I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have never read anything about Henry Ford until this book except when mention in a biography of another person such as John D. Rockefeller and his business dealings with Ford. Richard Snow covers Ford’s life from childhood to death but mostly concentrates on the area of his developing his engine and first cars. I found it interesting that Ford was in some ways was brilliant in his ability to see the end results of his car design and able to devote all his energy and time to develop it and then in his ability to deal with people he failed miserably. He failed at building two car companies before his success with the Ford Motor Company. He was the first to develop the assembly line or mass production and World War Two triggered more companies to quickly follow his methods of mass production. He attracted too him men of great skill’s and ability but then he pitted them against each other and he would fire the looser. He hired more black Americans than any other auto company but as he aged he revealed he was anti-Semitic. He distrusted bankers, Wall Street men and other financial people to the point he never invested in Wall Street which saved him in 1929. He hated investors and he maneuvered his company when it was successful to get rid of his primary investors and became the largest stock holder of the company. He hated to have anyone tell him what to do. According to Snow after he got control of Ford he appointed his son Edsel as company president but he never let go of the control of the company. As I read the book I got the feeling that Ford was his own worst enemy. All these contradiction and Snow’s excellent writing ability reveals an interesting story. It is obvious that Snow did a great deal of research to write the book. Sean Runnett did a great job narrating the book.
I could hardly stop listening; the author grabbed my attention and held it all the way to the end of the book. It is amazing how much information Daniel Schulman has been able to gather about the Koch family, from public records, newspaper reports and court documents. The family refused to be interviewed for the book. Schulman starts with Fred Koch who was born in 1900 and grew up in Quanah, Texas, son of a Dutch immigrant. His father was a printer who brought a printing press to Quanah and established a newspaper. Fred worked at various jobs and worked his way through school. He graduated for M.I.T. in engineering. He invested three hundred dollars and started a company providing the needs of oil refineries. He built this into a multi-million dollar company. He married a Kansas City debutant Mary Robinson. They had four sons Frederick, Charles, twins David and William. Fred worked the boys hard and had the boys compete against each other. They attended boarding schools and M.I.T. except Frederick who attended Harvard with a degree in the arts. Fred was a founding member of the John Birch Society. He taught Charles his political view point but Charles eventually became a member of Libertarian party. Frederick never worked in the company business and had very little to do with the family. He lived in New York City or London restoring old historical buildings, and is a collector and patron of the arts. Charles, David and Bill worked in the company until Bill broke away and brought many lawsuits against the family. Bill built his own engineering company which is now a multi-billion dollar business. Charles and David took the business over from the father and built it into a multi-billion dollar business. Schulman had done a good job assembling everything known about the Koch’s into a single straight forward, understandable account. The author leaves out no confirmable damming detail particularly about the Koch Industries indifference to environmental and safety matters. The Koch’s Libertarian belief about small or no government appeared to have made them think they did not have to adhere to laws that interfered with their business. After they lost the lawsuits from the EPA they did change the way they ran the company and started to adhere to all laws. Schulman interviewed employees to gather information about Charles’s “Market Based Management” system. The author points out that the Koch’s donate not only to the Republican Party but also to selected Democrats as well. The brothers individually and with the Family Foundation donate heavily to the arts and medical research. I felt the author presented a well balanced, well researched report about the Koch family. Allen O’Reilly did a good job narrating the book.
Max Arax and Rick Wartzman tell the story of a family that combined hard work, farming wisdom and political maneuvering to build a farming empire in the San Joaquin Valley of California. This is a well-written and well researched story of the largest privately owned farming operation in the United States. In my opinion the authors appear to have a negative opinion regarding large industrial style of farming.
Jim Boswell moved to California from Georgia where the family had long been cotton growers. The boll weevil drove him out of Georgia to find land where cotton could grow. He worked as a cotton broker, until he saw the land of the southern San Joaquin Valley in California. He started buying land to farm, and then built Gin’s to process the cotton. He ruthlessly went after all the water rights he could obtain. As he grew into one of the largest farms his wife died. About 11 years after the death of his first wife Boswell married Ruth Chandler, Harry Chandler’s daughter. The Chandler owned the Los Angeles times, large tracks of land in the San Fernando Valley, Tejon Ranch and other properties.
The authors tell how Boswell bought land and drained Tulare Lake and started growing crops and buying more land. The Primary crops included Pima Cotton ( used by LL Bean, Hanes Co. Etc.) alfalfa hay, tomatoes, onions, wheat, safflower, then later almonds, and other varieties of nuts. The Boswells specialized in the long thread Pima cotton that is highly sought after. The company was established in Corcoran California in 1921. They ginned their own cotton and built processing plants to extract cotton oil and for all their crops. The book discusses the problems of the various varieties of migrant farm workers over the years. The migrant workers ranged from the dust bowl refugees, to German POW during the war, Chinese, Filipinos, to the Mexican. Arax and Wartzman go into depth about the movement of black cotton pickers and the treatment of these workers. The book goes into the various attempts to unionize the workers over the years and the various labor strikes.
In 80 years the family gained control of acres of farmland ranging from the San Diego area to San Joaquin Valley to Arizona and Colorado. The company now is also in Australia. Jim G. Boswell II took over at the death of J.G. Boswell and James W. Boswell is now the current CEO. Each one has increased the value and lands of the company. The book also goes into the inner family dynamics. The family is famous for their philanthropy and is a major supporter of the California Institute of Technology and the Claremont McKenna College. Anyone interested in California history, California agriculture history would enjoy this book. I found the book interesting as I know many of the people and issues the book covers. Sort of a trip down memory lane. James Patrick Cronin did a good job narrating the book.