Harvard Business School
Exhibit and Graphic Design: Proun Design, LLC
Exhibit Fabrication: WB Inc.
The Railroad Revolution and the Birth of Corporate Capitalism
July 2011-Mar 2012
More than 240,000 miles of railroad track laid down in the United States from the mid-to-late 1800s connected vast regions of the country, transporting raw materials, goods, and people, and making possible a level of commerce previously unparalleled. Unprecedented in the size and complexity of operations, railroads became the model on which modern business would be based. While few dispute the transformative nature of the industry, recent scholarship has compared railroads in Europe to those in the United States. These studies reveal how the relationship between the railroads and the state influenced the way railways developed and how they shaped the growth of other industries. Other scholars have questioned the idea that American railroads were models of management and suggest they are better understood as sometimes inefficient and lumbering organizations that achieved scale only through massive subsidy. Railroads and the Transformation of Capitalism explores the continuing research in the history and role of railroads in creating not only the foundations of modern business, but also a system of corporate capitalism that survives to this day.