The Men Who Built America: Remembering The Gilded Age Part 4

Tyler Durden's picture

In the final part of History Channel's four-part series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here) we see how these five men - John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan - led the way from Civil War to the Great Depression and through to World War I. Whether for better or worse; for richer or poorer, in ethical and societal sickness or health, railroads, oil, steel and electricity had all been harnessed in less than 50 years, but the face of America was changing and would never be the same.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Caged Monkey's picture

I just wanted to bust my comment nut near the top of the comment section.


That is all.

DJ Happy Ending's picture

If it weren't for the gilded age, we would not have dildos and vibrators sold in the rubbers aisle at every grocery store in America.

blabam's picture

What's up with all the bombastic music? And the constant repetitions of prior stated facts. American TV sucks. 

prains's picture

YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING there's a part fucking 4

Paul Bogdanich's picture

Well stated.  Right over a lovely portrait of Marie Antionette.  

So I'm reading this book Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon S. Wolin and he said, "To believe that those in power can make their own reality at will is a sure recepie for losing touch with reality.  These are not miscalculations but, in the literal sense, acts of willfulness, of overreaching, that are encouraged by assumptions not only about one's power but about the nature of reality."  

While the bit I just quoted was a redacted quote about the Bush administration whom the author lovingly referrs to as "George the II" it equally applies to the federal reserve and the other insane policies of the Obama administration does it not?

Also before I suffer all the adhominym (is that how you spell it) attacks I am a terrible speller.  Always have been.  The psychiatrists say it is because I think whole word and not phonetically and I don't have my editors checking these posts unlike my professional correspondence.  So please forgive the lack of form and do try and concentrate on the substance won't you? 



Bananamerican's picture

mebbe your daddy Obama can change your diaper for you LIBERALLLLLZZZ...

sorry, had to bust my Foxtard nut near the top of the stack....

As to these Broad shouldered he-man geniuses of kapitalism, why, there are a never-ending stream of them, 

shining out like shafts of gold when all around it is be sure

SeventhCereal's picture

They didn't build anything as much as they stole it, with free labor and theft of natural resources.  It is no coincidence that as soon as those activities ceased, the zenith and decline occurred shortly after.

The most troubling part when I walk into a store like louis vuoitton, burberry, chanel, etc is that I'm buying stolen goods that are being sold back to me at a marked up price.  Naturally, I avoid buying anything from those symbols of imperialism and anyone that coerces me is bound to get a mouth full of a history lesson.

midtowng's picture

Did this TV series talk about how they used to work children 12-hour days and shoot strikers down?

Trimmed Hedge's picture

Is it really necessary to show things 15 times in these??

I'll take PBS anytime, thanks..

Bananamerican's picture

the "magic" is IN the repetition....

just remember who built amerika....It wasn't you.

You didn't build that.

It was Them.

They built that.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Repeat lies the lies until people believe them to be true.

Kitler's picture

With the exception of Henry Ford, 'They' didn't build that.


List of businessmen who were called robber barons


CH1's picture

Wait, people got rich by BUILDING things in those days?


Uber Vandal's picture

Don't forget all of the government graft involved in builiding the railroads.

The waste was monumental, even by today's standards.

CH1's picture

The Great Northern excepted, of course.

A Nanny Moose's picture

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Sparkey's picture

Like ALL words, it means what YOU think it means!

Pseudo Anonym's picture

it didnt stay away, there was hardly any gov't to speak of then; that's the +ve diff

Squid-puppets a-go-go's picture

do you really think there was no govt assistance in securing the land on which the railway is routed?

Pseudo Anonym's picture

the gov't didnt stay away; however, being small, the gov't infringement was limited; thus, the damage to property rights was limited;  that was the positive diff

Bananamerican's picture

"It shows what's possible when government stays out of the way. "

you poor dumb Randian bastards...

When government stays completely out of the way you have despotism and "Gilded age" Feudalism.

When government is completely involved you have despotism AND "Gilded age" Feudalism..

There is a middle requires a more or less Moral/"Sobered by Experience" society to pull off but....

Try building a metropolis with no traffic lights "in the way" and let me know how it all works out......

then try placing them every 10 feet.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Are you saying that traffic lights are the only thing preventing drivers from crashing into eachother, and complete chaos on the streets?

IDK about you, but I prefer being able to drive my car to work the next day, not smashing my face in with an airbag, and not crushing my legs within the "crumple zones."

CH1's picture

When government stays completely out of the way you have despotism and "Gilded age" Feudalism.

Wow... you really don't know history.

Or, rather, you believed the bullshit the schools fed you.

Bananamerican's picture

"Wow... you really don't know history"...said the Gorilla

Caviar Emptor's picture

America still lives in the long shadow of the gilded age. The model once worked. There's a price to be paid for resisting change

SnobGobbler's picture


price...?!  all I can envision is banker scum hanging from "gallows of change".

FUCK all of them except that pro nazi henry ford, he sucked them instead..

DavidPierre's picture


In the first of many attempts to grab Russian oil reserves, robber baron John D. Rockefeller sends large sums of money to Lenin and Trotsky in an attempt to topple the Czar, who won't let Rockefeller have the goodies. Rockefeller's goal is to instigate and control the first Communist revolution in Russia and then get his hands on the oil with the connivance of the grateful revolutionaries.

The major bankers, including America's most ruthless robber barons, begin conspiring to establish a privately-owned central bank which will create and control the U.S. money supply, effectively giving the robber barons almost complete control of the U.S. economy. Among the conspirators are J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, the Rothschilds and Paul Warburg.

In a particularly devious plot to build public and political support for a central bank, Morgan publishes rumors that many American banks are insolvent, creating a run on the banks. The smaller banks then have to call in loans in order to repay their depositors, forcing borrowers to sell their properties for a pittance.

The result is a spiral of bankruptcy leading to the financial collapse of 1907.

The collapse is duly followed by a Senate commission which, by amazing coincidence, determines that a central bank, exactly as envisioned by the men who had brought about the collapse in the first place, is the answer to all these little financial difficulties. By another amazing coincidence, the Senate commission is headed by none other than Nelson Aldrich, a man deep in the bankers' deep pockets and soon to be married into the Rockefeller family.

A happy side effect of the Panic of 1907, as with all other panics, depressions and financial collapses, is that the boys in the back room, the Rockefellers, Morgans, Rothschilds, Warburgs and their clubmates, can swoop down and pick up the wreckage of their smaller competitors' banks for a fraction of their previous worth, consolidating their control of the banking industry.

"The Morgan interests took advantage
to precipitate the panic (of 1907),
guiding it shrewdly as it progressed."

Fredrik Allen, Life Magazine

Yes_Questions's picture



That's why we hate them.

Pseudo Anonym's picture

let me chime in again on this:

the Rothschilds and Paul Warburg.

section hofjuden:


adr's picture

The story that should be taught to every student in America. Sadly it never will.

Wish I could give the post 1000 up arrows.

palmereldritch's picture

History is written by the victors...or in the case of The Gilded Age...the patrons.

Invariably, when you take things to will encounter snakes

"The image of the traveling snake oil salesman of 19th century America is by now a familiar trope. It is the image of the heartless huckster who preys upon the trust of the general public to swindle them out of their hard-earned savings. With a bottle of useless tonic and the help of a plant in the audience, the snake oil salesman made a living out of lies and deceit.

In these respects, William Levingston was your average snake oil salesman.

He used a made-up title, billing himself as “Dr. Bill Levingston, Celebrated Cancer Specialist” despite being neither a doctor nor celebrated nor a cancer specialist.

He was an inveterate cheat and liar, having abandoned his first wife and their six children to start a bigamous marriage in Canada at the same time as he fathered two more children by a third woman.

And like every snake oil salesman, he had a cure-all tonic to hock. He called it Rock Oil and charged $25 a bottle for it, equivalent at the time to two months’ salary for the average American worker. Claiming it could cure all but the most terminal cancers, there were always desperate souls in every town who could be duped into buying a bottle.

As near as anyone can tell, “Rock Oil” was in fact just a mixture of laxative and petroleum and had no effect whatsoever on the cancer of the poor townsfolk he conned into buying it. But “Dr. Bill” didn’t have to worry about the consequences when his customers discovered they’d been had; he never stayed in any one place for very long.

Yes, in almost every respect, William Levingston was your run-of-the-mill snake oil huckster, someone who had no compunction about preying on the weak and the innocent in his pursuit of wealth and power.

There was one thing that set him apart however. His name was not in fact “Levingston.” That was an identity he had assumed after being indicted for raping a girl in Cayuga in 1849. His actual name was William Avery Rockefeller, and he was the father of John D. Rockefeller, founder of the infamous Rockefeller dynasty.

The official histories of the Rockefeller family, many commissioned or approved by the Rockefellers themselves or produced by public television stations owned and managed by family members, downplay the significance of the dynasty’s snake oil lineage. John D., they claim, was the opposite of his father: pious and industrious where his father had been wayward and lazy, philanthropic and generous where his father had been selfish and greedy. In reality, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and John D. learnt a lot from his father.

Devil Bill,” as the “Celebrated Dr. Bill Levingston” was also known, once bragged that “I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ‘em sharp.” The young Rockefeller learnt his lesson well, and by all accounts John was smart, shrewd and possessed of a maturity beyond his years. From his father’s example, he learned how to lie, how to cheat, and how to get away with it, traits that served him well as he rose to become one of the richest men the world has ever known.

Like his father, John Davison Rockefeller made his fortune by hocking another type of snake oil. In the early 1860s he built an oil refinery with some business partners in Cleveland. By 1880, Standard Oil was refining 90% of the oil in America, rising on the back of John D.’s deceit, backstabbing and secret deals with the railroad tycoons. With the acute business acumen of a born-and-bred snake oil salesman, Rockefeller became unimaginably wealthy by exerting ruthless control over the oil industry."

yellowsub's picture

You forget that our public education system doesn't actually teach...

Then again, you think millions of Americans care?!

Atomizer's picture

U.S. borrows 46 cents of every dollar it spends. This guy in the WH, who attracts house flies, cannot construct a budget plan. I gander this Piece Of Shit Public Servant, who is the President of the United States thinks his actions don’t create a reaction. Time will tell!

the iD's picture

evil hearted men

did a shitty job building,

this house is crumbling.

adr's picture

Don't forget that the government broke up Standard Oil into 38 different corproations but gave Rockefeller a controlling interest in the stock of all of them. Instead of one corproation's shares increasing in value, Rockefeller got shares of what would end up being hundreds. He became wealthier after the breakup of Standard Oil.

dark pools of soros's picture

you guys skipped the 3rd one where Tesla gives Edison and Morgan the big fuck you

stevieblue's picture


I have been enthralled by the four parts of 'The Men Who Built America'. Perhaps because I am more used to the BBC style of documentary. Being a public service institution with guaranteed revenues, it has no reason to innovate and its style of production is still largely stuck in the 1960s.

I assume the actors were filmed against a green screen and the backdrops of a past that no longer exists filled in with digitally animated renders. It worked well, even for steam trains tumbling off viaducts and bridges being built across the Mississippi.

The Magnificent Five--Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and Ford--were the gunslingers of a popular narration, yet there was enough historical detail to involve those of us who may have waded through the 37,000-word chapter entitled 'This Is John Galt Speaking', in Atlas Shrugged.

Dagny's train set, the bridge over the Mississippi, Rearden Metal, all begin to make sense now. Those who disappear to Galt's Gulch are surely modelled on the historical personalities of J P Morgan and Carnegie and Rockefeller. Ayn Rand must have seen the 'The Men Who Built America'. Although the same cannot be said of America's current president:

The screen is filled with a map of America. Animated railroad lines begin to snake out west and south to encompass every state of the Union. Americans can now travel the length and breath of their continent with ease. Perilous journeys that once took weeks and months can now be made, in safety and comfort, in a matter of hours and days. The energy and ambition of one man more than any other has made it all possible. At this point, I expected America's present Moocher President to pop up and remonstrate with the actor playing Cornelius Vanderbilt:

America no longer has to go to bed with the sun. The New York tenement and the Little House on the Prairie can pore over their betting slips and bibles by the light of the kerosene lamp. The screen lingers on a render of a giant refinery. Standard Oil has lit up America. At this point, I expected America's Moocher President to pop up and insist to J D Rockefeller:

A man wants to build a bridge over the Mississippi. It will have to be made out of steel, only there is not enough steel in all America to build a single span. The Bessemer converter is imported from England and steel produced on a massive scale. The man who wanted to build a bridge has become the biggest producer of steel in the world. The skyscrapers of Manhattan's future skyline and all of America's great cities can only be built with structural steel. At this point I expected the Moocher President to pop up, jabbing a finger at Andrew Carnegie, as he splutters:

Edison has a visitor who is intrigued by the light bulb in his laboratory. They set up a company together. Manhattan lights up at the flick of a switch. Homes and streets are bathed in light. Night is day. Businessmen and bankers are to be more highly regarded for their effect rather than their ethics. Edison is dumped for Tesla. A new company is formed. General Electric banishes darkness from America and the world, forever. At this point, I expected America's now clearly exasperated Moocher President to pop up and deny J P Morgan with manic bluster:

The car is born. Assembly lines bump up production rates by a factor of 8. Wages double over night. Where once personal transport was the privilege of the rich, every American can now own a car. At this point, I expected America's Moocher President to be besides himself, to pop up on the screen, losing it completely with Henry Ford:

Are we now living the reality of the Randian novel?


devo's picture

These guys were all bigger shit stains than Bernanke.

I don't care if there's a part 20, they can still blow me.

jjsilver's picture
How to Leave the Government Farm


To start your quest for TRUE freedom, see:

Path to Freedom, Form #09.015

Great IRS Hoax


22winmag's picture

Let's redistribute all of these ill-gotten gains to the masses.... so the masses can blow it on crack and lottery tickets.

LFMayor's picture

Purple Drank fo da PEOPLES!

jaygould's picture

somewhat bizarre, the History Channel did NOT include Jay Gould (1836-92), perhaps the greatest of them all. without any family connections or family inheritance, he bested Vanderbilt (the Erie Wars), Rockefeller, AND Morgan, at various times (2 of the 5 profiled in this series).

briefly, he controlled ~12% of railway in the U.S.; controlling interest in WU Telegraph (certainly a coup at the time); controlling interest in the NYC Elevated railroad; the Pacific Mail Steamship Co.; owned the NY World newspaper!!

name another with as many VARIED (transportation, mail, communications; not to mention developments along his railroad properties, as well as commodities, etc....) & successful interests during 1 lifetime, basically between 1867-1887!!!!