[Luxus Magazine] Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie and JP Morgan: the founding fathers of American capitalism

Their names evoke an opulent and grandiose era. That of the Industrial Revolution taking over from the Wild West, of gigantic neo-colonial mansions lining the Hudson River, of New York’s first skyscrapers…And of personalities who, above all, prefigured those who would later be called the great captains of industry and even the founders of GAFAM.


Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, JP Morgan…Embodiments of the American dream, these self-made men from rural America made their fortunes by revolutionizing the daily lives of millions of Americans through mass industry.


But in this world of the HNWI before its time, gentlemanly behavior didn’t matter, as long as you won a total victory over the competition.


110 years before Reagan’s ultra-liberalization, the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies and JP Morgans built American capitalism.


This is their story, made of steam, oil, steel and, above all, dollars!

America, too, has its Old Money


Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie and JP Morgan. What remains of these four names, apart from a few namesake buildings such as the gigantic Fifth Avenue shopping complex, Rockefeller Center, the legendary Carnegie Hall concert hall and a powerful Manhattan investment bank? Monumental portraits of their respective wives adorned with the finest jewelry by Cartier, Tiffany’s and Van Cleef & Arpels?


Biltmore Estate, Asheville © Lee lawson/Unsplash


Today, while JP Morgan Chase remains a household name and Gloria Vanderbilt a perfume brand in disuse, only Rockefeller has entered the vernacular, to the point of replacing the expression “rich as Croesus” with his fortune and his title – stainless in the collective unconscious – of America’s first fortune.


While Ralph Lauren has been fantasizing about an American aristocracy through a preppy aesthetic since the 1970s, and Francis Scott Fitzgerald recounts the vicissitudes of the great families of the 1920s in their very posh suburb of East Eggs, outrageously shocked by a parvenu named Gatsby, these made-in-the-USA dynasties are well and truly rooted in the country.

The most emblematic of these Old Money companies surfaced on the other side of the Atlantic, long after the Gold Rush, on the ruins of the fratricidal Civil War.


Cartoon “A Cabinet That Could Afford” showing nine people making up a cabinet, each with an honorary title related to their personality or sector of activity, including John P Morgan the Captain (Secretary of the Navy), John D. Rockefeller the Usurer (Secretary of the Treasury) and Andrew Carnegie, the Scot (Secretary of State), 1905.


Click here to read the entire article on Luxus Magazine.

Featured Photo: The Men Who Built America © Amazon Prime Video

Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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