Volker Janssen (Professor of History, California State University, Fullerton)
February 28, 2013
In the decades after the Civil War the growth of urban markets, the creation of an efficient distribution system, the development of a highly motivated work force, and the availability of vast amounts of capital transformed the agricultural, craft-centered economy of the United States into a modern industrial powerhouse. But with this growth came instability. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as quickly as gains were made, depressions and recessions wiped them out. With no effective government policy or regulation to promote security, business acted to stabilize markets. By establishing cartels, trusts, and holding companies, and by gaining control of industrial processes from raw materials to sales, American business leaders revolutionized the economy and became almost a second set of Founders. Who won and who lost in this revolution? Did it strengthen or weaken democracy? Was bigger better?
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