Which led to the downfall of the Rockefellers

magazine

The Rockefellers: The Fuel of Modern Times

Like so many from the “Gilded Age”, the gilded era in the 19th century, when ambitious young entrepreneurs created empires and confidently displayed their wealth, John D. Rockefeller was an immigrant child with German roots. Long before the Silicon Valley billionaires, this family business was once synonymous internationally with barely tangible wealth. John D. acquired a refinery around 1870 and created the oil giant Standard Oil (today ExxonMobil) from it, later the powerful Chase Manhattan Bank also belonged to his empire. He was famous for his avarice and his descendants for their patronage. One family memorial is the Rockefeller Center in the middle of New York City, the other is the comparatively modest Kykuit family estate in the picturesque Hudson Valley north of New York, far from the gold coast of Long Island and the millionaire enclave of Newport in the US state of Rhode Island .

The Vanderbilts: The money is on the rails

Three families were to determine the economic upswing of the young country: Rockefeller provided the oil, Andrew Carnegie provided the steel and the Dutch immigrant family Vanderbilt provided the transport by shipping and the expansion of the railroad. In contrast to the more reserved Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts were a colorful family. There were already myths surrounding the patriarch Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who laid the foundation for the business at the beginning of the 19th century. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was a sculptor and patroness who properly married a Whitney - also a famous American family - and made the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York possible. Consuelo Vanderbilt married the 9th Duke of Marlborough and was the mother of Winston Churchill. Gloria Vanderbilt was the 20th century rebel who painted, designed blue jeans and became famous for her affairs. The logistics kings had a passion for glorious summer retreats, which they established on the legendary Gold Coast of Long Island and in the tranquil coastal town of Newport in New England. For over 330 million dollars in today's value, they had The Breakers build a Renaissance palace in the Beaux Arts style. It is one of Newport's attractions, not least because the villa played a leading role in the 1974 version of "The Great Gatsby" filmed with Robert Redford.

The Carnegies: Men of Steel

 

Wherever one speaks of predatory capitalism today, Americans chose the term "Robber Baron" as early as the 19th century to describe the merciless business practices of the knights of the gilded era. In the case of Gatsby the Great, the reader remains discreetly in the dark about the origin of his fortune at the beginning of the 20th century, in the case of the Scottish weaver's son Andrew Carnegie it was his unerring instinct for steel. However, Carnegie didn’t care about the money nobility and loathed its pomp. However, he built a city palace in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side, where the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Morgans and Co. built stone witnesses to their prosperity. In keeping with their Protestant roots, the other large families were patrons of the arts and social institutions. But the steel tycoon surpassed them all and founded a university, research facilities and many social institutions. Frick bequeathed his town house and his large collection of old masters to the city of New York. During his lifetime he was considered implacable even among his own kind, for example having bloodied workers' uprisings put down without the authorities intervening. The architecture lover gave his son Childs the Clayton country house on Long Island, which was built in the late Baroque, English Georgian style and which now houses an art collection.

The Astors: The Lords of Dream Castles

When Tom Wolfe described the first super-rich investment bankers and Wall Street brokers of another generation in the "purgatory of vanities" in the 1980s, she was considered the last representative of Old New York: Brooke Astor, who died a few years ago at the age of 105. Her father-in-law, John Jacob Astor IV, was one of the gentlemen who waited in evening suits in the salon of the Titanic for the sinking. That shaped their way of life. The philanthropist's salon remained a bastion that even a modern Jay Gatsby would always have been denied. The Astors owed their economic and social rise to the fur trade at the end of the 18th century, later they were the building kings of the young New York. The patriarch Johann Jakob Astor was once drawn from Walldorf in Baden to the New World. A Mrs. Astor who lived around the turn of the century created one of Newport's impressive summer retreats with Beechwood. Richard Morris Hunt, an architect valued by the Society at the time, was hired to complete the renovation with the ballroom. This was where "The Four Hundred" enjoyed themselves - those 400 New England A-list who led the carefree, elitist life of Jay Gatsby's adored Daisy Buchanan.

The Morgans: The Over-Investment Bankers

The Morgans were the Rothschilds of the United States. Like the legendary banking family with branches in Europe, they too were not only active in the early securities trade, but also made investments for the flourishing industry possible through their loans and connections. Through his financial transactions, John Pierpont Morgan promoted, among other things, the construction of the Titanic, but also the founding of the young automobile manufacturer Chrysler. JP Morgan is still one of the big money houses on Wall Street today. He bequeathed the prestigious John Pierpont Morgan Library to New York, sponsored the Metropolitan Museum of Art and of course owned a house in Glen Cove, on the fashionable north coast of Long Island. Anyone who visits the Gold Coast in front of Manhattan's shimmering towers will still look for the Morgan property in vain, because Matinecock Point was demolished in 1980.

Photos: Getty Images