Customer Reviews: The Men Who Built America [Blu-ray]
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on January 23, 2013
I have been studying business history for 50 years. I was excited to hear about this series and eager to recieve the blu-ray, which arrived today.
I appreciate that some of these men are getting more attention, and a dramatic treatment.
However there are too many historical distortions.
If Fisk and Gould were "stuck in middle management" at the Erie, how could they water the stock?
And no mention of Daniel Drew, a key part of the Erie War.
The program implies that the Commodore was THE controller of the US railroad industry, and generally savaged his competition. When in fact his empire was always second fiddle to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the largest and most profitable of the big eastern lines.
I realize some simplification may be required to fit TV time constraints, but hyperbole is not required.
Maybe use some of the time taken to recap prior shows to straighten out the history?
Lastly, the presence of Donald Trump, Donny Deutsch, Ted Turner, Jack Welch, and others borders on the bizarre.
While some of these people are interesting in themselves, there is no evidence of their history licks.
Read Welch's book and you would think GE began with him, or at most with his predecessor, not the great pioneering CEO Charles Coffin.
Even the much better historian talking heads interrupt the flow of the dramatization.
If I just want good acting and inspiration, I might as well go back to classics like Young Tom Edison, the old Alexander Graham Bell movie, Pittsburgh with John Wayne, or Union Pacific.
I really wish I had loved this program.
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on December 13, 2015
I loved viewing this tape. It was both informative and entertaining. It tells the story of how Mr. Vanderbilt knitted together a railway system for the North east, then Rockefeller manufactured the quality safe kind of kerosene oil used in lamps which ordinary citizens used to light the nation from coast to coast; then adds Mr. Carnegie who's steel girders improved bridges, railroads, and then built skyscrapers in all the big cities across America, to Mr. Morgan who bought out Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Tesla's patents on electricity, and used Edison's electric light bulbs and power generating equipment to literally light up america from coast to coast replacing the kerosene lamps.
Morgan bought out Carnegie steel to merge other smaller steel companies into U.S. Steel and he created General Electric and finally personally intervened to safe the U.S. Banking system twice: 1893 and 1907.
Finally, Mr. Ford comes along to re create the business model upon which most factories are based to this day. Ford also modified the negative business practices used by Rockefeller and Carnegie when he paid Ford workers a living wage and provided relatively safe working conditions for them and defeated in court the monopoly which tried to stop him from making his model T car.
The nation owes these five men who built modern America ( 1865 to 1911) much. Some liberal historians term them "Robber barons." But that is a false smear on their reputations. Their actions collectively improved the daily living standards of a majority of American citizens and led to the creation of the "middle class." There are cameo appearances by Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.
I urge every member of Congress, state legislator, governor, mayor and voting citizen to view this tape in order to appreciate where we came from.
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on August 5, 2015
I originally saw this series on the History Channel and liked it so much I bought a copy. Having watched it again now, I think it's an exceptionally well executed way to tell the story of how a handful of Americans made their fortunes in the mid to late 19th century.

Vanderbilt (trains), Rockefeller (oil), Carnegie (steel), Morgan (finance) and Ford (cars) were able to spot possibilities earlier than anyone else and that visionary quality they shared allowed them to amass fortunes even larger than names we know today, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Their lives, intense rivalries, and business acumen are portrayed in this documentary through an effective combination of dramatization and skilled narration.

There is a third element woven throughout -- interviews with contemporary business successes like Donald Trump (real estate), Steve Case (aol), a hedge fund manager, a Hollywood producer, and others -- all talking about their own experiences and what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur today. During my first viewing of this documentary I found these interviews superfluous. But with my second viewing, I recognized that they do add a valuable dimension to the story. They show that the ruthlessness and vicious business tactics used by Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, et. al. are still a critical element in what makes for success today.

There is clearly a "type" of person that makes it "big." And in this documentary you will learn what kind of person that is. And it's not a particularly flattering portrait.

My main criticism of the documentary is that it was clearly created with spaces for commercial breaks. And after each (and there are a lot of them), there is a way too lengthy narrated summary of what transpired previously. That works fine on TV. But when the History Channel converted this series to DVD, those repetitive summaries should have been edited out.
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on November 29, 2015
Fantastic! I am not one to watch TV, but I sat through all 3 DVD's in this set in two nights. If you think everything was better in the good ol' days of America, this would be a reality check! Biographies include Andrew Carnegie (U.S. Steel), J.P. Morgan (Morgan Chase), Vanderbilt (Railroads), John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil, now Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, etc) and Henry Ford. Carnegie's treatment of the steeworkers was absolutely riveting! (please excuse my lame attempt at humor here). Some details may have been watered down, such as the shootings at or by the striking steelworkers, and all the reasons behind Ford's entering his new car into a successful race with the top racer in the nation. The grandiosity of these men in history, and their egotistical competitiveness with each other despite having more money than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined in today's dollars, shows the extent to which human nature can covet. How much money is enough? In the words of Rockefeller, "Just a little more!" I always thought he was being witty, but after seeing this fascinating documentary, now I'm not so sure.
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on November 26, 2012
I stayed up one night until almost 2am trying to finish watching this show on History channel (since I don't have a DVR)! I couldn't finish the show that night. And I am looking so forward to buying this set of disc to learn more about America. I believe that anyone, specially children or immigrant like me, should watch this show! So much to appreciate how this country was really built, based on hard work, risk taking, ingenuity, creativity and capitalism. It also shows the down side of capitalism also when greed and power overcame the few elites in the country. This is a very great documentary! Must watch!
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on June 24, 2016
After catching the last part of this on the HIstory Channel and not finding another airing, I decided to look on Amazon and found it! This is a wonderful documentary about America's history and how things came to be. It goes in depth on the great businesses and their founders and it shows all. The good parts, the not so good and the results of both. It is very enlightening how much of a difference the world is today compared to then. I recommend this documentary for any red-blooded American. Very detailed, great acting and tons of information. The pace is great and keeps you interested. It definitely makes you think. As I said, it does show the bad side of things as well. Some of these men were ruthless while others were brutally honest. I also think this would be a good documentary to show in schools. Highly recommended!
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on May 2, 2013
Great way to learn about historical events. Great mini series. Well made!
Very interesting the way that they transport you to the actual situation of each event the historic events arround each of the mens who build America.
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on February 25, 2013
This series of videos was very entertaining and fun to watch. I and my family learned a lot about early american history that we did not know, especially concerning the men involved with this story. It was fun to see how the destiny of these men was intertwined. My only complaint about the DVD series is that it would have been better if they had taken a little extra time to blend together each section without the commercial recap of what had already occurred. Every 8-10 minutes, there is a 2 minute recap of what had previously occurred, presumably after coming back from the commercial break for the TV series. This is not necessary when you have been watching the DVD series from the beginning. I would assume this could have fairly easily been edited out for the DVD, but wasn't. They also filmed some time period scenes from the late 1800's that were shown repeatedly throughout the series. After watching the first 5-6 episodes, some of these scenes can "get old", but this does not detract from the enjoyment of the series. I would have also liked to seen more on Henry Ford. The focus of this series was basically how his life and early start to Ford was affected by the things that Vanderbilt, Rockefeller and Morgan did, but not much focus on how Ford revolutionized the production line. The segment on Ford seemed a little rushed to end the series on time. Definitely worth the purchase. Also, the main title theme "Save My Soul" is very addictive!
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on April 28, 2013
What I never knew and more. What an enormus undertaking by those men. They built Homes and buildings (The Grand Central Station ) which are still standing today and still in use.
What a painless way to learn about the building of the USA.
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on February 29, 2016
100% At my age of 50+ I feel like I have learned history for a first time & all one will ever need to know in a single clean clairvoyant entertaining 6 hour sweep ! It's hard to get up & Go to the bathroom in fear of missing a single moment ~ I have watched it 6 times & Each time a Pleasure ~ There should be no School & Or Parent without a Life lesson to force an enjoyed Viewing ~ It explains us (USA) from front to back Why & How we are who we are ! If the terms Monopoly,Democrat,Republican,Social Security,Collective Bargaining is a Vague understanding at best as you may admit to yourself ~ This will give you a clear understanding if not the knowledge to hedge a win in any political debate for your future forward !
NO HISTORY TEACHER SHOULD HAVE A RIGHT TO CLAIM TEACHER UNTIL THIS IS VIEWED & SHARED ... Bottom line it is essential for the intelligence !
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