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Old 12-16-2014, 09:47 PM
Location: Tucson/Nogales
17,391 posts, read 21,228,976 times
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There was Ford, Flagler, Flick, Vanderbilt, JP Morgan, Mellon, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and others of the latter half of the 1800's, early 1900's. Which would you rate as the more honorable, the most devilish?

I've been reading bio's, lately, of some of these Titans, and currently reading Ron Chernow's bio of John D. Rockefeller, and, without question, he was a combination of saint and sinner, but unable to assign a percentage to either.

I also read a bio of Henry Ford and I consider him to be one of the more honorable ones.

I also read a bio of Andrew Mellon, and IMO, he was one of the more devilish titans.

How about you? Their philanthropic endeavors can certainly throw you off, in judging these people, overall, like Rockefeller.
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:25 PM
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
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They were all complex individuals. Ford was a raving anti-semite, you forgot to mention his pal Edison who was a patent fiend, or Alexander Graham Bell who stole a patent application for the phone and ran with it. Carnegie was a b*stard but his bequeaths of libraries did more for this country than the feats of most Presidents. The legacy of the Rockefellers is with us now and will be in the future. His "philanthropy" was often a cover for other operations. Flagler was a little more honorable, I would guess.
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Old 12-18-2014, 08:20 PM
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One who is not usually associated with being a Robber Baron, but who was indeed a Titan of that era and of an industry whom I'd give highest marks to is George Eastman (Eastman Kodak fame)
George Eastman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12-19-2014, 06:39 AM
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I like Cornelius Vanderbilt. He got started illegally, offering ferry service between NY and NJ and NY tried to stop him because he was undercharging the other ferries. He used to jump between boats to evade the cops. His case went to the Supreme Court eventually and he won. NY was trying to regulate interstate commerce, which is a federal prerogative.

I also admire John D. Rockefeller. When he took over another oil company, the existing management was usually asked to stay on. The price of oil went down every year he ran Standard Oil.
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Old 12-19-2014, 08:24 PM
Location: Tucson/Nogales
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I've never read a bio of a Titan that had me more on a seesaw than John D. Rockefeller! One chapter I'm hailing him as a saint, next chapter, or paragraph, I'm denouncing him as the devil incarnate, like after reading about the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado!

One of the most mysterious men I've ever read about!
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Old 12-19-2014, 09:04 PM
Location: Iowa
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John D. Rockefeller was the best of that class of men. Even before he made his fortune when he was a kid, he kept a ledger of all his earnings and expenses, and would give 10% to charity. He would always say god gave him his money and he felt an obligation to give back to society. He greatly improved the efficiency of the oil business and expanded Standard Oil to global proportions. He was the richest man in the country yet did not want the fanciest house to live in like the Vanderbilt's, whom liked to show off their money. His business of making oil cheaper for the masses was beneficial to society at that time, before Standard Oil people were using whale oil for lamps.

Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel were at the top of the pyramid IMO, and not parasitic like the banking and transportation industries below them. The railroads could squeeze whatever they wanted out of passenger/freight service and people just had to suck it up. Rockefeller and Carnegie were providing the raw materials and the inventors provided the technology, such as Edison, Tesla and Bell and Henry Ford, to build a modern America.

The ones I have less respect for like JP Morgan, whom used to courts to steal other peoples inventions and patents, and used the railroads to extort, like Jay Gould whom started an international incident with Canada when he kidnapped a dude whom fled there when Gould tried to sue him. Gould, whom was chummy with Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, is quoted as saying "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half". Henry Clay Frick was a real POS, most responsible for the Johnstown Flood and responsible for shooting down striking steel workers at the Homestead Steel Works. Woolworth was so cheap he never left a five or dime to any charity in his will, and gave it all to his family, whom seemed to be cursed by the money he left them.
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Old 12-19-2014, 09:20 PM
Location: Tucson/Nogales
17,391 posts, read 21,228,976 times
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At least, with reading my bio of Andrew Mellon, there was no seesaw with that book. All the Mellon brothers were brainwashed by their father Thomas, he even had a private school built on his property, to "properly educate" his boys as he saw fit! Most of the courses offered at this school revolved around how to make money and more money! Like his father, he had no use for philanthropy, notwithstanding the National Gallery in Washington DC.

But most of his money was passed on to his 2 children. His recurring dream was for his son to take over his businesses, but his son was never interested!

Rockefeller, on the other hand, struck out with his only son, who took to the role like a duck to water!
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Old 11-08-2018, 11:12 AM
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Default Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Excellent question.

Having just read Ron Cherow's "Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.", John D. Rockefeller had a ruthless reputation. Yet, he gave generously becoming one of the largest philanthropists in American history:

Here is a quote from Chernow:
“John D. Rockefeller, Sr., had established himself as the greatest lay benefactor of medicine in history. Of the $530 million he gave away during his lifetime, $450 million went directly or indirectly into medicine. He had dealt a mortal blow to the primitive world of nineteenth-century medicine in which patent-medicine vendors such as Doc Rockefeller had flourished. He had also effected a revolution in philanthropy perhaps no less far-reaching than his business innovations. Before Rockefeller came along, rich benefactors had tended to promote pet institutions (symphony orchestras, art museums, or schools) or to bequeath buildings (hospitals, dormitories, orphanages) that bore their names and attested to their magnanimity. Rockefeller’s philanthropy was more oriented toward the creation of knowledge, and if it seemed more impersonal, it was also far more pervasive in its effect.”

Last edited by CurtAndersonNY; 11-08-2018 at 11:24 AM..
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Old 11-08-2018, 08:11 PM
Location: San Diego CA
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Don’t think there was much honor amongst the Robber Barons. Good guys always finish last or so they say.
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Old 11-09-2018, 01:07 PM
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Honore de Balzac noted that "Behind every great fortune, there is a crime."

If we accept that as true, none of the Robber Barons is free of guilt. It perhaps was that guilt which moved some of them to become philanthropists. Most of us are mixes of good and bad, kind one day, selfish another. We rely on whatever good things we do to ameliorate the less than honorable behavior in other areas. As such, the late 19th Century industrialists were us, but us on an immense scale, their cruelties were larger than anything we have done, but their charity also dwarfs anything we have contributed.

Great scale charity can only come from great scale wealth. Great scale wealth cannot be obtained by being charitable all the time.
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