A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Part II : The Gilded Age  >   Introduction and Index :  Previous  1 2 - 3 - 45 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9  Next

The Gilded Age was also the age of steel. Needed first for the vast extension of the country's railroad network, steel was the pillar of the U.S. industrialization during the second part of the 19th century. Technically the steel industry was based on the introduction of the Bessemer process. The champions of Bessemer steel were Andrew Carnegie and his handpicked team of partners and managers, including Henry Phipps, Alexander Holley, Captain Bill Jones, and later Charles Schwab and William Corey. One of the main Carnegie partners was Henry Clay Frick, who also dominated the coke industry at Connellsville, Pennsylvania.

Steel was one of the most capital intensive industries and only the strongest companies could support the necessary continuous modernization and extension of the plants. A profitable business and essential component of the industrial revolution, steel soon became the coveted turf of some of the major corporate consolidators. John Warne Gates built the American Steel & Wire Company, grouping most of the country's wire mills under one umbrella. He also participated with Jay C. Morse in the consolidation of three major Chicago plants into Illinois Steel. J. Pierpont Morgan hired Judge Elbert Henry Gary to manage his Federal Steel Company and the Moore brothers from Chicago created several steel product trusts.

Both the Moores and J.D. Rockefeller made attempts to takeover Carnegie Steel toward the end of the 1890's, working through Henry Clay Frick. But is was Morgan, who finally clinched the deal with Carnegie and managed to organize the giant United States Steel corporation in 1901. With a capitalization of 1.4 billion dollars, U.S. Steel was apotheosis of the trust movement. Within a few years, the giant group took over Gates' wire trust, Rockefeller's Mesabi iron properties and the Mellon's Union Sharon Steel company. Charles Schwab was made the first president of U. S. Steel, but he resigned after just three years, took over Bethlehem Steel and built it into a major rival.

With the growth of American cities and the relentless push of modern civilization to the very edges of the frontier, a new sector of services known as "public utilities" emerged. Public utilities roughly comprised telecommunications, street railways an gas or electricity suppliers. Telecommunications started with the telegraph lines, whose early promoters included Ezra Cornell and Hiram Sibley. Their Western Union Telegraph company soon had the reputation of a stable investment held by many of the richest capitalists, including the Astors and the Vanderbilts. Through a series of merger transactions, Jay Gould and Russell Sage gained control during the 1880's.

These robber barons, already among the leading railroad tycoons, soon also controlled the Manhattan Elevated railways. During the 1890's, a group of New York and Philadelphia capitalists consolidated the street railways in both cities and reaped huge profits. They were William Collins Whitney, Thomas Fortune Ryan, Anthony Nicholas Brady, Peter A. B. Widener and George Lukens Elkins. With the profits from their street railway transactions, these men took large positions in gas and electricity companies, mining enterprises, the nascent automobile industry and the American Tobacco trust. There they sided with James Buchanan Duke, who invested a sizeable part of his tobacco millions into the Duke Power utility.

The Gilded Age  >   Introduction and Index :  Previous  1 2 - 3 - 45 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9  Next

The Mining Bonanza Kings

The Railroad Barons

The Trusts



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