History plays a really important role in understanding the basics of any concept. And the same goes for Economics and Entrepreneurship. That’s why we really need a discussion on how the foundation of the Modern Economy, as we see now, was laid. Since we can definitely see how the complete modern economy indirectly runs through the United States of America, we should start with the first group of entrepreneurs who built that foundation and expanded the American economy to what it is.
By the culmination of the American Civil War, the nation was in pieces. In the years following the war, new industries arose which slowly reassembled the shards together to create the vision of Modern-day America, expanding to the modern world by now.
The men who were a part of rebuilding the country were Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford.
At a young age of 11, Cornelius Vanderbilt quit school and started a small ferry business. Subsequently, he got in with an influential business family in those days, the Gibbons, and bought a steamboat. Little by little, he gained the control of the ferry lines across the city and made a stealthy monopoly by having underhanded deals with the competitors. By now, he understood the fact that the future of transport was in railroads and thus he expanded into that sector. And slowly, with his monopolies and shady deals, he created an empire standing on railroads, steamboats and ocean liners.
John D Rockefeller, born to a con artist, started off as a bookkeeper. With some experience, he went on to set up a produce company, and using the profits from that, built an oil refinery. Escalating that post the civil war, we saw Standard Oil being established. Buying off other companies, employing dubious tactics, and expanding to all petroleum resources, “Standard” became an invincible juggernaut in the American economy.
Andrew Carnegie started off as a telegraph operator and since telegraph and railroad were linked in the early days, he shot up the ladder in the railroad company and earned enough money to invest in businesses. He slowly ballooned his influence from railroad and telegraph to steel and oil. He slowly turned it into a steel empire, lastly becoming the wealthiest man in the World.
Henry Ford is probably the most prominent amongst these five. He was the guy who turned the automobile from a curiosity to a must-have. He used to work for the Edison company, later on starting his first company, Detroit Automobile Company; and left it to start the Henry Ford company (Which, by the way, is now Cadillac) and subsequently, left it to start the Ford Motor Company with which he made his mark. His Ford Model T, built with the Assembly line system (which can be credited to him), made the Automobile an affordable entity for the common man. In a way, Henry Ford changed America much more significantly than anyone else while making a lot of money off it.
JP Morgan, an American financier and banker changed the economics of the country in the late part of the 19th century. Playing vital roles in the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomas Houston Electric Company and forming General Electric; in the establishment of the United States Steel Corporation, International Harvesters and AT&T. Being the leading financer in the “Progressive Era” which would be our main focus on our next article, he helped transform the American Business.