Vanderbilt and The Industrial Revolution
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The Industrial Revolution was an era marked by a number of trends in American history:
- Scientific and industrial developments
- A population boom
- Largely due to incoming immigrants from Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe
- A series of questionable business practices
It is because of the latter of these three that one man, Cornelius Vanderbilt, was able to make a name and a fortune for himself. Dubbed a "captain of industry," Vanderbilt demonstrated his cutthroat attitude toward business practices in his approach to acquiring and running various railroad companies.
For two years, from 1866 to 1868, a war was raging in American society, despite the fact that the Civil War had ended a year earlier. This was the "Erie Railroad War," and was orchestrated and led by Vanderbilt. His plan was to purchase a majority of the shares of the Erie Railroad, giving him total control over its operation. However, to thwart his efforts, the leaders of the Erie Railroad printed scores of fake shares for Vanderbilt to purchase. Despite his best efforts, Vanderbilt could never own enough shares to hold a majority, but the individuals selling the phony stocks were amassing quite a fortune. However, the consequences of these shady practices soon became apparent: the Erie Railroad went bankrupt as a result of the inflated stock prices, ending Vanderbilt's aspirations of control and putting the individuals responsible for the corrupt practices out of a job. While not all of Vanderbilt's business practices were as complicated as this, his unending desire to control his business interests demonstrated his cutthroat attitude toward business and his desire to meet his goals no matter what the costs.