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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 30. März 2004

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  • Taschenbuch: 832 Seiten
  • Verlag: Vintage; Auflage: 0002 (30. März 2004)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 1400077303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077304
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 15,5 x 4,3 x 23,3 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 47.575 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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Ron Chernow's first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award and the Ambassador Award for the year's best study of American culture. His second book, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993 and was also selected by the American Library Association as one of that year's best nonfiction books. In reviewing his recent collection of essays, The Death of the Banker, The New York Times called the author "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades  and chose the paperback original as one of the year's Notable Books.

From the Hardcover edition.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.


The Flimflam Man

In the early 1900s, as Rockefeller vied with Andrew Carnegie for the title of the world's richest man, a spirited rivalry arose between France and Germany, with each claiming to be Rockefeller's ancestral land. Assorted genealogists stood ready, for a sizable fee, to manufacture a splendid royal lineage for the oilman. "I have no desire to trace myself back to the nobility," he said honestly. "I am satisfied with my good old American stock." The most ambitious search for Rockefeller's roots traced them back to a ninth-century French family, the Roquefeuilles, who supposedly inhabited a Languedoc château-a charming story that unfortunately has been refuted by recent findings. In contrast, the Rockefellers' German lineage has been clearly established in the Rhine valley dating back to at least the early 1600s.

Around 1723, Johann Peter Rockefeller, a miller, gathered up his wife and five children, set sail for Philadelphia, and settled on a farm in Somerville and then Amwell, New Jersey, where he evidently flourished and acquired large landholdings. More than a decade later, his cousin Diell Rockefeller left southwest Germany and moved to Germantown, New York. Diell's granddaughter Christina married her distant relative William, one of Johann's grandsons. (Never particularly sentimental about his European forebears, John D. Rockefeller did erect a monument to the patriarch, Johann Peter, at his burial site in Flemington, New Jersey.) The marriage of William and Christina produced a son named Godfrey Rockefeller, who was the grandfather of the oil titan and a most unlikely progenitor of the clan. In 1806, Godfrey married Lucy Avery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, despite the grave qualms of her family.

Establishing a pattern that would be replicated by Rockefeller's own mother, Lucy had, in her family's disparaging view, married down. Her ancestors had emigrated from Devon, England, to Salem, Massachusetts, around 1630, forming part of the Puritan tide. As they became settled and gentrified, the versatile Averys spawned ministers, soldiers, civic leaders, explorers, and traders, not to mention a bold clutch of Indian fighters. During the American Revolution, eleven Averys perished gloriously in the battle of Groton. While the Rockefellers' "noble" roots required some poetic license and liberal embellishment, Lucy could justly claim descent from Edmund Ironside, the English king, who was crowned in 1016.

Godfrey Rockefeller was sadly mismatched with his enterprising wife. He had a stunted, impoverished look and a hangdog air of perpetual defeat. Taller than her husband, a fiery Baptist of commanding presence, Lucy was rawboned and confident, with a vigorous step and alert blue eyes. A former schoolteacher, she was better educated than Godfrey. Even John D., never given to invidious comments about relatives, tactfully conceded, "My grandmother was a brave woman. Her husband was not so brave as she." If Godfrey contributed the Rockefeller coloring-bluish gray eyes, light brown hair-Lucy introduced the rangy frame later notable among the men. Enjoying robust energy and buoyant health, Lucy had ten children, with the third, William Avery Rockefeller, born in Granger, New York, in 1810. While it is easy enough to date the birth of Rockefeller's father, teams of frazzled reporters would one day exhaust themselves trying to establish the date of his death.

As a farmer and businessman, Godfrey enjoyed checkered success, and his aborted business ventures exposed his family to an insecure, peripatetic life. They were forced to move to Granger and Ancram, New York, then to Great Barrington, before doubling back to Livingston, New York. John D. Rockefeller's upbringing would be fertile with cautionary figures of weak men gone astray. Godfrey must have been invoked frequently as a model to be avoided. By all accounts, Grandpa was a jovial, good-natured man but feckless and addicted to drink, producing in Lucy an everlasting hatred of liquor that she must have drummed into her grandson. Grandpa Godfrey was the first to establish in John D.'s mind an enduring equation between bonhomie and lax character, making the latter prefer the society of sober, tight-lipped men in full command of their emotions.

The Rockefeller records offer various scenarios of why Godfrey and Lucy packed their belongings into an overloaded Conestoga wagon and headed west between 1832 and 1834. By one account, the Rockefellers, along with several neighbors, were dispossessed of their land in a heated title dispute with some English investors. Another account has an unscrupulous businessman gulling Godfrey into swapping his farm for allegedly richer turf in Tioga County. (If this claim was in fact made, it proved a cruel hoax.) Some relatives later said that Michigan was Godfrey's real destination but that Lucy vetoed such a drastic relocation, preferring the New England culture of upstate New York to the wilds of Michigan.

Whatever the reason, the Rockefellers reenacted the primordial American rite of setting out in search of fresh opportunity. In the 1830s, many settlers from Massachusetts and Connecticut were swarming excitedly into wilderness areas of western New York, a migration that Alexis de Tocqueville described as "a game of chance" pursued for "the emotions it excites, as much as for the gain it procures." The construction of the Erie Canal in the 1820s had lured many settlers to the area. Godfrey and Lucy heaped up their worldly possessions in a canvas-topped prairie schooner, drawn by oxen, and headed toward the sparsely settled territory. For two weeks, they traveled along the dusty Albany-Catskill turnpike, creeping through forests as darkly forbidding as the setting of a Grimms' fairy tale. With much baggage and little passenger space, the Rockefellers had to walk for much of the journey, with Lucy and the children (except William, who did not accompany them) taking turns sitting in the wagon whenever they grew weary. As they finally reached their destination, Richford, New York, the last three and a half miles were especially arduous, and the oxen negotiated the stony, rutted path with difficulty. At the end, they had to lash their exhausted team up a nearly vertical hillside to possess their virgin sixty acres. As family legend has it, Godfrey got out, tramped to the property's peak, inspected the vista, and said mournfully, "This is as close as we shall ever get to Michigan." So, in a memorial to dashed hopes, the spot would forever bear the melancholy name of Michigan Hill.

Even today scarcely more than a crossroads, Richford was then a stagecoach stop in the wooded country southeast of Ithaca and northwest of Binghamton. The area's original inhabitants, the Iroquois, had been chased out after the American Revolution and replaced by revolutionary army veterans. Still an uncouth frontier when the Rockefellers arrived, this backwater had recently attained township status, its village square dating from 1821. Civilization had taken only a tenuous hold. The dense forests on all sides teemed with game-bear, deer, panther, wild turkey, and cottontail rabbit-and people carried flaring torches at night to frighten away the roaming packs of wolves.

By the time that John D. Rockefeller was born in 1839, Richford was acquiring the amenities of a small town. It had some nascent industries-sawmills, gristmills, and a whiskey distillery-plus a schoolhouse and a church. Most inhabitants scratched out a living from hardscrabble farming, yet these newcomers were hopeful and enterprising. Notwithstanding their frontier trappings, they had carried with them the frugal culture of Puritan New England, which John D. Rockefeller would come to exemplify.

The Rockfellers' steep property provided a...

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Amazon.com: 202 Rezensionen
81 von 84 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Titan - A Powerhouse 16. März 2006
Von Zubair Khan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Ron Chernow's Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. is a powerhouse from beginning to end. Chernow is fast becoming one of my favorite biographers after reading Alexander Hamilton and now this. In both books, he is able to keep you turning the page while, at the same time, building carefully rendered portraits of these complex historical figures.

In Titan, he is at his best, describing Rockefeller as both a great philanthropist and also a man possessed by greed. Chernow's Rockefeller can be as consumed by creating a great Baptist University [University of Chicago] as building tactical alliances that will squeeze out any hope of competition for his company, Standard Oil.

With his first brush stroke, Chernow paints the picture of Rockefeller's father a mountebank, philanderer and a bigamist. From meager beginnings, it is amazing to see the determination with which Rockefeller builds himself up. Rockefeller's ability to move so rapidly from a life of destitution and failure to one of unparallelled wealth and success is built with clear precision though at a dizzying pace.

Chernow's decision to focus so heavily on Rockefeller's father in the beginning of the book is important because the man Rockefeller becomes is a repudiation of everything his father stood for. The son in this case knew what a scoundrel his father was and acted in every way to become everything he was not. The father was a philnaderer, while the son remained devoted to his one wife even when he had become wildly successful. As the father placed his own interests ahead of his family's needs, the son put his family ahead of everything else. And in the realm of business, the father had become a complete failure, while the son achieved successes beyond the wildest expectations of anyone to that point.

But, for all of his success and his blindess to the fact, Rockefeller grew up to be much like his father. His father's ability to con his way out of any situation at any cost was a built in feature of Rockefeller's personality. No matter how much good he did in the world and how much he evolved as a man, he was his father's son. This was no more evident than in the way Rockefeller did business as the leader of Standard Oil. He removed any and all competition at any cost.

For all of his achievements, Rockefeller was never able to completely remove that original strain of human frailness that his father gave him. This was what eventually led to the downfall of Standard Oil and which made Rockefeller Sr. such a complex figure both beloved and hated by those who knew him or of him.

Despite his profound understanding of the mechanics and psychology of the business world, it is Chernow's ability to develop strong character studies that make his books so admirable. During many of the best parts of Titan, Chernow is developing a colorful hybrid of supporting characters every bit as interesting as Rockefeller himself. What makes it all the more impressive is that Chernow does so while carefully tying everything in to build the theme within Rockefeller's life. You get the idea from reading Chernow that you are witnessing the actual motivations of the characters he writes about.
125 von 140 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Understanding Rockefeller 9. Oktober 2004
Von John P Bernat - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Read this book before reading "Great Fortune."

"Great Fortune" is the story of the building of Rockefeller Center, and inevitably discusses the leadership influence of John D. Rockefeller jr. and Nelson Rockefeller.

However, the man who sired "junior" was John D. Sr., of course, and he was the one who created the values and assumptions which his family took into the 21st century.

I read this book because I had been simply curious about the mechanics of "the robber barons." Exactly how, and under what circumstances, were a few men in our history able to amass huge concentrations of money and thus profoundly direct our nation's affairs? And what were their personalities and values, too.

More so than any history book, Chernow's work in this area sheds needed light onto these questions. And, in learning Rockefeller's story, the reader also gains some understanding of contemporary titans like Bill Gates and - well - Jeff Bezos.

It's not Horatio Alger, exactly. That said, when you read Chernow's thorough and objective study, you realize that certain qualities are timeless:

1. Commitment to hard work.

2. Insight into meta-forces beyond the day to day.

3. Incredible drive and focus.

4. Ruthlessness in competition.

5. Sublime confidence in your own rectitude and success.

This is a great book with lessons well beyond its era.
40 von 42 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Incredible 27. Dezember 2006
Von Marty McCarthy - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
I have to be honest, I did not pick up and read Ron Chernow's Titan because I was burning to read a biography about John D. Rockefeller. I read Titan because I had just recently finished reading Ron Chernow's biography on Alexander Hamilton. In reading Titan, I hoped I would be getting a work similar to Alexander Hamilton, namely the quality of Chernow's prose and the rendering of his subject. Titan exceeded my expectations on all counts.

Chernow has an incredible ability to not only tell the story of a man, but to also tell the story of the times in which the man lived and, in so doing, place his subject squarely within his time. In telling the story of Rockefeller, Chernow is telling the story of America for the nearly 100 years Rockefeller was alive and living in America.

In rendering Rockefeller, Chernow gives us a full portrait of the man - both good and bad and never delivers a verdict on either. Instead, Chernow leaves it to the readers to draw their own conclusion on the man. In so doing, the reader is forced to confront the legacy left by Rockerfeller the Robber Barron with the legacy left by Rockefeller the philanthropist.

One conclusion though, that is implied in the text (if not overtly stated) is that had Rockefeller died during the breakup of the Standard Oil Trust in 1911, the judgement of history probably would have ignored Rockefeller's charitable contributions and condemned him outright. Instead, Rockefeller lived until 1937 during which time he garnered acclaim for his philanthropy. It also certainly did not hurt that Rockefeller's son, John D. Rockefeller Jr. would do so much to secure his father's place as America's foremost philanthopists as well as rehabilitate his father's Robber Barron image.

In short, if you like John D. Rockefeller, read this book. If you do not like John D. Rockefeller, read this book. If you are indifferent to John D. Rockefeller, read this book. Titan is an example of biography done objectively and done well.
18 von 19 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Lessons From The Richest Man in History 7. Februar 2007
Von Coach Phil - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Adjusted for inflation, John Rockefeller was by far the richest man who ever lived. He was reviled for his evil business practices (forming monopolistic trusts, forcing competitors out of business, etc) but he was also a pious, gentle man who gave more to medicine, education and other charities than anyone in history. He could be a stern, rigid man, but defying his public image, he also insisted on paying more than he needed to because he wanted to be sure a business deal was good for both the buyer and the seller.

At the peak of his wealth, Andrew Carnegie had more money than Rockefeller, but from that point on, Carnegie's wealth rapidly declined while Rockefeller's soared. Rockefeller actually made more money after he retired than in all his working years. Even more amazing, Teddy Roosevelt's "trust-busting" efforts to dismantle the Standard Oil monopoly ended up hugely benefiting Rockefeller. This was one shrewd operator!

Rockefeller attended the same small Baptist church on Euclid Avenue most of is life and when he built his first mansion on "Millionaire's Row" in Cleveland, he intentionally built the smallest, most modest home on the street to down-play his wealth. While his contemporaries showed off their wealth, he never owned a yacht, or a private rail car - the equivalent of refusing to buy his own plane and flying commercial airlines today.

Rockefeller's faith believed it was God's will for him to "make as much as he could...and give as much as he could." In the end, no one (not Carnegie who built over 3000 libraries and innumerable galleries and concert halls, not the Mellons or the Fords or the Hearsts) has had more impact on American culture. Rockefeller founded and almost single-handedly built the University of Chicago. He revolutionized medicine and education.

Most importantly for me personally, I was inspired by his personal work ethic, his discipline, and his understanding of business systems. As a young man, he worked from 6:30 in the morning, to past 10:00 at night. Later, he calmly appeared to nap during critical business meetings, conserving his energy, saying very little, but making brilliant decisions after he had listened to all the arguments. His ability to organize teams of people, delegate responsibility, tolerate mistakes and trust that good people would, in the end, make smart decisions was revolutionary in his day. Anyone in business ought to read this book!

And, the good news is that Chernow is a great writer. The book reads better than many novels. The characters come alive, the narrative flows quickly, and I couldn't put it down. If you want to excel in business (and in life) read this book. Take notes. Consider the lessons and apply them as they fit your personal situation. This is a GREAT book!
37 von 44 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Interesting and Fair 24. Juli 2005
Von M. Nowacki - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
John D. Rockefeller was the richest man ever in America. He had $900 million in 1911. Today that would be worth about $120 billion by some estimates. For this, Rockefeller was hated by journalist Ida Tarbell. Ron Chernow does not subtly avoid talking about the controversy surrounding Rockefeller, but addresses it head on and doesn't give his opinion. It is just the facts. Ron Chernow also spends time talking about Rockefeller's philanthropic efforts. He leaves the reader without any doubts that Rockefeller was the greatest philanthropists American has produced. (Bill Gates is will be close though).

This book is very detailed (that is why it is so long) and is the best biography I have ever read. It is the best not only because I am a big fan of Rockefeller, but because of the way it is written. Many people give 5 stars to average books, but this really is a 5 star book.
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