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Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,538 ratings  ·  137 reviews
This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern ...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published June 5th 2003 by Kessinger Publishing (first published January 1st 1902)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  1,538 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Ryan Holiday
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is the preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. They are surprisingly stoic. Honest. Genuine. Packed with good advice. Normally these types of books are unreadably boring and personal. My version has only Graham's letters and none from his son so there is only one voice, one perspectiv ...more
Eric Napier
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended reading for any male over 14. Excellent reading for 2 reasons:
1) the advice is very good
2) it is hilarious.

"You can trust a woman's taste on everything except men; and it's mighty lucky that she slips up there or we'd pretty nigh all be bachelors."

"You've got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction."

"With most people happiness is something that is always just a day off. But I have made it a rule never to put off being happy till to-mo
Sanford Chee
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I thought this was a real life correspondence between John Graham and his son "Piggy", and was curious what has happened to House of Graham & Company. If it was such good advice surely the firm would have prospered or was it a case of from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations (or as the Chinese proverb goes 富不过三代).

I then realised that this was a work of fiction by American journalist George Lorimer rather than a edited excerpts of correspondence. Written in 1901 and reflecting the
Sujoy Chaudhary
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some very powerful notes, you rarely come across such first hand notes about basics of building a business. However, most of the stories the writer came up with seemed just eloquent ways to deny his son from doing what he wanted.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is book is excellent. I found it for free on the Project Gutenberg website and I'm glad I downloaded it.

John Graham or "Old Gorgon Graham" was a self-made millionaire merchant for the House of Graham & Company in Chicago and this book contains letters he wrote to his son Pierrepont at certain stages of his son's life (college life, work life, marriage). The letters were primarily written to Pierrepont as he was entering his father's business. The letters are from 1890 and I'm surprised how
Jason Furlong
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simple but timeless advice for any person young or old

This is a series of letters from a father writing to his son as he is going through college and needs a bit of good, stern advice to get him through the transition of youth and into adulthood. While it was written over 100 years ago it is just as apt today as it was then for anyone in general.
Ben Nesvig
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-reads
Some of the best advice I've found in any book. And it's the funniest book I've read this year. Also written in 1903 and free. ...more
Vinoth Srinivasan
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: exploring-me
Life simply penned into words...
Dominika Klekner
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Funny, and filled with solid knowledge about life, work, relationships and being an adult.
Simon Howard
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1902 and written by Kentucky journalist George Horace Lorimer, this is a series of fictional letters from the 'self-made' owner of a meat-packing business (John Graham) to his son (Pierrepont). The letters, which start at the point that Pierrepont goes off to university, dispense fatherly advice as his studies and (later) career in the family firm steadily progress.

This is only 76 pages long, yet is packed with quotable lines that could have been lifted from any number of self
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every page contains at least one nugget of gold wrapped in old-world (and sometimes sexist), down-to-earth charm. Here are just a few:

- Education is everywhere, free for the taking. Haul away every drop you can for everything else is screwed down tight.

- The core of anything must be sound. If the core of a pig is no good, no amount of seasoning will fix it.

- Sound conscience over gap-less knowledge.

- "Education can make you a scholar, while [time with the boys] can make you a man."

- Knowing is o
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly entertaining read with a lot of life lessons. Reading these letters makes me feel like I am sitting around the fire-side with my grandfather and his sharing his life-lessons which are deeply insightful in some cases and politically inappropriate in other cases. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants this fatherly advice.
Anshul Agrawal
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

Timeless wisdom. A very good read.

Does a College education pay? You bet it pays. Anything that trains a boy to think and to think quick pays; anything that teaches a boy to get the answer before the other fellow gets through biting the pencil, pays.

It isn’t so much knowing a whole lot, as knowing a little and how to use it that counts.

I can’t hand out any ready-made success to you. It would do you no good, and it would do the house harm. There is plenty of room at the top here, b
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hilarious but deep life lessons that go deeper than words on paper. Timeless advice relevant for any age.
Courtney Umlauf
Of course, clothes don't make the man, but they make all of him except his hands and face during business hours, and that's a pretty considerable area of the human animal. A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart, but it seldom covers a clean skin. If you look as if you had slept in our clothes, most men will jump to the conclusion that you have, and you will never get to know them well enough to explain that your head is so full of noble thoughts that you haven't time to bother with the dandruff
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amusing, but annoyingly repetitious. A fictional series of letters from an industrialist to his son, with every letter following exactly the same pattern: admonishment for something the son is doing wrong, a flood of aphoristic advice on how one's business and personal affairs should be conducted, a meandering anecdote that only vaguely pertains to the son's situation. There is almost no plot (other than the short chapter intros which only sketchily show the son's actions), and we learn little a ...more
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great book. I learned about the book through a website saying it was a must read. This book is a gem and has alot of wise advice. It is hard to follow at some points since it was made during a different time in history with different slangs and sayings that were popular for that time. But the advice given in the book was priceless. Some of the advice i received from my own father when I was younger.

This is a great book for a young man. I think everyone should take the time to read it and learn
Kaustubh Chaharia
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first started reading this book an year back, it probably didn't catch my interest a lot. I started re reading it couple of days back and the book was simply unputdownable. There are tons of timeless wisdom and aphorisms contained in this book in the format of letters from a father to his son. Each letter being dedicated to a topic/message in particular. This can go down as one of the all time greatest books written on business and life. ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economy
Didn't really like the old man's point of view, it's outdated, racist and he might be wealthy, but he is very poor in his heart. His thought of helping his son grow is to throw him out in the world and see if he swims. That's one way of doing it, but not one I agree with and very old. It had some peaces of advice you could take from it, so i gave 2 stars for that. ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: free-ebook
The merchant seems like someone unfit to offer advice. He seems to advocate the accumulation of wealth at any cost. That combined with his proclivity towards ranting make this a repulsive book for me.
Luka Rajčević
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books where you should go and read a chapter a day, because there is so much wisdom and good advice that one must take some time to have all of it absorbed appropriately. Would recommend to anyone.
David Wen
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
A few nuggets of wisdom in the correspondences between father and son. Overall, not very interesting or relevant today as they lived in a different era.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a quick and interesting book! I enjoyed all the stories he wrote about to his son and funny tangents he went on. There were some good business and life lessons in there too.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable read with little gems of wisdom which ring true to date.
Very recommended.
Hamish Seamus
May 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really like it. Practical. Unpretentious. Funny. Human.

More of this kind of thing please. "Letters from a 30-Years Married Man to His Son" "Letters from a tenured professor to his son" "Letters from a tech startup billionaire to his son" "Letters from a prime minister to his son" Paternal advice about navigating an industry is such a great framing device.

What we're really sending you to Harvard for is.split(' '))) to get a little of the education that's so good and plenty there. When it's pass
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was definitely written for a male audience, in case the title wasn't an indicator.

Aside from the examples given and the language used, you would be hard pressed to figure out this was written in the 1900s. Some of the advice given in this book were true gems and stark reminders that some wisdom is timeless.

Here were a few choice highlights of mine:

"I want to say right here that the easiest way in the world to make enemies is to hire friends."

"And when a fellow whines that he's being he
Jon Angell
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This was an interesting book which was written as 20 letters written by John Graham, the wealthy head of the House of Graham and Co. Pork Packers in Chicago to his son, Pierrepont Graham. The first letter starts during the time the son is back east getting a formal education, subsequent letters see the son come into the family business working himself from the mail room and up through the ranks of the company, until the twentieth letter in which the father is giving marriage advice and his bless ...more
Sergei Shnitman
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Came across this book on A collection of teachings from a Victorian era businessman to his son starting out in business after college. The father tries to navigate his son who is used to upper-class lifestyle to avoid vices and wrong habits in order not to fail in life.

The recipe the father gives is quite obvious: Concentration on your work, work ethics, resilience. Nowadays, in the world of tech quick millionaires and safe spaces for sensitive people - these are complete
Stephen Lubin
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most impactful book I think I've ever read, as well as one of the best. It offers great insight, perspective, wisdom, lessons, and experience in a way that humorous and digestible. It is a spectacular break down of the human psyche but presented in metaphor that captures the lessons brilliantly. I think it's amazing. The analysis of life, the distilled experience, the wisdom, it just makes this book so rich. I've never annotated more. I ended with 116 annotations and more highlights. ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Good advice from father to son. There are some nuggets of wisdom in the book, such as:

-You will always find it a safe rule to take a thing just as quick as it is offered—especially a job. It is never easy to get one except when you don’t want it; but when you have to get work, and go after it with a gun, you’ll find it as shy as an old crow that every farmer in the county has had a shot at;
-A clear mind is one that is swept clean of business at six o’clock every night and isn’t opened up for it
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George Horace Lorimer (October 6, 1867 – October 22, 1937) was an American journalist and author. He is best known as the editor of The Saturday Evening Post. During his editorial reign, the Post rose from a circulation of several thousand to over a million. He is credited with promoting or discovering a large number of American writers, e.g. Jack London.

Lorimer was born in Louisville, Kentucky, t

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