Year of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department or School/College
Department of History
Richard Drake, Jeff Wiltse, Jill Belsky, Paul Alaback, David Emmons
Hammond Lumber Company, Missoula Mercantile Company, Pacific Northwest, Redwoods, timber industry, Timber poaching
University of Montana
Two highly contrasting views inform our view of America's Industrial Era (1877-1920). The "captains of industry" thesis holds that America's industrial and economic might depended on creative capitalists freely pursuing individual wealth. The opposing "robber baron" perspective holds that the capitalist free-market system engendered a great disparity of wealth and resulted in social and environmental costs while accruing benefits to the few.
In seeking to understand the Industrial Era historians have traditionally looked toward the top echelon of American businessmen: Rockefeller, Gould, Morgan, and the like, largely ignoring the scores of second-tier capitalists. The era of "laissez-faire" capitalism, however, was not just the work of a few individuals, but rather hundreds of men of a type forged in the Protestant tradition.
In the American West, regional entrepreneurs, like Andrew B. Hammond were the primary agents of environmental change and had as a great, and perhaps greater, impact upon both the physical, social, and economic landscape than the top industrialists. For the West at least, the Rockefellers, Harrimans, and Morgans merely served as conduits of capital, while regional industrialists actually transformed the western landscape from one dominated by Native Americans to one fully integrated into the global capitalist system. Rather than a colony under the yolk of eastern capital, American West was exploited from within. Westerners themselves created the institutions, conditions, and opportunities that converted the nation's natural resources into private wealth.
As one of the region's premier lumberman Hammond was a significant agent of environmental change. As an individual, Hammond made choices that affected both the physical and economic landscape. While Hammond's actions were constrained by the structures of capitalism, he tailored it to fit his own needs, desires, and specific circumstances. In doing so, he also shaped the world around him.
Hammond offers a real life illustration of how the struggle over natural resources during the Industrial Era gave rise to the two most pervasive forces in modern American life - the federal government and the corporation. But rather than a triumph of one over the other, the conflict resulted in a huge increase in the power and ubiquity of both institutions and defined the increasingly close relationship between them.
Gordon, Gregory Llewellyn, "Money Does Grow on Trees: A. B. Hammond and the Age of the Lumber Baron" (2010). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 676.
© Copyright 2010 Gregory Llewellyn Gordon