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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (1998)
by Ron Chernow
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679438084, Hardcover)Ron Chernow, whose previous books have taken on the Morgan and Warburg financial empires, now turns his attention to the patriarch of the Rockefeller dynasty. John D. was history's first recorded billionaire and one of the most controversial public figures in America at the turn of the 20th century. Standard Oil--which he always referred to as the result of financial "cooperation," never as a "cartel" or a "monopoly"--controlled at its peak nearly 90 percent of the United States oil industry. Rockefeller drew sharp criticism, as well as the attention of federal probes, for business practices like underpricing his competitors out of the market and bribing politicians to secure his dominant market share.
While Chernow amply catalogs Rockefeller's misdeeds, he also presents the tycoon's human side. Making use of voluminous business correspondence, as well as rare transcripts of interviews conducted when Rockefeller was in his late 70s and early 80s, Chernow is able to present his subject's perspective on his own past, re-creating a figure who has come down to us as cold and unfeeling as a shrewd, dryly humorous man who had no inner misgivings about reconciling his devout religious convictions with his fiscal acquisitiveness. The story of John D. Rockefeller Sr. is, in many ways, the story of America between the Civil War and the First World War, and Chernow has told that story in magnificently fascinating depth and style.
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:52 -0400)
John D. Rockefeller, Sr., - history's first billionaire and the patriarch of America's most famous dynasty - is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller's exceptionally rich trove of papers. Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straitlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world's richest man by creating America's most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded "the Octopus" by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America.Critics charged that his empire was built on unscrupulous tactics: grand-scale collusion with the railroads, predatory pricing, industrial espionage, and wholesale bribery of political officials. The titan spent more than thirty years dodging investigations until Teddy Roosevelt and his trustbusters embarked on a marathon crusade to bring Standard Oil to bay. While providing abundant new evidence of Rockefeller's misdeeds, Chernow discards the stereotype of the cold-blooded monster to sketch an unforgettably human portrait of a quirky eccentric original.
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