INDUSTRIAL AMERICA AT THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR
A comprehensive survey of America, in the close of the Civil War, would show circumstances of society which bears little resemblance to that of today. Almost all those banal basics of existence, the items that contribute to our bodily comfort while they vex us with political and economic problems, had really not yet made their appearance. The America of Civil War days was a country without transcontinental railroads, without telephones, without European cables, or wireless stations, or automobiles, or electric lights, or sky scrapers, or million-dollar hotels, or trolley cars, or a thousand other contrivances that today provide the conveniences and comforts of that which we call our American civilization. This period's cities, with their unsewered and unpaved streets, their dingy, flickering gaslights, their ambling horse-cars, and their hideous slums, seemed suitable settings for the unformed societal life and also American democracy's rough-and-ready political ways. The railroads, with their wooden bridges, their little wheezy locomotives, their delicate iron rails, their unheated coaches, and their kerosene lamps, pretty typified the prevailing frontier business and economical organization. But only by discussing with all the business leaders of the time could we have comprehended the changes which took place. For the most part we speak a company language which our fathers and grandfathers wouldn't have got. Our nation of 1865 was a nation of city artisans, farmers, and industrious, independent business men, and small scale producers. Millionaires, though they were known, didn't swarm all over the acreage. High-End, though it had made amazing advancement in the latter years of the war, hadn't become the American standard of well-being. The industrial narrative of the United States in the past fifty years is the narrative of the very most astonishing economic transformation that the world has ever known; a change which is fitly typified in the evolution of the independent petroleum driller of western Pennsylvania to the Standard Oil Company, and of the primeval open air forge on the banks of the Allegheny into the United States Steel Corporation.
The ages that were slow, unceasing have been accumulating a priceless inheritance for the American people. Nearly all their natural resources, in, were still lying fallow, and also undiscovered in many instances. Americans had begun, it's true, to exploit their more obvious, outside wealth, their forests and their land; the first had made them among the world's two biggest shipbuilding nations, while the second had furnished a sizable portion of the resources that had enabled the government to fight what was, up to that particular time, the largest war ever. Nevertheless, the extensive prairie plains whose settlement was to follow the railroad extensions of the seventies as well as the sixties --Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, the Dakotas--had been just slightly penetrated. Our mineral wealth was likewise not lying everywhere unready to the uses of the brand new generation. In 1865 it was importing a considerable portion of its own supply, although america now furnishes half its copper to the world. We were bringing substantial supplies of this crucial requirement though we had the greatest coal deposits known to geologists. It's been said that iron and coal are the two mineral products which have chiefly changed modern culture. Definitely the countries that have made the biggest progress commercially and industrially --England, Germany, America--are the three that possess these minerals in largest quantity. From sixty to seventy per cent of the known coal deposits on earth were located in our national domain name. Nature had given no other nation anything even remotely comparable to anthracite's four hundred and eighty square miles in West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. Tremendous fields lay in those Appalachian ranges stretching from Pennsylvania in the Pacific regions, in the Rocky Mountains, and in Michigan. In speaking of our iron it is necessary to make use of terms which are much more opulent. Americans had worked the iron ore scattered but the best field of all, that in Minnesota, hadn't been scraped. While up to 1910 685,000,000 short tons had been produced by us the settlement of the country up to had mined just 50,000,000 tons of iron ore, from it. The streams and waterfalls that, in another sixty years, were to furnish the electricity that will light our cities, propel our street cars, drive our transcontinental trains across the mountains, and perform numerous domestic services, were running their worthless courses to the ocean.
Industrial America is an item of the decades succeeding the Civil War; though in 1865 we were a large production state. The leading feature of our businesses, as compared with present conditions, was that they were individualized. Almost all had outgrown the family stage, the factory system had gained a foothold in virtually every line, even the corporation's appearance had been made by it, yet small scale production prevailed in almost every field. The farmers' wives and daughters still supplemented the family income by working on goods for city dealers in ready-made clothing. We are able to still see in Massachusetts rural towns the little shoe shops where the predecessors of the factory workers that are existing soled and heeled the shoes which shod our armies in the Civil War's first days. Every city and town had its own slaughter house; New York had more than two hundred; what's now Fifth Avenue was often encumbered by big droves of cattle, and great stockyards occupied land which is now used for beautiful clubhouses, railroad stations, resorts, as well as the very best category of retail establishments.
In this age before the Civil War comparatively little often copartnerships, or single owners, controlled almost every industrial field. Individual proprietors, not strong families that were almost feudal in character, owned the great cotton and woolen mills of New England. Individual proprietors, similarly, commanded New York State and Pennsylvania's iron and steel factories. Indeed it wasn't until the War that corporations entered the iron business, now regarded as the field most importantly others accommodated to the sort of organization. The manufacture of firearms sewing machines, and agricultural implements began on a terrific scale in the Civil War ; still, the prevailing component was the partnership or the private owner. In many production lines, the joint stock company had become the prevailing organization, but in these fields the element that so qualifies our own age, that of mix, was using practically no sway.
Competition was the order of the day: the industrial war of the sixties was a free-for-all. A just reference to the status of makes in which the trust has become the all-predominating fact will make the comparison clear. In 1865 thousands of independent companies drilled petroleum and there were more than two hundred which were refining the merchandise. Nearly four hundred and fifty operators were mining coal, not even dimly foreseeing the day when their company would turn into a railroad monopoly that was great. The two hundred businesses that were making mowers and reapers, seventy-five of them found in New York State, had formed no mental picture of the future International Harvester Company. Among our first large industrial blends was that which in the early seventies consumed the manufacturers yet the close of the Civil War found fifty competing firms making salt. In the exact same State commanded the copper mines, while in Nevada the Comstock Lode had more than one hundred proprietors. The modern trust movement has absorbed even our lumber and mineral lands, but in 1865 these rich resources were parceled out among a multiplicity of owners: No company has offered greater opportunities to mixtures than our street railways' modern advocate. In 1865 most of our large cities had their leisurely horse-car systems, yet practically every path had its independent line. New York had thirty different businesses participated in the business of local transport. Really the Civil War interval developed only one corporation that might be described as a "trust" in the present day sense. More than fifty companies, ten years before the Civil War, were engaged in the business of transmitting telegraphic messages unbelievable as it might seem. These companies had constructed their telegraph lines exactly as the railroads
had put their tracks; that's, separate lines were built connecting two specified points. It was unavoidable, obviously, for the public convenience couldn't be served, that all these lines that are scattered should come under just one control. This combination was effected a couple of years prior to the War, when the Western Union Telegraph Company, after a long and fierce competition, triumphed in absorbing all its rivals. Similar forces were bringing together particular constant lines but the creation of huge trunk systems hadn't yet taken place. Naturally this small scale ownership was represented in the distribution of wealth. The "swollen fortunes" of that period rested upon the exact same basis that had given solidity for hundreds of years to the aristocracies of Europe. Social preeminence in large cities rested almost entirely upon the ownership of land. The Goelets, the Astors, the Rhinelanders, the Beekmans, the Brevoorts, and practically all the powerful families that ruled the old Knickerbocker aristocracy in New York were huge property proprietors. Their fortunes therefore had exactly the same foundation as that of the Prussian Junkers today. However, their collections and the fortunes that are trivial now compared just faintly. How many "millionaires" there were fifty years ago we don't exactly understand. This records the names of nineteen citizens who, in the approximation of well-qualified judges, possessed more than a million dollars each. The following most affluent guy was Stephen Whitney, also a sizable landowner, whose fortune is listed at $5,000,000. Afterward comes again a property proprietor James Lenox, , with $3,000,000. The man who was to collect the initial gigantic American fortune, Cornelius Vanderbilt, is accredited having a paltry $1,500,000. Mr. Beach's little pamphlet sheds the extreme light upon the economical age preceding the Civil War. It actually envisions an industrial organization that fits as much to ancient history as the empire of the Caesars. His study lists about one thousand of New York's "rich citizens." Yet the very fact that a man qualified for entrance within this Valhalla who'd that nine-tenths of those so picked and $100,000 to his credit owned merely that the improvement is shown by amount focused riches have made in sixty years. How many New Yorkers of today would look upon a guy with $100,000 as "affluent"?
These fortunes' sources also show the economic changes our country has undergone. Today, when we think of our much used millionaires, the phrase "captains of industry" is the accepted description; in Mr. Beach's time the popular appointment was "merchant prince." Several of the reservoirs of this ante bellum wealth seem oddly in our ears that are modern. Yet they were the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, the Harrimans, the Fricks, and also the Henry Fords of their day.
Before the Civil War had finished, however, the transformation of the United States from a nation of farmers and small scale producers to a highly organized industrial state had begun. The most significant single influence was the War itself. Those four years of bitter clash exemplify, perhaps more graphically than any similar event ever, the power which military operations may exercise in arousing all the productive forces of a people. In countries that are thickly settled, with few inactive resources and with almost no aspects of unoccupied property, a long war usually produces industrial disorganization and financial exhaustion. The Napoleonic wars had this effect in particular they caused a period of industrial and societal distress in England. The few years immediately following Waterloo indicated a period when starving mobs rioted in the streets of London, setting fire to the houses of the aristocracy and stoning the Prince Regent whenever he dared to reveal his head in public, when cotton spindles discontinued to turn, when collieries closed down, when jails and workhouses were overflowing using a wretched proletariat, and when gaunt and homeless women and children packed the country highways. No such disorders followed the Civil War in the North and West in this nation, at least. Spiritually the battle in awakening the country to some awareness of its great opportunities achieved much. The reality that people could spend over a million dollars a day--costs that scarcely seem startling in sum now, but which were nearly unprecedented then--and that shortly after hostilities ended we rapidly paid off our big debt, directed the attention of foreign capitalists to our resources, and gave them the utmost confidence in this new investment field. Immigration, too, began following the war at a rate hitherto without parallel. The Germans in the years preceding the Civil War who'd come have been mostly political refugees and democratic idealists, but now, in bigger numbers, started the inflow of south and north Germans whose controlling reason was economic. With this industrial development, America supplied the resources, the land, as well as the business leaders, while Europe furnished the laborers and the liquid capital.
Much more was our industrial development stimulated by the War. Perhaps the greatest effect was the method by which it shifted our transportation system. The mere requirement of continuously transporting hundreds of tens of thousands of war materials and troops demanded reconstruction and reequipment. The American Civil War was the very first great battle in which railways played with a military part that is noticeable, as well as their development during those four years naturally made them in a powerful position to meet with the brand new essentials of peace. Among the primary effects was to shut the Mississippi River; hence the products of the Western farms needed to go east by railroad, and this fact led to that preeminence of the great trunk lines which they retain to this day. Almost overnight Chicago became the great Western shipping center, they grew by year, and though the river boats lingered to get a time on the Mississippi as well as the Ohio. Prosperity, greater than the nation had ever known, predominated throughout the last two years of the War in the North.
Thus, too, feeding and supplying an army of countless guys laid the basis of a number of our biggest industries. The Northern soldiers in the early days of the war were clothed in garments so variegated which they sometimes had trouble in telling friend from foe, and not infrequently they fired at one another; so inadequately were our woolen mills prepared to furnish their uniforms! But bigger government contracts empowered the proprietors install modern machines, to rebuild their factories, and develop an organization and also a booming business that still survives. Making shoes and boots for Northern soldiers laid the foundation of the great shoe industry in America. Machinery had already been applied to shoe manufacture, but only to some small extent; under the pressure of war circumstances, yet, American inventive skill found methods of performing nearly all the operations that had previously been done. The McKay sewing machine, among the best of our creations, which was perfected in the 2nd year did as much perhaps as any single apparatus to help keep our soldiers comfortable and shod. Our great packing plants were created by the necessity. No great headway had been made by the new agricultural machinery though McCormick had invented his reaper several years prior to the war. Without this machinery, yet, our Western farmers could never have picked the gigantic crops which not only fed our soldiers but laid the basis of our economic prosperity. Thus the War created among the greatest, and definitely one of the most intimate, of our businesses -- that of agricultural machinery.
Above all, but, the victory threw upon the nation more than a million unemployed men. Our European critics called that their return would create awful social and political outcomes. However, these critics were believing with regards to their particular countries; they didn't consider the United States had an enormous unoccupied domain name which was waiting for development. The men who fought the Civil War had illustrated just the adventuresome, hardy instincts which were most needed in this great venture. Even before the War finished, a fantastic immigration started towards the trans-Mississippi country's mines and farms. There was probably no important town or district west that did not consume a considerable number. In these communities that were brand new, too, our ex-soldiers became leaders most of the time. Perhaps this movement has its picturesque and typical example in the extent to which the Northern soldiers opened up the oil-producing areas of western Pennsylvania.
The Civil War period additionally forced into visibility several men whose processes and whose achievements indicated, a new type of industrial leadership, even though about and indistinctly. Although this guy employed his great abilities in a discipline, that of railroad transport, which lies outside the scope of the present volume as the symbol that links the new and the old industrial era I may take Cornelius Vanderbilt in this comprehensive view. He's worthy of more comprehensive study for in style and achievements Vanderbilt is the most romantic figure in the annals of American finance than he's received. We must remember that in the time we are contemplating Vanderbilt was seventy one years of age and that he was born in 1794. In the issue of years, so, his career seemingly belongs to the antebellum days, yet the most remarkable fact about that remarkable man is the fact that his real life work did not begin until he'd passed. In 1865 Vanderbilt's fortune, consisting mainly of a fleet amounted to about $10,000,000; he died twelve years later leaving $104,000,000, the first of those colossal American fortunes. The simple fact that this fortune was the accrued gain of just ten years reveals possibly more eloquently than some other position the United States had entered a new economic age. That new factor in the life span of the world along with America, the railway, describes his accomplishment. Vanderbilt was clearly one of the very most astonishing characters in our history. His physical exterior made him possibly the most imposing figure in nyc. In his old age, at seventy-three, Vanderbilt wed his second wife, a wonderful Southern widow who'd just turned her thirtieth year, and also the appearance of the two, sitting side by side in one of the Commodore's smartest turnouts, driving recklessly behind a pair of the quickest trotters of the day, was a common sight in Central Park. Nor did Vanderbilt look incongruous in this amazing setting. His tall and strong frame was still erect, and his big, rebellious head, ruddy cheeks, sparkling, deep-set black eyes, and snowy white hair and whiskers, made him appear every inch the Commodore. These public appearances added a pleasanter and much more sentimental aspect to Vanderbilt's life than his intimates consistently perceived. For his manners were unpleasant and uncouth; he was totally without education and may compose lines that are hardly half a dozen without outraging the spelling-book. Though he adored his race-horses, had a fondness for music, and could sit through long winter evenings while his youthful wife sang old Southern ballads, Vanderbilt's ungovernable temper had set him on poor terms with almost all his children--he'd had thirteen, of whom eleven survived him--who challenged his will and exposed all his eccentricities to public view on the ground that the man who created the New York Central system was truly insane. Vanderbilt's temperament and him's processes presented this kind of contrast to the commonplace minds which had previously controlled American business this explanation is probably unsurprising. He saw things in their biggest facets and in his transactions that were huge he appeared to act almost on impulse and instinct. Vanderbilt could never describe the mental processes by which he arrived at significant decisions, though these decisions themselves were always sound. He seems to have had, as he himself often said, nearly a seer-like faculty. Himself saw visions, and he believed in dreams as well as in hints. The finest practical genius of his time was a regular attendant at spiritualistic seances; in sickness he normally resorted to mesmerists, mental healers, and clairvoyants, and he cultivated personally the society of mediums. Before embarking in his amazing railway ventures or making investments, Vanderbilt visited spiritualists; we have one circumstantial account of his summoning the wraith of Jim Fiske to suggest him in stock operations. His excessive vanity led him to print his picture on all the Lake Shore bonds; he proposed to New York City the building in Central Park of a large monument that will commemorate, side by side, the names of Vanderbilt and Washington; and he actually erected a large statue to himself in his new Hudson River station in St. John's Park. His attitude to the public was shown in his remark when one of his associates told him that "each and every one" of certain trades which he'd only forced through "is certainly prohibited by the statutes of the State of New York." "My God, John!" said the Commodore, "you don't assume you can run a railway in accordance with the legislative acts of the State of New York, do you?" "Law!" my God once roared on the same occasion, "What do I care about law? Hain't I got the power?"
These things were the excrescences of an extremely vital, overflowing, creative, dynamic human being; they're traits that not infrequently accompany genius. And the work which Vanderbilt did remains an essential element of our economical organization nowadays. Before his time a visit meant that seventeen times changed trains, and that all cargo had to be unloaded in a similar amount of positions, wheeled across towns, and reloaded into other trains. The spectacular railroad highway that goes up the Hudson's banks, alongside Lake Erie's borders, and through the Mohawk Valley --a water line route nearly the entire space--was all but useless. It's true that not all the consolidation of these lines was Vanderbilt's work. In 1853 certain millionaires and politicians had linked together the several different lines stretching from Albany to Buffalo, but they had managed the brand new road so that the largest stockholders begged Vanderbilt to take the management over. By 1873 the Commodore had acquired the Hudson River, going from nyc the New York Central extending from Albany to Buffalo, as well as the Lake Shore which ran from Buffalo to Chicago. In a few years these roads had been consolidated into a smoothly operating system. In this operation Vanderbilt typified the era that was dawning--an era of corruption, of personal selfishness, of ruthlessness, of disregard of contempt for legislatures and law, and yet of achievement that was vast and advantageous. The men of this time may have traveled roughshod with their goal, but after all, they opened up, to the uses of humanity in an amazingly limited time, a powerful continent.