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The Merchant of Power: Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis Hardcover – March 2, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Sam Insull is the forgotten energy tycoon of the early 20th century. As Wasik, a columnist for Bloomberg News, relates, Insull came to America from England in 1881 with $200 in his pocket to be Thomas Edison's private secretary and died in a Paris metro station in 1938 with 84 cents in his pocket. In between, he helped Edison light up New York and moved to Chicago, where he built a corporate empire that raised his personal worth to over $150 million ($1.7 billion in today's dollars); then he lost everything in the Great Depression. The collapse of his companies made him the bête noire of thousands of his now destitute Chicago shareholders and, according to the author, a model for Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. Wasik notes that Insull was instrumental in two fundamental shifts in American history: first, his innovations in the delivery of electric power made possible the consumer age; second, the failure of his financial empire became a basis for the New Deal laws that now govern much of corporate America. Wasik writes well, and Insull is a complex man whose life and times make worthwhile reading. B&w photos. (Mar. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Brilliant . . . brings Insull back to complicated life, and should revive interest in a forgotten giant.” ―Chicago Sun-Times
“[A] focused look at one of the most interesting historical figures you've never heard of . . . a fascinating cautionary tale.” ―Fortune
“Does a fine job of telling the early story of utilities, moguls and scandal.” ―Chicago Tribune
“One of the most magnetic and powerful con artists of the Great Depression was Sam Insull. Patron of the arts, philanthropist and Thomas Edison's right hand, he shafted thousands of investors large and small. . . . I found the work of John Wasik not only personally enthralling but an informal history of that traumatic time.” ―Studs Terkel
“[A] bittersweet biography of one of the titans of American industry, business and finance . . . Highly readable. . . .” ―Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Wasik writes well, and Insull is a complex man whose life and times makes worthwhile reading.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Bloomberg News columnist John Wasik points out in a new biography, Merchant of Power, Insull started as the financial manager for a big man--not Ken Lay, but Thomas Edison. . . .” ―The New York Sun
“Wasik [has] taken his cue from current corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom in deciding to pluck Insull from semiobscurity, as many of Insull's contemporaries (including FDR) believed him to be guilty (he was acquitted) of orchestrating the first large-scale corporate deception.” ―Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
I wasn't up to speed on his dimise. However this book goes into great detail on how he lost everything and why. I found it quite interesting that this man who created the modern world as we know has been left out of so many history books, life lessons, and business mishaps. I actually found myself resenting FDR through out the final chapters with his witch hunt of Insull and his associates. I just hope I can find a book on Telsa that is this informative.
The background of this book is set on a character, Sam Insull, who unfortunately got completely buried in the history. His ordinary demeanor, shroud business acumen and stunning entrepreneurship was so remarkable that it made the DOW to melt (to 56 points) in 1929 and forced Fed to institute SEC in 1934. This SEC is the same foundation on which modern financial structure is based and is subject of so much debate. After reading this book, you can almost relate what Obama means when he says, "...this 19th century financial system needs to change to reflect 21st century needs... (Not verbatim)".
From the completely other side, this book makes few great points. This book examines two completely different personalities -- one, of an inventor (Thomas Edison) and second an innovator (Sam Insul). And makes it clear that inventions are not innovations. In a subtle manner it also draws a point that certain kind of innovations only leads towards disaster, hence, not all innovations are equal (or good). It tells us innovations can cause "market value" to completely evaporate - in other terms - creative destruction.
If you happen to wonder -- what is the structure of our corporate financing and what value it adds to the system, OR how we got into the situations where we are today (with our credit crisis), OR if you really wonder the ingenuity and geniuses of this country (in other words, "land of opportunity") this is surely a book for you (without any pun intended).
Based on your gut feel, after you have read this book, you may end up forming opinion about what (and how much) to regulate about the current system. But it will surely give you hope that we will definitely come out of the current crisis, with macho smart and much more confident. You will know that this is not the end of the world and that show-must-surely-go-on. Because, nothing-lasts-forever and history-repeats-itself ;-)
The Merchant of Power: Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Coming across "The Merchant Of Power" by John Wasik, I was intrigued by the title and book jacket, but...Read more