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The Men Who Built America [Blu-ray]

4.7 out of 5 stars 864 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan rose from obscurity and in the process built modern America. Their names hang on street signs, are etched into buildings and are a part of the fabric of history. These men created the American Dream and were the engine of capitalism as they transformed everything they touched in building the oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobile and finance industries. Their paths crossed repeatedly as they elected presidents, set economic policies and influenced major events of the 50 most formative years this country has ever known. From the Civil War to the Great Depression and World War I, they led the way.

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The Men Who Built America were quite a quintet. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had already made a fortune in ships, saw which way the wind was blowing, invested in railroads, and became the richest man in America. John D. Rockefeller revolutionized the oil business, from refining to delivery, with Standard Oil. Andrew Carnegie was the first great steel magnate. J.P. Morgan controlled the electricity market, consolidated the steel industry after Carnegie, and was "the creator of modern finance," while Henry Ford constructed the automobile assembly line and made cars affordable to everyone. But these were not merely brilliant entrepreneurs, visionaries who had great ideas and the will and wherewithal to see them through to fruition, in the process helping America emerge from the ruins of the Civil War and become the greatest nation on Earth in just a few short decades. The way this History Channel production tells it, with its bluesy theme music, emphasis on dramatically re-created Big Moments, and generally overheated POV (a challenge from a competitor is nothing less than "a declaration of war"), Vanderbilt et al. were outlaws and rock stars, tough, macho men who strode the Earth like colossi, crushing lesser beings with their ingenuity, acumen, and very large piles of money. Indeed, although it has some typical documentary elements (like occasional use of file footage and photos), The Men Who Built America is really more of a docudrama; the characters are all portrayed by actors (none of them household names, except maybe in their own homes) mouthing scripted dialogue; and while there are a few historians, academics, and biographers on hand, most of the people who offer their modern-day insights are celebrity business figures like Donald Trump, Mark Cuban, Steve Wynn, Ted Turner, Charles Schwab, and Carly Fiorina. This is not a bad thing. The style takes some getting used to, but in the end, the eight-episode miniseries is both entertaining and enlightening, providing information about such events as the financial panic of 1873, how the refinement of oil into kerosene brought light into Americans' homes, the role played by Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Morgan in the election of President William McKinley in 1896, and the efforts of reformers like William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt to put an end to the vast monopolies they'd created. --Sam Graham

Special Features

Bonus Footage Never Before Seen on TV:
•    From Richer to Richer 
•    The American Dream
•    Monopoly
•    Completive Nature
•    The Every Man
•    The Rise of Cornelius Vanderbilt
•    Traits of a Titan
•    Carnegie


Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2013
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (864 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00A2XTJI4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,079 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I generally enjoyed the show and how it ties together the stories of the various robber barons of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. But I was kind of irked at how some of the historical details were distorted. For instance, they got the whole Homestead strike/battle wrong. If you just watched the show you would think that the Pinkertons just walked up to the striking steelworkers at Homestead and opened fire. Historically, there was a battle in that the strikers themselves were armed too. The Pinkertons were trying to land in barges and were actually forced to surrender! Why change that? I don't think it was for any political/ideological reason that I could tell. But it's like they tried to simplify things so much that it actually distorts what happened. It makes me wonder what else in the series is not quite the way it happened. I realize in making a show about such a large topic that you can't throw in every detail but in trying to oversimplify it, it does a disservice to history. So I enjoy the series for tying together some parts of history that I didn't know about and making me want to read more, but at the same time I am disappointed at some of the details they get wrong.
34 Comments 328 of 359 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
I was browsing the channels when I happened across "Men who built America" on the History channel and I figured it was just a documentary and to my surprise it is more like a mini-series with action and plots. I was entirely taken in with the story line and am I am buying the DVD to see the parts that I missed. Well worth the cost of the DVD
3 Comments 146 of 164 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
I caught this program on the History Channel two nights ago. It's one of the better documentaries I've seen on the History Channel. It really held my attention. Of course, it helps that I've always been interested in this time period in American History - the Gilded Age, the Age of Enterprise, the progressive era, etc.

This documentary does in depth about the great business titans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The label of "robber baron" has been attached to the great business titans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a label that basically means "ruthless businessman" and "filthy rich". Indeed, the reality was that during their heyday, before anti-trust laws, before Theodore Roosevelt became an unexpected and trust-busting president, these business titans were in fact ruthless and competitive businessmen trying to gain as much power and wealth as possible while monopolizing entire industries. When the anti-big business William Jennings Bryan ran for president in 1896, these titans felt so threatened that they did the unprecedented by putting down their gloves and teaming up together to try to get William McKinley elected president for the simple fact that McKinley was pro-big business while Bryan was not. The strategy worked, as these titans contributed millions of dollars to the McKinley campaign. By 1900, Theodore Roosevelt, a young rising star in politics, held anti-trust views that made these titans nervous, so they set out to derail Roosevelt's momentum and agenda by trying to get him on the McKinley ticket in the 1900 presidential election so he could be a powerless Vice President under President William McKinley.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I loved this series back when it was broadcast on the History Channel. I thought about getting the DVD for my 10year-old--nephew, to get him interested in history, then I decided, no, it's not a video game, it will sit and collect dust if I did that, so I'm keeping it for myself. Where I know it will be watched and appreciated. If you love great non-fiction drama, you will love these individual stories and how they're tied together to make our country's background.
1 Comment 21 of 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Blu-ray
By far and away, the most well done documentary I've ever seen. Pace is just right, moves quickly enough to keep your interest, yet covers each point very, very well. Narration, acting, scenery/sets, lighting, editing, dialogue, information, all 10 stars, very realistic. Very interesting subject matter, at least to me, learned things I never knew. Hard for me to know, but sure seemed to me that they painted these guys as realistic as possible - giving them credit for being smart, ambitious, willing to take risks, and extremely competitive, while acknowledging their greed, without outright trashing them in the town square for it.

The writers and director leave it to us to decide where we draw our personal line as far as monopolistic power itself, in an age when when dealing with it both morally as well as legally, was still largely new to the US government and its people.
1 Comment 41 of 47 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Most enlightening and a great reminder of how far we have moved away from that great American spirit of work ethics and seeking better and more ways to move our country forward. Also, there was no shame in becoming wealthy for having worked hard and smart. Yes, despite the words from the White House, they did build it.
1 Comment 23 of 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
This was an excellent program detailing not only the good, but the bad of the era. We forget what America was like in the late 1800's and how far we have come. Education like history never ends. When we fail to remember history, we certainly will fail again.
3 Comments 72 of 89 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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1 disc or 3 discs?
I would not buy this product if listed as 1 disc. The program on the History Channel is a 3 part series and online the History Channel sells this as a 3 disc set for about $36.
Nov 30, 2015 by april ellis |  See all 2 posts
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