People often called J.P. Morgan a “robber baron” because he was a very rich American businessman. In 19th-century America, the word “gangster” was usually used to describe aggressive, successful, and powerful men or women who got their money through questionable or unethical means. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, and Cornelius Vanderbilt are some of the other people in his time who were called “robber barons.”
Even though the term has become less common in the centuries since, the same traits are still seen in successful businessmen all over the world. Robber barons tend to take advantage of their workers, have too much control over government policies and rules, create monopolies by buying out their competitors, take over or control national resources, and manipulate the stock market. J.P. Morgan did business with railroads, steel, electricity, factories, banks, and many other things.
During the Great Depression, author and political commentator Matthew Josephson wrote a book with the same name as the term “robber baron.” The book and its main idea, that shady businessmen caused the economic chaos and destruction of the Great Depression, made people dislike and hate big businesses that did well at the expense of regular people. The mascot for the board game Monopoly, which is a man in a suit with a black top hat, is a pop icon for a robber baron.