The fascinating period of American history after the Civil War seems to be foremost on a lot of TV minds recently as evidenced by popular Western series such as Deadwood and Hell on Wheels. The new-to-the-library documentary series The Men Who Built America (on DVD and blu-ray) casts its eye Eastward to the financiers who profited in the extreme from the technology innovations and discoveries of the time to the end of the Gilded Age.
Rockefeller, Carnegie and Frick, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Ford are the focus of this interesting miniseries that follows their various monolopies of the rail lines, oil, steel and then gasoline production, the stock market, and even the White House when they set rivalries aside to ensure their president was elected. The castles they built for themselves, such as Frick's next to Central Park, and the billions of dollars they held led some to call them Robber Barons.
The Men Who Built America credits these larger-than-life investors for the automobile, skyscaper, and development of the West. At the same time, it records their exploitation of workers and the deaths ultimately resulting from their free reign over the marketplace.
The series' editing reflects its original TV broadcast, so there is quite a bit of repetition at the beginning of episodes and where ad breaks would have been. However, the historical content, visuals, and interviews with historians, investment gurus, and motivation speakers (who analyse the qualities that both made and broke the men) make for good watching.