Thursday, July 7, 2016


As I have alluded to earlier, not everyone was rich. A lot of people worked in very unsafe work conditions for very long hours, and got paid very low wages.

This just wasn't men, but women and children got in on the fun as well...

Because of those conditions, people weren't exactly excited to go to work every day. This is the time when those pesky reformers cam in and believed workers deserved rights, we are talking labor unions.

Of course, business owners wanted labor unions to go away. People should be happy they have jobs, who are they to demand things?

The first national labor union was founded in 1834, as teh National Trades Union. It didn't last very long, but other unions popped up and eventually a 10 hour work day became a  standard.

Some unions tht formed during this time were the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor.

Union membership was rising and labor activists became more skilled in organizing protests over issues. Get ready ladies and gentlemen, we're going to talk about strikes.

May 1, 1886 thousands of workers gathered in support of an 8 hour work day.

On May 4, protesters gathered at Haymarket Square in Chicago.

Things got real, and a bomb was thrown...

Dozens of people were killed, protesters and police alike.

So who threw the bom? No one knew, evidence was pretty weak, but they manage to blame 8 Anarchists.

4 were executed, 3 were pardoned, and one committed suicide in prison.

There were other strikes across the country, because work conditions and wages really sucked.

Some strikes turned violent, some did not, but it did help workers with their rights and better wages.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Show Me the Money

Of course, there were more than just Rockefeller and Carnegie, but J.P. Morgan who bought Carnegie Steel, Cornelius Vanderbilt, another railroad guy, George Pullman, the Chicago king of train cars, and countless others, but as usual, not everyone was rich.

How did you become a Rockefeller or Carnegie? How do you dive into a pit of money Scrooge McDuck style? This was a question that plenty of people had.

There of course was inheritance, you just sort of wait around and wait for your rich relative to die.

There was also the idea of 'Social Darwinism', or survival of the fittest.

Charles Darwin was a scientist who did a lot of work with the origin of species and evolution.

His theory is that certain species survive because they are the best suited, they were the strong ones so they could thrive and live.

Since Darwin also believes that humans were descended from apes then natural selection would apply to humans as well. Some people believed that the people who were the most successful had the necessary traits, education, talent, determination, and jazziness to rise to the top.

Social Darwinists also believed that like animals, the weaker members of society would die out, only leaving the supreme genes and thus, monster truck rallies would never come to be....

Social Darwinists didn't believe in government hand outs, safety regulations, or restricting child labor. If you helped the weak, they would survive and that's gross.

 There was also the Carnegie and Rockefeller's way of thinking, it is up to the rich to help out the poor.

They did agree that people who were successful would of course have money, but it wasn't the fault of the poor, because if they were supposed to be rich and successful, God would have made it that way.

God only gave a select few people the ability to be successful, sort of like a lottery.

This is why Carnegie and Rockefeller gave a ton of money to charity, it was their duty and responsibility to help out the less fortunate.

Then....there was a 3rd idea, the American Dream.

American Dreams was a wonderful show on NBC about an Irish Catholic family facing the changes and challenges of the 1960s, but NBC cancelled it, AND I HAVE SO MANY UNRESOLVED QUESTIONS!!!

Anyway, umm...ok..the American Dream, a guy named Horatio Alger was the biggest fan of the American Dream.

Alger wrote novels geared towards immigrants. In these novels he told the new Americans the secret to success: hard work and luck.

With a little luck and a lot of hard work, anyone could become rich and successful and achieve their dreams!!!

So, what was the way to become rich and successful?

Was it only a few select people who were chosen? Was it hard work? Was it sheer luck?

I suppose if I knew this answer, I wouldn't be living with my parents and driving a car that was brand new when Clinton was president...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Industrial Giants Part 2!

Wow, updating and I got into a fight, I apologize.

Rockefeller wasn't the only titan of industry, there were many others.

While most people consider Superman to be the man of steel, the original owner of this title was Mr. Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie, like Rockefeller had a rags to riches story. Born in Scotland in the 1830's, young Andrew was taught the importance of learning and hard work through his parents.

Eventually, the Carnegie clan would set sail for American, when one stormy night at sea, mischevious Andrew was swept away on the back of a bar of soap...

Ok, no, that was Fivel Mouskowitz from An American Tale...anyway, the Carnegies settled in Pennsylvania and Andrew went to work in a factory where he was paid $1.20 a week. (And you think your salary is bad...)

From there he became interested in the art of dots and dashes, the world of telegraphs. He became an assistant telegrapher for the Pennsylvania Railroad...

 At this position, he started learning all about the railroad.

During this time the rail road was super neat-o. Carnegie knew that in England they were building their rails out of steel while in America they were still using iron. This gave Carnegie a golden idea.

Steel is stronger than iron, therefore it would be smarter to build the railroad out of steel, from there he started investing and using different new technologies and watched as his steel company because a beast of industry.

Competition was not really a big deal for Carnegie because he was a clever guy and understood the concept of vertical integration.

Now, if you eyes just glazed over and rolled into the back of your head after reading 'vertical integration' I cannot blame you, but it really was one of Carnegie's secrets to success. In order to make steel you needed to first have iron, so Carnegie didn't just focus all his energy and money on the steel industry, but also on iron. If he didn't have to strike up any deals with anyone to get iron then he could make more money, after all, I doubt if he was out to negotiate himself into a bad deal. 

Carnegie Steel was a giant and eventually he sold his business to J.P. Morgan who then named it US Steel, and if you are familiar with the steel industry you may know that this was all in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and if you are familiar with the NFL at all, you probably know their team are the Pittsburgh Steelers....THERE'S A REASON FOR EVERYTHING!!!!!

Anyway, just like a lot of industry giants of the time and a lot like Rockefeller, Carnegie was not fond of unionizing or workers going on strike. People accuse him of getting rich off the backs of his employees. 

Also, like Rockefeller, Carnegie gave a boat load of money to charity.

Carnegie believed it was the duty of the wealthy to use their money to help benefit society, this is why Carnegie is responsible for opening up numerous schools and libraries. All over the country you can find Carnegie Library's in all there are 2,800 Carnegie Libraries.

Carnegie was your typical American Dream story. He came to America with nothing and through hard work and determination he made his way to be one of the most wealthy men in the world during his time. 

I would also like to add, that even though these aren't stick figures, it creeps me out how much Carnegie looks like the Gorton's Fisherman....weird...


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hark! Industry Giants Pt. 1: John D. Rockefeller

Between 1870 and 1900, the United States transformed itself from an agricultural nation to an industrial one.

At this point, I would like to introduce you to some of the movers and shakers from this time period.....

First, meet John D. Rockefeller...

The Rockefeller name these day sis a household one. Its the headquarters of NBC News, if you want to go and wave in the background of an episode of the Today Show, you have to head on over to Rockefeller Plaza. The TV show 30 Rock is set in this very building. Jay Z also says the name a lot in his songs, but...who is this guy? Rockefeller, not Jay Z....

Well, he was America's first billionaire. He could most defiantly make it rain.

Well, how did this Rockefeller character become so rich?

Young Rockefeller started from meager beginnings, he was a low level worker at a shipping firm in Cleveland. He worked and saved and worked as saved, then he opened his own business.

His business was in produce sales.

Schlepping vegetable might not sound like glamorous stuff, but his business really boomed when the Civil War started.

People needed their produce and Rockefeller was there to sell it so he was getting the dolla' bills, ya'll (I'm so sorry...).

In the 1850s, Rockefeller traded his onions in for oil.

Oil was found in Pennsylvania and Rockefeller figured there would be a future in it, gee, was that the understatement for the ages...?

At the time, Kerosene was all the rage. It was like the fossil fuel form...

The way to make Kerosene was to refine crude oil. This took oil that old really dirty jokes and belched a lot and made it into a gentleman.

The thing about converting crude oil to kerosene was the fact there was a lot of waste involved. Rockefeller figured, hey...why not use this for something.

He was like your Mom when she wouldn't let you throw out that bottle of ketchup because if you left it turned upside down for a few months, you could get a few more squirts out of the bottle...

Well, he took all the waste and made it into different things, and he did it well. He was like Scrooge McDuck diving into the vault of money on the beginning of Duck Tales because of all the money he was making...

His oil company came known as Standard Oil, one of the largest industries in the land.

Because of his wealth and connections, others couldn't compete, he was the King of Oil.

Rockefeller also gave loads of money to philanthropy, he wanted to give back to the people...

BUT WAIT, what lies behind the story of a meager beginning to millions? There are some criticisms....for being so rich, why didn't he pay his employees better?

Was he really giving as much money as he could have and still live comfortably?

Was he only doing these good deeds to thinly mask his greed?

People have argued this and will argue this for a long time..but the only thing that I do know is this; Rockefeller was a baller.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Transcontinental Rail Road!!!

If you wanted to travel from east to west, you had to use covered wagons, stage coaches, or go by horse. It was expensive, it took around 6 months to reach your destination, and you could get stranded & have to eat unsavory things, just ask the Donner Party.

So to make travel easier as we have already alluded to in previous posts, it was decided that the future in cross country travel was in the railroad! A Transcontinental Railroad!!!!

The first spikes of the Transcontinental Railroad were driven in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War.

There were two main companies that built the Railroad. This was the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific. Central Pacific built from east to west and the Union built from west to east.

They would often sing Meet in the Middle by Diamond Rio...remember those guys? Anyway....

We mentioned earlier that the Chinese built the railroad. This was very hard/unsafe work. The Sierra Nevada Mountains was one place where it was especially hard.

The Chinese worked around the clock. They drilled holes (by hand) and put in black powder to blast through the rock.

This was a very slow process, they would only get about a foot a day.

It took six years for the railroad to be completed. Spikes were driven, rock was blasted away, people died, and a lot of very very hard work took place.

May 10, 1869, the last spike was driven at Promontory Point Utah. This is the spot where the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific finally came together.

The spike was gold and was engraved with one simple word. 'Done'.

Now that the railroad was complete, people were excited and full of glee. A celebration rang out across the land!

Now with the railroad, it took cross country travel from 6 months to one week.

Family Vacations went a lot smoother from this point on....

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Westward Movement

Once most of the land was taken up, the U.S. Government decided to open up Oklahoma...

Yes, Oklahoma, the land where all the Indians were forced to move to.

So, April 22, 1889 would be the day that Oklahoma land could be claimed.

50,000 people showed up, but a few jumped the gun and rushed the land before the proper time.

They took the land too soon, they were called Sooners, the college mascot.

We know that people were moving West, but who were they?

One group was white Americans, shocker!

A second were African Americans.

After the Civil War, a lot of blacks went west to get land and make a life for themselves. They also left the South because of the Klan.

Eventually, many would settle in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. They were known as Exodusters.

The last were immigrants.

Europeans came and the Chinese. The Chinese were a source of cheap labor.They pretty much built the railroad....and were treated like crap, you know, the usual.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cows and Farms!

Some people didn't want the glamorous life of tunneling into the Earth to possibly be killed by cave ins and what not, so they went with a different business that was moooooo-ving on up!

After the Civil War lots of Eastern cities were asking an age old question...

Well my friends, the beef was out west.

Were they willing to sell?

Oh, yes they were.

A cow that would sell for $4 bucks in Texas would go for $40 in the north. Thats crazy.

Ranchers would hire cowboys to herd their cattle, then they would be sent to meat packing places like Chicago, via railroads and everything was sanitary....I promise.

Some people weren't taken in by the gold rush, others took Willie Nelson's advice and their mothers did not let them grow up to be cowboys. Instead, they went the farming route.

The Homestead Act was passed so people would go and settle the Great Plains.

This Act said that any head of household who was 21 and over claim 160 acres of land.

They also had to...

And also stay there for at least 5 years, maintain the land and then the land was theirs!

Along with the Homestead Act was the Pacific Railway Act, this allowed railroads and telegraph lines to be built.

Also, the Morrill Act set aside land for states to build colleges for agriculture and mechanic arts. These schools include the Big 10 schools, like the University of Illinois. Go Illini!