By the latter part of the 19th century, a new aristocracy had arisen in America—the “great captains of industry.” Those industrialists, bankers, traders, merchants and their ilk were called the robber barons, and the only power sufficient to rein them in was government. 

-John D. Rockefeller (railroads and steel)

-Cornelius Vanderbilt (shipping and railroads)

-Andrew Carnegie (oil)

-J Pierpont Morgan (finance)


All those men and dozens of others like them exercised an extraordinary degree of control over the commercial life of the United States. Their interests interlocked; bankers and industrialists frequently shared seats on each other’s boards of directors, so that the interests of the many contributed to the wealth of the individual corporations. They exercised substantial control over governments, often coming to the rescue in times of financial crisis by pumping dollars or gold into the financial arena. Political leaders frequently used institutions like the House of Morgan to finance government operations and perform diplomatic functions, both in peace and war.