From the early years of fur trading to today's Silicon Valley empires, America has proved to be an extraordinarily fertile land for the creation of enormous fortunes. Each generation has produced one or two phenomenally successful leaders, often in new industries that caught contemporaries by surprise, and each of these new fortunes reconfirmed the power of fanatically single-minded visionaries. John Jacob Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt were the first American moguls; John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan were kingpins of the Gilded Age; David Sarnoff, Walt Disney, Ray Kroc, and Sam Walton were masters of mass culture. Today Oprah Winfrey, Andy Grove, and Bill Gates are giants of the Information Age. America has again and again been the land of dizzying mountains of wealth.Here, in a wittily told and deeply insightful history, is a complete set of portraits of America's greatest generators of wealth. Only such a collective study allows us to appreciate what makes the great entrepreneurs really tick.
Readers who can imagine a favorite history professor sitting across the table talking about the evolution of American business will have a pretty good idea of the style, substance and approach taken by Brands, a history professor at Texas A&M. Relying entirely on secondary sources, Brands picks 25 businesspeople and shows how they are all the spiritual descendants of one another. While John Jacob Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt would have difficulty understanding the technology behind the companies Andy Grove and Bill Gates built, they would have completely understood their business models. Brands constantly relates what all 25 people profiled have in common: they work hard; they identify with their work; their desire for success is almost tangible. Perhaps most important, they know exactly what they are trying to create. Fans of any of the business people included here are not likely to learn anything new about them, but that isn't the author's point. It is their connection to one another that matters. Brands does an excellent job at showing that there is a natural evolution to the way American business has developed. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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October 02, 2008
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