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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 Beatles....in 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....