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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Published May 1, 2001
by Walker & Company.
Business & Economics, History, Education & Reference.