An Historical Perspective on the Value of Wealth

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Business
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The second half of the 19th century saw the newly emancipated freedmen, business tycoons, and recently liberated progressives enter the politics of the new America. Capitalism was reaching a zenith and the opportunity for wealth abounded. It created a diverse mix of social backgrounds, colors, genders and economic means…

Introduction


Three prominent figures from the late 19th century were Andrew Carnegie, Booker T. Washington, and Ida Tarbell. This small group was made up of a business titan, an ex-slave and a female journalist. They were of vastly diverse backgrounds and yet all shared the common thread of being almost obsessed with the idea of wealth. All for different reasons, yet sharing some common motives.
Washington, born into slavery, had worked his way up through sweat and diligence. He was a college graduate, prominent figure, and believed in the accumulation of wealth as a means to elevate your position in society. He was willing to compromise freedoms to attain modest material wealth in the notion that even modest wealth would bring greater power than social activism. He had understood the difference between rich and poor and had made a conscious plan to narrow the gap.
While Washington respected the gaining of modest wealth as a means to power, Carnegie was the image of the man who collected wealth for what the wealth could do for others. He realized early in life that wealth was not an end to itself. He understood that wealth was not happiness and it was meant to be given away for public good.1 Washington and Carnegie both understood the difference between poor and rich. ...
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