Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Age of Big Business by Burton J. Hendrick

book cover

The Age of Big Business
by Burton J. Hendrick

Hardback: 196 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: 1919

Source: Bought at library book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Written in 1919 and a part of the Yale Chronicles of America series, this book takes a look at how the first monopolies and large corporations formed between 1865 and 1919. It looks at the areas of petroleum, steel, telephones, public utilities, agricultural machinery, and automobiles with a focus on the "captains of industry" and their influence in changing the face of business.

The Age of Big Business is a history of how businesses changed from small, competing businesses to large corporations that controlled major portions of or all of an industry. Since the book was written in 1919, it was fascinating to see how the various industries have changed from post-Civil-War to post-World-War-I to now. For example, I didn't realize that America once exported oil.

Chapter One compared 1865 to 1919 in terms of technology and business. Chapter Two gave an overview history of the discovery and business of oil and described how "the first great American Trust," the Standard Oil Company, was formed. Chapter Three gave an overview history of the major development and business of steel and how Carnegie Steel Company was formed. Chapter Four gave an overview history of the invention, development, and business of telephones and how the American Telephone & Telegraph Company was formed. Chapter Five gave an overview history of the development of public utilities. Chapter Six gave an overview history of the development and business of agricultural machinery and talked about McCormick's inventions and his three main competitors in that business. Chapter Seven gave an overview history of the invention, development, and business of the automobile and talked about Henry Ford.

Overall, the book was easy to read and interesting. I'd recommend the recent re-releases of this "classic" to those who enjoy reading about technology and business history.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
A comprehensive survey of the United States, at the end of the Civil War, would reveal a state of society which bears little resemblance to that of today. Almost all those commonplace fundamentals of existence, the things that contribute to our bodily comfort while they vex us with economic and political problems, had 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 supply the conveniences and comforts of what we call our American civilization. The city of that period, with their unsewered and unpaved streets, their dingy, flickering gaslights, their ambling horse-cars, and their hideous slums, seemed appropriate settings for the unformed social life and the rough-and-ready political methods of American democracy. The railroads, with their fragile iron rails, their little wheezy locomotives, their wooden bridges, their unheated coaches, and their kerosene lamps, fairly typified the prevailing frontier business and economic organization.

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