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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Paperback – September 7, 1999
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From the Inside Flap
"A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel. . . . Wonderfully fluent and compelling." --The New York Times
"A triumph of the art of biography. Unflaggingly interesting, it brings John D. Rockefeller Sr. to life through sustained narrative portraiture of the large-scale, nineteenth-century kind."--The New York Times Book Review
In this endlessly engrossing book, National Book Award-winning biographer Ron Chernow devotes his penetrating powers of scholarship and insight to the Jekyll and Hyde of American capitalism. In the course of his nearly 98 years, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists--and an utter enigma.
Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller's private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subject's troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him "to give all I could"; his devotion to his family; and the wry sense of humor that made him the country's most colorful codger. Titan is a magnificent biography --balanced, revelatory, and elegantly written.
"Important and impressive. . . . Reveals the man behind both the mask and the myth."--The Wall Street Journal
"One of the great American biographies. . . . [Chernow] writes with rich impartiality. He turns the machinations of Standard Oil . . . into fascinating social history."--Time
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.65 pounds
- Paperback : 774 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0679757031
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679757030
- Dimensions : 5.17 x 1.66 x 7.98 inches
- Publisher : Vintage (September 7, 1999)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #344,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Rockefeller played hard - by modern standard, some of his actions were dirty. Did Rockefeller obtain his riches because of his dirty dealings? Or were his indiscretions merely mistakes made by a moral man running in a competitive, unforgiving industry? Chernow comes to the later conclusion and writes a sympathetic biography.
Rockefeller wasn't greedy. Rather than being driven to acquire, Rockefeller felt compelled to do his best. Despite keeping a ledger of expenses, Rockefeller didn't keep score by his bank account. Making money was the measure of success, having money wasn't the measure of a good life. Chernow details the thought, care, and resources Rockefeller invested into his philanthropic foundations.
The public may be more receptive to a sympathetic portiat of Rockefeller now (2013) than when Titan was published (1998). Rockefeller's tactics played poorly in the 50 years following WWII - the era of mass markets and unions. After the 2008 financial crisis, we entered a more entrepreneurial era. We may appreciate Rockefeller's self reliance more. Compared to the modern scoundrels of large financial institutions, Rockefeller doesn't seem too bad.
One area I was hoping to get some insight on but came away disappointed. Why did Rockefeller devote so relatively little of his his enormous charitable giving towards his home city of Cleveland? Especially when, in retrospect, he unleashed an absolutely staggering amount of pollution onto the city and saddling Cleveland with a notorious reputation that they still battle to this day.
It seems that New York City functioned as his industrial "parlor room" and Cleveland functioned as the "outhouse". New York got all of the cash, and Cleveland got all of the waste. Chernow briefly mentions the lack of largesse to Cleveland in passing, and never even discusses the environmental disaster Standard Oil created there.