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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. | [Ron Chernow]

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller’s exceptionally rich trove of papers. A landmark publication full of startling revelations, the book indelibly alters our image of this most enigmatic capitalist. Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straitlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world’s richest man by creating America’s most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded "the Octopus" by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America.
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Publisher's Summary

John D. Rockefeller, Sr., history’s first billionaire and the patriarch of America’s most famous dynasty, is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Now Ron Chernow, a National Book Award-winning biographer, gives us a detailed and insightful history of the mogul. Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller’s exceptionally rich trove of papers. A landmark publication full of startling revelations, the book indelibly alters our image of this most enigmatic capitalist.

Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straitlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world’s richest man by creating America’s most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded "the Octopus" by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America.

Rockefeller was likely the most controversial businessman in our nation’s history. Critics charged that his empire was built on unscrupulous tactics: grand-scale collusion with the railroads, predatory pricing, industrial espionage, and wholesale bribery of political officials. The titan spent more than 30 years dodging investigations until Teddy Roosevelt and his trustbusters embarked on a marathon crusade to bring Standard Oil to bay.

While providing abundant evidence of Rockefeller’s misdeeds, Chernow discards the stereotype of the cold-blooded monster to sketch an unforgettably human portrait of a quirky, eccentric original. A devout Baptist and temperance advocate, Rockefeller gave money more generously than anyone before him - his chosen philanthropies included the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Chicago, and what is today Rockefeller University. Titan presents a finely nuanced portrait of a fascinating, complex man, synthesizing his public and private lives and disclosing numerous family scandals, tragedies, and misfortunes that have never before come to light.

John D. Rockefeller’s story captures a pivotal moment in American history, documenting the dramatic post–Civil War shift from small business to the rise of giant corporations that irrevocably transformed the nation. With cameos by Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt, Ida Tarbell, Andrew Carnegie, Carl Jung, J. P. Morgan, William James, Henry Clay Frick, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers, Titan turns Rockefeller’s life into a vivid tapestry of American society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is Ron Chernow’s signal triumph that he writes this monumental saga with all the sweep, drama, and insight that this giant subject deserves.

©2004 Ron Chernow (P)2013 Blackstone Audio

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  •  
    leon kratz harleysville, pa USA 03-05-15
    leon kratz harleysville, pa USA 03-05-15 Member Since 2014
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    4
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    "Very interesting. A bit long"

    Rockefeller was a fascinating story about great business mind and struggle for dominance, in time period before many laws and regulations were in place. Great business and financial lessons. Reader did a superb job. Always clear and easy to understand. I thought it was much longer than it needed to be, although usually kept my close attention.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jeff robinson 02-14-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Chernow is a master of language and Biographies!"
    What made the experience of listening to Titan the most enjoyable?

    The extreme depth of information, his masterful deductive powers and grasp over the english language.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    William Avery Rockefeller (John's Father) A morally challenged genius who is part loveable part despicable but a classic character. A whole book could be written about him.


    Any additional comments?

    I would love Chernow to write a book about Howard Hughes or Walt Disney - He is probably the best biography writer in the world, followed by David McCullough.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andries Viljoen 02-07-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Exceptional"

    What a story. I will miss listening to it. What one man can do in one life. Thank you. A

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James 02-04-15
    James 02-04-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Wow"

    I did not know and now I do. Well written and well read. Looking for more books like this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Pittsburgh, PA, United States 01-26-15
    David Pittsburgh, PA, United States 01-26-15 Member Since 2009
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    "Illuminating"

    This is a fascinating biography of an immensely important figure. But it is also an account of the beginnings of the world oil industry, taking us from the discovery, not of oil, but of how to get the stuff out of the ground, in NW Pennsylvania and the beginnings of the business of oil refining in Cleveland -- all the way to the split of the Oil Trust and the consequent (ironic) further enrichment of Rockefeller. Rockefeller was an incomparable organizing genius, and both his genius and his deviance are on full display here.
    But much of this book has to do with his gigantic philanthropic endeavors -- and his family. This is a very important book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    roger BLUE ASH, OH, United States 01-18-15
    roger BLUE ASH, OH, United States 01-18-15 Member Since 2014

    Entrepreneur using Audible to fill the endless hours spent traversing this wonderful land until Google finishes their car!

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    "Wonderful Bio on John D"

    I am currently researching many legendary businessman and had previously listened to "The Rockefellers" by Peter Collier & David Horowitz. "Titan" provides everything that "The Rockefellers" lacks (which is a ton). While one could view them as being complimentary, if you are to choose between the two, "Titan" is the one to go with, hands down. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Paul Kriegstein 11-10-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Masterful exposure of a guarded character"
    Any additional comments?

    This is the only John D. Rockefeller biography that could give the titan his proper credit. This book is a fascinating look inside the mind and life of the man who created what would be and ostensibly is the most profitable company of all time. Any one with an interest in business should readily add this to a list of self-help books. Additionally, the author thoroughly covers Rockefeller's relationships with his family, in addition to his relationships with business colleagues and friends, which helps provide a fully 360 degree portrait of the man. A must read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Blank Sacramento, CA United States 10-14-14
    Patricia Blank Sacramento, CA United States 10-14-14 Member Since 2014

    pdgarland

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    "Un-freaking-believable"

    Where do I begin? The research is beyond outstanding, the narrative quality of what could have been a mind-numbing topic keeps the story consistently compelling, and the narrator does an awesome job. This is a must-read if one is to understand how great businesses began and thrived in the wild 1800s and early 1900s prior to strong anti-monopoly laws.

    Rockefeller the businessman and Rockefeller the person are equally fascinating topics and both personas are beautifully exposed with a very balanced discussion of strengths and flaws. The times and cast of supporting characters--family, colleagues, political leaders, and more--are also presented with exactly the right amount of detail without getting bogged down.

    I especially love the way Chernow alternates chapters between the business and personal aspects of Rockefeller's life. It's fun to anticipate which aspect of each that you will be hearing about next.

    I confess--I have a weakness for Chernow and Grover Gardner, but this is my favorite Audible so far. You will not be disappointed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Casper Paludan New York 07-27-14
    Casper Paludan New York 07-27-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Fascinating portrait of a powerful man"
    If you could sum up Titan in three words, what would they be?

    Contrast, legacy, power.
    I chose contrast because Mr. Rockefeller undeniably did many fantastic things for humankind. For example, he founded The Rockefeller University which I attended and which changed my life forever. His Standard oil also did many good things in that it brought the benefits of oil to many people. At the same time, some of his business practices were very crude (no pun intended) and unnecessarily harsh. I chose legacy because his legacy is one of the most powerful ones and his achievements touch us every day. Power because of the focus and perseverance that marked his existence.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The description of his extremely colorful family background was so surprising to me that I feel the first two hours are easily worth the entire book.


    Which character – as performed by Grover Gardner – was your favorite?

    His second cousin Clive. No, seriously, this is not a good question for a biography. Obviously the main character...


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It made me smile many times and laugh a couple of times.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a very useful book for everybody who is interested in history and/or business and/or oil etc etc. there are many reasons to get it. I recommend it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr. Panama City, FL, United States 06-27-14
    Mr. Panama City, FL, United States 06-27-14 Member Since 2014

    Jonnie

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    "Well written and interesting"

    I like history and wanted to listen to this book but I was intimidated when I saw the length.
    As I began the listen I was pleasantly surprised as to how interesting the book was. As the book continued my interest was sustained and the book ended up being a very good experience.
    JDR was a very interesting character and not the total villain he is commonly painted to be. He did a lot of good in his later years.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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