Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Greatest Generations

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” — John D. Rockefeller

There have been several generations that could be called the “Greatest Generation.” Firstly there were our Founders who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for our lives, liberty and happiness from 1776 to 1787. These men could be called the first of our greatest generations.

Secondly there were the men and women who were children of the Great Depression who went off to fight and die in the Second World War — a war against statist tyranny. These men and women returned to build the nation we live I today. They were the ones who built our cars, houses, refrigerators, radios and TV sets. They were the ones who went on to become teachers, scientists, engineers, and above all entrepreneurs. This was a term coined by the NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw.

Between the Civil War and the early 1900s, the United States became the premier industrial nation of the world. This was due in large part to the efforts of a growing number of market entrepreneurs-such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Herbert Dow-rather than of political entrepreneurs commonly referred to as the robber barons-who relied on federal subsidies to propel their success.

The success of the Great Northern Railroad-a transcontinental railroad from St. Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington-built by the private entrepreneur James J. Hill with no federal funding, showcased to Americans after the Civil War the worth of free market principles. Pursuing these principles allowed American businesses to flourish at home and successfully to challenge European industrial dominance, which led to significant developments socially and politically in America and throughout the world.

The discoveries and developments in the steel, oil, and chemical industries brought about by the entrepreneurship of Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Herbert Dow, respectively, established the foundation for American industrial successes in the 20th century, particularly for Henry Ford and the automobile industry. Market principles and their own genius propelled these men to pursue innovation in all aspects of their industry, and to offer quality products consistently. Over time, this led to reduced prices and thus wide adoption of their products.

These notable men of the “Gilded Age” rightly have a claim to the title of the "Greatest Generation," as the quality of life in society at large improved greatly due to their entrepreneurship and their philanthropy.

What can we learn from these men such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Dow, Henry Ford, and the other “Market Entrepreneurs who made the United States into the world’s greatest industrial power by the beginning of the 20th century?

A few of the things we see in the 1800s are: Lots of individual liberty, very few stifling regulations, and a national government determined to reduce the national debt and show the world we had the discipline to balance our budget and have surpluses. In fact we had surpluses for 28 years from 1865 to 1893 and cut the national debt by two-thirds.

Today, if we could restore that kind of discipline restored that kind of freedom to the United States we would again see an outburst of entrepreneurship. We have seen that with things such as the iPad and iPhone. We would see more with limited government and a more disciplined federal government that balances its budgets.

What is needed is the removal of stifling regulations, increased individual liberty followed by constitutional government, and our federal government must restore fiscal responsibility and pay off the national debt.

From the Civil War to the beginning of the 20th century the United States rose from being a second rate power to a first rate power and the premier industrial power of the world.

This accomplishment was made possible by American market entrepreneurs as distinguished from political entrepreneurs. Market entrepreneurs succeeded by making a quality product at a low price, product that their customers wanted. While on the other hand the political entrepreneurs relied on federal subsidies to be successful. It was this latter class that was dubbed “robber barons.”

Take as example the Transcontinental Railroad that was financed through the sale of government bonds under the Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864. Through this act the federal government guaranteed the sale of bonds to finance the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to build a railway from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco, California some 1,900 miles. At the end of the Civil War the U.S national debt was $60 million dollars. As the construction of the Transcontinental Railway was paid by the mile the final cost was $60 million dollars the two railway companies obtained some 44 million acres of land in the bargain. While the Transcontinental Railway was a great engineering accomplishment, especially in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California it was built by political entrepreneurs who needed the federal government to finance their enterprise.

On the other hand the Great Northern Railway was built using private capitalJames_J._Hill_at_35 at a cheaper costs and more efficiently. The Great Northern Railway running from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington—more than 1,700 miles was the creation of the 19th century railroad tycoon James J. Hill and was developed from the Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad. The Great Northern's route was the northernmost transcontinental railroad route in the United States. It was completed on January 6, 1893, at Scenic, Washington.

The Great Northern was the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railroad in United States history. No federal land grants were used during its construction, unlike every other transcontinental railroad; according to Hill, his railway was built "without any government aid, even the right of way, through hundreds of miles of public lands, being paid for in cash". Consequently, it was one of the few transcontinental railroads to avoid receivership following the Panic of 1893. Hill would be considered a “market entrepreneur” — a person who saw a need and was willing to risk his capital and that of his investors to deliver a service the public wanted in a quality manner at a lower cost. It should be noted that Hill’s railway was considered in broad outline the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

In 1870 the largest steel producer in the world was Great Britain. They were selling steel for $56 per ton and the largest consumers of steel were the railways for use as rails. In 1848 a 13-year Andrew Carnegie immigrated to the United States with his parents from Scotland. Carnegie had very little formal education, but he had a sense for business and a terrific work ethic and desire to succeed. In 1850, at the age of 15, he learned Morse Code and in 1853, Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company employed Carnegie as a secretary/telegraph operator at a salary of $4.00 per week. At age 18, the precocious youth began a rapid advancement through the company, becoming the superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division. His employment by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company would be vital to his later success. The railroads were the first big businesses in America, and the Pennsylvania was one of the largest of them all. Carnegie learned much about management and cost control during these years and from Scott in particular.

In 1864, Carnegie invested $40,000 in Story Farm on Oil Creek in Venango County, Pennsylvania. In one year, the farm yielded over $1,000,000 in cash dividends, and petroleum from oil wells on the property sold profitably. The demand for iron products, such as armor for gunboats, cannon, and shells, as well as a hundred other industrial products, made Pittsburgh a center of wartime production. Carnegie worked with others in establishing a steel rolling mill, and steel production and control of industry became the source of his fortune. Carnegie had some investments in the iron industry before the war.

After the Civil War Carnegie left the railroads to devote all his energies to the ironworks trade. Carnegie worked to develop several iron works, eventually forming The Keystone Bridge Works and the Union Ironworks, in Pittsburgh. Although he had left the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, he remained closely connected to its management, namely Thomas A. Scott and J. Edgar Thomson. He used his connection to the two men to acquire contracts for his Keystone Bridge Company and the rails produced by his ironworks. He also gave stock to Scott and Thomson in his businesses, and the Pennsylvania was his best customer. When he built his first steel plant, he made a point of naming it after Thomson. As well as having good business sense, Carnegie possessed charm and literary knowledge. He was invited to many important social functions—functions that Carnegie exploited to his own advantage.

Over the ensuing years Carnegie built a vast steel empire and in doing so reduces the cost of steel to $11.50 per ton and virtually drove British steel out of the country. By 1901 he had built the largest steel company in the world and at the age of 66 he negotiated the sale of Carnegie Steel to the banker J.P. Morgan and the organizers for U.S. Steel for $480 million dollars (presently, $13.246 billion dollars) which at the time was the largest ever personal commercial transaction.

After the sale Carnegie devoted the rest of his life and money to philanthropy, building libraries and schools, providing 4,000 churches with organs, and establishing the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace. Carnegie defended industrial capitalism and accepted many of the principles of classical liberal political economy—individualism, competition that promoted the “survival of the fittest,” the sanctity of private property, inequality. At the same time, he maintained the biblical demand that the wealthy provide for the common good. His “gospel of wealth” was meant to provide an alternative to the “science of wealth” advanced by atheist-materialists of the laissez-faire school as well as the “social gospel” of collectivism. In his famous 1889 essay “The Gospel of Wealth" Carnegie stated:

"The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great; but the advantages of this law are also greater still, for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train. But, whether the law be benign or not, we must say of it, as we say of the change in the conditions of men to which we have referred: It is here; we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race."

The second major demanded product of the late 1800s was oil. Until the discovery of oil at Oil Creek, Pennsylvania in 1859 people would light their homes and businesses with candles or lamps burning expensive whale oil. This would soon change through the entrepreneurship of John D. Rockefeller.

Rockefeller was born in Richford, New York in 1839. His father, William Avery Rockefeller, was a traveling snake oil salesman who mover from town to town huckstering his various elixirs. His father was also a bigamist who left the family high and dry

His mother, Eliza, a homemaker and devout Baptist, struggled to maintain a semblance of stability at home, as William was frequently gone for extended periods. She also put up with his philandering and his double life, which included bigamy. Thrifty by nature and necessity, she taught her son that "willful waste makes woeful want." Young Rockefeller did his share of the regular household chores and earned extra money raising turkeys, selling potatoes and candy and eventually lending small sums of money to neighbors

In September 1855, when Rockefeller was sixteen, he got his first job as an assistant bookkeeper, working for a small produce commission firm called Hewitt & Tuttle. He worked long hours and delighted, as he later recalled, in “all the methods and systems of the office”. He was particularly adept at calculating transportation costs, which served him well later in his career. The full salary for his first three months' work was $50 (50 cents a day). As a youth, Rockefeller reportedly said that his two great ambitions were to make $100,000 and to live 100 years.

In 1859, Rockefeller went into the produce commission business with a partner, Maurice B. Clark, and they raised $4,000 in capital. Rockefeller went steadily ahead in business from there, making money each year of his career. After wholesale foodstuffs, the partners built an oil refinery in 1863 in "The Flats", then Cleveland's burgeoning industrial area on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. The refinery was directly owned by Andrews, Clark & Company, which was composed of Clark & Rockefeller, chemist Samuel Andrews, and M. B. Clark's two brothers. The commercial oil business was in its infancy. Whale oil had become too expensive for the masses, and a cheaper, general-purpose lighting fuel was needed.

In February 1865, Rockefeller bought out the Clark brothers for $72,500 at auction and established the firm of Rockefeller & Andrews. Rockefeller said, "It was the day that determined my career." He was well-positioned to take advantage of post-war prosperity and the great expansion westward, fostered by the growth of railroads and an oil-fueled economy. He borrowed heavily, reinvested profits, adapted rapidly to changing markets, and fielded observers to track the quickly expanding industry

In 1866, his brother William Rockefeller built another refinery in Cleveland and brought John into the partnership. In 1867, Henry M. Flagler became a partner, and the firm of Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler was established. By 1868, with Rockefeller continuing practices of borrowing and reinvesting profits, controlling cost and using refineries' waste, the company owned two Cleveland refineries and a marketing subsidiary in New York; it was the largest oil refinery in the world. Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler was the predecessor of the Standard Oil Company.

By the end of the American Civil War, Cleveland was one of the five main refining centers in the U.S. (besides Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and the region in northwestern Pennsylvania where most of the oil originated). In June 1870, Rockefeller formed Standard Oil of Ohio, which rapidly became the most profitable refiner in Ohio. Standard Oil grew to become one of the largest shippers of oil and kerosene in the country. The railroads were fighting fiercely for traffic and, in an attempt to create a cartel to control freight rates, formed the South Improvement Company, in collusion with Standard and other oil men outside the main oil centers The cartel received preferential treatment as a high-volume shipper, which included not just steep rebates of up to 50% for their product, but also rebates for the shipment of competing products. Part of this scheme was the announcement of sharply increased freight charges. This touched off a firestorm of protest from independent oil well owners, including boycotts and vandalism, which eventually led to the discovery of Standard Oil's part in the deal. A major New York refiner, Charles Pratt and Company, headed by Charles Pratt and Henry H. Rogers, led the opposition to this plan, and railroads soon backed off. Pennsylvania revoked the cartel’s charter and equal rates were restored for the time being.

Undeterred, though vilified for the first time by the press, Rockefeller continued with his self-reinforcing cycle of buying competing refiners, improving the efficiency of his operations, pressing for discounts on oil shipments, undercutting his competition, making secret deals, raising investment pools, and buying rivals out. In less than four months in 1872, in what was later known as "The Cleveland Conquest" or "The Cleveland Massacre", Standard Oil had absorbed 22 of its 26 Cleveland competitors. Eventually, even his former antagonists, Pratt and Rogers, saw the futility of continuing to compete against Standard Oil: in 1874, they made a secret agreement with their old nemesis to be acquired. Pratt and Rogers became Rockefeller's partners. Rogers, in particular, became one of Rockefeller's key men in the formation of the Standard Oil Trust. Pratt's son, Charles Millard Pratt became Secretary of Standard Oil. For many of his competitors, Rockefeller had merely to show them his books so they could see what they were up against, and then make them a decent offer. If they refused his offer, he told them he would run them into bankruptcy, and then cheaply buy up their assets at auction. He saw himself as the industry’s savior, "an angel of mercy", absorbing the weak and making the industry as a whole stronger, more efficient, and more competitive. Standard Oil was growing horizontally and vertically. It added its own pipelines, tank cars, and home delivery network. It kept oil prices low to stave off competitors, made its products affordable to the average household, and to increase market penetration, sometimes sold below cost if necessary. It developed over 300 oil-based products from tar to paint to Vaseline petroleum jelly to chewing gum. By the end of the 1870s, Standard was refining over 90% of the oil in the U.S. Rockefeller had already become a millionaire.

In 1877, Standard clashed with the Pennsylvania Railroad, its chief hauler. Rockefeller had envisioned the use of pipelines as an alternative transport system for oil and began a campaign to build and acquire them. The railroad, seeing Standard’s incursion into the transportation and pipeline fields, struck back and formed a subsidiary to buy and build oil refineries and pipelines. Standard countered and held back its shipments, and with the help of other railroads, started a price war that dramatically reduced freight payments and caused labor unrest as well. Rockefeller eventually prevailed and the railroad sold all its oil interests to Standard. But in the aftermath of that battle, in 1879 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania indicted Rockefeller on charges of monopolizing the oil trade, starting an avalanche of similar court proceedings in other states and making a national issue of Standard Oil’s business practices

Standard Oil sold kerosene for $0.08 per gallon a product that cost them $0.06 per gallon to produce. Rockefeller, although an accountant by nature, was devoted to science and innovation so he invested $0.01 of the sales price into research and development for other products that could be derived from oil. This left him one cent for profit to be shared with his investors and stockholders. In fact Rockefeller became the first billionaire in the history of the United States by making one cent per gallon.

Rockefeller believed that God did make junk and this belief led him to drive his scientist to constantly look for new ways to use oil and its byproducts. Standard Oil was able to turn almost every drop of crude oil into a marketable product from kerosene and eventually gasoline to petroleum jelly (Vaseline), pharmaceuticals, and asphalt for paving roads. By the turn of the century Standard Oil was producing two thirds of all the refined oil in the world and 84% in the United States.

Rockefeller, like Andrew Carnegie, believed in philanthropy. Unlike Carnegie, who gave his money to libraries and the arts, Rockefeller gave his money away to medical science, education and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He founded hospitals and colleges. Rockefeller believed in the Efficiency Movement, arguing that:

"To help an inefficient, ill-located, unnecessary school is a waste. It is highly probable that enough money has been squandered on unwise educational projects to have built up a national system of higher education adequate to our needs, if the money had been properly directed to that end.”

He donated to Tuskegee Institute and in 1884; Rockefeller provided major funding for a college in Atlanta for African-American women, which became Spelman College (named for Rockefeller's in-laws who were ardent abolitionists before the Civil War). The oldest existing building on Spelman's campus, Rockefeller Hall, is named after him. Rockefeller also gave considerable donations to Denison University and other Baptist colleges.

He created the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913 to continue and expand the scope of the work of the Sanitary Commission, which was closed in 1915. He gave nearly $250 million to the foundation, which focused on public health, medical training, and the arts. It endowed Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, the first of its kind. It also built the Peking Union Medical College in China into a notable institution. The foundation helped in World War I war relief, and it employed William Lyon Mackenzie King of Canada to study industrial relations. In the 1920s, the Rockefeller Foundation funded a hookworm eradication campaign through the International Health Board. This campaign used a combination of politics and science, along with collaboration between healthcare workers and government officials to accomplish its goals.

Rockefeller’s main detractor was Ida Tarbell one of the leading "muckrakers" of the progressive era. She is best known for her 1904 book The History of the Standard Oil Company, which was listed as No. 5 in a 1999 list by New York University of the top 100 works of 20th-century American journalism. She depicted John D. Rockefeller as crabbed, miserly, money-grabbing, and viciously effective at monopolizing the oil trade. Her father was an oil producer and refiner in Venango County, Pennsylvania and his business, along with those of many other small businessmen, was adversely affected by the South Improvement Company scheme (circa 1872) between the railroads and larger oil interests. Later, Tarbell would vividly recall this situation in her work, as she accused the leaders of the Standard Oil Company of using unfair tactics to put her father and many small oil companies out of business.

Tarbell’s book aside Rockefeller was still a market driven entrepreneur who built Standard Oil on the needs of the consumer and not on the needs of his competitors who gave millions to his philanthropic endeavors for the purpose of helping all of mankind without looking to government for assistance as today’s political entrepreneurs of crony capitalists such as Solyndra or Fisker.

Herbert Henry Dow (February 26, 1866 – October 15, 1930) was a Canadian born, American chemical industrialist. He was a graduate of Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio. His most significant achievement was the founding of the Dow Chemical Company in 1897. He was a prolific inventor of chemical processes, compounds, and products, and was a market entrepreneur.

In 1889 Dow received his first patent after inventing a more cost-effectiveHDow1888 and streamlined process for bromine extraction. He quickly formed his own company but was bankrupt within the year. His associates were impressed with his work and in 1890 helped him to found the Midland Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan. Dow continued his work extracting bromine and by early 1891 he had invented the Dow process, a method of bromine extraction using electrolysis to oxidize bromide to bromine. At the time, besides being used as a sedative, the main use for bromine was for the development of photographic plates.

Dow was not content with simply improving the bromine extraction process, but wanted to expand his research of electrolysis to yield other chemicals. His financial backers did not approve of his continued research and fired him from the Midland Chemical Company. He continued his research, developing a process to extract chloride and caustic soda from sodium chloride. Dow then sought funding from potential backers in Cleveland, including family friends and former Case School of Applied Science classmates. In 1895, Dow moved his family to Ohio and founded the Dow Process Company to develop the production mechanism for his process. The following year he returned to Midland, where he formed the Dow Chemical Company as successor to the Dow Process Company. The Dow Process Company was incorporated with 57 original stockholders. Within three years, his new company had purchased the Midland Chemical Company

With his new company and new technology, Dow was able to produce bromine very cheaply, and began selling it in the United States for 36 cents per pound. At the time, the government-supported German bromine cartel, Bromkonvention, had a near-monopoly on the supply of bromine, which they sold for 49 cents per pound. The Germans had made it clear that they would flood the American market with cheap bromine if Dow attempted to sell the element abroad. In 1904 Dow defied the cartel by beginning to export his bromine at its cheaper price to England. A few months later, an angry Bromkonvention representative visited Dow in his office and reminded him to cease exporting his bromine.

Unafraid, Dow continued exporting to England and Japan. The German cartel retaliated by flooding the US market with bromine at a mere 15 cents a pound in an attempt to put him out of business. Dow, unable to compete with the attempt at predatory pricing in the U.S., instructed his agents to quietly buy up hundreds of thousands of pounds of the German bromine locally at the low price. The Dow Company then turned the tables on the cartel by repackaging the bromine and exporting it to Europe, including Germany, at 27 cents a pound and making a neat profit of 12 cents per pound in the deal. The cartel, expecting Dow to go out of business, was unable to comprehend what was driving the enormous demand for bromine in the U.S., and where all the cheap imported bromine flooding their market was coming from. They even suspected their own members of violating their price-fixing agreement and selling in Germany below the cartel's fixed cost. The befuddled cartel continued to slash prices on their bromine in the U.S., first to 12 cents a pound, and then to 10.5 cents per pound. Dow continued selling the dumped bromine in Germany at 27 cents per pound. When the cartel finally caught on to Dow's tactic, they realized they could not keep selling below cost, and were forced to increase their prices worldwide. Dow's triumph has been used as an argument that predatory pricing is an irrational practice that would never work in the real world. However, this statement needs to be qualified in a sense that the product was a commodity that had the capacity to be mass-produced, standardized, and bought or sold in large quantities.

The same thing happened with Aspirin. The Germans were selling Aspirin, something that had been developed by the Bayer Chemical Company, for $5.50 per pound. This was a very expensive compound for relieving pains from headaches and other maladies. This market entrepreneur entered the market and through efficiencies and technology Dow Chemical was able to sell aspirin $0.60 per pound. Once again a market entrepreneur was providing a quality and needed product at a cheaper price. The consumer was the beneficiary of Herbert Dow’s entrepreneurship.

I have written about Henry Ford, but I want to take a moment to review the accomplishments of the second American billionaire. Henry Ford did not rely on government for and subsidies for his fledgling auto company. After several failures and the availability of Carnegie’s, Rockefeller’s, and Dow’s cheap steel, gasoline, and chemicals Ford was able to introduce his company’s first Model “T” Ford in 1980. Once again Ford through research and development, innovative manufacturing processes, and hiring a competent and loyal work force by paying his workers double the going wage for auto workers of the day Ford was able to deliver to the public a reliable automobile at an affordable price — a price his own workers could well afford. By the end of the First World War the American automobile industry was the largest in the world and it was supporting thousands of entrepreneurs who were supplying parts and services to the ever-growing auto industry.

These burgeoning steel, oil, chemical, and auto industries needed millions of workers to fill the factory floors, research laboratories, and sales forces. From 1880 until the United States’ entrance into the First World War millions of immigrants crossed the sea to come to the United States to pursue the “American Dream” — a dream that was made possible by the greatest generation of market entrepreneurs. This included my grandparents who came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1910.

Between 1880 and 1920, a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization, America received more than 20 million immigrants. Beginning in the 1890s, the majority of arrivals were from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. In that decade alone, some 600,000 Italians migrated to America, and by 1920 more than 4 million had entered the United States. Jews from Eastern Europe fleeing religious persecution also arrived in large numbers; over 2 million entered the United States between 1880 and 1920. [Source:]

In contrast to the market entrepreneurs of the period we have a prime example of the political entrepreneur who attempted to develop and airplane using federal subsidies.

In 1898, based on the success of his models, Samuel Langley received a War Department grant of $50,000 and $20,000 from the Smithsonian to develop a piloted airplane, which he called an "Aerodrome" (coined from Greek words roughly translated as "air runner"). Langley hired Charles M. Manly (1876–1927) as engineer and test pilot. When Langley received word from his friend Octave Chanute of the Wright brothers' success with their 1902 glider, he attempted to meet the Wrights, but they politely evaded his request.

While the full-scale Aerodrome was being designed and built, the internal combustion engine was contracted out to manufacturer Stephen Balzer (1864–1940). When he failed to produce an engine to the power and weight specifications, Manly finished the design. This engine had far more power than did the engine for the Wright brothers' first airplane—50 hp compared to 12 hp. The engine, mostly the technical work of men other than Langley, was probably the project's main contribution to aviation. The piloted machine had wire-braced tandem wings (one behind the other). It had a Pénaud tail for pitch and yaw control but no roll control, depending instead on the dihedral angle of the wings, as did the models, for maintaining roughly level flight.

In contrast to the Wright brothers' design of a controllable airplane that800px-Wright_flyer_-_full could fly against a strong wind and land on solid ground, Langley sought safety by practicing in calm air over the Potomac River. This required a catapult for launching. The craft had no landing gear, the plan being to descend into the water after demonstrating flight which if successful would entail a partial, if not total, rebuilding of the machine. Langley gave up the project after two crashes on take-off on October 7 and December 8, 1903.

In the first attempt, Langley said the wing clipped part of the catapult, leading to a plunge into the river "like a handful of mortar," according to one reporter. On the second attempt the craft broke up as it left the catapult. Manly was recovered unhurt from the river both times. Newspapers made great sport of the failures, and some members of Congress strongly criticized the project.

The Boston Globe said that Langley should give up on airplanes and build submarines and the New York Times stated that it would take a million years for man to fly in an airplane. Nine days after Langley’s second failure with manned flight two itinerant high school drop-out brothers who made bicycles in Dayton, Ohio made a successful manned flight of an airplane on the wind-swept dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The fourth flight of that day covered a distance over the ground at 852 feet and the time of the flight was 59 seconds. Within a year they were staying aloft for an hour and covering miles over the ground. The Wright Brothers beat the estimate for manned flight as stated by the New York Times by 999,999 years, 11 months and 21 days. Oh how sad for the paper that claims “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Once again it was the market entrepreneurs who, without government subsidies gave the United States the eventual leadership the aviation industry. Unlike the crony capitalist of today such as Fisker Motors, Solyndra, and $2.2 billion dollar Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System these market entrepreneurs of the Gilder Age were able to take the risks and invest their own talent, reputation, energy, and treasure in enterprises they believed in — enterprises producing products and services the public wanted and would pay for. It should be noted that the Ivanpah project has received a $1.375 billion loan guarantee from the United States Department of Energy.

The Gilded Age, a phrase coined Mark Twain, produced men of extreme vision and risk taking — men who would catapult the United States in the premiere global economic superpower. Today, due to stifling regulations, high taxes, constant budget deficits, enormous national debt, and government intervention in unproven businesses we are slowly losing the position we once held. Due to these factors more and more jobs are moving offshore to nations like China and India while our government makes it increasingly difficult for free market entrepreneurs to succeed.

For more information about these men of the Greatest Generation see my blog; The Men Who Built America.

No comments:

Post a Comment