The Rise of Urban America
What were the major English settlements in North America and how did they differ?
How did early Canadian settlements differ from those in what would become the United States?
What was the role of cities in the United States prior to the Civil War?
What was the role of technology in shaping the spatial pattern of American cities between the Civil War (1865) and 1920?
‘What was the role played by transportation technology in developing cities west of the Mississippi River
How did the electric streetcar change the spatial and social patterns of American cities?
Whal was the role played by political bosses in 19th- and early 20th-century American cities?
What was the impact of immigration on the 19th-century American city?
What were the goals of early 20th-century urban reform movements and what impact did they have?
How has the myth of rural virtue affected American politics and urban policies?
1: “A New War Begins“
Cornelius Vanderbilt invests in the railroad industry; John D. Rockefeller builds a massive oil pipeline.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, America attempts to build up the country. While much of the growth is driven by railroads and oil, it’s built using steel.
Andrew Carnegie immigrates to the United States with his parents and starts working at age 12. He finds a patron in railroad executive Tom Scott who teaches him about the business. By age 30, while already running his own business, Scott hires him to build a bridge over the Mississippi river to link East and West in a way never before thought possible by train. Carnegie agrees, but doesn t know how he ll build a bridge strong enough. Carnegie’s doubt is quelled when he finds his answer in steel. Before Carnegie realizes the full potential of steel, his mentor Scott dies in a state of humiliation at the hands of John D. Rockefeller s oil pipeline. Carnegie vows to have his revenge and best Rockefeller.
4: “Blood is Spilled“
Carnegie hires a hatchet man, Henry Frick, to help him achieve his goal of besting Rockefeller. The partnership seems promising, but Carnegie does not know that Frick is running his factories far beyond capacity. Frick cuts corners and soon the pair is responsible for the biggest man-made disaster America has ever seen: the Johnstown flood, which claims more than 2000 lives. Carnegie hates being disliked, and his initial impetus to seek revenge becomes the furthest thing from his mind.
5: “Owning it All“
With an investment from Morgan, the Edison Electric Company is created and begins wiring homes in New York. A rival, Nikola Tesla, soon emerges with a different technology for electric light. Edison is convinced his is better and goes to war with Tesla. As things escalate, Morgan begins to lose faith. Eventually, Tesla’s technology prevails and his theory of Alternating Current (AC) becomes the standard. Morgan fires Edison and renames Edison Electric Company as General Electric (GE). GE is still one of the biggest companies in the world today. Edison vows never to work with electricity again. He begins work on his motion picture camera.
Railroads, oil, steel and electricity have all been harnessed in less than 50 years, but the face of America is forever changing.
Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan have gone unmonitored for decades, but American politicians are about to change that. They want these men to fall into line under government control. The men, some lifelong enemies, come together with a plan to buy the White House by donating the modern day equivalent of $30 million dollars to Ohio Governor, William McKinley. McKinley intends to repay his backers; he repeals regulation after regulation to allow them the freedom to do unimaginable things without consequence or impediment. Morgan and Carnegie create US Steel, the first billion dollar company while Rockefeller takes control of 90% of North American oil.
A young engineer named Henry Ford devises the plan for a gas-powered car. McKinley is assassinated and his VP Theodore Roosevelt takes office and quickly passes a series of regulations increasing oversight of American business. Ford receives his financial backing and comes up with the concept of the assembly line. He targets the middle class with his new product and changes the landscape of America. Rockefeller is put on trial for anti-trust violations. He loses in court and his company, Standard Oil, is one of the first monopolies broken up by the US government. JP Morgan helps to establish the Federal Reserve. This cements Morgan’s legacy as the father of modern capitalism. Carnegie, still reeling from his culpability in the Johnstown disaster, gives away much of his fortune. His example of charity paves the way for individuals like Bill Gates who will do the same. As the US army sets sail for Europe, one thing is clear… these men didn’t discover America. They built it.