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The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy

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“Makes a reader feel like a time traveler plopped down among men who were by turns vicious and visionary.”—The Christian Science Monitor The modern American economy was the creation of four men: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan. They were the giants of the Gilded Age, a moment of riotous growth that established America as the richest, mo “Makes a reader feel like a time traveler plopped down among men who were by turns vicious and visionary.”—The Christian Science Monitor The modern American economy was the creation of four men: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan. They were the giants of the Gilded Age, a moment of riotous growth that established America as the richest, most inventive, and most productive country on the planet. Acclaimed author Charles R. Morris vividly brings the men and their times to life. The ruthlessly competitive Carnegie, the imperial Rockefeller, and the provocateur Gould were obsessed with progress, experiment, and speed. They were balanced by Morgan, the gentleman businessman, who fought, instead, for a global trust in American business. Through their antagonism and their verve, they built an industrial behemoth—and a country of middle-class consumers. The Tycoons tells the incredible story of how these four determined men wrenched the economy into the modern age, inventing a nation of full economic participation that could not have been imagined only a few decades earlier.


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“Makes a reader feel like a time traveler plopped down among men who were by turns vicious and visionary.”—The Christian Science Monitor The modern American economy was the creation of four men: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan. They were the giants of the Gilded Age, a moment of riotous growth that established America as the richest, mo “Makes a reader feel like a time traveler plopped down among men who were by turns vicious and visionary.”—The Christian Science Monitor The modern American economy was the creation of four men: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan. They were the giants of the Gilded Age, a moment of riotous growth that established America as the richest, most inventive, and most productive country on the planet. Acclaimed author Charles R. Morris vividly brings the men and their times to life. The ruthlessly competitive Carnegie, the imperial Rockefeller, and the provocateur Gould were obsessed with progress, experiment, and speed. They were balanced by Morgan, the gentleman businessman, who fought, instead, for a global trust in American business. Through their antagonism and their verve, they built an industrial behemoth—and a country of middle-class consumers. The Tycoons tells the incredible story of how these four determined men wrenched the economy into the modern age, inventing a nation of full economic participation that could not have been imagined only a few decades earlier.

30 review for The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    Gilded age robber barons. The story is told about what strategies they used to build empires and become tycoons and focuses more on their positives of building up and modernizing the US economy but spends little time on the downsides of what the gilded age wrought to a lot of people. I suppose making the US a modern industrialized nation was less brutal than, say, how the Soviets modernized Russia but airbrushing out the misery of gilded age goes too far in the hero worship direction of the capt Gilded age robber barons. The story is told about what strategies they used to build empires and become tycoons and focuses more on their positives of building up and modernizing the US economy but spends little time on the downsides of what the gilded age wrought to a lot of people. I suppose making the US a modern industrialized nation was less brutal than, say, how the Soviets modernized Russia but airbrushing out the misery of gilded age goes too far in the hero worship direction of the captain of industry making of the US narrative. Interesting book but a bit one-sided.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Two pretty solid books mashed messily into a single volume. The lives of the Tycoons are recounted here, but they are interrupted and interspersed by chapters chronicling the overall development of the US industrial economy. These chapters are good in and of themselves: the section on the American machine tradition and the origin of interchangeable parts is excellent and one I will likely return to when I need a refresher on antebellum industrialization. The final chapter on the ludicrous pseudo Two pretty solid books mashed messily into a single volume. The lives of the Tycoons are recounted here, but they are interrupted and interspersed by chapters chronicling the overall development of the US industrial economy. These chapters are good in and of themselves: the section on the American machine tradition and the origin of interchangeable parts is excellent and one I will likely return to when I need a refresher on antebellum industrialization. The final chapter on the ludicrous pseudo-discipline of Scientific Management is quite interesting, but is far removed from any of the men Morris claims to be his focus, and he seems more interested in grinding axes than anything else at that point. These chapters are among the best in the book, but they render the narrative stilted in its execution. This is all further marred by the author's insistence on including a superfluity of financial facts and numbers, many of which will likely be meaningless to the lay reader. A few illustrative examples are always helpful, but entire paragraphs are sometimes devoted to the recounting of every minor change in the economy. Finally, as intimated above, the book assumes the reader possesses a high degree of knowledge concerning financial matters (which I do not). This especially afflicts the early chapters on Jay Gould. He was known as "The Dark Genius of Wall Street," and I trust that estimation on the part of Gould's fellow financiers--in the same way I trust physicists when they tell us that Einstein was a genius. The excitement of some episodes is carried on by the breathless quality of Morris's prose, while the reader is left puzzling over numbers and arcane terms all the while wondering what the big deal is. All in all a good book to give the impression of an era and to give some insight into the workings of the Robber Barons and their very mixed legacy. However, unless you're walking in with an MBA under your arm, prepare for some parsing of numbers and terms.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This is not the history of the topic I would recommend. Allowing for what seems to be solid research, Morris is too adulatory of the technological advances and hard driving, semi-pathological, approach of the titans he writes about. He seems happy to note instances where Ida Tarbell got it wrong. He occasionally adds a short section on the collateral damage, but early on he makes it clear that he admires the smart ones who saw where technology could take them, and has little but contempt for wor This is not the history of the topic I would recommend. Allowing for what seems to be solid research, Morris is too adulatory of the technological advances and hard driving, semi-pathological, approach of the titans he writes about. He seems happy to note instances where Ida Tarbell got it wrong. He occasionally adds a short section on the collateral damage, but early on he makes it clear that he admires the smart ones who saw where technology could take them, and has little but contempt for workers who found meaning in their artisan’s craftsmanship. He describes the conditions in steel towns, and the continual wage cutting, but doesn’t waste tears over them. I will say that the early section on the development of interchangeable parts and machining in general in the US was quite well done. I hadn’t been aware that the government was so involved in the early stages of this process, because it started with gun production. The inventors were private, but the contracts were military. I was particularly intrigued by the wider implications of the insistence by a pork barrel Congress that the government R&D contract for really making production of interchangeable rifle parts large scale and solid, insisted that the works be put in Harpers Ferry Virginia. My sister came to visit from out of town yesterday. I found out that by complete coincidence, she is reading American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900 by Brands. My guess is that it might be better than this one. But on reflection I looked to see whether there is an Oxford American History volume on this period, since I was so impressed by its What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848 by Howe. Indeed, coming out on September 1 is The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 by Richard White. If you are interested in the topic, I’d wait for that one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    A little to dry for my tastes Begins in the 1850s with the nascent happenings of industrialization Wish I had a stronger background in the stock market and economics

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Perron

    Charles Morris' book deals with how the United States went from a patched together society after the Civil War to having one of the most powerful economies in the history of the world. Many historians have clashed over the `great man' theory and social history, this book gives you a bit of both. The world was changing and that change was going to come regardless of who was in charge. Nevertheless, these four individuals were responsible for the direction that it ultimately took. From what I know Charles Morris' book deals with how the United States went from a patched together society after the Civil War to having one of the most powerful economies in the history of the world. Many historians have clashed over the `great man' theory and social history, this book gives you a bit of both. The world was changing and that change was going to come regardless of who was in charge. Nevertheless, these four individuals were responsible for the direction that it ultimately took. From what I know of political history I came into this book thinking Jay Gould was something of a creep and this book did nothing change my mind. It is amazing how a person can an act in such a manner that laws would have to be created to prevent someone from ever acting that way again. "Then, in the summer of 1869, with his railroad wars raging on every side, and the outcome still hanging in the balance, Gould launched, or was swept up in, the infamous Fisk-Gould `Gold Corner'. It is one of the most notorious episodes in American financial history, one that demonstrates not only Gould's own self-destructive streak but also the fragility of America's postwar financial markets and the openness of the corruption. The Gold Corner forever fixed the image of Gould as the evil genius of Wall Street; even worse from Gould's perspective, it destroyed an important ally in his railroad wars, fatally tipping the balance against him." (p.69) Andrew Carnegie is known as the good entrepreneur, manly for his charity that he displayed for many years. He some ways he reminds me of Thomas Jefferson who would publicly talk about the evils of slavery, even go so far and abolish the transatlantic slave trade during his presidency, while at the same time owning hundreds of slaves and freeing very few of them. Carnegie would talk about doing good by his employees and often do badly by them. Morris describes him as a man who was always obsessed that his employees were making too much and he was always looking for ways to slash their wages. John D. Rockefeller was known as a man with a heart of stone. However Morris shows he could be a ruthless businessman, but of the four subjects he was probably the nicest. He was very rich man who could have used a better P.R. person. "Although he often played rough he was surprisingly free of vindictiveness. When he took over another man's business, he generally paid a fair price, indeed, he often overpaid. A typical ploy was to open his books to the target: any sensible man would understand that competition was hopeless and make a deal. If a target was especially obdurate, rejecting all reasonable offers, a switch would turn and Rockefeller would suddenly unleash total blazing warfare on every front--price, supplies, access to transportation, land-use permits, whatever created pain. When the target capitulated--they always did--the fair price offer would still be available, often with an offer to join the Rockefeller team." (p.20) Then there was J.P. Morgan, the banker. He seems to be the elite of the elite in this book, although I think Rockefeller was richer. (Indeed, Morris thinks Rockefeller was richer than even Rockefeller himself was aware.) Morgan's role became so prominent that, in a way, he was the Federal Reserve before there was a federal reserve. Morris points out that it was Morgan bailing out the government in the middle of multiple panics that the Federal Reserve was created in 1913. In addition to the giants, Morris discusses the rise of new type of Middle class, one whose role is to be the primary consumers of the new market. Morris shows how houses would become homes and a new buying culture was to be created. This is a great book about how American business boomed in the years that followed the American Civil War. It is an interesting take on the transformation of a culture.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ann Mcelligott

    I wanted an introduction to the era of the "robber barons" without having to read long biographies of the men focused on this book (and I know such biographies have been written). Morris does not simply provide biographical material on the four men, but he places them in the rapidly developing economy of the era. Following the Civil War, the country rapidly moved from an agrarian/artisan culture, a country of farmers and independent craftsmen, to a mechanized industrial culture. In many ways the I wanted an introduction to the era of the "robber barons" without having to read long biographies of the men focused on this book (and I know such biographies have been written). Morris does not simply provide biographical material on the four men, but he places them in the rapidly developing economy of the era. Following the Civil War, the country rapidly moved from an agrarian/artisan culture, a country of farmers and independent craftsmen, to a mechanized industrial culture. In many ways the railroads were the engine of this rapid growth. However of the four tycoons, only Jay Gould was primarily engaged in the railroads. Other reviewers have found the stories of the four men to be diluted by the focus on the greater history of industrial development in this era. I appreciated learning about them in the larger context.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Akhil Jain

    My fav quotes: Page 24 | "The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any citizen, including single women and freed slaves, to take possession of virtually any unoccupied 160-acre tract of public land, for a $12 registration and filing fee. Live on it for five years, build a house and farm the land, and it was yours for just an additional $6 “proving” fee." Page 24 | "No other country had conceived the notion of educating farmers and mechanics, and the Morrill Act schools are still the foundation of the state My fav quotes: Page 24 | "The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any citizen, including single women and freed slaves, to take possession of virtually any unoccupied 160-acre tract of public land, for a $12 registration and filing fee. Live on it for five years, build a house and farm the land, and it was yours for just an additional $6 “proving” fee." Page 24 | "No other country had conceived the notion of educating farmers and mechanics, and the Morrill Act schools are still the foundation of the state university systems." Page 27 | " CARNEGIE was as relentless in self-improvement as in everything else, reading voraciously. When his investment income passed the $50,000 mark in 1868, he promised himself that he would work for just two more years to secure that level of income for life, and then devote himself to finer pursuits." Page 36 | "Rockefeller companies unquestionably paid bribes to local officials, but the business environment in nineteenth-century America was a bit like that in today’s Middle East: as the English observer Lord Bryce wrote, “It is only by the use of money that [corporations] can ward off the attacks constantly made on them by demagogues or blackmailers.” Rockefeller didn’t need to cheat to win world oil dominance; he was simply better at the business than anyone else." Page 67 | "Samuel Colt’s great factory at “Coltsville” in Hartford, Connecticut, which became the Mecca of the “American system” in the 1850s, is a case in point. Colt was a promoter, not an engineer, who once made his living staging laughing gas exhibitions. He devised his repeating firearms in the mid-1830s, but his breakthrough did not happen until the Mexican War (1846–48), when his pistol design caught the fancy of Samuel Walker, the legendary commander of the Texas Rangers. With Walker’s support, Colt won a patent renewal in 1849 and set up his own factory. To run it, he recruited Elisha K. Root, the manager" Page 73 | "Outside of the military, British manufacturers were far less eager, and moved much more slowly, to adopt Armory practice, or the “American system.”" Page 74 | "In an insightful analysis of the causes for the American surge, Whitworth proposed a list that included the relative scarcity of labor; the country’s great natural resources (although he points out that large tracts of the nation were quite barren); the lack of resistance to innovation on the part of workers; fewer barriers to organizing businesses; and most important in his view, the high national rate of literacy supported by a “cheap press.”" Page 75 | "the Englishman has not got the ductility of mind and the readiness of apprehension for a new thing which is required. . . . An American readily produces a new article; he understands everything you say to him as well as a man from a college in England would; he helps the employer by his own acuteness and intelligence." Page 76 | "Alfred Hobbs, the American lock maker," Page 78 | "Driving it all was the sense of opportunity—Lincoln’s “prudent, penniless beginner” could strive to become an independent businessman." Page 88 | "The economics of railroads are the same as for airlines, and Jay Gould may have grasped them more quickly and clearly than anyone else." Page 97 | "Fisk blithely repudiated his losses, producing a forged letter, allegedly from his brokerage partner, Henry Belden, representing that all of Fisk’s trading was on Belden’s account. Belden took the fall and went into bankruptcy; he later recovered his career with a position in Gould’s brokerage." Page 96 | "Gould seems to have felt no qualms on deserting Fisk; if nothing else, one must admire the clarity of his mind. Early on Thursday, he and his brokerage partner, Henry Smith, worked out a strategy that mixed highly visible purchases with much larger disguised sales to let Gould run off his holdings." Page 102 "There was also a history between Gould and Rockefeller; one Rockefeller muckraker, indeed, declared that the whole Standard Oil Trust “must be regarded as the gigantic offspring of the Erie ring.”" Page 103 "In the early days, “oil-boiling,” as refining was called, was not much different from distilling whiskey, and early refiners used color, smell, and taste to decide which distillates were most suitable for kerosene, heating oil, or other products." Page 107 "a refiner-railroad petroleum cartel. A new corporation, the South Improvement Company (SIC)," Page 112 "Gould–Vanderbilt–Scott trunk line battles were never primarily about oil; they were about dominating the grain traffic routes to Chicago and the Midwest." Page 116 "The whole point of the SIC was to reduce and rationalize capacity, so it would make no sense to admit small refiners unless they agreed to merge with their powerful bigger brothers. The SIC was all along intended as a pressure tactic, as Tarbell alleges." Page 120 "The St Louis bridge did indeed open to much fanfare, on July 4, 1874," Page 123 “Railroads doubtless settled on rebates as the preferred method of discounting to window-dress performance for bondholders. By booking the base rate as revenue and showing the subsequent rebate as a cost, rather than as a revenue reduction, railroads could bulk up their top-line revenue growth. Some midwestern “Granger” states later passed antirebate laws, but most were quickly repealed when railroads responded by raising rates. In any case, they applied only to intrastate shipping." Page 126 "The Commercial and Financial Chronicle (the Wall Street Journal of the day)" Page 129 "In 1872, New York banks, in short, were financing long-term borrowers with foreign hot money, just as Thai and Malaysian banks did in 1997." Page 137 "The 1870s seem to have been the rare case of a “supply shock.” A supply shock is a good thing; it is the infelicitous term economists use for a sudden, and permanent, improvement in productive capacity, what Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan recently called a “paradigm shift.” With the massive post–Civil War investment in infrastructure, force-fed by the likes of Jay Gould, transaction costs were dropping like a stone. Telegraphic and cable communications were driving down the risks and costs of financial services." Page 138 "One of the most striking developments in America was the industrialization of farming. As grain and meat production and transport became" Page 139 "A farmer could plow a straight line for months, according to the local tall tale, then turn around and harvest on the way back." Page 145 "All the lines had singled out the boom in cattle transport as a superior earnings opportunity, and most were making large investments in stock cars" Page 148 "Men who prided themselves on crop management burned late-night kerosene lamps puzzling over balance sheets." Page 149 "Wages did increase strongly over the first twenty years of the industry, especially in real terms, but hours got longer and the lines got faster as well." Page 150 "It is the fixed dividends and debt service on falling nominal revenues, not falling operating margins, that explains the high rate of defaults." Page 168 "Carnegie travelled more than anyone else in the company, and was constantly on the lookout for new technologies, he was among the best informed people within the company on technical developments." Page 176 "But straightaway we are assured that “JAY GOULD” is at the bottom of the whole affair, as he is said to be at the bottom of everything that goes on nowadays. We strongly suspect that he will yet be found to . . . have had something to do with the hard Winter, frozen water-pipes, and plumbers’ extravagant bills. He doubtless formed a “ring” with the plumbers sometime last Summer, and then produced the recent severe cold, so as to get all his machinery to work." Page 178 "As Cornelius’s oldest son, “Willie” had assumed leadership of the family properties on his father’s death in 1877, and Gould stripped away the great railroad and telegraph holdings one by one, the way a wolf takes bites out of a running deer." Page 185 "But Standard Oil bears comparison with any of them. It was as large and complex as any railroad, its operations were spread throughout the globe, and it may have been the only big business to control its entire value chain from production and processing of raw materials down through distribution to wholesalers and in many areas even to retailers." Page 194 "Even as the Cleveland operations grew to employ several thousand workers, Rockefeller reputedly knew almost all of them by name. He always reached out for the ablest executives he could find, gave them plenty of running room and support, and kept most of them bound to him for the rest of their careers." Page 203 "“The most valuable class in any community is the middle class,” Walt Whitman proclaimed in 1858," Page 209 "Survival was a matter of brutally hard labor and lots of kids." Page 214 "We will ship any Windsor Organ or Piano on trial to any railroad shipping point in the United States, subject to the following conditions: Upon receipt of order we will ship the instrument to our own address, send a sight draft with bill of lading attached to your banker’s. When the shipment arrives at destination, the purchaser will be required to deposit with the bank the price of the instrument, but with the understanding that the money is to be held fifteen (15) days. During this time the instrument may be given a thorough trial at your home. . . . If you find that it is not in every way satisfactory you can return it to the station agent at any time before the expiration of the time specified, and by obtaining bill of lading . . . and presenting same at bank, the entire amount deposited will be refunded." Page 216 "Richard Sears, whose operations outstripped Ward’s by the early 1900s, got his start in 1886 selling watches by mail; Alvah Roebuck joined as the watch repairman. Sears’s main innovation was aggressive advertising, some of it outrageous. By the 1880s almost all department stores had their own mail-order operations: if a lady in California wanted to buy from Bloomingdale’s, she had only to write and request their catalog. When John Wanamaker became postmaster-general in 1889, he ensured that mail-order catalogs had the most favorable rates, since they were “aiding the dissemination of knowledge.”" Page 217 "Goldman, Sachs, one of a new breed of Jewish investment banks (Lehmans was another) that focused on the retail and consumer goods businesses overlooked by the Morgans and Kuhn, Loebs of the world." Page 220 "A Kodak-sponsored photography contest in New York in 1897 drew 26,000 people." Page 231 "But the interesting question for us is why were companies suddenly buying huge office buildings? Or more precisely, why did white-collar staffs start growing so fast that paper management—forms and ledgers, file jackets, filing systems, bookkeeping machines, typewriters and carbon paper, business charts and graphs—had become a major industry in its own right by the 1890s?" Page 261 "Most other countries, especially on the continent, freely granted monopolies in railroads and similar businesses, and as often encouraged bigness in the name of national competitiveness." Page 262 "There was no mystery to railroad rate-setting: the roads charged whatever they thought the traffic would bear. When long-haul west–east lines first opened, railroads marked up their rates proportionate to the distances and got very little business. Western wheat came to dominate world markets only after railroads made it very cheap to get to the coast. New York farmers and grain merchants were the big losers, but the chances of Congress requiring the roads to raise rates from the west were approximately zero.* What farmers did care about, on the other hand, was rate volatility, since the perennial price wars frequently caused a violent seesawing of tariffs." Page 267 "When the historian John McGee examined every alleged case of predatory pricing, however, he could not find “a single instance in which the Standard used predatory price cutting.”" Page 269 "Rockefeller always worried about declining production from Pennsylvania wells, and pressed for major Midwest acquisitions to secure a continuing crude supply. At one point, after his partners had voted against the acquisitions, he announced that he would proceed with his own money. (They subsequently changed their minds.) After securing his midwestern crude base, it was Rockefeller who drove the creation of the Standard’s petroleum research laboratory, and recruited Herman Frasch, a German chemist and later a pioneer" Page 272 "The political analyst Charles Ferguson has pointed out that it is not the aggressive, efficient monopoly that is most to be feared. Far greater economic costs are inflicted by complacent, dead-weight, monopolistic incumbents." Page 273 "The accelerating spread of electricity was clearly going to obliterate the kerosene market, and the company had been late to appreciate the opportunity in automobiles." Page 282 "Like most of the day’s bankers, they used the words “ruinous” and “competition” as if they were hyphenated." Page 284 "By the time Junius died of a carriage accident in 1890, and Tony Drexel, the nominally senior partner of Drexel, Morgan, died in 1893, Pierpont—fifty-six and at the peak of his powers—was already the bank’s acknowledged leader on both sides of the Atlantic." Page 284 "served as its de facto central banker as well." Page 288 "The Reading’s voting stock was placed in a trust under Morgan’s control for a period of five years—another standard Morgan condition—and" Page 288 "Morgan’s fees for his trouble were very high, almost always at least 5 percent and sometimes as much as 10 percent of the new money raised." Page 288 "Morgan’s fees for his trouble were very high, almost always at least 5 percent and sometimes as much as 10 percent of the new money raised. In fairness, he usually took most of it in stock so that his interests were aligned with those of his investors." Page 289 "The core problem is that a railroad, a telephone company, or an airline must invest huge amounts of capital before it can earn a dime. Then once the infrastructure is in place, it makes sense to sell services at almost any price to help cover the fixed-cost overhang. Free competition therefore quickly leads to cutthroat pricing and financial turmoil, as in the scorched-earth competition among AT&T, Worldcom, and MCI in the 1990s, or the continuing wave of bankruptcies in the airline industry. Unfortunately, the uniformly dismal experience with regulated monopolies makes the nasty Darwinism of unfettered competition almost attractive. Just consider the appallingly bad performance of regulated companies like the electrical utilities on almost any measure." Page 293 "He inquired of one of his executives whether they should attend the next meeting, or “simply send flowers for the corpse?”" Page 299 "In effect, Morgan was promising to manage the greenback–sterling exchange rate,* which required entering foreign exchange markets to buy greenbacks, or sell sterling, any time the greenback wobbled. This is a classic central bank function—extremely risky for a private partnership with no call on public resources, and an unseemly delegation of government power. The" Page 302 "When the crisis passed, and the news of what Morgan had accomplished sunk in, the public reacted with something like shock. There were many suggestions that the bankers, or even Morgan personally, had engineered the crisis to enrich themselves. All shakeouts rearrange the pecking order on Wall Street, and there is no doubt that the sharpest financiers came out of the crisis better off than they went in; but there is no basis for accusations that the crisis was contrived, or that Morgan’s own actions were based on anything other than a sense of public duty." Page 302 "If nothing else, the 1907 crisis was an important factor in building a legislative consensus for the creation of the Federal Reserve system in 1913." Page 318 "Carnegie remarked that his house was about as far from Morgan’s office as Morgan’s office was from his house." Page 324 "“If we have done anything wrong, send your man to my man and they can fix it up.”)" Page 328 "The relationship between Morgan and the senior Rockefeller was better in 1907. While Morgan was struggling to pilot the country through the market crash, Rockefeller made a point of calling on him at his office and pledging half his fortune if it were required. The news report itself had a calming effect." Page 332 "American advantage involved no fundamental breakthroughs, but was rather about methodologies, work organization, and, above all, mechanization." Page 347 "Absent Carnegie, the “Fathers” of the Bessemer Association, America’s original steel cartel, could more easily have maintained their cautious, controlled development strategy; the genius of Alexander Holley might never have been given full play; men on the cut of a Gates and a Gary would have been in control from the start. Without the tariff, in short, the American industry might have evolved more like that of Great Britain, and one of the earliest, and the most dramatic, examples of the highly mechanized, mass-scale, intensely driven industrial machine that was a hallmark of the American advance might have been delayed too long to make a difference." Page 372 "At what speed does Taylor’s plan expect any man to work? . . . At that speed which is the fastest at which he will be happy and at which he can thrive continuously. As the nation’s pundits were swept up in an “efficiency" Page 382 "The most famous of the Japanese paradigms, the “Toyota system,” developed over more than twenty years under the leadership of Taiichi Ohno, was a direct refutation of the EOQ logic. Costs fell with zero defects. The right amount of inventory was none at all. One always stopped the production line to prevent a defect (or else it would always recur). Long production runs always produced wasteful amounts of inventory. (The solution was to reduce the cost and time of changeovers to near zero.) Ohno’s system emphasized close contact between top management and the plant floor, and a deep respect for workers—in contrast to the quite open disdain that pervaded Taylorism."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hamish Shamus

    I found this a difficult book to follow. From the title, one would expect it to be a combined biography of Carnege, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Gould, and that it would either progress chronologically (what were each of them doing in 1960? 1970? 1980?), or else progress through the individual personalities (Carnege birth to death, Rockefeller birth to death, etc). In fact, the book progresses more like: follow Gould for a while, follow Carnege for a while, primer on 1970s steel production, back to I found this a difficult book to follow. From the title, one would expect it to be a combined biography of Carnege, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Gould, and that it would either progress chronologically (what were each of them doing in 1960? 1970? 1980?), or else progress through the individual personalities (Carnege birth to death, Rockefeller birth to death, etc). In fact, the book progresses more like: follow Gould for a while, follow Carnege for a while, primer on 1970s steel production, back to Carnege, essay on whether Britain's free trade policy at the time made economic sense, follow Morgan for a while... With all this jumping about, often with unclear connective tissue, I had a hard time retaining and synthesising information. I often got Rockefeller and Carnege mixed up, and only realised half way through a chapter that we've switched from talking about one to the other. By the end, I had only the vaguest sense of the timelines, biographies, and personalities of the tycoons. I know that Morgan basically ran American finance over his career, and that Gould, Rockefeller, and Carnege between them held empires in rail, oil, and steel, but I couldn't say who was involved in what. I'm not even sure that all four were alive at the same time. I need to read some wikipedia to actually get all this straight. Ok, after looking it up, here's what happened: all four tycoons were born 1835-1840, and their respective domains were Gould=rails, Carnege=steel, Rockefeller=oil, Morgan=finance. But I did learn some interesting stuff: * Carnege was a brutal employer who constantly strived to underpay his workers and lie about it to the outside world * Gould seems worthy of the epithet "robber baron" * Inspiration for Henry Ford's factories lines came from the packing house "disassembly lines" in which meat was animal carcuses were taken apart for meat * The first victims of modernisation were often not the poor, but the petite bourgeouis. Whereas they previously might have owned a small componany in which they practice their craft, they were made redundant by the de-skilling of their trade into repetitive factory work * "The ninteenth century meat packing line was a medievel vision of hell. Gory, filthy, unremitting, unforgiving of even the slightest slip or misstep, and freezing cold, besides." * In the 1880's you could buy a "princess bust developer", which looked like a metal toilet plunger (see here) but promised a "round, firm, and beautiful bust" with regular usage. * Taylor of scientific management fame was basically a fraud who mixed super precise measurements with wild guesses and unworkable methodologies * Alfred Chandler, an intellectual successor of Taylor wrote books which give a history of industry via Hegelian dialectics. This sounds interesting and I wouldn't mind reading it. * Chandler regards research laboraties in his writing as "black box[es] on a chart, intermittently producing recommendations to be mulled over by the philosopher kings [management] of the time". This is totally hilarious and fully squares with my stereotypes about management.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric T.

    This book was somewhat disjointed. It would jump from biographical tales of the eponymous tycoons to the development of the industrial economy in America to the development of professional management. Regardless it was chock full of interesting concepts and rather esoteric economic history. If you are a buff of business history you may like this. The part that did not appeal to me was the two chapters or so explaining the machinations and schemes of Jay Gould on Wall St. It is very dense with fin This book was somewhat disjointed. It would jump from biographical tales of the eponymous tycoons to the development of the industrial economy in America to the development of professional management. Regardless it was chock full of interesting concepts and rather esoteric economic history. If you are a buff of business history you may like this. The part that did not appeal to me was the two chapters or so explaining the machinations and schemes of Jay Gould on Wall St. It is very dense with financial concepts and assumes one has a fair amount of base knowledge in high finance and macroeconomics. It was hard to read at times. I particularly enjoyed the chapters contrasting the development of American mass production and efficient industry with the British lack of the aforementioned, as well as the final chapter on Taylorism.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Not what I expected. I thought this would be more of a straight biography, but there was so much financial stuff in here that I was totally lost. He either needed to explain stuff better or refocus the book. Long section about some gold deal Jay Gould was involved in that also sucked in the Grant administration, but it took me THREE readings before I had any idea what was going on. Then we got into anti-trust stuff and I was completely lost. I'm giving up for now, but I may pick it up again when Not what I expected. I thought this would be more of a straight biography, but there was so much financial stuff in here that I was totally lost. He either needed to explain stuff better or refocus the book. Long section about some gold deal Jay Gould was involved in that also sucked in the Grant administration, but it took me THREE readings before I had any idea what was going on. Then we got into anti-trust stuff and I was completely lost. I'm giving up for now, but I may pick it up again when I'm feeling smarter.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This book tries to cover too much ground, as a result most topics are just touched upon. The writing style is very tedious and academic. This book is basically a synopsis of the industrial revolution in the United States.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    This book was okay. I was hoping for a defense of the so-called Robber Barons. Mostly what I got was the history of various items. It was all over the place. It does have some useful information which is why I AM keeping the book. Overall it was definitely a let down.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sean Brennan

    An excellent history of the rise of the Production Process from 1815 to the First World War. Highly readable, informative and enjoyable.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bryson

    Great concept, terribly written. Got halfway and had to stop

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ulio

    A great tale of post war America and its rise a true industrial powerhouse. The book begins in 1865 with the death of Abraham Lincoln and spirit of entrepreneur he instilled in the American populous. Fighting against the South wasn't just about Slavery of African-Americans but also the freedom of the American people to own and do what they want. Southern laws prefered the class/caste base system that the British rule left over. So this begins the story of Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Ja A great tale of post war America and its rise a true industrial powerhouse. The book begins in 1865 with the death of Abraham Lincoln and spirit of entrepreneur he instilled in the American populous. Fighting against the South wasn't just about Slavery of African-Americans but also the freedom of the American people to own and do what they want. Southern laws prefered the class/caste base system that the British rule left over. So this begins the story of Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and JP Morgan. As the 19th century is about to come to its conclusion these four men changed USA forever and they changed how everything worked from small business to technological advancement. The book goes in detail about each of the tycoons and the industries they were involved in. From Carnegie's rise in Pennsylvania with Steel to Jay Gould's railroads in New York. There is little biography of the men themselves other than their up bringing briefly. It is mostly about how they went out of their way to achieve what they wanted. Sometimes the book goes on a bit of a side story of some other person or event which often doesn't end up being relevant to the main point and story. The turn of the century was a really ripe place for an entrepreneur. American industries drifted toward more machinery and heavy industrialization than other powerhouses such as The Great Britain whom still relied on a skilled workers/craftsmen. This allowed American industries and GDP to raise incredibly quickly and by a stunning amount. Machines/Technology was the future and this is one key factor these Robber Barons realized. In Rockefellar's oil refineries you would find the most current methods of distilling oil. Carnegie was one of the first to use the open hearth method of stabilizing steel. There are many tips an amateur business men can take from this book. How to stay on the cutting edge of technology in your field, verticaliztion of an industry and many more. All of these four were known to never give up even if they got laughed out of a meeting or failed miserably at a deal. They were tenacious and faced failure with an unyielding passion. Rome wasn't built in a day and so wasn't John D. Rockefeller's 1 billion net worth. To end, I suggest this book for anyone interested in 19 century American socio-economics and it also has things you can take from it as a entrepreneur.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Miller

    In 350 pages or so, Charles R. Morris uses the four tycoons of the title to weave an industrial, business, and economic history of the United States during the 19th Century. He covers a lot of ground, and yet provides a great deal of applicable detail. He moves from the factories in the Connecticut River basin that were able to perfect machining so fine as for parts to be interchangeable, and how that level of detail, led to the mechanization of American industry that put it into the world leade In 350 pages or so, Charles R. Morris uses the four tycoons of the title to weave an industrial, business, and economic history of the United States during the 19th Century. He covers a lot of ground, and yet provides a great deal of applicable detail. He moves from the factories in the Connecticut River basin that were able to perfect machining so fine as for parts to be interchangeable, and how that level of detail, led to the mechanization of American industry that put it into the world leader category. As a banker and business executive, he has a kinder, but not necessarily hagiographic view of his four subjects. He casts more of a jaundiced eye towards Carnegie, but provides insights of Rockefeller that seem correct, but fly in the face of the myth of the tenacled giant grasping everything in sight. If he slights anyone, it is the workers who had to pace themselves to the machine, and be thankful they had a job, after all these men were directing huge corporations that were making America great.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Browning

    A great historical book about how the U.S. early economy was shaped and about the relatively few men who molded it to their advantage. The book can get a bit dry at times but I found it fascinating enough. I find that I still see these personality types, tactics and strategies being used today in larger and small companies. Exaggerations, arrogance, downright lies, deceit etc. Most of these men operated within or just over gray lines of the law at the time while some just stepped right over lega A great historical book about how the U.S. early economy was shaped and about the relatively few men who molded it to their advantage. The book can get a bit dry at times but I found it fascinating enough. I find that I still see these personality types, tactics and strategies being used today in larger and small companies. Exaggerations, arrogance, downright lies, deceit etc. Most of these men operated within or just over gray lines of the law at the time while some just stepped right over legal boundaries. Certainly, all of them did things with questionable ethics. We would do well to head the lessons held in this book. foremost, even when you are dealing with someone who 'would not lie, they might just interpret wording much differently than you or even many other people would interpret it.' Sadly the moto is you can not trust anyone - protect yourself at all times.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason Oliver

    The full title is The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy. This is a very interesting book focusing on the post civil war era into the the early 1900s. I learned so much about financing, railroads, steel, and manufacturing. My conception of JP Morgan changed for the better and my view of Carnegie, and Gould changed for the worst, though my knowledge of them all was very limited. My opinion of Rockefeller stayed the same. The full title is The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy. This is a very interesting book focusing on the post civil war era into the the early 1900s. I learned so much about financing, railroads, steel, and manufacturing. My conception of JP Morgan changed for the better and my view of Carnegie, and Gould changed for the worst, though my knowledge of them all was very limited. My opinion of Rockefeller stayed the same. The reason for giving it a higher rating: I felt this book was all over the place. It was not organized very well and was not linear. I agree with one review that stated something similar to: this was two great books compressed into one disorganized book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James Thomas

    Enjoyed this economic history book of the industrial revolution in America post civil war. It did include stories of Rockefeller, Gould, Carnegie, and Morgan but also included a modern analysis of foreign and domestic circumstances which helped these men and others (Singer, Ward, Sears et al.) become tycoons in their respective industries. Ultimately, these men, like others today (Gates, Jobs, Bezos, Buffet et al.), had/have the entrepreneurial vision and smarts to become capitalist superstars. Enjoyed this economic history book of the industrial revolution in America post civil war. It did include stories of Rockefeller, Gould, Carnegie, and Morgan but also included a modern analysis of foreign and domestic circumstances which helped these men and others (Singer, Ward, Sears et al.) become tycoons in their respective industries. Ultimately, these men, like others today (Gates, Jobs, Bezos, Buffet et al.), had/have the entrepreneurial vision and smarts to become capitalist superstars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    If you like American history this is a great read. It gives a perspective on how our world was shaped by leading businessman of the late 1800's. And they had a massive impact. Really well written and researched and provides some fresh perspective in a number of characters, events, and philosophies. I really like the last part about Taylorism and how horrible it was. I also liked his take on Andrew Carnegie as a very bad man. I felt this was very even handed overall. And it inspired me to read mor If you like American history this is a great read. It gives a perspective on how our world was shaped by leading businessman of the late 1800's. And they had a massive impact. Really well written and researched and provides some fresh perspective in a number of characters, events, and philosophies. I really like the last part about Taylorism and how horrible it was. I also liked his take on Andrew Carnegie as a very bad man. I felt this was very even handed overall. And it inspired me to read more about Jay Gould. He's like a real life Lex Luther.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    This book is a highly mixed bag. On one hand, it's a thoughtfully researched history of gilded age economic changes and profiles of four men who played an outsized role. On the other hand, it's badly organized, frequently exhausting, and a bit scattershot, with an annoying libertarian perspective sprinkled heavily throughout. On the balance, I wouldn't recommend, and in finishing it, I realized why I abandoned it the first time I read it. That said, I learned a fair bit and will likely follow up This book is a highly mixed bag. On one hand, it's a thoughtfully researched history of gilded age economic changes and profiles of four men who played an outsized role. On the other hand, it's badly organized, frequently exhausting, and a bit scattershot, with an annoying libertarian perspective sprinkled heavily throughout. On the balance, I wouldn't recommend, and in finishing it, I realized why I abandoned it the first time I read it. That said, I learned a fair bit and will likely follow up with more books on the topic.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

    First. This is not not a biography of the four tycoons as much as it is a trawling history from the end of the Civil War through the early 1900s. However there are many lessons in the boom/bust cycle of frothy investing that are playing out again today with technology firms. A great read that goes several manager structures deeper than just the figureheads and how that impacted the everyday man. Just be prepared for chapters of context that are skim-able.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heskarioth

    Great book if you have a good knowledge of each single tycoon as it shows episodes in which they confronted/ linked with each other. However, it is not a good account of every single tycoon. I'd even dare to say that most of the book is focused on what was going around the Tycoons, other than telling detailed experiences of each. However, I understand having 4 mini bios in one book is not simple task. I wouldn't recommend it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Wanlass

    Even though this was a textbook for my Economics 1740 class, I really enjoyed reading this book. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan are so cool and their lives have some of the best advice for business majors! It was a good read. At times, I didn't always know what was going on because the chapters do jump around at times, but it was good!

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    One of my favorites, and it was very unexpected. With the Robber Barons on the cover, you'd think it was to be entirely about them. That is not the case. A really great insight into how American business and industry flourished in the 1800's.

  26. 5 out of 5

    J.P. Coman

    It was okay. I liked some parts about daily life in the 19th century. The author doesn't know how to tell a tale as fascinating as other authors. He gives the punch line first, then tells how this happened. So it was quite factual and long.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Shaffer

    I enjoyed the Tycoons, I have read individual biographies on Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller, but as a synthesized book which covered both these people and the age I would recommend to all interested in the robber baron period.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael Connor

    Love these history books. No great specific takeaways and a bit of a laborious read but had some great nuggets of historical knowledge and insight.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Generally pretty dry with a few interesting parts sprinkled in. This books concentrates for more on the business climate than on anything to do with the men themselves.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marcos Moret

    An impressive feat of research, but the storytelling leaves something to be desired...

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