Robber Barons: 'If the Shoe Fits Wear It'

10 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012 Last revised: 24 Jan 2012

See all articles by DiMarkco Stephen Chandler

DiMarkco Stephen Chandler

Claremont Graduate University; California State University, Northridge

Date Written: January 21, 2012


Robber Barons, is a phrase used by a number of historians to characterize a particular group of unscrupulous American businessmen, who, by themselves, significantly transformed the late nineteenth century into their private game of “survival of the fittest”. To simply say that these men were parasitic thieves absorbed in self-interest alone was for years the accepted interpretation of the facts. However, today two distinctive views have emerged from two distinctive generations of writers. Clearly, historians that first tried to explain the unique personalities and behavior of the business leader of the late 19th century saw them as unprincipled swindlers that bribed legislatures, suppressed trade unions, defeated strikes and “choked off rivals” so to monopolize their business interest . On the other hand, revisionists have essentially tried to abandon the “robber baron” concept, replacing it with the more positive term “captains of industry”, suggesting that they provided new markets, more jobs, higher wages, lower prices, and more goods of better quality . Technically, it could be possible for both definitions to fit these so-called robber barons. Even the worst of the bunch, might appear to have contributed to the economic growth which marked the Industrial Revolution in America. However, evidence to substantiate such a claim is marginal at best. This study will not only question the term “Captains of Industry,” but in addition, provide evidence supporting the claim that these men were greedy, corrupt, manipulative and profit-seeking vultures, who wanted to eliminate all competition by creating a monopoly regardless of the methods used.

Keywords: Captains of Industry, revolution, unscrupulous businessmen, profit-seeking, vulture capitalist, venture capitalist, America, survival of the fittest

Suggested Citation

Chandler, DiMarkco Stephen, Robber Barons: 'If the Shoe Fits Wear It' (January 21, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

DiMarkco Stephen Chandler (Contact Author)

Claremont Graduate University ( email )

150 E. Tenth Street
Claremont, CA 91711
United States

California State University, Northridge ( email )

18111 Nordoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
United States

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