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Mellon: An American Life | [David Cannadine]

Mellon: An American Life

A landmark work from one of the preeminent historians of our time: the first published biography of Andrew W. Mellon, the American colossus who bestrode the worlds of industry, government, and philanthropy, leaving his transformative stamp on each. Following a boyhood in 19th-century Pittsburgh, during which he learned from his Scotch-Irish immigrant father the lessons of self-sufficiency and wealth accumulation, Andrew Mellon overcame painful shyness to become one of America's greatest financiers.
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Publisher's Summary

A landmark work from one of the preeminent historians of our time: the first published biography of Andrew W. Mellon, the American colossus who bestrode the worlds of industry, government, and philanthropy, leaving his transformative stamp on each.

Following a boyhood in 19th-century Pittsburgh, during which he learned from his Scotch-Irish immigrant father the lessons of self-sufficiency and wealth accumulation, Andrew Mellon overcame painful shyness to become one of America's greatest financiers. Across an unusually diverse range of enterprises, from banking to oil to aluminum manufacture, he built a legendary personal fortune, tracking America's course to global economic supremacy. The Mellon way was to hold companies closely, including such iconic enterprises as Alcoa and Gulf Oil.

Personal happiness eluded Mellon, however: his loveless marriage at 45 to a British girl less than half his age ended in a scandalous divorce, and for all his best efforts, he would remain a stranger to his children. He had been bred to do one thing, and that he did with brilliant and innovative entrepreneurship. Collecting art, a pursuit inspired by his close friend Henry Clay Frick, would become his only nonprofessional gratification. And by the end of his life, Mellon's "pictures" would constitute one of the world's foremost private collections.

The issues Andrew W. Mellon confronted, concerning government, business, influence, the individual and the public good, remain at the center of our national discourse to this day. Indeed, the positions he steadfastly held reemerged relatively intact with the Reagan revolution, having lain dormant since the New Deal. David Cannadine's magisterial biography brings to life a towering, controversial figure, casting new light on our history and the evolution of our public values.

©2006 David Cannadine; (P)2006 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"Lavish....Insightful....Grand successes and epic failures, engrossingly recounted....Emphasizes the man rather than the money." (Kirkus)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    IRP Falmouth, ME United States 04-17-07
    IRP Falmouth, ME United States 04-17-07 Member Since 2006

    IRP

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    "Fascinating and Detailed Biography"

    I must admit that before listening to this book I knew very little about Andrew Mellon. With the exception of Mellon Bank, Carnegie Mellon University and his service as US Secretary of the Treasury under 3 presidents, Andrew Mellon to me was a distant figure who ranked with the other plutocrats of the guilded age (Morgan, Frick, Rockefeller and Carnegie). This book was truly a revelation. It is a long listen but the narrator does an excellent job and the coverage of Mellon's life and ancestory is truly complete. I must admit that I found the latter part of the book (during which the author discusses Mellon's time in Washington while he served as Treasury Secretary (and for what it is worth, he not Ronald Reagan was the creater of Trickle Down Economics), his income tax trial, his fight with New Dealers and his work as founder of the National Gallery) to more interesting than the first part of the book where the author discusses his business career. Nevertheless I found this book to be extremely enlightening and worth listening to despite its being very long in length.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Qbook Betterton, MD, USA 09-07-07
    Qbook Betterton, MD, USA 09-07-07 Member Since 2003
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    "A Great Business History"

    A very detailed history of the Mellon family (lots of time spent on the father), but more importantly, this is a description of the rise of American-style capitalism. David Cannadine is a historian with obviously great research skills. This audio book tops 36 hours and I found every minute of it to be interesting. I'm so sick of journalist writing shallow books on topics they only have a passing interest in (and zero research ability beyond talking to someone who just so happens to want to sell something). Prof. Cannadine says the book was more than ten years in the making--I just wish we had more quality business history like this.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ldipod 01-25-08
    ldipod 01-25-08 Member Since 2004
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    "Mellon Biography is one of the best"

    The biography of Andrew Mellon is one of the best written biographies that I have ever read. The story of the man laced with the history of his incredible 82 years is literally a page turner. The reader is one of the best.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Holman 04-18-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Slow start strong finish"

    A beneficiary of the American Capitalist system who honorably used it to his advantage then created a lasting legacy. Gives one a new understanding of Washington DC.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Warren Belmont, NY, USA 04-20-07
    Warren Belmont, NY, USA 04-20-07
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    "Great Book"

    The author did an excellant job on protraying Andrew Mellon, although it is very dificult to write a biography on a person and really catch the human nature of the person, since humans are very complex, but this book did an excellant job of bringing forward Andrew Mellon as living complex person. I really enjoy the beginning with Mellon's Ancestory, it help me to understand the movement and events that shape the lives of people in Pittsburgh Pa., in the 1800's. It is also of interest the latter part of the book to understand how his philosophies continue down to our day. I would highly recommend this book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Chapel Hill, NC, United States 08-03-14
    Robert Chapel Hill, NC, United States 08-03-14 Member Since 2007
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    "Fascinating life"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely


    What does John H. Mayer bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A great reader. Good inflection, soothing voice; one of your best


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    An extraordinarily and unexpectedly interesting biography of an important but little known or understood man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    roger BLUE ASH, OH, United States 07-31-14
    roger BLUE ASH, OH, United States 07-31-14
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    "Wonderful biography of a forgotten titan"

    The author does a wonderful job with the life of Thomas and Andrew Mellon presenting the essence of what it took to build the family fortune. He presents a good analysis of the sacrifices necessary and emotional/personality holes in A.W.'s psyche and some of their consequences on him and his family. Of the biographies of the great industrialists I've read, this one is the most interesting due to the varied life A.W. led and the story that was told of a nearly completely forgotten titan.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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