This is the seventeenth in my series of posts about the five businessmen the History Channel profiled in a terribly inaccurate and un-historical TV miniseries titled The Men Who Built America. I’m writing these posts in response to several comments and e-mails from TV viewers who have expressed interest in a more accurate version of the story. (Click here to see all Al’s columns on the program and its subjects.)
Post #17: Railroad Economics and Rockefeller Oil
Railroads were an industry where great fortunes were made and lost in post-Civil War America. When Andrew Carnegie resigned his position with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1865 he was leaving the largest corporation in the world, a company with 30,000 employees and a capitalization of sixty-one million dollars. Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central was not far behind. By the early 1870’s eighty percent of the market capitalization of all American corporations was in railroad companies.
The History Channel recently aired a dreadfully inaccurate mini-series called The Men Who Built America. It was billed as a historical account of the careers of businessmen Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford; but it was basically all fiction.
I love America’s great rags-to-riches success stories, so I tuned in eagerly to see how the History people would tell them. After each of the four episodes I vented my disappointment by publishing a blog post exposing some of the more glaring inaccuracies. In my post about the last episode I lamented that an honest and accurate account of this era would have been far more entertaining that the fiction History put on the air.
This is the fourth in a series of reviews of the History Channel’s four-part series The Men Who Built America.
Click here to read Al Fuller’s review of the first episode.
Click here to read Al’s review of the second episode.
Click Here to read Al’s review of the third episode.
The History Channel aired the fourth and final episode of its The Men Who Built America series Sunday night, and like the first three installments, this one is terribly inaccurate. It’s a crying shame that the series contained so little real history; there are no end of fascinating and true stories about the great nineteenth century entrepreneurs, and an accurate version of this series would be good TV.
The History Channel aired the third installment of its The Men Who Built America series Tuesday, and, like the first two, this episode was less than accurate. In my review of the first episode I describe the many creative liberties the producers took in their efforts to jazz up the stories for a television audience. The second part of this four part series was even more inaccurate, just “fiction in a period setting.”
The third part is not as completely un-historical as the second, but there are several places where accuracy is sacrificed for the sake of drama.
The History Channel aired the second episode of its “Men Who Built America” series on Tuesday, and there was very little history in it.
In my review of the first episode I said the makers were “more concerned with telling a dramatic story than they were with historical accuracy.” The second episode is far worse in this regard. It’s basically just fiction in a period setting.