Summary of How They Got Rich!

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The YouTube video "How They Got Rich!" discusses the lives of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie, three of the wealthiest men in American history. The video tells the story of how each man made his fortune, highlighting their different approaches to business. Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie were all instrumental in the development of America's infrastructure, and their success helped to shape the country during the Gilded Age.

  • 00:00:00 The period between 1865-1900 in the United States was a time of rapid economic growth that is now known as the Gilded Age. During this time, real wages, wealth, GDP, and capital formation all grew massively, leading to 60% wage growth between 1860-1890. This growth attracted millions of European immigrants, who helped to build the country's infrastructure. Many of America's richest industrialists, such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie, were inspired by this period and became philanthropists. Their philanthropy differentiated them from European elites, who mainly held on to their wealth.
  • 00:05:00 This video tells the story of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in history. Vanderbilt's success as a shipping magnate is due in part to his foresight in investing in rail transportation, which allowed for cheap and efficient transportation throughout the country. When his competitors began to catch on to his strategy, Vanderbilt built Grand Central Station, the largest building in New York City at the time, using borrowed money. Rockefeller, who was only 24 at the time, started a small refinery near one of Vanderbilt's rail lines, using this as an advantage to gain control of the oil industry. Rockefeller's thriftiness, hard work, and efficiency led to his success.
  • 00:10:00 In the early 1870s, Rockefeller was one of the most successful refiners in the United States. However, he grew too large for Vanderbilt to handle, and in 1872 the two men came to an agreement where Standard Oil would absorb all of Rockefeller's competitors. This allowed Standard Oil to become the largest producer of refined kerosene in the United States, and it changed American life in countless ways.
  • 00:15:00 In the late 1800s, railroads were the dominant mode of transportation for goods, and Rockefeller's oil made up a large percentage of this cargo. However, when Rockefeller built a pipeline to transport his oil over short distances, he was able to cut the railroads out of the business. This caused a depression in the railroad industry, and both Vanderbilt and Scott were forced to lay off tens of thousands of workers and to reduce wages in order to stay in business.
  • 00:20:00 The video discusses the history of oil and how Rockefeller became one of the wealthiest people in the world. He was eventually charged with monopolizing the oil trade and fought the accusations throughout his life. Despite his wealth and power, Rockefeller also made important contributions to the steel industry and bridge construction.
  • 00:25:00 In the 1800s, steel was extremely expensive and difficult to mass produce, so it was mainly used to make small items like tableware. One of Carnegies innovations was the cheap and efficient mass production of steel, which allowed the high carbon content of pig iron to be burnt away during steel production. Steel prices dropped as a result of this innovation, and there was a whole new market for steel now that it was affordable and more easily produced. Carnegie built the largest steel mill in the nation, and his biggest customers were of course the railroads, but after years of overbuilding, and due to Rockefellers new pipelines the railroads were now struggling to stay in business. Desperate for a new market, Carnegie noticed the rapid urbanization taking place in cities like Chicago and New York and realized that the future of the steel industry was not in rails but in structural steel, in girders and beams that could be used to build skyscrapers. When the world's first skyscraper was built in Chicago, its thin brick walls hung on a structure manufactured from Carnegie Steel. Over the next few years, over 100,000 new buildings were erected in Chicago alone, and the modern American city was built using Carnegie Steel. However, Carnegie's success did
  • 00:30:00 The "robber barons" were extremely wealthy individuals who enriched both themselves and the nation during the gilded age. Their efficient operations made them rich, but also brought down the cost of important commodities for all Americans. Their wealth was 1.5% of American GDP at the time of their death, and if we inflation adjust that number, it becomes 31 billion dollars today. While these men were far from being perfect, I'm not sure that it's reasonable to characterize them as robber barons.

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