10 Moments That Made American Business

How a debt-ridden banana republic became the greatest economic engine the world has ever known

It has been 400 years since European settlement began in what is now the United States. In that time a land occupied by a few million Neolithic hunter-gatherers has been transformed into the mightiest economy ever known, producing nearly one-third of the world’s goods and services. There are few economic sectors indeed, from agricultural exports to jet-aircraft production to entertainment, in which the United States does not lead.

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40 More Critical Moments In American Business History

1. 1606: The Virginia Company is formed to seek profit from a new business: American settlement.

2. 1612: John Rolfe plants West Indian tobacco in Virginia, the cash crop that assures the colony’s success.

3. 1614: John Smith, finding no gold, sets his men to fishing for cod off New England, pointing the way to the area’s first economic mainstay. Read more »

Sitting On A Gusher

How gullible Edwin L. Drake, an ailing ex-railroad conductor, brought about America’s first and gaudiest oil boom

Perhaps the most bizarre of all the great mineral booms of the nineteenth century took place not in a remote western wilderness, but in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, within easy reach of such well-established centers of population as New York and Pittsburgh. In this case the sought-after prize was not gold or silver but an infinitely more valuable substance, petroleum.