The Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace American Enterprise from the Settling of New England to the Break up of AT&T

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9780802713834: The Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace American Enterprise from the Settling of New England to the Break up 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 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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About 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.

From Publishers Weekly:

These 47 articles, gathered from Gordon's 10 years as an American Heritage columnist, cover the post-Revolutionary period through the 1950s. Some pieces retell familiar stories, such as how Samuel Slater memorized the design of the cotton mill machinery that had made England an 18th-century superpower, smuggled the technology from England to the U.S. and helped to launch the Industrial Revolution here; how Isaac Merit Singer synthesized others' efforts and made the sewing machine, vastly improving "the standard of living of millions"; and how Sylvester Graham's health lectures ("he ascribed cholera to chicken pie and `excessive lewdness' ") led to the development of his eponymous cracker. Other stories are obscure and intriguing historical footnotes, like the rise and fall of Liederkranz cheese and Cadillac's decision in the 1930s to market cars to African-Americans. Gordon can be feisty, as when he opines that the World Trade Center "never should have been built," and wouldn't have been but for the manipulation of government resources by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and his brother David, Chase Manhattan's chairman. Short and well written, each essay starts with some sort of tease and ends with a mild surprise or aphorism. However, when read sequentially, the pieces are marred by repetition and don't entirely satisfy the effect is a bit like trying to make a meal out of a lot of appetizers. (June)Forecast: Gordon is well-known for these columns and his NPR commentaries. A browser's delight, the book should achieve modest success on that basis.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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