The United States of America became a superpower due to the commitment and diligence of Americans. Some of them made a great contribution, while others contributed their labor to make big ideas happen. Cornelius Vanderbilt is often referred to as one of the men who made America and “built” the country. He is also one of the most controversial figures in the history of business and the history of the United States.
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On the one hand, he seemed to be a robber baron due to his business strategies and decisions. On the other hand, he could be seen as the key figure in the development of the transportation system of the country that, in its turn, became the foundation of America’s economic power. This paper dwells upon Vanderbilt’s impact on the growth of the USA and his personal influence on his contemporaries and the future of the country.
Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) started his business life as an owner of a ferry boat. He soon expanded his business, becoming a successful owner of several vessels and developed new routes. These routes were important transportation channels that facilitated the development of trade. For instance, cotton from the South was brought to the North by means of these routes. At this point, it is necessary to stress that Cornelius Vanderbilt managed to see opportunities and seize them.
He always pushed the limits, which had a positive influence on the development of the American economy. Ironically, when he was in the steamboat business, he had to confront a monopoly that existed on the Hudson River. He became the winner in that battle, which ensured his further growth and empowerment. Later, he was a creator of one of the largest monopolies in the history of the USA.
As mentioned above, Vanderbilt was a man of vision, and he foresaw the exclusiveness of the railroad. He invested heavily in this industry and became an owner of an important transportation facility, the New York and Harlem railroad. This ownership enabled him to take advantage of his competitors as he appeared to have the key to the gateway of one of the most important ports in the country. As a result, he acquired numerous railroad companies at a very low price, which became one of the steps toward the creation of his monopoly.
Cornelius Vanderbilt utilized an innovative business strategy as instead of competing with smaller companies, he bought them. The horizontal integration was an efficient business model as it ensured the rapid development of the industry since bigger companies did not have to spend funds to compete. At that, smaller companies received access to the necessary resources.
The development of the network of railroads was one of the most important milestones that created the USA. Railroads became the backbone of the trade, industries, and westward expansion. These were also important means of transporting supplies during the Civil War. In the post-war time, railroads facilitated the development of numerous industries, such as the steel industry. New cities were built in new territories, and thousands of entrepreneurs had an opportunity to reach customers in the most distant areas.
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Importantly, to a certain extent, Cornelius Vanderbilt could be regarded as a robber baron, but, to a larger extent, he was a captain of industry. For instance, he created one of the largest monopolies, and such creations often have adverse effects on the business environment and, especially, employees’ wellbeing. However, monopoly was required at the time when transportation networks were needed within very short periods of time. Competition, specifically when it came to smaller companies, would have slowed down the development of railroads due to scarce resources.
Moreover, Vanderbilt’s monopoly was one of the factors that led to the establishment and empowerment of labor unions, as well as important changes to the country’s legislature that regulated certain areas in business. For example, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act paved the way for other efficient laws and regulations that are making the modern business environment healthy. Labor unions became a considerable power due to the necessity to oppose such figures as Vanderbilt. People consolidated, and their effort was instrumental in bringing in diverse shifts in the political and social spheres.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that Cornelius Vanderbilt was an entrepreneur who often used controversial strategies but made a great contribution to the development of the country. He had a major impact on the U. S. social landscape in the nineteenth century. His transportation monopoly contributed to the development of many industries and trade. People reached new territories within a comparatively short period. These changes came at a high cost as thousands of people had to work long hours for very low wages. However, the result was a sophisticated infrastructure and numerous laws regulating business.
At present, Americans are still using the network created by Vanderbilt and laws enacted to make the business environment better. Many of his business strategies remain effective these days as well. Clearly, some of his decisions could not be regarded as fair or ethical, but the man created routes that united people and fostered the nation.