National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
"A biography that has many of the best attributes of a novel. . . . Wonderfully fluent and compelling." -- The New York Times
"A triumph of the art of biography. Unflaggingly interesting, it brings John D. Rockefeller Sr. to life through sustained narrative portraiture of the large-scale, nineteenth-century kind."-- The New York Times Book Review
In this endlessly engrossing book, National Book Award-winning biographer Ron Chernow devotes his penetrating powers of scholarship and insight to the Jekyll and Hyde of American capitalism. In the course of his nearly 98 years, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists--and an utter enigma.
Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller's private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subject's troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him "to give all I could"; his devotion to his family; and the wry sense of humor that made him the country's most colorful codger. Titan is a magnificent biography --balanced, revelatory, and elegantly written.
"Important and impressive. . . . Reveals the man behind both the mask and the myth."-- The Wall Street Journal
"One of the great American biographies. . . . [Chernow] writes with rich impartiality. He turns the machinations of Standard Oil . . . into fascinating social history."-- Time
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Titan|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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The Flimflam Man
In the early 1900s, as Rockefeller vied with Andrew Carnegie for the title of the world's richest man, a spirited rivalry arose between France and Germany, with each claiming to be Rockefeller's ancestral land. Assorted genealogists stood ready, for a sizable fee, to manufacture a splendid royal lineage for the oilman. "I have no desire to trace myself back to the nobility," he said honestly. "I am satisfied with my good old American stock." The most ambitious search for Rockefeller's roots traced them back to a ninth-century French family, the Roquefeuilles, who supposedly inhabited a Languedoc château-a charming story that unfortunately has been refuted by recent findings. In contrast, the Rockefellers' German lineage has been clearly established in the Rhine valley dating back to at least the early 1600s.
Around 1723, Johann Peter Rockefeller, a miller, gathered up his wife and five children, set sail for Philadelphia, and settled on a farm in Somerville and then Amwell, New Jersey, where he evidently flourished and acquired large landholdings. More than a decade later, his cousin Diell Rockefeller left southwest Germany and moved to Germantown, New York. Diell's granddaughter Christina married her distant relative William, one of Johann's grandsons. (Never particularly sentimental about his European forebears, John D. Rockefeller did erect a monument to the patriarch, Johann Peter, at his burial site in Flemington, New Jersey.) The marriage of William and Christina produced a son named Godfrey Rockefeller, who was the grandfather of the oil titan and a most unlikely progenitor of the clan. In 1806, Godfrey mar