In a brief period Schwab came back to Morgan with a letter which contained the following figures--five per cent gold bonds $303,450,000; preferred stock $98,277,100; common stock $90,279,000--a total of over $492,000,000. Carnegie demanded no cash; he preferred to hold a huge first mortgage on a business whose golden opportunities he knew so well. Morgan, who had been accustomed all his life to dictate to other men, had now met a man who was able to dictate to him. And he capitulated. The man who fifty-three years before had started life in a new country as a bobbin-boy at a dollar and twenty cents a week, now at the age of sixty-six retired from business the second richest man in the world. With him retired a miscellaneous assortment of millionaires whose fortunes he had made and whose subsequent careers in the United States and in Europe have given a peculiar significance to the name "Pittsburgh Millionaires." The United States Steel Corporation, the combination that included not only the Carnegie Company but seventy per cent of all the steel concerns in the country, was really a trust made up of trusts. It had a capitalization of a billion and a half, of which about $700,000,000 was composed of the commodity usually known as "water"; but so greatly has its business grown and so capably has it been managed that all this liquid material has since been converted into more solid substance. The disappearance of Andrew Carnegie and his coworkers and the emergence of this gigantic enterprise completed the great business cycle in the steel trade. The age of individual enterprise and competition had passed--that of corporate control had arrived.

CHAPTER IV. THE TELEPHONE: "AMERICA'S MOST POETICAL ACHIEVEMENT"

A distinguished English journalist, who was visiting the United States, in 1917, on an important governmental mission, had an almost sublime illustration of the extent to which the telephone had developed on the North American Continent. Sitting at a desk in a large office building in New York, Lord Northcliffe took up two telephone receivers and placed one at each ear. In the first he heard the surf beating at Coney Island, New York, and in the other he heard, with equal distinctness, the breakers pounding the beach at the Golden Gate, San Francisco. Certainly this demonstration justified the statement made a few years before by another English traveler. "What startles and frightens the backward European in the United States," said Mr. Arnold Bennett, "is the efficiency and fearful universality of the telephone. To me it was the proudest achievement and the most poetical achievement of the American people."

Lord Northcliffe's experience had a certain dramatic justice which probably even he did not appreciate. He is the proprietor of the London Times, a newspaper which, when the telephone was first introduced, denounced it as the "latest American humbug" and declared that it "was far inferior to the well-established system of speaking tubes." The London Times delivered this solemn judgment in 1877. A year before, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, Don Pedro, Emperor of Brazil, picked up, almost accidentally, a queer cone-shaped instrument and put it to his ear, "My God! It talks!" was his exclamation; an incident which, when widely published in the press, first informed the American people that another of the greatest inventions of all times had had its birth on their own soil. Yet the initial judgment of the American people did not differ essentially from the opinion which had been more coarsely expressed by the leading English newspaper. Our fathers did not denounce the telephone as an "American humbug," but they did describe it as a curious electric "toy" and ridiculed the notion that it could ever have any practical value. Even after Alexander Graham Bell and his associates had completely demonstrated its usefulness, the Western Union Telegraph Company refused to purchase all their patent rights for $100,000! Only forty years have passed since the telephone made such an inauspicious beginning.

The Age of Big Business Page 27

Business Books

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Business Ebooks
Classic Literature

All Pages of This Book
Business Entrepreneur
A Man of Business