AP The New Wealth of the Late Nineteenth Century
The New Industrial Revolution brought forth a flourishing new amount of wealth in America. This wealth, though, was concentrated among a select few. This led to a sharp gap in between the wealthy and the poor. By the 1890s, the richest ten percent of the U.S. population controlled nine-tenths of the nation s wealth. Industrialization produced a new class of millionaires. The United States Steel Corporation was the first billion dollar company. This new wealth was embraced by some, but others criticized the hands it fell into. Horatio Alger, Andrew Carnegie, and Booker T. Washington all displayed different attitudes, for different groups of people, towards the new wealth that was created during the late nineteenth century.
Horatio Alger s attitude towards the new wealth was perceived by his readers, mainly the poor and middle class, to be that through honesty, hard work, and a little luck, wealth would surely follow. Horatio Alger was a popular novelist during the late 1800s. He was a Puritan raised New Englander who became interested in the New York newsboys. His juvenile novels, numbering over a hundred, contained basically the same plot, but different characters. He advocated in his books that virtue, honesty, and industry are rewarded by success, wealth, and honor. Instead of survival of the fittest, Alger preached survival of the purest. Horatio believed that there was always room at the top of the economic ladder. His novels created a belief that it was very possible to go from rags-to-riches. Andrew Carnegie was a very good example of his belief, but most of the time this did not occur. Carnegie and Alger shared the belief that the wealth should fall into the hands of virtuous people. Unlike, Booker T. Washington, Alger did not advocate that economic equality should come before social equality.
Andrew Carnegie thankfully appreciated his wealth and preached a Gospel of Wealth to the other extraordinarily rich people. Carnegie believed that the wealthy, who held society s riches, had to prove themselves morally responsible. Andrew Carnegie had immigrated to America from Scotland as a poor bobbin boy. He quickly rose to the top of the economic ladder by hard work and perseverance. He found his wealth in steel making and founded Carnegie Steel and became a millionaire. Carnegie preached that the wealthy had a God-given responsibility to perform civic philanthropy. He believed in giving his surplus money to the public. Carnegie became a philanthropist and ended up giving away over $350 million of his fortune to support the building of libraries, universities, and various public institutions. His attitude towards his newfound wealth benefited the society and gave him name in history.
Booker T. Washington viewed this new wealth as the way for African Americans could ultimately gain social equality. Booker T. Washington was a former slave who became the head of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He taught his students useful trades and skills to provide them with increased self-respect and economic security. He believed that before blacks could gain political and civil rights, they needed to become economically independent. During his famous speech in Atlanta, he said concerning social separateness, In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress. Washington said that money was like having a little green ballot that would empower African Americans. His attitude towards the new wealth of the late 1800s was one of hope for his fellow African Americans. He hoped that through increase wealth, blacks could achieve social equality.
These three men, Horatio Alger, Andrew Carnegie, and Booker T. Washington all viewed the new wealth of the late 1800s in different ways so that it would benefit each of their social classes. Horatio Alger portrayed a myth that a poor boy could rise to the top with integrity, hard work, and honesty. Andrew Carnegie, the primary rags-to-riches example, believed that the wealthy should be distributed their surplus money to the public in the form of civic philanthropy. Booker T. Washington taught his black students that the way to total political and civil rights was by first developing educationally and economically. These three men all viewed the new wealth as a positive aspect of the time period and used the wealth to advocate beliefs of their own.