Understanding the timeline of the most influential financial captains of industry

A century of brilliant men are the ones that are held responsible for the foundations of the United States of America. From Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 1800s to Henry Ford in the 1900s, you’ll find that there were a few men that stood out from the rest and whose legacy transcended in their particular fields to the point of being considered financial captains of their industries.

Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Morgan, Edison and Ford all left their own legacy due to how they revolutionized their industries, here is a detailed timeline of their accomplishments that earned them their fame.

Municipal-Financing-Loans_patrick dwyer merrill lynch
Image courtesy of Josh Boles at Flickr.com


1817Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) saw potential in a new technology for shipping and decided to venture with his partner Thomas Gibbons in the steamship business with The Union Line.

1827Vanderbilt, after the death of his partner, decided to buy out other boats and built the Dispatch Line in New York, shipping from New York to Philadelphia. He cut costs and invested in marketing to the point of getting most competitors to pay him to abandon operations.

1830 – Moving his business to Hudson, his empire grew until his model of cutting fares and offering services like the People’s Line, until competitors bought him out.

1846 – By implementing this business model a few times he became a millionaire this year.

1847Vanderbilt expanded The Transit Company to transporting passengers to California, with perfect timing as usual, in the middle of the Gold Rush.

1864 – Vanderbilt retired from the shipping industry and turned attention to railroads (at age 70). He bought the New York & Harlem and Hudson lines.

1865 – Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) started to branch out from his employment at Pennsylvania Railroad to pursue the beginnings of the Carnegie Steel Company.

1866 – While working for The Associated Press, Thomas Edison (1847-1931), age 19, used all his spare time to read and do experiments.

1868Edison ventured to Boston, the center for science and culture, in search for opportunities for him and his family.

1869Edison moved to New York and sold his first invention, an improved stock ticker, which he sold to the Gold and Stock telegraph company for $40,000. From this moment on he dedicated his life to inventions.

1870 – John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) with some associates founded Standard Oil Company.

1871Vanderbilt financed the Grand Central Depot and the New York Central Railroad.

1871J.P. Morgan (1837-1913) started his own private banking company, later known as J.P. Morgan & Co.

1872Rockefeller controlled the majority of the refineries in Cleveland, after buying out all of his competitors.

1873Vanderbilt had consolidated rail traffic from New York City to Chicago. For the first time, he standardized procedures, timetables in all his lines increasing efficiency and decreasing travel or shipment times.

1876Edison moved his operation to Menlo Park and builds a new research facility.

1877Vanderbilt died on January 4.

1877Edison invented the phonograph, first machine capable of recording sound.

1880Edison is granted the patent for the light bulb and founds the Edison Illuminating Company, which later becomes General Electric Corporation.

1881Edison moved out of Menlo Park and starts opening sites in different cities all across the country where electrical systems were being installed.

1881– Around this year, Rockefeller, through Standard Oil, nearly had a monopoly of the oil industry in the United States.

1882 – The Pearl Street generating station illuminated around 59 homes in lower Manhattan.

1885Edison parted ways with competitor Nikola Tesla, who used to work in Edison’s company.  

1889Carnegie Steel Company became the largest steel company in the world.

1891Henry Ford (1863-947) got his first job at Edison Illuminating Company.

1892Rockefeller funds, among other philanthropic work that he did, the University of Chicago and the later named Rockefeller University.

1893Ford was promoted to Chief Engineer of Edison Illuminating Company.

1895J.P. Morgan & Co. bailed out the United States government during the depression.

1896Edison became the first person to project a motion picture.  

1896Ford built his first model of a horseless carriage, called the Ford Quadricycle.


1901Carnegie sold Carnegie Steel Company to later known United States Steel Company and dedicates the rest of his days as a philanthropist.

1903Ford established Ford Motor Company.

1907J.P. Morgan & Co. offered financial aid and once again helps the United States government during their financial difficulties.

1907J.P. Morgan helped to consolidate the railroad industry in the East and formed the United States Steel Corporation.

1908Ford Motor introduced the Model T, to get 100% return.

1911 – US government filed suit to investigate J.P. Morgan for monopolizing the steel industry.

1911 – US government declared Standard Oil in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and are forced to dissolve.

1914 – Sponsored the development of moving assembly line technique of mass production.

1931Edison passed away due to complications with diabetes on October 18.

1936The Ford family founded the Ford Foundation to provide ongoing research, education, and development.

1947Ford passed away of cerebral hemorrhage at age 83.


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