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The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance Paperback – January 13, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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No one should be intimidated by this book's length or the complexity of its subject. Its pages are rich with lively portraits of the sometimes quirky men who ran the Morgan banks, the high and mighty of the world with whom they did business, and the world's many critics of such concentrated economic might. Pierpont and Jack Morgan and their successors at the top get the most detailed treatment, but figures as diverse as Brandeis, Mussolini, Lindbergh (the son-in-law of a top Morgan partner), Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher all play a part in the story, not to mention interesting but lesser-known figures like Ferdinand Pecora, Judge Harold Medina and central bankers from Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan.
As a backdrop to the Morgan saga, this book includes accounts of the main events of 20th-century financial history, such as the Panic of 1907, the creation of the Federal Reserve system, the Crash of 1929 and the depression and bank failures that followed it, the New Dealers' attack on banks led by Pecora that resulted in the Glass-Steagall Act and the separation of commercial banking from investment banking, and the rise of hostile takeovers, Eurodollars, petrodollars, Latin American lending, junk bonds and the securitization of debt, all refreshingly written for laymen rather than experts.
"The House of Morgan" has perhaps two overriding themes.Read more ›
At 700 plus pages this is an incredibly long book. Unfortunately it is an uneven read. I became progressively less interested in the book as I went along; however, it was worth the effort to complete.
The first section, which he calls the Baronial Era in banking, is fascinating, and for me it was a page-turner. The Morgan banking house actually began as the George Peabody bank in England, and Junius Morgan was brought over from the US to be his successor. Junius Morgan took the bank to a level far beyond where Peabody had, and then his son JP Morgan Sr. took over. JP Morgan Sr (Pierpont) is the name most associated with Morgan banking, and he was an enormously powerful and colorful character. This was the infamous age of the "Robber Barons" the rise of American railroads, big steel, and the oil industry. Pierpont was at the center of it, commanding industry while collecting art, building yachts and cavorting with women. It makes a great story.
Pierpont was succeeded by his son JP Morgan Jr(Jack) who headed the bank during what Chernow called the "Diplomatic Era". The book became less interesting. Jack was nowhere near as colorful as his father, and his reign over the bank nowhere near as autocratic. Several other bankers, among them Dwight Morrow (father of Anne Morrow Lindbergh) were major players at the bank. The bank played a huge role on the international stage in this era, and while it had strong ties to England (and its sister bank Morgan Grenfall) it also helped finance the rise of the Nazis, Mussolini and the nationalists in Japan. This was also the period of the roaring twenties and the depression.Read more ›
Chernow has a habit of putting a few details in, then glossing over the key points, and editorializing on his own to make the vignette correspond to his thesis. His thesis seems to be this: Morgan (whichever one) was a good man in a dirty business and his monopolistic tendancies were for the moral betterment of humanity. The broader thesis is that the banking titans have been cut down to size for the betterment of the average citizen.
Unfortunately I find much of this posturing nothing more than cheerleading for the rich establishment types that Chernow obviously reveres! He neglects to even mention Morgan's involvement with Nikola Tesla at Wardencliffe, yanking out Tesla's funding when it became clear to him that Tesla was working to provide free energy, not the kind that Morgan could monopolize. He leaves out much more as well, such as Morgan's rather shady involvement in Japan at the end of WW II with Herbert Hoover where they managed to gain preferential treatment in the re-emerging Japanese economy... in alliance with Japanese monopolists eager to preserve their power and control.
It is incredible how Chernow couches Morgan's ruthless monopolist tendancies in terms that make them sound like he was a benign visionary! His attack on the Glass-Steagall act is also certain to make him a darling of the bankers. I wish he had just presented the facts, and replaced his "apologies" with MORE facts!
At any rate, I learned from it, but I recommend viewing much of it with a very jaded eye.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating tour through the last 150 watching from inside and over the bank vaultPublished 12 days ago by Robert Kelly
I must admire Chernow's resolve to research his subjects so thoroughly. This was my second go-around after Titan. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Tree Ponders Leaf
The author must of felt that he did all this research and you are going to have to read every detail, boring or not!Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer Bruce
Interesting biography on an important interesting man. Chernow is the best biographer of my favorite subjects. Cannadine is my favorite.Published 2 months ago by texbookgreen
Not on the same level as his biography of Alexander Hamilton, but a detailed account of the Morgan dynasty and its effect on US and global finance and economic history. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jeff Ramin
Ron Chernow's look at the Morgan banking empire through the years. The first two thirds were interesting because he focused on names that most people have heard of. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Robert Sparrenberger