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John Steele Gordon has 1 media appearance.

Sep
23
John Steele Gordon
Booknotes, Sunday, September 23, 2001
John Steele Gordon discusses The Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace American Enterprise from the Settling of New England to the Break up of AT&T.

Business history, like all human history, seethes with human passion, says John Steele Gordon, author of The Business of America. He proceeds to develop this theme with great flair and ingenuity. This book is a collection of the author's columns from American Heritage magazine. For a business writer, Gordon shows considerable charm. He is a leading business historian and can be heard regularly on Public Radio International. Each chapter focuses on a single asset of American business. He explains why the Atlantic cod is the most important fish in American history. Its firm, white, non-fatty flesh is relatively boneless and easily prepared by drying and salting. In a world without refrigeration, cod quickly became a staple of the western European diet and remained one for centuries. The Basques, who live in northern Spain and the southwest corner of France, would take their fishing fleet all the way across the Atlantic. In 1534, a French explorer noted the presence of 1,000 fishing boats in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The Basque fishermen were catching cod. The cod proved to be the basis for New England prosperity. A wooden sculpture of the cod adorns the walls of the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. Turning to another food, he says that Liederkranz is the late, great, American cheese. The mold ripened, aromatic, soft, desert cheese was created in 1850 by a New York delicatessen man. Gen. Charles de Gaulle of France once asked, "How can anyone govern a nation that makes 365 different kinds of cheese?" The United States only produced three uniquely American cheeses: Monterey Jack, Brick and Liederkranz, says the author. Today, alas, Liederkranz is no more. The company that made it was sold to General Foods, which stopped producing the cheese. "Hardly anyone even noticed. In France, it would have brought down the government," the author says with a touch of humor. Early in January 1942, shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin Roosevelt called in Donald Nelson to head the War Production Board. Rubber producing countries in the Far East had been captured by the Japanese, so synthetic rubber saved the day. Non-existent in 1939, the American synthetic rubber industry turned out 820,000 tons in 1945. The author says proudly: "In the midst of total war, the American economy produced both guns and butter." The super weapon that won the war was the American economy. The Business of America also traces the history of tobacco, the Singer sewing machine, the Gold Rush of the 1840s, the copper mines if Montana, the Cunard Steamship Line, and much else, with great historical accuracy and a dash of wit thrown in for good measure. —from the publisher's website (timspalding)… (more)
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