Did You Know? Captains Of Industry

  • Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

A recent article in the continuing historical journey of former residences of the Cameron Hill area of Chattanooga used the term “Captains of Industry.”

Said phrase has nothing to do with military service or yachting.

It is used in a positive way by describing some 19th century industrialists who expanded the American economy from around 1870-1900 in the “Gilded Age” description of Mark Twain's 1873 novel of the same name.

John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie are the most famous individuals who obtained fabulous fortunes in the Second Industrial Revolution that caused a substantial economic expansion in America in the pre-income tax era in the fields of railroads, steel factories and the coal mining industry.

Many were philanthropists and made massive positive contributions to society primarily in the field of education.

However, the term “robber barons” was also applied to them all by detractors for their often aggressive and sometimes unethical methods.

The term “robber barons” dates back to the Middle Ages and suggests the use of unethical methods to eliminate their competitors and develop monopolies in their particular industry to remove barriers in the primarily unregulated government era.

Their positive accomplishments and negative detractions are in dispute but their reputations for accumulating great wealth is a trait that greatly exceeded in comparison to any of the present day billionaires such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, etc.

Tennessee and Hamilton County probably have had participants in both categories from a historical perspective.

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You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

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