American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900
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In this grand-scale narrative history, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H. W. Brands brilliantly portrays the emergence, in a remarkably short time, of a recognizably modern America.
American Colossus captures the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century, when a few breathtakingly wealthy businessmen transformed the United States from an agrarian economy to a world power. From the first Pennsylvania oil gushers to the rise of Chicago skyscrapers, this spellbinding narrative shows how men like Morgan, Carnegie, and Rockefeller ushered in a new era of unbridled capitalism. In the end America achieved unimaginable wealth, but not without cost to its traditional democratic values.
a Manhattan front in the war, and he grudgingly agreed. Tweed and Tammany implemented the new policy with hardly a hitch.3 His role in the matter earned him a reputation as a man who could get things done, efficiently and honestly. “The Supervisors’ Committee are now holding daily sessions, and are performing their duties with eminent satisfaction to all parties,” the New York Times editorialized. “No money, no trust was ever more honestly administered than the loan of the Board of
shortly before the scheduled closing arguments, one of the jurors became mysteriously ill. Debs and the lawyers moved to replace the juror, but the judge refused. He suspended the trial, only to have the prosecution, after some face-saving delays, drop the charges. The contempt charge was the more ominous, for it turned on the legality of the injunction in the first place. Injunctions were relatively new in labor actions, and the scope of the injunction in the Pullman case was unprecedented.
Rockefeller’s business colleagues in Cleveland remembered him saying, “The Standard Oil Company will someday refine all the oil.”33 Whether or not he truly meant this, he acted as though he did. Like Morgan in railroads, Rockefeller had no use for competition in oil refining. Competition was wasteful; competition produced the kind of anarchy one saw in the oil fields, where a barrel might be lost to spillage, fire, or overproduction for every barrel captured and brought to market. The refining
worked for them.) Occasionally it did, but at least equally often it intensified the differences between the groups. Miners, for instance, often blamed accidents on the alleged carelessness of the mine workers. After the Avondale fire, Welsh miners accused Irish workers of deliberately setting the fire to retaliate against perceived injuries from the Welsh. The accusation gained credence from the fact that few Irish were working when the disaster struck, most having taken the day off—ironically,
he told some Arikara and Crow scouts, enlisted for the campaign against their traditional Sioux enemies, that this would be his last western expedition. If they helped him defeat the Sioux, he would return to Washington and become the Great Father there. He added that he would remember his Indian friends. Whether Custer conjured a race for the presidency from thin air or was prompted by mischievous Democrats is unclear. But either way his mission against the Sioux acquired an importance a mere