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It’s a warm day in late August 1856. A young engineer is demonstrating a new technique for producing steel that would change the world forever. His name is Henry Bessemer, and while few have heard of him, his invention will fuel the greatest change in wealth in the history of the world.

Bessemer had created a process for steel production that lowered costs by more than 90%, setting off a massive 4000% increase in steel production in the next 40 years. All this steel went into industrial machines and infrastructure that first pushed Britain into the position of world economic leaders, and later did the same for the United States.

That was the Industrial Revolution; the greatest shift of wealth in the recorded history of mankind. Entire industries were born and entire industries died in the next 30-40 years. And what is most interesting is that it wasn’t the manufacturers that used the new technologies to make their goods for a lower price, but rather those that supplied the Industrial Revolution itself. By 1870, the largest companies and the wealthiest families in the world all provided either steel or transport for the vast quantities of manufactured goods that were being shipped from factories to markets. The products themselves would come and go and with them the manufacturers, but it was the providers of the core infrastructure of the Industrial Revolution: steel, coal, rail, shipping, oil and gas; that gained and kept the riches.

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