Industrialisation Dbq: Captains of Industry or Robber Barons?

Amanda Watson
Mrs. Dwyer
AP US History Per. D
10 December 2010
Great Industrialists: Robber Barons or Captains of Industry?
There is no denying that the Captains of Industry took the country from being an agricultural nation to the industrial power that we are today. However, they did so at the price of the rights of the citizens, believing that they were “justifying the ends by the means” (Document L). The laborers under these monopolies suffered at the expense of the industrialization and the growth of the nation. While the industrialists of the late nineteenth century were influential in the building of the American culture, they proved to be unscrupulous “Robber Barons” who exploited and devalued the American laborers.
The major industrialists of the time, such as Carnegie, Frick, Hill, and Vandebilt, used unscrupulous, shifty means to achieve their ambitions. At a time when demands for steel were high and the markets were in short supply, Andrew Carnegie “showed little mercy, broke his contracts for delivery, and raised prices” (Document B). Carnegie also tried to win favor from the railroad companies, which would bring him a lot of business. To accomplish this, he purchased agents by allowing them a commission of as much as two dollars per ton – to a “reform” president of Santa Fe, as well as to many others, this was “simply stealing” (Document B). In addition, Carnegie attempted to eliminate competition by instilling monopoly prices. He joined secret peace conclaves between members of the steel industry, but eventually broke away from the alignment and fought for an even larger share of the trade. James Jerome Hill, another prominent industrialist of the time, was equally corrupt in obtaining success. He is suspected to have “deluged” (Document C) the Northwestern Legislatures with bribe money, though this has never been specifically proven. He supported the newspaper press in order to gain their favor, and “towns, cities, and countries were...