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Wealth Views of Carnegie, Bellamy, and Rockefeller

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In the late 19th century, the wealth was not well spread around the country. The poor were extremely poor, and the rich were extremely rich. Three men in particular held a large portion of the wealth, and many had different ideas on what to do with all that money. There was a wide range of viewpoints towards wealth in the late 19th century, and the viewpoints between Andrew Carnegie, Edward Bellamy, and John D. Rockefeller had substantial comparisons and contrasts that are crucial to our knowledge of today’s wealth in the economy. Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland in 1835. He moved with his family to Allegheny, Pennsylvania at age thirteen and began his career as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory. He then got a job as a Western Union messenger boy, then telegraph operator, and a series of more positions leading to become the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad on the Western side (Halsall). From there, he began a company that manufactured sleeping railway cars. He expanded his businesses to also create cars, bridges, and rails. In 1865 he began his first official company, the Keystone Bridge Company.

Then in 1873 he started up his steel works. Carnegie believed in partnerships in order for a successful business, not one head with many workers (Carnegie). He hired many young workers to help organize his steel company and it prospered. When he sold it to J.P. Morgan, the company was worth over four-hundred million dollars in the year 1901 (Dukcevich). Carnegie was also a positive philanthropist. He gave his money to projects that would benefit the social scene. More popularly, he funded libraries. It is believed that he funded nearly 3,000 libraries. “To resolve what might seem to be contradictions between the creation of wealth, which he saw as proceeding from immutable social laws, and social provision he came up with the notion of the ‘Gospel of Wealth.’” In 1889 Carnegie published this book. In it he discussed the moral obligations of the rich, arguing that those with money were merely “trustees” and their job was to spread the wealth that they had with everyone, promoting the welfare of the common man. By 1901, Carnegie was the richest man in the world with his peak wealth at $298.3 billion (Santoso). In addition to contributing to libraries, he also donated more than a hundred church organs to many communities.

He helped establish many schools, colleges, organizations, and associations not only in America but in his home country, Scotland, and around the globe. By the end of his life he had donated more than 350 million dollars to go towards books, and he spent more on trying to promote the welfare of those less fortunate (Dukcevich). Fifteen years after Carnegie was born, Edward Bellamy entered the world. Born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, Bellamy grew up as a preacher’s son. He grew up studying law but really strived to become a writer. He started writing for the newspaper, the Springfield Union, but later went on to write for the New York Post (McMillan). After reading The Cooperative Commonwealth: An Exposition of Modern Socialism by Laurence Gronlund, Bellamy became a socialist. He published several novels, such as The Duke of Stockbridge, Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process, and Miss Ludington’s sister. His ideas encouraged what became the Nationalist Clubs (Halsall). One of his most influential books, Looking Backward, had many unique themes showing his beliefs and opinions. This book was a fictional story that took place in the year 2000 and was a Utopian Society.

In this novel, industrialization was viewed as “potential benefactors, rather than enemies.” Also it is written that “society could be changed peacefully through evolution, education, and persuasion. It would thus be by the will of the people that all the means of production and distribution could gradually be consolidated under government control.” This means that Edward believes in the government having the power to lay out ideas of common interest in hopes that the country agrees and works toward common goals as a whole. Bellamy encourages people in his book to work for pride instead of money as well. He believes in working towards the benefit of all, rather than the benefit of oneself. His book is impressive in making predictions towards the future, such as suggesting today’s credit card and receipt system. Bellamy sold millions of copies of his books and helped give rise to the Nationalist Clubs, who worked to improve the country and raise patriotism. John D. Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York in 1839; he was four years younger than Carnegie and eleven years older than Bellamy. He was born into a poor family and learned to work hard to get what he wanted. By the age of 13 he had loaned $50 to a neighbor and charged interest, earning a profit while so young (McMillan).

He was very good at math and was an extremely bright student growing up. He went into business early by starting the company Clark and Rockefeller Produce and Commission, selling farm supplies; however, Rockefeller desired more wealth. He heard from Samuel Andrews of a better and cheaper way to refine petroleum. He sold his original business and invested the money into his new company, Standard Oil. The company had a rocky start but picked up quickly and within a year, four out of his thirty competitors were gone, as they had lost all their business (McMillan). Soon, Rockefeller’s competition had the options of being sold to Standard Oil, or being put out of business by the huge company. By 1980, his monopoly was so huge; he controlled 90% of America’s kerosene (Tamny). He could get his own prices and rules because there weren’t many competitors. At his peak at the age of 75, Rockefeller’s wealth was at 318.3 billion dollars (Santoso). But, being the devout Baptist he was, he tithed it all and gave over $500 million to fund medical research, universities, and churches (Tamny). These three men have many similarities and many differences.

Overall, Rockefeller and Carnegie were the most similar in the way that they both desired wealth and began their own businesses as entrepreneurs to make that dream come true. These two were two of the richest men of their time, even two of the richest in history (Santoso). They both gave tremendous amounts of money as well, funding different groups and organizations. Rockefeller especially helped advance our knowledge in medical research and Carnegie greatly expanded the public library system. In contrast to these two, Bellamy didn’t contribute quite as much money but he did contribute plenty of knowledge and ideas. The theory in his novels helped advance today’s banking and credit card systems and his book, Looking Backward, inspired people all over. These three men all made huge impacts in American society in different ways, and what they’ve contributed have proven to be immensely important. There was a variety of viewpoints towards wealth in the late 19th century, and the viewpoints between Andrew Carnegie, Edward Bellamy, and John D. Rockefeller had many similarities and differences that are useful to apply to today’s economy. The inspiration these men contributed is irreplaceable, and through their writings and donations they have helped America gain character and personality. Though they are different, they are very much the same in the way that they sought improvement and did something about it.

Works Cited

Carnegie, Andrew. “Wealth,” North American Review, 148, no. 391 (June 1889):
653, 657¬62 Dukcevich, Davide. “Andrew Carnegie- Most Influential Businessmen.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 15 Mar. 2004. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. . Halsall, Paul. “Modern History Sourcebook.” Internet History Sourcebooks. Fordham University, Aug. 1997. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. . McMillan, Peter. “Edward Bellamy, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie.” Spartacus Educational. Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. . Santoso, Alex. “10 Richest People of All Time.” Neatorama. Tech Media Network, 9 July 2008. Web. 8 Feb. 2013. . Tamny, John. “What John D. Rockefeller Can Tell Us.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 21 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2013. .

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