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

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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

Part I: The Early Days of the American Dream

Profits in the Wilderness

The Corners of Wall and Broad

Technology Transfer

King Cotton

Part II: Farming and Food

The Tragedy of the Commons

Sowing the American Dream

The Late, Great Liederkranz Cheese

Sawdust Pudding

Part III: Manufacturing and Mining

Industrial Revolutionary Sewing and Reaping a Fortune

The California Gold Rush

Opportunities

The Revenge of the Trust

Part IV: Transportation

The Steamboat Monopoly

To the Swiftest

The Atlantic Stakes

The Towering Boondoogle

"The Public Be Damned"

Nice Work If You Can Keep It

Henry Ford's Horseless Horse

The Man Who Saved the Cadillac

Through Darkest America

Part V: Banking

We Banked on Them

The Freeman's Bank

Politicians Versus Bankers

Part VI: The Business of War

USS Pork Barrel

Paying for the War

The Armor-Plate Scandal

The American Superweapon

Part VII: Business and Government

The Great Crash (of 1792)

The Other Great Depression

R.I.P., ICC

Engine Charlie Wilson

Part VIII: Retailing and Real Estate

The Perils of Success

No Respect

Where and When

Woolworth's Cathedral

Unintended Consequences

Part IX: The Telegraph, Telephone, and Television

Technology of the Future

Postalization

Technology Turkey

The Death of Monopoly

Desi Arnaz

Part X: After Hours

The American Game

Saint Straus

The Philanthropist

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