Brianna Bucci

Tatiana Bertini

Matt Hepner

Brandon Hammond





Throughout the history of the Unites States, there have been many events which have caused a sense of materialism. This sense of greediness has been reflected by investments, with the goal of only making a profit.


            During the years of the Gilded Age the people who were making all of the money were people working within the big corporations. Big industries such as oil, steel, and railroad companies created pools and trusts to reduce competition and ultimately increase their profits. Jay Gould a railroad mastermind started in 1879, to build a system of railroads in the Midwest by gaining control of four western railroads, including the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In 1880, he was in control of about one ninth of the length of rail in the US. He was considered a master of bribery. John D. Rockefeller became known as the creator of standard oil. He received secret rebates to railroads bringing oil into Cleveland. The railroads were fiercely competing for traffic and attempted to create an alliance to stabilize freight rates. Rockefeller agreed to support this cartel if they gave him preferred treatment as a high volume shipper, which meant that he would receive huge rebates. Rockefeller’s money making plan was a dangerous game of buying competing refiners of oil, pressing for discounts on oil shipments with railroads and undercutting his competition and buying them out. Andrew Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry, controlling almost all iron and steel operations in the US. He was able to do this because he produced massive amounts of steel and sold it cheap. Carnegie steel was the largest manufacturer of steel rails in the world, and with this great success he could out his rival, Homestead Steel Works, which eventually allowed him to sell his steel for a higher price, because their was no local competition.


            Throughout the years of the “roaring twenties”, the US experienced a wave of consumerism. This wave brought consumerist goods to an all time high. War time production caused the economy to boom, which raised the value of corporate prices, causing a rise in stock value. Once people realized that there was money to be made in the stock market, they began to buy shares. The desire to get rich caused an increase in speculation of the stock market and real estate. There was poor circulation of wealth in the 1920s, between the rich and the middle class and industry and agriculture. This uneven distribution made the economy unstable, which kept the stock market unnaturally high. This was when people began to invest with their stocks and buying on the margins. This eventually led to the stock market crash and the great depression. Also in the twenties, economic prosperity set the conditions for the real estate bubble, mainly in Florida. People would buy a piece of land for the main purpose of selling it again for more than they purchased it. They did this to gain a profit rather than selling it for the actual value of the property. This led to the bursting of the real estate bubble.


            With the ending of WWII, the economy of the US experienced a huge boom. Most American families were moving into the middle class way of life. With this economic growth, life went back to the 1920s’ consumerist lifestyle. People were looking for a more consistent standard of living, so they bought small 700 square foot houses in the suburbs. They did this by buying more materialistic items, such as automobiles. The suburban lifestyle forced the people to keep the community looking standardized. Big car industries such as Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, were the leading companies in providing automobiles to the middle class. With the rising standard of the average family and availability of cars, came the opportunity for them to leave the city. They could live further away from their jobs and the suburbs, leading to a life of normality.


            The 1980s was the time of the “get rich quick” schemes, in which people wanted to make money without working for it, or getting by on scams. These schemes were plans to acquire higher rates of return for a small investment. They promised a higher rate of profit, while at the same time promising that they were easy and risk free. Most schemes also promised that becoming rich required little to no skill, and that money can be made in the comforts of your own home. Some “get rich quick” scams offered training courses in certain areas and promised that after they purchased several of thousands of dollars on materials, they would be able to distribute cheap items that could be resold at higher prices.


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