Some of the largest fortunes ever amassed in the United States were made during the late 19th Century. The era may be described in several ways. It may be considered the Gilded Age and the time of Robber Barons. It may also be considered a time when American capitalism and the technology of the Industrial Revolution came together to create fortunes that later built universities, hospitals, museums and cultural centers. Regardless of how individuals feel about the fortunes amassed at this time, the ability to do so most certainly was due to the historical period. This period allowed entrepreneurship, technology and lack of government regulations to come together for these fortunes.
Technology was a crucial aspect of the fortunes. Technology such as railroads and mass production of logging and oil allowed many of the “robber barons” to isolate a corner of the market. Before the Industrial Revolution, it was essentially impossible for this to occur. The railroads were a crucial form of technology. Not only were they one way in which fortunes were made independently, but they also allowed mass transport of goods that created many of the other industries. Until the development of the railroads, goods could not be transported quickly across the United States. Furthermore, other areas also developed due to technology. The cotton gin allowed mass production of cotton. Mills in the Northeastern United States allows mass production of a variety of textiles. The owners of these means of production quickly developed fortunes.
Individuals also became entrepreneurs. Not everyone agreed with the development of massive production of goods. Marxism and the labor unions would develop as a result of this activity. However, it must be noted that individuals, such as Rockefeller, Morgan and Carnegie were willing to invest their money into a new business. While now it appears, in retrospect, that this was a foregone conclusion of their fortunes, the reality is that they risked capital to develop these companies. They had the foresight and the courage to do this. America is better because of it.
The government’s role is also important. At this time, the government did not object to the development of monopolies in various industries. The government would not object to this until the early Twentieth Century and the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt. Since the government gave free reign to the free market and allowed monopolies, massive fortunes were created in the hands of a few individuals. If they were not allowed to control one industry, some of the industrialists may not have chosen to enter into the area with such dedication. They may not have invested significant money into an area, such as the railroads. This would have hindered the development of America as a country.