The Robber Barons

American History 8th

February 10, 1997

When the names Carnagie, Rockefeller, and Pullman come to mind,
most of us automatically think of what we saw or read in our history
books: "These men were kind and generous and through hard work and
perseverance, any one of you could become a success story like them,"
right? Wrong. I am sick of these people being remembered for the two or
three "good deeds" they have done. Publicity and media have exaggerated
the generosity of these men, the government has spoiled these names with
false lies, and people have been blind to see that these men were
ruthless, sly businessmen who were motivated by your money and their
struggle for power.
George M. Pullman is best remembered for his contributions to the railroad
industry through the invention of his Pullman Cars. The cars sold well
and the railroad industry flourished with this new invention. Although
the success attached to his name, not many people know the real truth
behind this robber baron. His greed for money took him to extreme
measures as his workers were seriously mistreated and put under strict
restrictions. For instance, every worker had to live in his village
(Pullman, IL) and under no circumstances was anyone allowed to leave. The
people had to buy from his store, pay him rent, and attend work every day.
People who did not abide were heavily penalized by their name being
written on black book (which meant that this worker couldnít get a job in
any other industrial field). How many history books teach such in-depth
details like these?
Another prime example of the acts of a robber baron can be seen through
the actions of John D. Rockefeller. A picture in my history book shows a
group of people watching an old Rockefeller crouch over to accept a flower
from a little girl. The caption reads "John D. Rockefeller, American
industrialist and philanthropist, is caught doing one of his good deeds."
No wonder that only a handful of people canít distinguish that this old
man was a crock and deserves to rot in hell! With all this positive media
attention, the public had been fed lies! In real life, this money hungry,
greedy villain is the prime reason why the Sherman Antitrust Act was
passed. Rockefellerís dream was to monopolize the oiling industry, and he
so successfully did. Because of his great empire (the Standard Oil Co.)
and the wealth it brought, when any other competitor tried even to step
foot into the oiling industry, Rockefeller dropped his prices until the
rookie industry was forced out. After he !
regained monopoly, he then jacked up the prices. Sure, the people were
mad, but what could they do? Many other industries depended on the oil
that Rockefeller provided and besides, the Sherman Antitrust Act couldnít
be enforced with these big businesses growing larger and larger.
He donated over 2500 libraries worldwide, he helped establish the famous
concert hall in New York, and he helped finance several colleges in the
US. Can you guess who he is? Yes! Andrew Carnagie. Now how about this
person: In the early 1900s, in order to maintain control of the steel
industry, he bought out rival plants, he ran a self running holding
company which bough stock in itself in order to buy control of the
industry, and he also hired children (as young as 9 years old) to work
twelve hours a day under harsh, dangerous conditions and paid them the
lowest wages possible. Can you guess who he is now? As a matter of fact
it is our "American Hero" Andrew Carnagie! Carnagie did, for a fact, hire
children because they were "cheaper"; yet these same children were
sometimes required to run swing shifts which meant occasional 24 hour work
days.
It all too much of a commonality that these robber barons all share some
of the same traits: ruthlessness, mistreatment of their workers, greed for
money and power, and a Machiavelian way of doing business. With these
traits in mind, who can consider these men heroes? Itís the government
and the big businesses which want us to think that way. It can only be
them who portray these wicked as saints. But I am educated, and through
research and learning, I am thoroughly convinced that the people who our
America looks up to and admires, are a bunch of villains.