The wave of industrialism that we have been studying was often
driven by a few great men known as industrialists. There can be no
mistaking their motives: wealth. There is some debate, however, on
the how history should portray these industrialists.
Some feel that the powerful industrialists of the gilded age
should be referred to as "robber barons." This view
accentuates the negative. It portrays men like Vanderbilt and
Rockefeller and Ford and cruel and ruthless businessmen who would
stop at nothing to achieve great wealth. These "robber barons" were
accused of exploiting workers and forcing horrible working conditions
and unfair labor practices upon the laborer.
Another view of the industrialist is that of "captain of
industry." The term captain views these men as viewed ingenious
and industrious leaders who transformed the American economy with
their business skills. They were praised for their skills as well as
for their philanthropy (charity).
In reality the debate over robber barons and captains of industry
mirrors views of industrialism itself. Just as their were both
positives and negatives to industrialism there were positives and
negatives to the leaders of industrialism.
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