captain of industry


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captain of industry (plural captains of industry)

  1. A prominent business person who owns or is the highest-ranking executive of one or more major firms, especially one who has considerable wealth and influence.
    • 1843, Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, book 2, ch. X:
      Plugson, who has indomitably spun Cotton merely to gain thousands of pounds . . . was a Captain of Industry, born member of the Ultimate genuine Aristocracy of this Universe, could he have known it!
    • 1910, Jack London, "Goliah," in Revolution and Other Essays:
      Walter Bassett was the greatest captain of industry west of the Rockies, and was one of the small group that controlled the nation in everything but name.
    • 2002, James Graff, "The Power Behind the Throne," Time, 3 Jun:
      It was he who maneuvered a captain of industry, steelmaker Francis Mer, rather than a government mandarin into the finance minister's job.

Usage notesEdit

Now chiefly with reference or allusion to the robber barons of US industry prior to the development of antitrust legislation.