37 pages 1 hour read

Harold C. Livesay

Andrew Carnegie And The Rise Of Big Business

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1975

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Symbols & Motifs

The Railroad

While Livesay’s biography of Andrew Carnegie does not have symbols in the way a traditional work of literature does, several objects throughout the book become recurring motifs, standing-in for larger historical issues. The railroad is one of the primary motifs throughout the book, appearing in nearly every chapter. In the process, the railroad becomes an emblem of technological progress, modernity, and America’s expansion as a nation.

In Chapter 3, Livesay argues that the railroad is one of the first modern industries in America. In Livesay’s argument, this modernization comes about more due to necessity than plan. Most industries in the mid-19th century are run on a small scale and confined to a single (or handful of) locations. In contrast, the railroad spans across miles and miles of land, with numerous warehouses and facilities, as well as countless employees in differing positions (from train operators to engineers and repairmen). Further, while most industries sell in bulk to only a few buyers, the railroad earns money through hundreds of small-scale ticket purchases. In order for the railroad to be profitable, executives (such as Tom Scott) have to devise a precise accounting system for tracking costs, as well as a corporate organizational system with a clear line of command.

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