If you were to compile a list of the 20 titans of industry whose power and influence most changed our lives in the 20th century, whose names would be on it?
On Monday, after intense debate and examination, Time magazine's list hits newsstands in its issue "Builders and Titans." It will be followed by a primetime special this Wednesday, part of the "People Of The Century: CBS News/Time 100" series. Called The Century's Twenty Most Influential Builders and Titans, it will be anchored by CBS News Correspondent Bryant Gumbel.
Here, Gumbel gives us a sneak preview of one of the visionaries:
"It was the beginning of a new type of building modeled after the automobile business. The only difference was that the product stood still and the workmen moved."
Those words are from William Levitt, a master builder and a man called the father of suburbia. He is one of CBS News and Time magazine's "titans of the century."
Bill Levitt's instant houses came hot off the assembly line, and they gave ordinary Americans something out of the ordinary - a home of their own.
Herb Kalisman, who grew up in Brooklyn, recalls: "The first time I saw Levittown was in 1948. And as the train was pulling into the Hicksville station, I asked the conductor, 'what the hell is that?' He said, 'Oh, that's Levittown.' I said, 'who would want to live out here?' Three years later, we moved in."
Paul Goldberg, staff writer for The New York Times, says the time was ripe for Levittown: "You had gone off to fight in the war. You came back. You wanted your chunk of victory. In a way, Levittown was this little tiny slice of victory for all of these veterans."
For Mildred Cantor, an original Levitt owner, "It was like moving into a palace. I ran from room to room, opening and closing doors. Oh, it was a palace to me after coming from one tiny room."
In the '60s, critics scored upon Bill Levitt and made fun of places like Levittown. But Levitt had the last laugh. He became a millionaire and a legend, a man who opened the gates to suburbia.
Others on the list include Henry Ford, who pioneered ways to produce more cars in less time for more money. There's Ray Kroc, who made McDonald's a fast food empire. You may not know Willis Carrier's name, but his contribution was the air conditioner.
There are some surprises on the list. A mobster gets a mention. Charles "Lucky" Luciano turned big-time crime into big business.
Only one woman muscled her way onto the top 100 list. Estee Lauder built an empire based on beauty, the popular cosmetic line that bears her name.
The Century's Twenty Most Influential Builders and Titans airs this Wednesday at 10:00 PM EST, 9:00 Central on your CBS station.
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