprisings. 
For additional facts refer to the History of Urbanization in America.

Who were the Robber Barons?: List of Robber Barons and Captains of Industry for kids
A list of the Robber Barons and Captains of Industry are detailed below
. The facts and information will allow you to decide which of these men were Robber Barons or one of the Captains of Industry and whether they were supporters or against the Theory of Social Darwinism.

Andrew Carnegie: Steel: Andrew Carnegie (18351919), was a steel magnate, self-made businessman and millionaire. In 1892 the workers called a strike at his steel plant in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Carnegie and Henry Frick hired Pinkerton men  to break up the strike leading to violent confrontations. Andrew Carnegie was also a Philanthropist and donated towards the expansion of the New York Public Library and wrote and article called the 'Gospel of Wealth' describing the responsibility of philanthropy by the wealthy to further social progress.

Henry Clay Frick: Steel: Henry Clay Frick (1849 1919) was chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company who also financed the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He donated his collection of old master paintings to create the Frick Collection and art museum

Charles M. Schwab: Steel: Charles Schwab (1862 1939) was an American steel magnate who built Bethlehem Steel. He led the typical luxurious, opulent lifestyle of a Robber Baron. Schwab Schwab was an inveterate gambler and gained fame as the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo. He lost his money in the stock market crash of 1929.

James Fisk: Stockbroker: James Fisk (18341872) was a stockbroker who, with his partner Jay Gould, attempted to corner the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange which led to the Black Friday Scandal. James Fisk was vilified for his unethical business dealings and was murdered on January 6, 1872 in New York City.

Jay Gould: Jay Gould (1836 1892) was an unscrupulous railroad developer stockbroker and speculator who also obtained a controlling interest in the Western Union telegraph company.

Charles Crocker: Railroad: Charles Crocker (1822 1888) was a railroad industrialist who founded the Central Pacific Railroad and a one time president of Wells Fargo.

Franklin B. Gowen: Railroad: Franklin Gowen (1836 - 1889) was the president of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad and the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company. Gowen was infamous for his involvement in labor disputes during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and played a major role in the downfall of the Molly Maguires.

George Pullman: Railroad: George Pullman (1831 1897) designed the Pullman sleeping car. He founded a company town for his workers, Pullman City which gave him the reputation of one of the compassionate Captains of Industry. Following the Panic of 1893 George Pullman cut wages and jobs and increased working hours which led to the violent dispute known as the Pullman Strike.

Cornelius Vanderbilt : Railroad and Steamboats: Cornelius Vanderbilt (17941877) was one of the richest men in America and a famous Philanthropist. Although recognized as one of the Captains of Industry he was a ruthless capitalist who cut shipping rates forcing his competitors out of business

Leland Stanford: Railroad: Leland Stanford (1824 1893) was a ruthless industrialist but was also the founder of Stanford University. He was famous as one of "Big Four" of the Transcontinental Railroad along with Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins.

Mark Hopkins: Railroad: Mark Hopkins, Jr. (18131878) created the "New England Mining and Trading Company" during the California Gold Rush and became one of the " Big Four"

Henry Bradley Plant: Railroad and Steamboats: Henry Plant (1819 - 1899) was a tycoon who made his money in transportation via steamboats and railroads. He also invested in hotels

J.P. Morgan: Finance and Banking: J.P. Morgan (18371913) was a leading financier and banker. During the Panic of 1873 he bailed out the federal government by loaning the Treasury $65 million dollars in gold.

Daniel Drew: Railroads, Steamships and banker: The reputation of Daniel Drew (1797 1879) was ruined when he introduced "watered stock" to Wall Street consisting of company shares that were issued by false means including counterfeit stock certificates

John D. Rockefeller: Petrol and Oil: John D. Rockefeller (18391937) was the head of the Standard Oil Company and used much of his fortune to fund many philanthropic causes. However Rockefeller was ruthless and used questionable tactics which gained him enemies.

US American History
1866-1881: Reconstruction Era
Labor Unions History

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