The 1900s Business and the Economy: Headline Makers

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The 1900s Business and the Economy: Headline Makers

Andrew Carnegie
Eugene V. Debs
Henry Ford
William "Big Bill" D. Haywood
Andrew William Mellon
J. Pierpont Morgan
James Cash Penney
Charles Michael Schwab

Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) Scottish industrialist Andrew Carnegie became one of America's wealthiest men during the nineteenth century. By the 1870s his Carnegie Steel Corporation dominated the industry. He sold his majority holdings in the corporation in 1901 for $250 million. Believing that the rich had a duty to distribute their surplus wealth for the betterment of civilization, Carnegie became a philanthropist. He had given away 90 percent of his fortune by the time of his death, mostly to benefit educational institutions and to establish free public libraries.

Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926) Indiana native Eugene V. Debs was a tireless union organizer and a spokesperson on labor issues. In 1881, Debs was elected national secretary of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. He gained national attention during the 1894 strike against the Pullman Company when federal troops arrested Debs and other labor leaders. Debs soon embraced socialism as the answer to the workers' problems. Between 1900 and 1920 Debs was the Socialist Party's candidate in five presidential elections. While many workers admired Debs' vision, relatively few endorsed his political agenda.

Henry Ford (1863–1947) Industrialist Henry Ford pioneered production techniques that allowed for the high-volume manufacture of automobiles at low cost. His methods allowed middle- and working-class Americans to purchase their first cars and helped him build the first of the giant car companies. The Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903 and quickly prospered by building autos more efficiently and selling them more cheaply than other automakers. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford sold more than fifteen million Model T's, or "Tin Lizzies."

William "Big Bill" D. Haywood (1869–1928) Labor leader William "Big Bill" D. Haywood gained national attention in 1906 when he was jailed for his alleged involvement in the murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg. Haywood was later acquitted of the murder charge. Haywood became a leader of the Socialist Party of America and urged workers to practice sabotage and foster a revolution. He assumed control of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union in 1911. In 1917, he and other IWW leaders were found guilty of espionage and of violating the Sedition Act during World War I (1914–18). While released on bail, Haywood fled to the Soviet Union and lived the remainder of his life in exile.

Andrew William Mellon (1855–1937) Banker and financier Andrew William Mellon was one of the most important American capitalists during the first decade of the twentieth century. He honed his financial expertise while working at his father's banking house. Mellon built his own fortune by shrewdly judging businesses and constantly reinvesting profits in well-run businesses. Mellon provided many young companies with the capital they needed to become dominant, including the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), the Gulf Oil Corporation, and the Union Steel Company. In later life, Mellon became active in Republican politics and was a noted philanthropist. President Warren G. Harding appointed him Secretary of the Treasury.

J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) Banker J. Pierpont. Morgan headed J. P. Morgan and Company, the most important force in American finance in the quarter-century before World War I. Born into a wealthy family, Morgan turned his family's banking house into one of the most prosperous in the world. In 1901, he purchased Andrew Carnegie's steel interests, merging them with his own to form the world's largest company: the United States Steel Corporation. He was also involved in the formation of General Electric and International Harvester. Morgan was seen by many as the symbol of concentrated economic power or "trusts."

James Cash Penney (1875–1971) James Cash (J.C.) Penney became convinced that a chain of a department stores would be successful in 1899, when T. M. Callahan, a dry goods merchant, offered Penney the opportunity to purchase a one-third partnership in his Wyoming store. By 1907, Penney owned forty-eight stores across the country, with headquarters in New York City. His chain continued to expand so quickly that Penney opened an average of one new store every ten days for forty years. At his death, Penney's chain was the second-largest nonfood retailer in the country, after Sears, Roebuck and Company.

Charles Michael Schwab (1862–1939) Charles Michael Schwab began his career in the steel industry as an engineer's helper at the Thomson Steel Works during the 1880s. He rapidly rose within the Carnegie-owned company by using his management skills to solve labor disputes and public relations problems. In 1897, he was appointed president of the Carnegie Steel Company. Schwab purchased a controlling interest in the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1901 and merged it with U.S. Shipbuilding. Schwab built the company into U.S. Steel's greatest rival. Unsound investments late in his life led to the depletion of his fortune. He died insolvent in 1939.

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The 1900s Business and the Economy: Headline Makers

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The 1900s Business and the Economy: Headline Makers