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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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  •  
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 12-17-13
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 12-17-13 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very good, very detailed, very long"
    What did you love best about Titan?

    The sequential steps through out JDR life. Growing up poor, to becoming the worlds wealthiest man. The book does not sugar coat JDR, not does it portray him as history's greatest villain either. He was a CEO of his time and age.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    JDR. He was much more likable than I expected him to be.


    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    Well read, nothing to complain about


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

    No. Most biography I read don't exhibit in me a strong emotional reaction. However learning about US industry after the Civil War through WWI was very interesting


    Any additional comments?

    Growing up in a very liberal household names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Carnegie, ect were names of evil, money hunger villains. I was surprised to learn how generous with his wealth Rockefeller was.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerilyn 07-22-15
    Gerilyn 07-22-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Amazing"

    A phenomenal story and legacy from which everyone can learn.

    Wish I had the fortitude to read it again!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    singhfin 07-14-15
    singhfin 07-14-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great story"

    Intriguing, amazing story of a legend.. Expertly narrated. However, it delves quite a bit into rockefeller's grand kids and other relatives towards the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DC Sox Fan Washington, DC 07-03-15
    DC Sox Fan Washington, DC 07-03-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Thorough biography, great reader"

    Very thorough. Perhaps a bit too methodical a story but entertaining nonetheless. Reading by Grover Gardner was superlative as always.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Byron Kay Kona, Hawaii 06-26-15
    Byron Kay Kona, Hawaii 06-26-15 Member Since 2014

    Freediver

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    "All encompassing authoritative tomb"

    Long but thorough. The amount of research that went into this book is astounding. Very interesting. Covers many of his relationships and the people surrounding Rockefeller and his clan

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory 06-18-15
    Gregory 06-18-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Worth an investment of time..."

    Ron Chernow has brought an elusive historical figure to life for me in great detail. A lengthy listen, indeed; but fully engaging.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caleb Greenwood, IN, United States 06-17-15
    Caleb Greenwood, IN, United States 06-17-15 Member Since 2012
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    "This is my favorite book of all time"
    Would you listen to Titan again? Why?

    I have listened to this book about 6 times and read it once. This book is great, Rockefeller was a great man.


    What did you like best about this story?

    How in depth it was describing the building of the largest business dynasty to ever grace the face of the earth.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When the book describes his ascent from book keeper to oil tycoon


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

    Yes but you will need to listen to it over a week or so since it's so long.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are interested in building something of consequence this is my favorite book for reference. Rockefeller was a master builder and was the greatest businessman to ever grace the face of this earth by everything I've read. Think of it, 1/39th of his company in the split is Exxon Mobile! Plus several other fortune 500s are split off from standard. What other business man can claim anything close to this? This is by far my favorite business been and will recommend it to everyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carrie Manhattan, NY 06-15-15
    Carrie Manhattan, NY 06-15-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Fascinating probe into the myth and the man."

    Fascinating probe into the myth and the man, the good and the ugly, from his forebears to his grandchildren. The book helps define the times in which Rockefeller lived -- to better understand the era of wild American entrepreneurship of in 19th century and how this particular titan assuaged his capitalist excesses with philanthropy that endure today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Isaac Jeffries 06-14-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Worthwhile marathon"

    I can't believe I finished it, 35 hours is huge. Very very well written, and very well read by the narrator.
    The book paints quite a fair picture of Rockefeller, and I found myself constantly switching between liking and disliking him. Incredibly detailed yet constantly interesting, well worth it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Brinkman 06-05-15
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    "Marvelous Story well told"

    From his varied family history, to his business to his philanthropy to his successors, Chernow and Grover Gardner bring this extraordinary tale to life with so many vignettes that you will refer back for more. I have listened to Titan twice now and have bought it for a friend.

    The tale is full of memorable characters and events from JDR's quack father to his sensible pious son getting his first taste of business buttonholing parishioners of his church in Cleveland raising money to keep their church from foreclosure.

    The rise of standard is especially interesting from the early realization of the importance of the chemical refining process (Andrews, JDR's first partner) all the way to H H Rogers shooting the breeze with Mark Twain at the Standard office on 26 Broadway.

    The philanthropy portions are striking especially in the eradication of hookworm in the south, whose symptoms had been attributed to laziness.

    Throughout, you get a flavor for why wealth can be a blessing and a curse to those who posses it. JDR's brother is poisoned by it, his daughter's life plays out like a sorry tragedy. Then you have the little story of JDR IIi at Princeton, oblivious of his family's immense wealth rowing a rickety boat when a classmate chides him to get a motor boat, JDR III indignantly replies, "what do you think I am, a Vanderbilt or something!?"

    You won't be disappointed with this audiobook in your library and I hope you may derive as much enjoyment from it as I have.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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