History of America’s One Percent – Episode #26

hogaf-logo-wip2In this podcast series we dive into the long and shadowy history of America’s ruling elite through the works of authors who were either silenced, suppressed, or forgotten, to discover the origins of the 1% and from where their power and wealth was, and still is, extracted. Each recording will be approx. 1 hour in length to allow for easy consumption of the material.  The narrator will only interrupt the reading to provide insight, spell names, read informative footnotes, or provide definitions for archaic words.

In this episode – Continued reading of History of Great American Fortunes by Gustavus Myers.  Includes Part III, Chapter V:  The Vanderbilt Fortune Increases Manifold, continued.  The Wisdom of Grand Larceny: the Greater the Theft, the Less Likely You Are to Go to Prison.  Money As the God of Society.  Harsh Discrimination’s in American Law.  Vanderbilt’s Constant Purchase of Laws.  His Immense Stretch: 1,300 Miles of Road From Buffalo to Chicago.  His Whitewashed Legacy: Vanderbilt as the Great Improver and Renovator of Railroad Lines.  How the Public Paid for Improvements to the Railroad Lines.  A Poignant Example: The Sinking of Above-Ground Tracks on Park Avenue.  How Accidents at Railroad Crossings Can Drive Down Real-Estate Value.  The City Closes Off Large Stretch of Park Avenue for Railroad Construction.  Vanderbilt Gobbles Up Property on Park Avenue.  The Corrupt Tweed Regime and Tammany Hall Driven Out of Power.  A “Reform” Administration Elected.  The Real History of “Reform” Politics.  Vanderbilt’s Vast Gifts From the “Reform” Legislatures.  The Correlation Between Record Low Wages and Record High Wall Street Profits.  Chauncey M. Depew: Vanderbilt’s Chief of Staff.  Vanderbilt Buys Depew a Seat in the U.S. Senate.  Repression of Workers. The Liberal Bastion of Massachusetts Exposed.  American Sweatshops Circa the 1900’s.  Sermonizing the “Best Classes”:  How The Rich and Their Tools Propagandize Workers By Promising to Uplift Them Into the Middle Class.  Honesty and Industry Scrutinized: The Borden Millions.

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[15] But while thus taking advantage of the public demand for the removal of the Fourth avenue perilous conditions, Commodore Vanderbilt insisted upon retaining railroad surface tracks on Eleventh avenue, long called “Death Avenue” from the number killed by trains on that thoroughfare. A Senate committee, in 1866, had reported: “The traction of freight and passenger trains by ordinary locomotives on the surface of the streets is an evil which has already endured too long and must speedily be abated.” Successive generations of Vanderbilts remained deaf to the public outcry against the conditions on “Death Avenue,” and it was not until sixty years after the Senate committee report that steps were taken to eradicate the evil. The stimulus to this action came in 1926 when a $300,000,000 State bond issue for the elimination of railroad grade crossings became available. As there were 105 grade crossings along and up the Eleventh avenue route, the idea occurred to some astute minds that here was an opportunity of effecting an improvement to be paid for partly out of public funds —an improvement that whatever the expense to the railroad company, would be to it an asset of enormous value. An engineering company appointed by the Mayor to develop a plan submitted its report in May, 1927. An agreement between City and State Boards and railroad company was made on July 2, 1929. The estimated cost of the whole plan of effacing New York Central and Hudson River Railroad grade crossings and building viaduct and subway and making other changes from near Canal street to Spuyten Duyvil was, at the time, put at $175,000,000, the railway to pay $110,000,000, the City of New York $50,000,000 and the State of New York $15,000,000. The first stage of the improvement—a viaduct from the new terminal at Spring and Washington streets to Thirtieth street, was completed and dedicated in June, 1934, and much progress has been made on the remaining sections northward, comprising a subway or cut to Sixtieth street, and the covering by the city of the tracks through Riverside Park.

[16] Not alone he. In a tabulated report made public on February 1, 1872, the New York Council of Political Reform charged that in the single item of surface railways, New York City for a long period had been swindled annually out of at least a million dollars. This was an underestimate.

[17] Roscoe Conkling, a noted Republican politician, said of him: “Chauncey Depew? Oh, you mean the man that Vanderbilt sends to Albany every winter to say ‘haw’ and ‘gee’ to his cattle up there.”

[18] Certain facts may be, however. When he died at the age of 94 in 1928, he was widely eulogized by a list of financial and political notables as a man whose geniality of disposition and nobility of character had been an inspiration to his fellow citizens. Newspaper biographies said that he had attained his two ambitions, one that of becoming president of the New York Central Lines, and the other that of election to the United States Senate. The net value of his estate was appraised, in 1930, at $15,954,249. He owned more than $500,000 of shares and bonds in New York Central Lines, and was a stockholder in a host of other corporations, including the Pullman Company.

[19] No observation could be truer. As a class, the manufacturers were flourishing on stolen inventions. There might be exceptions, but they were very rare. Year after year, decade after decade, the reports of the various Commissioners of Patents pointed out the indiscriminate theft of inventions by the capitalists. In previous chapters we have referred to the plundering of Whitney and Goodyear. But they were only two of a vast number of inventors similarly defrauded. In speaking of the helplessness of inventors, J. Holt, Commissioner of Patents, wrote in his Annual Report for 1857: “The insolence and unscrupulousness of capital, subsidizing and leading on its minions in the work of pirating some valuable invention held by powerless hands, can scarcely be conceived by those not familiar with the records of such cases as I have referred to. Inventors, however gifted in other respects, are known to be confiding and thriftless; and being generally without wealth, and always without knowledge of the chicaneries of law, they too often prove but children in those rude conflicts which they are called on to endure with- the stalwart fraud and cunning of the world.” (U.S. Senate Documents, First Session, Thirty-fifth Congress, 1857-58, viii: 9-1o). In his Annual Re¬port for 1858, Commissioner Holt described how inventors were at the mercy of professional perjurers whom the capitalists hired to give evidence. The bribing of Patent office officials was a common occurrence. “The attention of Congress,” reported Commissioner of Patents Charles Mason in 1854, “is invited to the importance of providing some adequate means of preventing attempts to obtain patents by improper means.” Several cases of “attempted bribery” had occurred within the year, stated Commissioner Mason. (Executive Documents, First Session, Thirty-third Congress, 1853-54, Vol. vii, Part 1:19-20.) Every successive Commissioner of Patents called upon Congress to pass laws for the prevention of fraud, and for the better protection of the inventor, but Congress, influenced by the manufacturers, was long deaf to these appeals.

[20] Certain to breed immorality.” See report of Carrol D. Wright, Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, 1881. A cotton mill operative testified: “Young girls from fourteen and upward learn more wickedness in one year than they would in five out of a mill.” See also the numerous recent reports of the National Child Labor Committee.

[21] The heroism of the cotton operatives was extraordinary. Slaves themselves, they battled to exterminate Negro slavery. “The spinner’s union,” says McNeill, “was almost dead during the [Civil] war, as most of its members had gone to shoulder the musket and to fight … to strike the shackles from the Negro. A large number was slain in battle.” —”The Labor Movement”: 216-217.

[22] “Monopolies and the People”: 155-156.

3 thoughts on “History of America’s One Percent – Episode #26

      • I read “Monopolies and the People” and it was time well spent. As Patrick Henry said: “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.”

        Wouldn’t you just love to hear a debate between D. C. Cloud and Lysander Spooner regarding the relevance of the Constitution? D.C. Cloud thinks it could all work out if we just voted in some honest folks and Lysander Spooner strikes at the root and challenges the legitimacy of the government based on a “written instrument”.


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