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1915. Zach Beggs. 1915 is a year that might be overshadowed by the first year of the Great War, but many events were taking place that would greatly shape countries and their future.

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Zach Beggs


1915 is a year that might be overshadowed by the first year of the Great War, but many events were taking place that would greatly shape countries and their future.

  • Americas Captains of Industry/Robber barons are setting the bar for capitalism and are leaving a legacy to be remembered for decades to come.
  • Japan is trying to expand its empire but will leave a wake of hatred with China and Korea.
  • Mexico's revolution is still raging and America is about to become heavily involved.
  • Europe has now been at war for a year and the sinking of the Lusitania will provoke America into the war.
  • The Boers are still fighting in South Africa and have established the Apartheid political party.

Captains of Industry are propelling America into a new era of prosperity. Names like Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie are now cemented into American history.


Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish immigrant who came to America in 1848. He received his start in business at the Pennsylvania railroad. Thomas Scott who was vice president of the railroad was impressed by Carnegie and acted as his mentor until Carnegie left the business. (5)


After seeing the potential of Iron during the Civil War Carnegie left the railroad and began working for the Keystone Bridge Company which replaced wood bridges with iron. Carnegie soon adopted and heavily invested into a new way to make huge quantities of steel developed by Henry Bessemer. (5)


By 1900 Carnegie’s steel empire was unmatched. He sold his business that year to J.P. Morgan for 480 million dollars making Carnegie the richest man in the world at that time. Carnegie’s experiences as a poor child left him saying this quote for most of his life “ the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” (6)


Carnegie became a prolific philanthropist donating over 350 million dollars by the time he died. His legacy would be over 2,500 public libraries built in the English speaking world. He was one of the first to call for a league of nations before world war 1 started and he built a “palace of peace” which would later become the World Court. (6)


John Rockefeller grew up in modest and religious household. He had a knack for business when at a young age he lent 50 dollars to a farmer and it was returned with 7% interest. “ it was a good thing to let the money be my servant and not make myself a slave to the money…” (8)


Rockefeller was a successful business man by the time he was twenty. In 1863 he started to invest heavily in the shipment of oil, because Cleveland at the time had an advantage over rails roads because of lake Erie. After he had established himself in the shipping business Rockefeller made his first purchase into oil refining. (8)


The Standard Oil company was founded in 1870, during its forty year lifespan it would control over 90% of the oil business in America. It was dissolved in 1911 for violations of Sherman anti-trust act, John Rockefeller left the business as the worlds first billionaire. Rockefeller would now focus his life on philanthropy. (8)


Rockefeller’s legacy will be remembered by the hundreds of millions he spent trying to improve conditions for all mankind. He personally founded the foundation of many universities such as Chicago University, he also funded many southern schools especially African –American based learning centers. Besides education Rockefeller funded many medical centers which eventually led to many vaccines and awareness of hazardous that saved millions of lives. The Rockefeller foundation lived on after his death and heavily contributed to the Green Revolution. (6)


Henry Ford was born in Dearborn, Michigan. Growing up he was very mechanically inclined and worked as a engineer for the Edison Electric Company where he completed his first motorized vehicle. With the help of investors Ford would create his first two failed businesses. (7)


1903 saw the creation of the Ford motor company . The Model T was introduced in 1908 after many previous versions. This car became the quintessential early 20th century car with millions being sold. By revolutionizing the assembly line his cars could be made faster and without cutting corners. Ford also established the eight hour work day and the razing of wages for his employees. ( although this was to stop the high employee turnover rate) (7)



Henry Ford’s legacy of philanthropy isn't as well known as Carnegie or Rockefeller mainly because Ford disagreed with public charity. He thought charity should be a individual private offering. That did not stop him from contributing millions of dollars during his life. He did spend millions of dollars to build Ford hospital, which is still the largest hospital in Detroit. Another great thing Ford did was preserve history, his home in Dearborn is a great museum of Americana. (6)



These three men did not have a direct connection to 1915, although one would think that a steel magnate, oil tycoon, and automobile pioneer would see the first mechanized war as a great business opportunity. Perhaps their lack of involvement speaks louder than if they were involved. Ford and Carnegie greatly protested war and violence, so much that Carnegie stopped writing in his autobiography the day the war began;(6)and Ford organized a “peace voyage” in 1915 to Europe trying to help stop the conflict.(6)


Europe was at war and Japan was an allied power that used this time to try to expand its empire over the China and much of the East.


During 1915 Japan gave China a Ultimatum of “21 Demands” which would basically make China a client state of Japan and China would have to give up certain territories to Japan; or risk a war with Japan. This was condemned by Britain and America, America invoked a boycott of all Japanese goods. It was finally annulled in 1922, but it created wide-spread hostility towards Japan felt to this day.(1)


Anti-Japanese films are still being made in china today, disputes over territory won and lost during the first and second Sino-Japanese war are still creating animosity between the two countries. (4)


It is 1915, the Mexican Revolution has been going on for five years Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata have contested the presidency of Mexico. Venustantio Carranza a former ally of Villa has claimed the right to the presidency of Mexico.


Once Carranza self-proclaimed his presidency fighting instantly broke out and a interim president was agreed upon. The Revolutionists suffered a blow when Villa was defeated by Obregon an ally of Carranza in 1915. This was the beginning of the end for the revolution. Villa’s rage would lead him to attack New Mexico, the United States would retaliate by sending thousands of troops to Mexico trying to hunt down Villa. (2)


With Villa running from American forces, Carranza took back the presidency for good this time. He drafted a new constitution in 1917 which gained some support throughout Mexico . Carranza was his own demise when he had Zapata killed and lost the support of his most powerful allies. After Carranza had been kicked out Alvaro Obragon was elected and the revolution was over. (2)


Europe has been at war for a year now, there is no sign of it slowing down. The war is going to escalate by using new weapons and more countries are about to join the fight.


Mass casualties are being caused by the Maximum machinegun and massive amounts of artillery . A new weapon with horrible effects is about to be unleashed.


Fritz Haber was chemist who won a Nobel Peace prize for his work with nitrogen. Fritz Haber was a chemist who developed poison gas to be used during world war 1 and was proud to do it. Haber was the first to suggest the use of Chlorine gas and would later help develop mustard gas. (10)


Chlorine gas was first used on April 22, 1915 at the second battle of Ypres. The effects of the gas caused severe respiratory damage and eventually would cause death. This would lead to deadlier gases to be used and would eventually be banned under the Geneva Convention. (9)


The allies gained another country when it convinced Italy to separate from the axis and attack the Austria-Hungary empire. Italy's invasion of the territory was a massive failure due to poor equipment and strategic disadvantage. (9)


War always creates collateral damage. World war one was no different when the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against Armenians living in the country. The Turkish Ottomans had received reports about Armenians joining Russia, this caused tension and mistrust. It eventually lead to a deportation of Armenians into the Syrian Desert. 500,00 Armenians died. (9)



The Western Front of the War was largely a stalemate. Due to miles upon miles of trenches, machine guns and now poison gas no side could effectively gain ground. This would become the underlying message of the War.


May 1, 1915 the Lusitania set sail for England although there were repeated warnings in American newspapers of increased U-boat activity. Besides the four million rounds of ammunition it was carrying,(3)it also held more than a hundred Americans. Once the ship was sunk and a majority of Americans were killed, it became a rally cry for the U.S. to join the War. There was nothing reported about the ammunition in U.S. newspapers.


This was a pamphlet that had a notice, saying the Lusitania was about to sail into a warzone and any ship sailing through hostile waters is subject to military action. Given by the German Embassy



The Boers in South Africa are about to have a rebellion against the British rule that they have been fighting since 19th century. After the Second Boer war (1899-1902)a peace between the British and Boers kind of existed. When World War 1 and the new South African government wanted to help England.


Many of the Boers had ancestry with Germany and did not want to fight in the war. Seeing on opportunity to try and restore the old Boer republic a rebellion broke out and was quickly put down with most of the rebels imprisoned. The rebels were imprisoned for a short time and when released instead of fighting, the worked within the constitutional system and formed the National Party on June 9, 1915.


The National Party movement would lead to the creation of apartheid which would rule South Africa for decades and cause extreme racial tensions. The apartheid regime would be stopped by F.W. De Klerk and Nelson Mandela.


Final Thoughts

1915 was a year where the world took itself to another level. The merging of man and technology shows what great and terrible things mankind can achieve. War is now an industrial event, where the death toll rises into the millions. Technology has made the world more globalized, advancing medicine, infrastructure and education.



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  • Faculty. Mexican Revolution. (accessed December 5, 2013).
  • Greenhill, Sam. Secert of the Lusitania . December 19, 2008. (accessed December 19, 2013).
  • Lam, Oiwan. Global Voices. April 14, 2013. (accessed December 5, 2013).

5. PBS. Andrew Carnegie. (accessed December 5, 2013).

6. Philanthropy Roundtable. The Philanthropy Hall of Fame. (accessed December 5, 2013).

7. The Henry Ford. The Life of Henry Ford. (accessed December 5, 2013).

8. WGBH Educational Foundation. John Rockefeller. (accessed December 5, 2013).

9. Worldology, LLC. Great War. (accessed December 5, 2013).

10. Encyclopedia Britannica . Haber/260673/Chemical-warfare (accessed December 5, 2013).