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Mellon: An American Life

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  265 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
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 nineteenth-century Pittsburgh, during which he learned from his Scotch-Irish immigrant father the lesso
Hardcover, 800 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2006)
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Mar 11, 2017 Priscilla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Mellon was such a stereotypically dour, humorless, emotionally stunted banker that he’s probably the reason bankers have that reputation. This personality can be blamed on his Scotch-Irish heritage and his father, who was a similar personality. Life was about hard work and accumulating wealth. There wasn’t room for cultivating a personal life or anything else, so his marriage was a shambles, and his two children were a mess. His son Paul seemed to have found some sort of peace in later li ...more
Bob Wallner
May 14, 2017 Bob Wallner rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, audible
A very interesting biography of a man that time has somewhat forgotten about. Unlike Rockefeller, Carnegie or Morgan who liked to be in the limelight, Mellon preferred, especially early on, to be a "behind the scenes" guy. He liked keeping his business dealings private and wholly within his circle of influence. Starting off as a banker, he and his brother soon found themselves investing in and ultimately controlling businesses. Although they didn't directly run any, they put men in charge who wo ...more
Tim Evanson
Aug 23, 2013 Tim Evanson rated it really liked it
This is a biography of the American financier, Andrew W. Mellon. It was financed by his son, Paul Mellon, but you don't learn that until the end.

For most people, the name sounds famliar but none of them really know who Mellon was. He was the son of an Irish immigrant, and his father, Thomas, came to the United States in the early 1830s. By luck and happenstance, the Mellons were able to weather a single depression -- and Thomas Mellon ruthlessly took advantage of his neighbors' troubles to buy u
Frank Stein
Dec 22, 2013 Frank Stein rated it liked it
One would think Andrew W. Mellon lead a fascinating life, at least if one just laid out the bare outlines of his life. He was one of the richest men of his age, but unlike other industrial titans like Rockefeller and Carnegie, he did not reap his fortune from one industry. Instead, from the platform of his Mellon National Bank and Union Trust Company, he helped fund and launch everything from Gulf Oil (whose Spindletop find in 1901 initiated the empire of Texas petroleum) to the first major alum ...more
Aaron Million
Sep 02, 2013 Aaron Million rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Cannadine has a difficult task - to write an entertaining yet accurate biography of a taciturn, boring man. Andrew Mellon was an immensely successful banker and businessman who subsequently became Treasury Secretary for eleven years and Ambassador to Great Britain for a year. Yet he seemed devoid of personality: cold, oblivious to the economic hardships and challenges faced by most Americans, calculating, disingenuous (as when repeatedly disavowed his continued involvement in his numerous busine ...more
Steven Peterson
Jan 26, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Cannadine's massive and detailed biography of Andrew W. Mellon is a well done examination of one of the major business figures in American history. He became a key figure in companies such as Gulf Oil, Alcoa, and, of course, Mellon National Bank, among others.

The biography begins with a background of the family, to provide context for Andrew Mellon's life. His own father, "Judge" Mellon, had been a "larger than life" figure, working until late in his life. His son, and other family member
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 13, 2015 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it it was amazing
★ ★ ★ ★★
Mellon An American Life by David Cannadine

biography of Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937)

Sir David Cannadine joined Princeton in the fall of 2008, having previously held positions at Cambridge, Columbia and London Universities.

"Andrew W. Mellon belonged to a remarkable American generation which witnessed the creation and accumulation of individual fortunes in unprecedented abundance by such men as Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, Morgan, and Frick."

The Mellons were Protestant Scotch-Irish immigra
Apr 26, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
"Mellon: An American Life" by David Cannadine is about the life of Andrew W. Mellon, who was the grandson of a Scots-Irishman who rose to be one of the richest men in America (behind the likes of Rockefeller and Carnegie) and one of the longest serving Treasury Secretaries in the US.

The book is a fair and balanced description of his life. It covers everything from his young life to his development of Mellon Bank, the United Trust Company, Gulf Petroleum and Alcoa and his experiences as Treasury
Jan 06, 2015 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Baird
Aug 14, 2015 Kevin Baird rated it really liked it
Any biographer to take on the life of Andrew Mellon would face a challenge. His accomplishments in public life, aside from his launch of the National Gallery of Art, lay in the arid realm of balance sheets; his private life, aside from his disastrous marriage, was strikingly bare. But David Cannadine makes Mellon: An American Life more engaging than a biography of a taciturn financier has any right to be. He partly accomplishes this feat by focusing on the more compelling figures of Mellon's lif ...more
May 02, 2016 Chris rated it liked it
Cannadine tackled a massive project, and his exhaustive research and commitment to get beyond popular opinion and myth and examine the facts is impressive. Moreover, with a man like Mellon, there are so many different threads (his family, his government career, his business empire, the National Gallery of Art) and Cannadine seemed to balance all of them to keep things interesting and moving along. However, Cannadine seemed to editorialize about his views of Mellon’s life, American politics, busi ...more
Jim Netzband
Jan 22, 2016 Jim Netzband rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
Andrew Mellon kept popping up as a peripheral character in my readings about several major events in American history, so I decided to look a little further into his life and career. When it comes to biographies, I try to find the most objective account available. In the case of Andrew Mellon, I found the options very limited, as he doesn't seem to be a popular biographical subject and books about him are few compared to other historic figures of his era. Fortunately, this author presented a fai ...more
Eric Miller
Jun 17, 2009 Eric Miller rated it really liked it
I saw the movie Duplicity last night and it reminded me of some espionage in the art world. The book Mellon: An American Life by Professor David Cannadine conveys how art dealer Joseph Duveen bribed household help to find out what Andrew Mellon, banker, Treasury Secretary and benefactor of the National Gallery thought about recent or future art acquisitions. In addition, Duveen gained access to Mellon’s trash to garner more details.

“Mellon had been quite correct in surmising earlier that Duveen
Jul 11, 2012 Ja rated it liked it
Mat Matera should read this book. He would love all the references to classic art treasures. Those were wholely lost on me for the most part but I loved the history and the study of his time as the primary architect of Coolidge Prosperity and have always loved his quote: "Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral li ...more
Nov 07, 2008 Rick rated it really liked it
For me, Mellon was a good book not only because it was well researched and written but because I knew so little about Andrew Mellon. I always associated him with banking and had no idea he was the source of funding of major companies like Alcoa and Gulf oil. I also didn't know he was the force behind the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. I have been to the Gallery on several occasions and never knew it was his art collection that was the initial source of the exhibits. Very interesting ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dealt more with the personal life of Andrew Mellon (and less about the details of how he became one of the richest men in America). Thought there was also a too little attention given to how Mellon go involved in politics and would come to serve as Secretary of the Treasury for 3 different Presidents.
Mar 24, 2013 Calvin rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
Fascinating read-the author had enough of his personal letters to give the reader a true sense of the man. Stalled at the end when it covered his family after his death, as frankly they were as fascinating. But all in all well worth the time spent.
Ed Hashek
Oct 09, 2011 Ed Hashek rated it really liked it
This was an amazing book - extremely well written, detailed, and researched. A great view of American history, politics, art and the Mellon family. The events of today (polarized political camps) is also demonstrated during the 20's and 30's of the last century. This is not a fast read.
Jun 27, 2007 Grumpus rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, audiobook
This is based upon the audio download from []

Narrated by: John H. Mayer

L...O...N...G...everyone's life story is interesting but this was just so long that I could not wait for it to end.
Jun 17, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it
Great information on melons work as treasury secretary after the First World War and leading up to the Great Depression
Jan 23, 2011 Les rated it really liked it
Very long but a great history of the entire family, beginning with Thomas Mellon (The Judge); really showing how they played a major role in American history.
Oct 02, 2016 Phil added it
Shelves: biography
Well written an detailed, yet easy to read. My interest was Mellon's later life, especially the National Gallery, so I skimmed the first half.
Mar 09, 2016 Don rated it liked it
Epically long, but enjoyable, referred by Art of Manliness.
Jun 17, 2009 Barbara rated it it was ok
Reading this book reminds me of Adam's texted message from the tap dance show. Good thing I do not currently have any shoelaces.
Jun 14, 2014 Chris rated it it was ok
Nedland P.
Andrew Mellon was the original supply-sider. He did wonderful things for our country, but toward the end of his life was hounded by FDR.
Chris Saxman
Jul 13, 2007 Chris Saxman marked it as to-read
David Rose's mother (Joanna Rose) highly recommended this book for its history of Pittsburgh.
Apr 17, 2017 Chris rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating biography of a very dull human being. Mellon is a major figure in the history of American business and finance and stands on equal footing with late 19th and 20th century businessmen such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Frick, Morgan, and others. Mellon followed the same path as these men building up vastly successful businesses at the end of the 19th century and, with it, enormous wealth. The twentieth century saw their businesses under attack and reviled by the public, the pres ...more
alan rated it really liked it
Jan 13, 2009
Guandu234 rated it it was amazing
Aug 14, 2012
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