Can You Identify the Most Powerful Business Leaders in History?

Olivia Cantor

Image: Wiki Commons by Macfadden Publications-page 2.

About This Quiz

We've all heard the term "titan of industry" used to describe CEOs and big-business people. But have you heard of a "robber baron" used similarly?

The dictionary defines a robber baron as "a person who has become rich through ruthless and unscrupulous business practices." The term mainly refers to the early industrialists who helped the United States grow during the 19th century. These business giants all had their own domains: as an oil baron, shipping magnate, steel tycoon, railroad pioneer and so on. We all know that economic survival translates to being "business savvy," and indeed, some business practices border on unethical decisions from time to time. So did these so-called robber barons merely do their jobs as they saw fit or did they use greed as their moral compass? 

The answer varies greatly depending on who is asked. But it's still undeniable that these tycoons, barons, magnates and moguls helped shape the world we live in today. Thanks to their contributions, innovations and visions, they rightfully earn the title "captain of industry" for creating business foundations still going strong today.

Can you name these visionary men and women from business history? Check out our quiz and see!

Which visionary created the happiest place on earth?

Walt Disney successfully turned his name into one of the biggest global brands. He had help from professional friends, like early collaborator Ub Iwerks, who helped design his early cartoon characters. His personal contacts like his wife Lillian advised him to change Mortimer to Mickey.

You can buy perfume carrying her name. Can you identify this lady?

Experience fashion maven Coco Chanel's life and business empire through movies. A 2009 biographical film entitled "Coco Before Chanel" featured Audrey Tautou playing the French fashion icon. Netflix also streamed a Chanel-focused episode of their "7 Days Out" documentary series.

Chocolates were his forte! Do you know this entrepreneur?

We all feel bad about the Titanic tragedy for sure, but it's also a relief to know that Milton Hershey decided not to board it at the last minute. You can discover this detail when you visit The Museum on Chocolate Avenue in Pennsylvania and see The Hershey Story about his sweet empire.

Selfie shooters should thank this innovative man. Who was he?

Bank teller George Eastman made photography more accessible to the masses when he created a portable camera with rolled film. This made it easier to use than the bulky plate-oriented camera types. From that patented innovation, his Kodak business grew to become a global giant.

Airplanes were her business, believe it or not! Who is this aviation pioneer?

If you've heard of the Beech Aircraft, there's an important woman behind that brand. Olive Ann Beech first assisted her husband, Walter Beech, in their aircraft-manufacturing business. She took over during World War II and solidified their brand name in the aviation industry.

If you're still buying from his big stores today, then you should know who he is! What's his name?

Walmart is a big retailer brand all over the U.S. which officially opened its first branch in the early '60s. The man behind the brand is Sam Walton, who was originally from Oklahoma but moved around a lot during the Great Depression. Walmart started from his early efforts managing five-and-dime stores.

When you're staying at his hotels, can you guess who started it all?

A season of the ad agency-themed show "Mad Men" focused on a fictional Conrad Hilton meeting up with creative director Don Draper. This portrayal helped introduce the hotel magnate to people who merely know his name from their hotel chain or being Paris Hilton's relative.

Bet you didn't know that she ran Mattel. Who is this Barbie creator?

The Barbie doll concept came from Mattel owner Ruth Handler in the '50s, and it was rare for dolls to have an adult figure back then. But she took advantage of TV advertising in children's shows to push the doll's popularity. Buying ad placements in "The Mickey Mouse Club" helped with this goal.

Advertising owes which "idea man" a lot?

When Oxford dropout David Ogilvy immigrated to the U.S. and worked at the Gallup Organization, he used his years of eclectic work experience and polling data insights in establishing his own ad agency. Known as "The Father of Advertising," he created tenets that the ad industry still uses today.

He knew cars back then. Who was this Model T creator?

German manufacturers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler first invented the automobile, but American Henry Ford made the car accessible to masses. Since Ford wanted to build more vehicles in a shorter time, he pioneered the assembly-line style of production.

Cosmetics were her game. Can you tell us her name?

Users of MAC Cosmetics and Clinique health products should know that Estée Lauder is the name responsible for these lines, as well as her own self-named line. The New York-born self-made woman traces her ancestry from Europe, but she wasn't French; she had a Czech father and a Hungarian mother.

We're still taking a bite of out of his big Apple business today. Who was this tech guy?

Different films tried to characterize tech innovator Steve Jobs differently, so watching them all might give you a better picture of how he ran his business and life. The Ashton Kutcher 2013 film "Jobs" included his younger life, while the 2015 Michael Fassbender version entitled "Steve Jobs" showed just one event.

Men owe their good grooming tool from which inventor?

The Gillette brand is still a household name today for safety razors. The man behind the name is King Gillette, and he started his company at the turn of the 20th century. He had his photo on the cover of the razor products so people widely recognized his face.

She ran the Washington Post like a pro. What was her name?

Meryl Streep portrayed pioneering publisher Katharine Graham in the 2017 film "The Post." The story focused on how she vetted The Washington Post's attempt to publish the controversial Pentagon Papers. Graham also won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for her memoir.

Even mobsters got the clues! Which one established Las Vegas?

If you want to see how the Flamingo Hotel & Casino got built in the middle of a desert back in the '40s, watch the 1991 film "Bugsy." Warren Beatty portrayed mobster Bugsy Siegel here, and it showed his pivotal role in making Las Vegas what it is today.

If you like cereal for breakfast, then you should know this guy, too! What's his name?

C.W. Post, the man behind Post Cereals, got inspired to make flaked cereal products from another man: Will Kellogg. Records show that Kellogg's family was the first to create this product but established their own company a little late. Nonetheless, the Kellogg brand is still well-respected today.

Her health and beauty products took a stand against animal testing. Can you identify this social entrepreneur?

Social issues advocate Anita Roddick traveled all over the world prior to establishing her Body Shop beauty and health products business in the U.K. After observing indigenous people's health practices, Roddick became inspired to use natural resources for her products.

There's a huge hall named after him in Midtown Manhattan. Who was this philanthropist?

Early American industrialist Andrew Carnegie was a hardworking young man who rose from the ranks and became America's steel magnate. Later in life, he became a philanthropist as well.

Which of these businessmen was an electric inventor, too?

We always associate Thomas Edison with his lightbulb invention. But this man has more inventions to his name than that, having patented over 1,000 of them. Thanks to him, we also have the phonograph, microphone, mimeograph and the early film-equipment pair of the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope.

She was the American who championed a specific foreign cuisine. Do you know who?

American chef Julia Child made a business out of promoting French cuisine to her U.S. audience via her famous cookbooks and TV show in the '60s. Prior to taking cooking lessons in Paris, she worked in Asia as a clerk for the Office of Strategic Services, which we now know as the CIA.

Wish we could shake the hand of this KFC founder and thank him! What's his name?

For people in doubt of making career shifts or starting businesses when they're over 40, Harland Sanders' story can erase those doubts. The person responsible for KFC offered the world a finger-lickin'-good kind of success story. He was already past 40 when the business took off.

This military vet established FedEx. Can you identify him?

Frederick Smith named his urgent delivery business "Federal Express" to hopefully woo the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank as a client. Even though the bank ignored his business proposal, the company addressed a need and pioneered a business model. They later rebranded and now go by the name FedEx.

She's an entertainer by profession but she created a business out of it, too. Do you know this funny lady?

Husband and wife team Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz established their own '50s independent production studio called Desilu Productions. Before it was sold in the late '60s, the company produced classic TV series still famous today, like "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible."

His name is also a plaza in New York. Can you guess who?

Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller's aggressive business practices led to his domination of the U.S. oil industry in the 1800s, introducing the concept of the "business monopoly" at the same time. He got tagged as a "robber baron" because of it. Later in life, he became a philanthropist.

Which Japanese business leader gave us a reliable car brand today?

Sakichi Toyoda jump-started the industrial revolution in Japan by establishing Toyota Industries. His primary focus was in the textile industries, manufacturing loom machines. It was his son Kiichiro Toyoda who ventured into car manufacturing and turned their business into a global car brand.

This pioneering economist was part of the New York Stock Exchange back in the day. Who was this politician?

One of the first women to sit at the New York Stock Exchange's board of directors was Juanita Morris Kreps. She was also part of other corporate boards, serving big companies like Eastman Kodak, J.C. Penney, Citicorp, the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. and even the Chrysler Corp.

They say that he was the inspiration for "Citizen Kane". Know which media mogul this is?

Get to know America's historic media mogul, William Randolph Hearst, by taking a tour of his Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. It's a lavish monument befitting the man who jump-started sensational journalism which soon got imitated the world over.

Hollywood won't be the same without which studio executive?

Four siblings made up the legendary Hollywood studio known as Warner Brothers Pictures established in 1923: Harry, Albert, Samuel and Jack. But Jack Warner had more hands-on involvement, doing duties akin to a producer's role today such as hiring cast and crew plus story development.

Which female pioneer channeled her business savvy to establish social-work-related establishments?

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jane Addams was a pioneering American woman who ran a business involving social work. She established the Hull House in Chicago to service the needs of their immigrant neighborhoods during the late 1800s.

This gum entrepreneur was indeed a game-changer. Who was he?

Americans have been chewing William Wrigley Jr.'s gum products since 1891, leading with their Juicy Fruit and Spearmint products. In the '70s, they introduced Extra, Big Red and Hubba Bubba. They are still the leading chewing-gum maker today.

Can you name Anderson Cooper's shipping magnate ancestor?

Anderson Cooper's ancestor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, also went into the business of "connecting people," similar to what the journalist does today in his work. Vanderbilt did his part in establishing the American business landscape by going into the shipping and railroad businesses.

She gave the world a face-lift. What was her name?

Cosmetics pioneer Helena Rubinstein had a brief background in medicine and dermatology, which helped in the development of her business empire. This background paved the way for the production of medicated skin products, borne out of experiments by scientists and chemists who worked for her.

Which of these business moguls established the Coca-Cola Company?

A pharmacist named John Pemberton formulated the early version of Coca-Cola, but it was another pharmacist who profited from it. Pemberton sold the rights of his concoction to Asa Griggs Candler, the one who tinkered with the formula anew and sold it as Coca-Cola. He grew the company out of that.

He was a business magnate, but which name is most familiar with health care today?

Henry J. Kaiser was in the business of shipyards, aluminum and steel, earning the title of an "American industrialist" during the early 1900s. As his shipyard business grew, he got inspired to create the first health-maintenance organization, or HMO, to help his shipyard employees in the '40s.

Who among these smart women thought of building her own business when she didn't get a much-deserved promotion?

Mary Kay Ash used a networking business model to establish her cosmetics brand in the '60s, reaching directly to customers via home parties like what Tupperware did. She added an incentives program for her sales representatives when they sold more than the quota.

This tech entrepreneur's name is half of their brand's name. Do you know who?

Stanford alumnus David Packard earned a degree in electrical engineering before establishing Hewlett-Packard with classmate William Hewlett. Together, the two innovators created many common tech things we use today, such as the pocket scientific calculator and the laser jet printer.

Magazines made this man. Who is he?

Phi Beta Kappa member Henry Luce introduced the concept of informative magazines to the American public in the 1920s. He first established "Time" magazine, then followed it up with "Fortune" magazine and "Life" magazine in the '30s. He also created "Sports Illustrated" in the '50s.

Business-minded women like her thought of creating health products to help fellow women. What's her name?

Lydia Pinkham's son pioneered the formalization of the "home remedy" approach in advertising a product during the 1800s. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound herbal product claimed to cure various female ailments related to their reproductive health problems. The business was a success during that decade.

Thanks to this inventor, we're still enjoying his jeans. Can you identify this entrepreneur?

When Levi Strauss first invented them, denim pants addressed the needs of the California Gold Rush miners in the mid-1800s. Because of its durability, cowboys and farmworkers also wore his jeans in the early 1900s. By the time the '60s rolled out, Levi's jeans gradually became a fashion brand.

Sing a song for this musically-inclined businessman. What's his name?

Rock stars today become household names for their popularity, but many guitarists among them treat one household name as their rock star brand: Gibson. Orville Gibson invented and innovated on the guitar's designs in the late 1800s and later established his company to sell his products.

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