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 I-Chapter 6 : Early industrialists  Index & Introduction :   Previous  1 2  Next

Iron foundries and mines continued to be favorite industrial ventures. Anson Greene Phelps started a successful metal trading concern in New York City and subsequently branched out into the copper and brass smelting business in Connecticut, where Ansonia was named for him. Under the guidance of his sons-in-law William Earl Dodge and Daniel James, and later his grandsons Daniel Willis James and William Earl Dodge jr, the Phelps Dodge company grew into a major copper mining concern with many other industrial interests, including lumber yards and saw mills. Peter Cooper made an initial fortune manufacturing glue and then invested the proceeds in the Trenton Iron Works, near Baltimore. From there he moved on to manufacture the first American locomotive and later became a key factor in the telegraph industry. Long before the steel industry grew in Western Pennsylvania, the Colemans developed their Cornwall iron ore mines and built furnaces close-by and in Lebanon Pa.

As a nation born in war, the United States of America early understood the importance of a local armory industry. Thus Eli Whitney successfully developed the Springfield Armory after failing to struck wealth with his cotton gin. Others like Eliphalet Remington, Samuel Colt and Oliver Winchester followed in his footsteps, growing a firearms production complex in Connecticut, which was to 19th century manufacturing what Silicon Valley is to computer technology today. And in the quiet Brandywine valley of Northern Delaware, the son of a French immigrant started the gunpowder works that would once become the largest chemical company in the world and make his family the richest in America : E.I. Du Pont de Nemours.

Thus government orders for army supplies sponsored both the manufacturing sector and the early chemical industries. Soon these technologies were applied to more civilian uses, from clock-making, printing presses to the vast array of agricultural instruments (Mc Cormick reapers, Deere plows and their competitors' products), soap and candle works, such as William Colgate's in New York and Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. The Lorillards produced and marketed tobacco in ever larger quantities and the Havemeyers launched the largest sugar refining plants in Brooklyn, reengineering an industry that had already made the fortunes of the Van Cortlandts, the Bayards and the Roosevelts in colonial New York. With the manufacturing came a spirit of engineering, which brought always new machines and useful devices that more and more organized plants turned out in quantities for the merchants to market. Singer sewing machines revolutionized household garment production as much as the reaper did agriculture. Heavy manufacturing plants were built to turn out locomotives and axles for the rapidly growing railroads and soon American locomotives from Baldwin or Norris were exported worldwide.

In 30 years from 1820, the value of manufacturing multiplied fivefold from just over $ 60 million to $ 300 million. In the same time pig iron production rose to 600'000 gross tons and railroad mileage was extended to 30'000. But this was just the beginning of a drama that was still to come. The industrial spirit which more and more supplanted mercantilism would tower during the Gilded Age in unprecedented concentration of wealth, as the ever larger manufacturing plants were merged into the almighty trusts.

Early industrialists  Index & Introduction :   Previous  1 2  Next  

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Early American Industrialists
 

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