I finally finished watching "The Men Who Built America" and thought it was quite worthwhile. This was a miniseries (8 hours) that was broadcast on The History Channel and talks (mostly) about Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, and JP Morgan; the 4 men who each created (and monopolized) an industry in the last third of the 19th century that transformed life as they (and now we) know it. The show was full of interesting things that I might have known but forgot, or thngs that didn't occur to me or didn't realize. For instance (a small one), I always associate Andrew Carnegie with Pittsburg, so never connected him with Carnegie Hall in NY. I always associated Standard Oil with gasoline, not kerosene (and was surprised to find out that gasoline was considered a dangerous byproduct of the refining process that they would dump as useless). I knew about Morgan as a banker, but not as the cofounder of General Electric (and owner once he forced out Edison). I didn't know Vanderbilt created the concept of hostile takover of businesses, and forgot that he also built Grand Central Station.
There are some small problems with the series. They could have made the overlapping timelines clearer. Each commerical break seemed to have a quick recap of the central theme. These are forgivable issues because of the overall scope and detail of the history being provided. I believe the series is available on DVD, and will probably be rebroadcast on the History Channel, so keep an eye out.
Now I just need to read a bunch of biographies to get a more complete picture. I got one of Vanderbilt out of the library that should be a good travel read, if a bit heavy.