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History of the Great American Fortunes

by Gustavus Myers

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Originally published in 1910, a primary source for the business and development of American power in the nineteenth century. As Myers describes in his preface, it was the fashion in the early twentieth century to write of the multi-millionaires in an unfavorable light, as if they were all robber barons and had no social conscience. In his history he was attempting to be more realistic in his perspective. Volume one tells of the colonization of America and the large land grants and the great land fortunes. Volumes two and three cover the great fortunes from railroads, with extensive material on J. P. Morgan in relation to that category.Gustavus Myers (1872-1942) was an American historian who worked on a number of newspapers and magazines in New York City, joined the Populist party and the Social Reform Club, and was a member (1907-12) of the Socialist party. Such books as The History of Tammany Hall (1901), History of the Great American Fortunes (1910), and History of the Supreme Court of the United States (1912) were detailed, realistic exposes through which Myers made his reputation in the muckraking era of American literature.… (more)
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From page 98 of the 1936 edition (though probably written for the first edition in 1909):
"...a profound truth, the force of which mankind is only now beginning to realize, that the pursuit of profit will transform natures inherently capable of much good into sordid, cruel breasts [sic, I think was meant 'beasts'] of prey and accustoming them to committing actions so despicable, so inhuman, that they would be terrified, were it not that the world is under the sway of a profit system and not merely excuses and condones, but justifies and throw a glamour about, the unutterable degradations and crimes which the profit system calls forth."
History has proved, and continues to prove, how prescient this author is. He was condemning the actions of John Jacob Astor, whose minions used liquor--while charging outlandish prices for it for it--to systematically defrauded Native American of their just payment for the furs he sold to Europe, bringing him immense wealth
How much does this, from the same page, sound like today?:
"Like all other propertied interests, Astor's company regarded the law as a thing to be rigorously invoked against the poor, the helpless and defenseless, but as not to be considered when it stood in the way of the claims, designs and pretensions of property." ( )
  frannyor | Mar 15, 2018 |
281. History of the Great American Fortunes (Vol. I), by Gustavus Myers (read 3 Sep 1946)
282. History of the Great American Fortunes (Vol. II), by Gustavus Myers (read 5 Sep 1946)
283. History of the Great American Fortunes (Vol. III), by Gustavus Myers (read 7 Sep 1946) On Sept 4, 1946 I said: "Stayed up till 12:30 AM to finish first volume of 'Great American Fortunes'--a bitter tirade against the rich guys who, according to the author, were worse than devils Astor, Marshall Field." On Sept 7 I said: "Finished third volume of Great American Fortunes: Morgan, Hill." I read these volumes in a hurry because I was leaving for college on Sept 15 and wanted to get them read before I left. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 10, 2013 |
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Originally published in 1910, a primary source for the business and development of American power in the nineteenth century. As Myers describes in his preface, it was the fashion in the early twentieth century to write of the multi-millionaires in an unfavorable light, as if they were all robber barons and had no social conscience. In his history he was attempting to be more realistic in his perspective. Volume one tells of the colonization of America and the large land grants and the great land fortunes. Volumes two and three cover the great fortunes from railroads, with extensive material on J. P. Morgan in relation to that category.Gustavus Myers (1872-1942) was an American historian who worked on a number of newspapers and magazines in New York City, joined the Populist party and the Social Reform Club, and was a member (1907-12) of the Socialist party. Such books as The History of Tammany Hall (1901), History of the Great American Fortunes (1910), and History of the Supreme Court of the United States (1912) were detailed, realistic exposes through which Myers made his reputation in the muckraking era of American literature.

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