Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace - American Enterprise from the Settling of New England to the Breakup of AT&T

Overview

For more than ten years, John Steele Gordon has written the widely read “The Business of America” column in American Heritage magazine. Marked by a combination of erudition, wit, and eloquence, Gordon's stories have celebrated the high points, and occasional low points, in the history of business in this country, from colonial days to the present. Now, the best of his mini-histories have been gathered in one volume. As much as each stands on its own, together they gain in significance as they go beyond mere ...

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Overview

For more than ten years, John Steele Gordon has written the widely read “The Business of America” column in American Heritage magazine. Marked by a combination of erudition, wit, and eloquence, Gordon's stories have celebrated the high points, and occasional low points, in the history of business in this country, from colonial days to the present. Now, the best of his mini-histories have been gathered in one volume. As much as each stands on its own, together they gain in significance as they go beyond mere business to present an intriguing lens on the broad sweep of American history.

Gordon deftly connects the past with the present as he compares Frederick Philipse’s successful cornering of the wampum market in 1666 with the Hunt brothers’ failed attempt to corner the silver market in 1979. He looks anew at famous industrialists like Cornelius Vanderbilt and Henry Ford, and uncovers little-remembered heroes such as Oliver Evans, the founding father of the American industrial revolution, and Samuel Slater, who launched the textile industry in this country. He revels alike in the stories of philanthropist Peter Cooper, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and the father of television syndication, Desi Arnaz. Gordon reveals how broad trends have developed (government debt and inflation, for example) and how specific words (boondoggle, pork barrel) have entered our language. He even tells the story of America’s greatest cheese, Liederkranz, now lost forever.

In addition to being a superb historian, John Steele Gordon is a great storyteller. Surveying almost 400 years of enterprise on this continent, The Business of America makes invaluable connections between eras and allows us a new appreciation of the richness of the American story.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A popular commentator on American business and economic history, Gordon collects 47 of the Business of America columns he has written for since 1989. Unfortunately they are not dated. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802776358
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

John Steele Gordon is one of America's leading historians, specializing in business and financial history. A full-time writer for the last nineteen years, Gordon's articles have been published in, among others, Forbes, Forbes FYI, Worth, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times's and The Wall Street Journal's Op-Ed pages, and The Washington Post's Book World and Outlook. A contributing editor at American Heritage magazine, he has written the “Business of America“column there since 1989. His book, The Business of America (Walker & Company, 2001) is a collection of those columns. A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable (Walker & Company 2002) is Gordon's sixth book. His first book, Overlanding, about his experience driving a Land Rover from New York to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina??ine-month journey of 39,000 miles?? published by Harper & Row in 1975. It was followed by The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, a history of Wall Street in the 1860?(Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988), Hamilton's Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt (Walker & Company, 1997), and The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power, 1653-2000 (Scribner, 1999).

John Steele Gordon can be heard frequently on Public Radio International's Marketplace, the daily business-news program heard on more than two hundred stations across the country. He has appeared on numerous other radio and television shows, including Business Center on CNBC, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, The News with Brian Williams, and c-span's Booknotes with Brian Lamb. In addition, he has appeared in a number of television documentaries about American and economic history, including CNBC's The Great Game, based on his book, and Ric Burns's New York: A Documentary Film. John Steele Gordon lives in North Salem, New York. He is currently writing An Empire of Wealth: A History of the American Economy, to be published by HarperCollins.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. I The Early Days of the American Dream
Profits in the Wilderness 3
The Corners of Wall and Broad 8
Technology Transfer 13
King Cotton 18
Pt. II Farming and Food
The Tragedy of the Commons 25
Sowing the American Dream 30
The Late, Great Liederkranz Cheese 35
Sawdust Pudding 40
Pt. III Manufacturing and Mining
Industrial Revolutionary 47
Sewing and Reaping a Fortune 52
The California Gold Rush 57
Opportunities 62
The Revenge of the Trust 67
Pt. IV Transportation
The Steamboat Monopoly 75
To the Swiftest 80
The Atlantic Stakes 86
The Towering Boondoggle 91
"The Public Be Damned" 96
Nice Work If You Can Keep It 100
Henry Ford's Horseless Horse 105
The Man Who Saved the Cadillac 110
Through Darkest America 115
Pt. V Banking
We Banked on Them 123
The Freedman's Bank 128
The People's Banker 133
Politicians Versus Bankers 139
Pt. VI The Business of War
USS Pork Barrel 147
Paying for the War 152
The Armor-Plate Scandal 157
The American Superweapon 162
Pt. VII Business and Government
The Great Crash (of 1792) 169
The Other Great Depression 174
R.I.P., ICC 179
Engine Charlie Wilson 183
Pt. VIII Retailing and Real Estate
The Perils of Success 191
No Respect 196
Where and When 201
Woolworth's Cathedral 206
Unintended Consequences 211
Pt. IX The Telegraph, Telephone, and Television
Technology of the Future 219
Postalization 224
Technological Turkey 229
The Death of a Monopoly 234
Desi Arnaz 239
Pt. X After Hours
The American Game 247
Saint Straus 252
The Philanthropist 257
Bibliography 263
Index 273
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