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U.S. History

Chapter 18

U.S. HistoryChapter 18




New inventions fueled industrial growth, and the development of commercial electricity—along with the use of steam engines—allowed industries that had previously situated themselves close to sources of water power to shift away from those areas and move their production into cities. Immigrants sought employment in these urban factories and settled nearby, transforming the country’s population from mostly rural to largely urban.




“Captains of industry” (such as Carnegie or Rockefeller) are noted for their new business models, entrepreneurial approaches, and, to varying degrees, philanthropic efforts, all of which transformed late nineteenth-century America. “Robber barons” (such as Gould) are noted for their self-centered drive for profit at the expense of workers and the general public, who seldom benefitted to any great degree. The terms, however, remain a gray area, as one could characterize the ruthless business practices of Rockefeller, or some of Carnegie’s tactics with regard to workers’ efforts to organize, as similar to the methods of robber barons. Nevertheless, “captains of industry” are noted for contributions that fundamentally changed and typically improved the nation, whereas “robber barons” can seldom point to such concrete contributions.





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