On one side are Carnegie, the ruthless competitor; Gould, the provocateur in the shadows; and Rockefeller, the visionary who understood how to manage sprawling empires. These three were obsessed with progress, experiment, and speed. In steel, railroads, oil, and money markets, they rallied behind a single-minded code: bigger, cheaper, faster. And then there was Morgan, the gentleman businessman, who fought, instead, for a global trust in American business. Through their competition over the last decades of the nineteenth century, they built a powerful nation populated with consumers as well as producers, fostering the growth of the middle class. The Tycoons tells the incredible story of how four determined men wrenched the economy into the modern age, inventing a nation of full economic participation that could not have been imagined only a few decades earlier.
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Andrew Carnegie immigrated from Scotland and grew enormously rich in the steel business, which he sold to JP Morgan to devote himself to philanthropy. John D. Rockefeller went from humble beginnings to become the richest man in America by consolidating his hold on the production and refining of petroleum through Standard Oil. Jay Gould was a railroad investor and speculator during the Gilded Age and is sometimes regarded as the epitome of the immoral robber baron. J.P. Morgan was a banker equally at home in the refinement of London financial circles and the rough and tumble of American industry. While none of the business leaders of the Gilded Age led unblemished lives, names like Rockefeller and Carnegie are removed for philanthropy while others are recalled as robber barons.