National Geographic : 1988 Jan
he capitalist class.... includes the best execu tive ability of the country," Britain's James Bryce wrote of Americans in 1888. Andrew Carnegie (center) har nessed the steel industry from his Pittsburgh headquarters, and by 1889 U. S. production had surpassed Great Britain's. After oil was first pumped in Pennsyl vania, John D. Rockefeller (lower left) started buying refin eries. Eliminating competitors, his Standard Oil Company monopolized the American petroleum industry by the 1880s. Financier J. P. Morgan (bot tom center) provided money and expertise for ventures from railroads to U. S. Steel, the larg est corporation in the world by 1901. Railroads burgeoned in the 1880s, and lines radiating from Chicago helped make Illinois the state with the most miles of track. Labeled robber barons, many entrepreneurs-following Car negie's lead-later donated mil lions to medical research, education, and museums. Still, a small coterie owned more than 50 percent of the nation's wealth, while the average annual wage was $450.