Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Business Tycoons of the Gilded Age

Quentin's (age 8) notebooking page from Homeschool in the Woods
We are learning about the business tycoons of the Gilded Age, and whether you consider them Robber Barons or great philanthropists  it is interesting to study some of the richest men in the world and the effects of their business and wealth that we can still see today. We began with the boys completing this page about nine of the most famous tycoons. We did it a little differently than the instructions because my printer ran out of ink, so I wasn't able to make the little flaps to cover these little windows. It was not a big hitch for us, but it did turn out looking a little different than the model. I read to them the little paragraph on each of the tycoons and then they took from the paragraphs what made each one famous and then they wrote one (or two) words below that person's square.
We then went on to read lots of biographies to give them a little background on how these men gained their fortunes and in some cases, passed some of it along for social causes.

We also did some other types of research. Proctor and Gamble's website has some interesting information on the beginnings of the company and how Ivory soap was born. Did you know that this company supplied soap and candles to the Union soldiers during the Civil War?
The "Ivory Soap Cloud" demonstration is always a fun one to do, and a great one to slip in at this point in studies.
Chocolate Science Activities for Kids thumbnail
Hershey also has the history of their company on their website. Did you know that he started out making caramels but then switched over to chocolate? He also was one of the first who established his factory out in the country instead of in the city, which necessitated him building a town for his workers, Hershey PA. The boys were interested to know that there is a Hershey Amusement Park. He also established a school for orphans, which still exists today. There are some experiments you can do with chocolate, too.
The Armour Company was the first company to produce canned meat and also one of the first to employ an "assembly-line" technique in its factories. Did you know that in 1948, Armour, which made soap for years as a by-product of the meatpacking process, introduced the first deodorant soap, Dial. This led us to learning about how soap is made as it doesn't seem obvious that you would need fat to make soap.
James Duke was a tobacco and electric power industrialist best known for the introduction of modern cigarette manufacture and marketing, and his endowment which changed Trinity College to Duke University.
Andrew Carnegie led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry. He was also one of the highest profile philanthropists. He even wrote an article, "The Gospel of Wealth" which remains a formative advisory text for those who aspire to lead philanthropic lives. He built Carnegie Hall, later he turned to philanthropy and interests in education, founding the Carnegie Corporation of New York,Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.Carnegie gave most of his money to establish many libraries, schools, and universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries, as well as a pension fund for former employees. You can conduct an experiment on chemical weathering with steel wool.
John D. Rockefeller was famous for developing Standard Oil Company, building the first big business trust.  His fortune was mainly used to create the modern systematic approach of targeted philanthropy. He was able to do this through the creation of foundations that had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research His foundations pioneered the development of medical research, and were instrumental in the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever. He is also the founder of both the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University and funded the establishment of Central Philippine University in the Philippines.
JC Penney (the boys had a lot of fun with the fact that the C. stand for Cash, so his name was James Cash Penney) and Woolworth both began chains of department stores. Penney was known for founding his company on the principle of the Golden Rule: treat others the way you’d like to be treated – Fair and Square. Woolworth's has its history on its website.
We also had some fun reading Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, another good book by the author of Frindle. Not about tycoons really, but about money, friendship and what it means to be a success. I am sure there are lots of other fictional books that could fit in with this theme.

  • John D. Rockefeller, Ellen Coffey
  • Milton Hershey, Charnan Simon
  • J. Paul Getty, Bruce Glassman
  • American Tycoons, Carl Green and William Sanford
  • Lunch Money, Andrew Clements
  • The Toothpaste Millionaire, Jean Merrill

We also studied "Seward's Folly, 1867
Ulysses Grant, the 18th President
The building of the Brooklyn Bridge, 1869-1883
The Fisk-Gould Scandal, 1869
Louis Pasteur
The Great Chicago Fire, 1871
P.T. Barnum and "The Greatest Show on Earth"


  1. Love this collection of ideas! Thanks for sharing. I'm off to check the chocolate experiments in the hopes of justifying eating some today.

  2. Hee hee hee, loved this post. How do you like the Homeschool in the Woods stuff? We used it for a while and I love many of their printables, but found the text too hard for my kiddos (and I know it's mainly 'cause they're too young for it).

    I've always thought the "robber barons" were a very mixed bunch because you have the Rockefellers and the Carnegies who gave so much and DID so much, but are still reviled and held up today as bad examples (poor press on their part), but then you've also got so many stories of factory owners taking advantage.


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