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Building Home: Howard F. Ahmanson and the Politics of the American Dream Hardcover – February 28, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In an impressive biography, "Building Home," Eric John Abrahamson is able to make Ahmanson's life an ideal lens through which to view some of the most momentous developments in America following the war." -- Robert Bruegmann, Wall Street Journal

"At heart, this is about a son surpassing his goal to earn back a family company lost when his father died, but Abrahamson's dense analyses make this study relevant to today's debates about how to fairly regulate the financial marketplace."--"Publishers Weekly"

"Enjoyable storytelling."--"Martin Brower's Oc Report"

"An impressive biography."--"Wall Street Journal"

"An impressive biography."--Robert Bruegmann"Wall Street Journal" (03/05/2013)

"It's very easy to highly recommend Building Home . . . an interesting and uplifting read."--John Tamny"Forbes" (04/14/2013)

"Despite the nation's now-reluctant familiarity with mortgage finance, it can be a hard topic to warm up to. Reading Building Home, one not only warms to the subject, but also to the argument that big businesses and the government can work together for the public benefit."--Kim Velsey"New York Observer" (03/27/2013)

"Ahmanson (who died in 1968) is remembered--if at all--through the cultural institutions he supported: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Music Center. Abrahamson makes a compelling case that Ahmanson ought to be better remembered--positively and negatively--as a man who made much of Los Angeles."--D. J. Waldie"KCET/SoCal Focus blog" (04/05/2013)

"[Abrahamson] does an impressive job under difficult circumstances of documenting Ahmanson's life--warts and all. . . . Fascinating reading."--William G. Hamm"ABA Banking Journal" (04/25/2013)

An impressive biography. --Robert Bruegmann"Wall Street Journal" (03/05/2013)"

It s very easy to highly recommend Building Home . . . an interesting and uplifting read. --John Tamny"Forbes" (04/14/2013)"

Despite the nation s now-reluctant familiarity with mortgage finance, it can be a hard topic to warm up to. Reading Building Home, one not only warms to the subject, but also to the argument that big businesses and the government can work together for the public benefit. --Kim Velsey"New York Observer" (03/27/2013)"

Ahmanson (who died in 1968) is remembered if at all through the cultural institutions he supported: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Music Center. Abrahamson makes a compelling case that Ahmanson ought to be better remembered positively and negatively as a man who made much of Los Angeles. --D. J. Waldie"KCET/SoCal Focus blog" (04/05/2013)"

From the Inside Flap

"In this blockbuster biography, Abrahamson brings the business history of Southern California--and the national postwar housing boom!--to new levels of scholarly presentation. Building Home offers readers the opportunity to examine the federally managed housing economy, now in disarray, at its highpoint of efficiency, as seen through the flamboyant figure of one of its most successful Mad Men practitioners!"—Kevin Starr, University of Southern California

"Eric John Abrahamson has accomplished a great feat: Using interviews and detective work in the archives, he chronicles the personality and vision of Howard Ahmanson, a man as elusive in the written records as he was imposing in the memory of those who knew him. Abrahamson tells an impressive history of Ahmanson’s innovations in the savings-and-loan business, revealing how the man and his company left a long-lasting influence on the cultural as well as business landscape of southern California."—Adam Arenson, author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War

“Eric Abrahamson takes us back to an earlier era for America and Southern California when dreams were realized not only for a few but literally for millions. The optimism and nerve of howard ahmanson's times are displayed with balance and critical insight. But it's clear that we have lost much of our focus on home and family. The question for us is can we somehow restore the American dream before it devolves into the mists of history?”—Joel Kotkin, the author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, The City: A Global History

"Howard Ahmanson's gifts to culture in Los Angeles were enormous. As the sole owner of Home Savings, the nation's largest savings and loan, Ahmanson became one of the richest men in California by catering to middle-class dreams of home ownership. During his lifetime, he played a key role in funding the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Music Center, the Otis Art Institute and other civic organizations. With his endowment of the Ahmanson Foundation, he created an institution that provides $40 million a year in grants to benefit education, social services, healthcare and the arts in Los Angeles. Yet to most Angelenos, Ahmanson was and remains a mystery. Eric John Abrahamson's biography reveals the man and places him within the broader economic, political and cultural streams of mid-century America and Southern California."—Stephen D. Rountree, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Music Center

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (February 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520273753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520273757
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric John Abrahamson is an economic historian who has researched and written about various regulated industries including telecommunications, financial services and electric utilities, as well as business and philanthropy in California, the United States and Canada. Abrahamson is president of Vantage Point Historical Services, Inc. He is a fellow with the Institute of Applied Economics, Global Health and Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University. Abrahamson received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2003.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a kid growing up in the 1970's, I remember every small town having a savings and loan on main street. These institutions were as ubiquitous as station wagons and bell bottoms. Then they quietly disappeared. I haven't seen one of these in thirty years.

Howard Ahmanson made his fortune by selling fire insurance and by buying thrifts. He saw a way to make money not by lending to people with money, but by lending to the middle class and working class who at the time had trouble securing enough financing to purchase a home. To be succesful at this, he did two things. First, he found a way to out perform his competitors by purchasing several unrelated thrifts and making one large thrift with branches in every community in Southern California. Because of the size of his operation, he could offer the best rates on mortgages and the best rates for the working class saver. Secondly, he influenced government. Thrifts were a regulated industry, and Ahmanson did what he could to influence who could buy thrifts, who chaired the thrift commission in California, and what regulations the commission enacted. For the 1940's and 1950's, the commission thought it was their duty to encourage the operation of thrifts so that the average person had access to home mortgages. In the 1960's, government realized that their friendly regulations and cooperation with thrift owners had created an industry which benefitted wealthy men as much or more than the working class who needed home mortgages. By this time, the system had made Mr. Ahmanson very rich, but what was the effect on communities and the average American? Would a deregulated industry bring competition into the market and bring down the cost of borrowing money for a mortgage?

What I read in this book is troubling to me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great explanation of the economy, home building, home building industry and Howard Ahmanson! Lots of great personal stories.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Governors, presidents, politicians, businessmen, soldiers ... a compelling story about a unique person and an amazing time. If you have lived in Southern California, you should put it on the must read list.
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Format: Hardcover
This biography is really a picture at what the author calls the "Consensus Society": a society in which business leaders and politicians saw themselves on more or less the same side. Business leaders would work to achieve the policy goals favored by the American people (in this case, expanded home ownership), and politicians would stabilize markets and make life easier for larger businesses by limiting competition. Such a society, of course, assumes a great degree of consensus among ordinary americans.

Truly, a case study of a different way of living,
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