Vilifying the rich has become a popular sport these days, much as in the early part of the last century. Indiscriminate and divisive, it can take down the mightiest of men, men like Norman B. Ream (1844-1915) who contributed greatly to the industrial structure and economic growth of his country. But he was forgotten by his fellow countrymen because of what they perceived to be a personal flaw: He was rich!
Norman Bruce Ream was born in southwestern Pennsylvania in 1844, the son of a farmer. He exhibited a commercial sense, but the Civil War interrupted his ambitions. Wounded twice, he returned home a hero.
After some unsuccessful business ventures out west, he went to Chicago in 1871 and became a commission merchant in the Union Stockyards. A few years later, he moved uptown and traded grains and provisions in the pits of the Board of Trade. Money poured in. Indeed, by 1886 he was a millionaire (also married and the father of several children). He started investing in real estate, urban transit companies, railroad stock—and began consolidating and financing enterprises.
At century’s end, he was traveling to New York City, impressing financiers like J. Pierpont Morgan. Indeed, he helped Morgan put together the U.S. Steel Corporation and the International Harvester Company, served on many boards, and even advised Morgan during the panic of 1907. But life grew turbulent. Public sentiment soured towards Wall Street and the wealthy. This, along with the presumed indiscretions of some of his children, kept his name in the press. He died in 1915, and gradually, his life was forgotten.
Introduction: If Mr. Ream Recollected
Chapter 1. The Ambitious Farm Boy, 1844 to 1861
Chapter 2. The Bloody Lessons of War, 1861 to 1864
Chapter 3. The Budding Entrepreneur Heads West, 1864 to 1871
Chapter 4. Chicago: The Blossoming of N.B. Ream, 1871 to 1878
Chapter 5. The Fever On ‘Change, 1878 to 1886
Chapter 6. Mr. Ream Pivots, 1886 to 1888
Chapter 7. Reaching for the Top, 1888 to 1895
Chapter 8. Burglaries and Deaths, 1895 to 1897
PHOTOGRAPHS/PLATES, Between Chapters 8 and 9
Chapter 9. Thinking East…Drifting East, 1897 to 1900
Chapter 10. Making Money, Circa 1900
Chapter 11. Endings and Beginnings, 1900 to 1904
Chapter 12. Fame, Fortune, and…Reality, 1904 to 1907
Chapter 13. Turbulence, 1907 to 1912
Chapter 14. Approaching the Clearinghouse, 1912 to 1915
Conclusion: A Life Forgotten