The Birth of Big Business in the United States, 1860-1914: Commercial, Extractive, and Industrial Enterprise

The Birth of Big Business in the United States, 1860-1914: Commercial, Extractive, and Industrial Enterprise

The Birth of Big Business in the United States, 1860-1914: Commercial, Extractive, and Industrial Enterprise

The Birth of Big Business in the United States, 1860-1914: Commercial, Extractive, and Industrial Enterprise

Synopsis

The economic and cultural roots of contemporary American business can be traced directly to developments in the era between the Civil War and World War I. The physical expansion of the country combined with development of transportation and communication infrastructures to create a free market of vast proportion and businesses capable of capitalizing on the accompanying "economies of scale," through higher productivity, lower costs, and broader distribution. The Birth of Big Business in the United States illuminates the conditions that changed the face of American business and the national economy, giving rise to such titans as Standard Oil, United States Steel, American Tobacco, and Sears, Roebuck, as well as institutions such as the United States Post Office. During this period, commercial banking and law also evolved, and, as the authors argue, business and government were not antagonists but partners in creating mass consumer markets, process innovations, and regulatory frameworks to support economic growth. The Birth of Big Business in the United States is not only an incisive account of modern business development but a fascinating glimpse into a dynamic period of American history.

Excerpt

Between the Civil War and World War I the size of American enterprise— industrial, commercial, agricultural, and governmental especially—expanded rapidly. In 1860 the United States was a giant country made up of small-scale, local enterprises. In 1914 giants dominated American business, punctuated American farming, and showed signs of spreading throughout the national institutional structure. The Birth of Big Business in the United States, 1860–1914 is a business history of the period with an emphasis on expanding business enterprise broadly cast to include giants of commerce, manufacturing, and extractive industries. Government projects are included to illuminate the role of business in the developing local and national socioeconomic structure of the era.

Despite ups and downs, the story of the New World has been one of prosperity and growth. What was true for the entire hemisphere was even more true for the United States. The young country had roots in a colonial period built around business activity: the very purpose of the first thrusts of colonization had been profits for investors. The business of colonization suffered early setbacks when undercapitalized colonies struggling in the raw American environment failed to produce sufficient profits for their anxious, impatient investors. Nevertheless, the American colonial era—the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—was dominated by mercantilism, government-directed economic policy that assigned a pivotal role to colonies.

Motivated by mercantilistic goals, the British Crown provided grants of land to the colonizing companies and then assumed responsibility for defunct colonial ventures. English colonists depended on Crown support as they wrestled a harsh natural environment for survival while battling Native Americans and the Dutch, French, and Spanish. The Crown was an essential part of the colonial economy and society. As long as national government aided and abetted the business life of . . .

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