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The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  3,730 Ratings  ·  193 Reviews
Published to critical acclaim twenty years ago, and now considered a classic, The House of Morgan is the most ambitious history ever written about American finance. It is a rich, panoramic story of four generations of Morgans and the powerful, secretive firms they spawned, ones that would transform the modern financial world. Tracing the trajectory of J. P. Morgan’s empire ...more
Paperback, 848 pages
Published January 13th 2010 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1990)
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Matt
Jan 29, 2017 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
In his first massive biographical tome, Ron Chernow definitely takes up an undertaking that proves daunting and yet highly interesting. Chernow sought to explore not only financial ties in America through the ages, but to explore a powerful financial, business, and political force that has lasted for more than a few decades. The Morgan name has been deeply ensconced in the American fabric (the international one as well) for well over a century, helping to steer world events and political ideals ...more
Matthew
6 May 2010: Phew! Finally finished this book. Overall comment: Unique and informative financial history, but rather too many threads to keep track of, so the writing loses momentum.

In contrast to other reviews, I found Part III on 1948 to 1989 the most interesting. There are so many nuggets of info here that help chart the evolution of banks from 1960-90, and a lot of the issues continue to echo today -- banks trading against clients, too big to fail, capital shortfalls, etc. Above all, it seems
...more
Suzanne
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my background, I possess college degrees in both Political Science and Finance. I am fascinated with the subjects of history and economics. So, when I started reading House of Morgan, I quickly realized that the book in my hands was the culmination of all my favorite subjects put together. Ron Chernow, already on my radar as a foremost biographer, was apparently in charge of financial policy studies for a public policy foundation during the 1980′s. With ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
"It is not a large bank, as Wall Street banks go," said the New York Times. "A dozen other institutions have much larger resources. ... What really counts is not so much its money as its reputation and brains. ... It is not a mere bank; it is an institution."
I had heard of the House of Morgan and knew it was prestigious, but being on the west coast, and a person without wealth and no hopes of it, I didn't really know much more than that. This book presented itself to me on Goodreads, and I was c
...more
Mahlon
Feb 17, 2017 Mahlon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Ron Chernow... But even I have to admit that unless you are truly interested in banking and the history of each little piece of the House of Morgan, you only have to read the first half of this book which covers the crucial period 1830-1950.
Alan
Feb 15, 2010 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ron Chernow is one of the very best historians of our time. But The House of Morgan is not his finest work.

The research is there—-exhaustive as it always is with Chernow’s financial histories. The problem is that he, himself, seems to run out of enthusiasm for his subject. Two-thirds the way through it, after having chronicled more than 180 years of the family and its multifarious banking manifestations, his presentation begins to show an attitude of “Geesh, let’s get this thing over with.” His
...more
Lobstergirl

An exhausting 720 pages of text (followed by extensive notes, bibliography and index) covers all the houses of Morgan and the most significant Morgan men (Junius, Pierpont, and Jack) from even its pre-Morgan days, when George Peabody began the firm (before retiring he took on Junius Morgan) in the early 19th century, up to the 1987 crash. The London branch, Morgan Grenfell, is covered. The bank was, if not the most upper-crusty, certainly among the top white-shoe and Waspy banks. Jews were not w
...more
Christopher St
I picked this book after reading Alexander Hamilton by Chernow (the best biography I have ever read). This is a historical masterpiece, and it earned a 4 from me instead of a 5 only because the subject matter was a little but less captivating to me than Hamilton's life, but this isn't totally fair to the author. The book is excruciatingly and wonderfully detailed. I can't imagine how a person writes more than one book like this in their lifetime, but chernow has done it.

The Morgan family has pla
...more
Grumpus
Jul 15, 2016 Grumpus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audiobook
Whoa, this was not the longest book I've listened to, but it was the looongest book I've listened to. If you never thought banking was a dry topic before, this may make you think otherwise. And this is coming from the guy who enjoys this author. His book, Alexander Hamilton is one of my all-time favorites and I know I would have been extremely unlikely to have read/listened to it if I would have read/listened to this one first. So, I guess my takeaway is read Alexander Hamilton if you want to ex ...more
William Ramsay
This is a very long book that suffers from two problems. First it is too long and drags with repetition toward the end. And, two, it was written in 1989, which means it covers the exuberance of the 'new' Wall Street banking but misses the disaster of the dot com bubble and especially the the crash of 2007, which shows that his exuberance was totally misplaced. Also Chernow has a tendency to adulate the rich which often ignores the fact that they often gain at others losses. The best part of the ...more
Arminius
Feb 21, 2008 Arminius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ron Chernow writes with such well thought out detail that it seems he never misses anything.“The House of Morgan” won a National Book Award and describes a powerful American family. It is a very detailed book, which is his style, that describes how banking became big in America and how the Morgan’s became more powerful than the Rothschild banking dynasty. If you ever read the great book “Creature from Jeckyll Island” and followed the author’s reasoning for not needing a Federal Reserve Bank then ...more
Grahamshircore
Feb 14, 2017 Grahamshircore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work
More of a slog than The Warburgs, as it's less of a story and more of a fantastically well researched historical document which dips into shorter 'stories' at times. Something to study rather than to read for leisure.
Aaron Million
Exhaustive look at the House of Morgan in particular, and financial history in general, from the mid 19th century to the end of the 1980s. I liked the book - it reads like an epic novel; Chernow writes so well that at times it almost seemed like I was reading fiction. He maintains a solid grasp on the personalities that influenced and dominated the bank over the decades, and skillfully shows how the bank transformed itself from a staid, fairly high-minded institution to a cut-throat raider with ...more
Marks54
Sep 05, 2012 Marks54 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I spent a good deal of spare time in the early 1990s reading biographies of plutocrats, especially those in the "guilded age" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is the first of the series that I recall reading. It is a family history of the Morgans, running from the patriarch Junius Morgan, who was Pierpont's father and the founded of the dynasty. The major portion of the book, of course, concerns J.P. Morgan or "Pierpont", who was a controlling figure in world finance at this time ...more
David Wilusz
Aug 29, 2014 David Wilusz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impressive tome, probably not for the casual reader. However, serious students of banking, Wall Street, finance, and American business will find a comprehensive history of the House of Morgan, from origins in Victorian England through the late 1980's. Needless to say, many changes have taken place in the industry in a century and a half, and Ron Chernow steps through them all with lucid writing and great detail, as time and again the bank is swept up in major national and international events ...more
Robert
May 08, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Would you like to know how the world really works? Pick up your skirt, grab your balls, and read this book!

Somewhat of a beast, and certainly not light reading. The title and stated subject of this book is misleading. It is not just about a bank. It is the history of the modern world and how finance made it all happen. At the heart of it all was a small but powerful bank, powered by Ivy-league elites and men who pulled themselves up from meager origins alike. This is how the world we know it was
...more
Tushar
Dec 25, 2012 Tushar rated it it was amazing
The book is a stunner, especially for those who are fond of 20th century history. Wonderfully divided into 3 ages, the first age is slow and has some excellent extracts, specially the one in which the Morgan Founder tries to save 1 pound by waiting for another bus. The diplomatic age sets the book apart and is awesome. Amazing read, you will meet all famous and infamous people of the 20th century in this book. Something I strongly recommend for anyone. The best biography I have ever read. $25 we ...more
Jan
Oct 28, 2015 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book this size needs a mission or a thesis. Unfortunately such a construct - if existing - escaped my attention with the result that it became a long, monotonous tale of two-dimensiomal characters and a flurry of institutions morphing in and out of the Morgan name. Especially the period after Pierpoint Morgan became a death-march. Net assessment: Boring, without insight and definitely not worth the time.
Sebastien
Jun 07, 2009 Sebastien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Highly recommended. Post WWII history of the banks wasn't quite as interesting, but I liked how Chernow wrapped things up. Was quite prescient in foreseeing some of the problems we would face with the banks today, especially the problem of over-leveraging and the banks continuing to take riskier and riskier bets with the creation of fancier and fancier financial products that hid the true risk from the public and purchasers of those financial products...
David Wrubel
Apr 07, 2009 David Wrubel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
US Financial History is a passion of mine, and this book is a must read if you want to understand how we got where we were, and even where we are today in 2009. BIG book, but so is the subject, and Chernow is able to write this and his other biographies with a novelist's eye for detail, context, story, and plot. You have to be somewhat interested in the topics, but it is not at all dry or boring.
Kevin
An overly exhaustive history of the subject. Pretty interesting when the Morgans where still alive and influencing international policies through their immense influence. But, from the 1950s on, it was a parade of not too interesting or distinct partners in the firms. I skipped the last 100 pages or so.
Nick Kuneman
Mar 18, 2016 Nick Kuneman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history of American finance told through the rise of JP Morgan
Shantanu Sharma
Nov 20, 2015 Shantanu Sharma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
Among the finest books on the history of investment banking - recommended read for financiers.
Vijai
Nov 23, 2016 Vijai rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you purchased this book to get a glimpse into the intricacies of banking, you my friend will be sorely disappointed. Yes, the layman may find it a bit intriguing but why is a layman going to 800 page megalodon, right? It is you, an accountant or one involved in a business that deals with banking and financiers on a daily who'd buy this book wanting to know more about one of the most interest banking empires after maybe the Rothschilds.

But. Before I shoot the negatives, lets first look at the
...more
Omar Halabieh
Sep 06, 2015 Omar Halabieh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently finished reading the award-winning book The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow. As best summarized by the author: "This book is about the rise, fall, and resurrection of an American banking empire—the House of Morgan. Perhaps no other institution has been so encrusted with legend, so ripe with mystery, or exposed to such bitter polemics. Until 1989, J. P. Morgan and Company solemnly presided over American finance from the "Corner" of Broad and Wall. Flanked by the New York Stock Exchange ...more
Mark
I haven't finished this book yet, but I have gotten far enough (up to WWII) to see its value in exposing how the American populace is being gamed by socialists/monopolists/technocrats/bankers. See this frank admission from the President, as an example.

It seems anomalous that America's most famous financier was a sworn foe of free markets. Yet it followed logically from the anarchy of late nineteenth-century railroads, with their rate wars, blackmail lines [Note: I think the comma between blackma
...more
Ryan Decker
Feb 15, 2017 Ryan Decker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected this to by primarily a biography of JP Morgan the man, but he played a smaller role in the book than I expected. It's a unique book, describing the history of a family of firms rather than simply a man, a family, or a firm. I liked it. It's a unique angle on 20th century history, since the Morgan firms were so deeply involved in both the economic development of the US and world politics. In fact, it feels a bit like Forrest Gump, with Morgan bankers showing up in all sorts of importan ...more
Llew
Nov 16, 2016 Llew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book jacket says that it's essentially a history of modern finance, and it is right. An exhaustive history of not just the bank and all its various forms, plus the Morgan family, and every major figure at the bank, but also every financial collapse and geopolitical divide that involves the bank, which includes numerous wars, all the way to the 90s. You start to get an understanding as to how banks might control the world, or at least used to.

Incredibly well written and very revealing. Didn't
...more
Scott Pierce
Classic historical account of the banking giant (copy presented to me upon employment with JP Morgan in 1993).

Peabody to Pierpont, "Never under any circumstances do an action which could be called into question if known to the world."

Pierpont disliked competition after seeing the railroads go out of business.

1911 Pujo Hearing (in congress):
Untermeyer: Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?
Morgan: No sir, the first thing is character.
U: Before money or property?
Morgan: B
...more
Lloyd Hughes
Feb 19, 2017 Lloyd Hughes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr Chernow's ' The House of Morgan' is a long tedious read. But it is a very well written, thorough account of the world of banking and finance covering 150 years. It is clear the author is well-versed with his subject matter and it's nuances.

It is depressing that these brilliant people who manage financial behemoths, The financial luminaries of their time, so obstinately and arrogantly refused to learn from history and continued to make the same greed-based mistakes over and over again. This t
...more
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The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow: general discussion 1 4 Feb 08, 2015 10:22PM  
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Ron Chernow was born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating with honors from Yale College and Cambridge University with degrees in English Literature, he began a prolific career as a freelance journalist. Between 1973 and 1982, Chernow published over sixty articles in national publications, including numerous cover stories. In the mid-80s Chernow went to work at the Twentieth Century Fund ...more
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