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The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy
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The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,564 ratings  ·  92 reviews
“Makes a reader feel like a time traveler plopped down among men who were by turns vicious and visionary.”—The Christian Science Monitor

The modern American economy was the creation of four men: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan. They were the giants of the Gilded Age, a moment of riotous growth that established America as the richest, mo
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  1,564 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Start your review of The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Two pretty solid books mashed messily into a single volume. The lives of the Tycoons are recounted here, but they are interrupted and interspersed by chapters chronicling the overall development of the US industrial economy. These chapters are good in and of themselves: the section on the American machine tradition and the origin of interchangeable parts is excellent and one I will likely return to when I need a refresher on antebellum industrialization. The final chapter on the ludicrous pseudo ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is not the history of the topic I would recommend. Allowing for what seems to be solid research, Morris is too adulatory of the technological advances and hard driving, semi-pathological, approach of the titans he writes about. He seems happy to note instances where Ida Tarbell got it wrong. He occasionally adds a short section on the collateral damage, but early on he makes it clear that he admires the smart ones who saw where technology could take them, and has little but contempt for wor ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
A little to dry for my tastes
Begins in the 1850s with the nascent happenings of industrialization
Wish I had a stronger background in the stock market and economics
Jeremy Perron
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Charles Morris' book deals with how the United States went from a patched together society after the Civil War to having one of the most powerful economies in the history of the world. Many historians have clashed over the `great man' theory and social history, this book gives you a bit of both. The world was changing and that change was going to come regardless of who was in charge. Nevertheless, these four individuals were responsible for the direction that it ultimately took.

From what I know
Ann Mcelligott
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I wanted an introduction to the era of the "robber barons" without having to read long biographies of the men focused on this book (and I know such biographies have been written). Morris does not simply provide biographical material on the four men, but he places them in the rapidly developing economy of the era. Following the Civil War, the country rapidly moved from an agrarian/artisan culture, a country of farmers and independent craftsmen, to a mechanized industrial culture. In many ways the ...more
Akhil Jain
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
My fav quotes:

Page 24 |
"The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any citizen, including single women and freed slaves, to take possession of virtually any unoccupied 160-acre tract of public land, for a $12 registration and filing fee. Live on it for five years, build a house and farm the land, and it was yours for just an additional $6 “proving” fee."
Page 24 |
"No other country had conceived the notion of educating farmers and mechanics, and the Morrill Act schools are still the foundation of the state
Hamish Seamus
I found this a difficult book to follow. From the title, one would expect it to be a combined biography of Carnege, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Gould, and that it would either progress chronologically (what were each of them doing in 1960? 1970? 1980?), or else progress through the individual personalities (Carnege birth to death, Rockefeller birth to death, etc). In fact, the book progresses more like: follow Gould for a while, follow Carnege for a while, primer on 1970s steel production, back to ...more
Berry Muhl
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some will consider this revisionist. Others, like myself, who've already cracked enough books on the subject to be roughly familiar with the subject matter, will know better.

I purchased this book as part of a lengthy research project into the nature of human society and politics. (The disciplines I'm delving into include evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, paleoanthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, history, sociology, economics, and political science.) By the time I got ar
Eric T.
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was somewhat disjointed. It would jump from biographical tales of the eponymous tycoons to the development of the industrial economy in America to the development of professional management. Regardless it was chock full of interesting concepts and rather esoteric economic history. If you are a buff of business history you may like this.

The part that did not appeal to me was the two chapters or so explaining the machinations and schemes of Jay Gould on Wall St. It is very dense with fin
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Not what I expected. I thought this would be more of a straight biography, but there was so much financial stuff in here that I was totally lost. He either needed to explain stuff better or refocus the book. Long section about some gold deal Jay Gould was involved in that also sucked in the Grant administration, but it took me THREE readings before I had any idea what was going on. Then we got into anti-trust stuff and I was completely lost. I'm giving up for now, but I may pick it up again when ...more
This book was okay. I was hoping for a defense of the so-called Robber Barons. Mostly what I got was the history of various items. It was all over the place. It does have some useful information which is why I AM keeping the book. Overall it was definitely a let down.
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book tries to cover too much ground, as a result most topics are just touched upon. The writing style is very tedious and academic. This book is basically a synopsis of the industrial revolution in the United States.
Jan 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Great concept, terribly written. Got halfway and had to stop
Sean Brennan
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
An excellent history of the rise of the Production Process from 1815 to the First World War. Highly readable, informative and enjoyable.
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
A great tale of post war America and its rise a true industrial powerhouse. The book begins in 1865 with the death of Abraham Lincoln and spirit of entrepreneur he instilled in the American populous. Fighting against the South wasn't just about Slavery of African-Americans but also the freedom of the American people to own and do what they want. Southern laws prefered the class/caste base system that the British rule left over.

So this begins the story of Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Ja
Samuel McDermott
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Tycoons by Charles R. Morris explores the explosive growth in industry that occurred throughout the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. Morris accounts for America’s rapid growth through the lives, successes, and ventures of four of the most famous business magnates in the history of the United States and the world: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J.P. Morgan. Morris provides detailed financial and industry statistics as well as stories and pe ...more
Brad Luttrell
Apr 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-reads
It's funny reading tech news today. How did we ever live without this new innovation? It often leaves the impression the poor fools of the past were mere monkeys, picking fleas off each other to survive.


I read this book to get a better understanding of how America's early industry evolved. It was a great reminder of something Scott Galloway says—the mighty will fall. Ye old Great Brittain's manufacturing industries never saw us coming. Quickly and without warning, the United States pioneer
Chris Miller
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, biography, history
In 350 pages or so, Charles R. Morris uses the four tycoons of the title to weave an industrial, business, and economic history of the United States during the 19th Century. He covers a lot of ground, and yet provides a great deal of applicable detail. He moves from the factories in the Connecticut River basin that were able to perfect machining so fine as for parts to be interchangeable, and how that level of detail, led to the mechanization of American industry that put it into the world leade ...more
John Browning
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great historical book about how the U.S. early economy was shaped and about the relatively few men who molded it to their advantage. The book can get a bit dry at times but I found it fascinating enough. I find that I still see these personality types, tactics and strategies being used today in larger and small companies. Exaggerations, arrogance, downright lies, deceit etc. Most of these men operated within or just over gray lines of the law at the time while some just stepped right over lega ...more
Jason Oliver
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-events
The full title is The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy. This is a very interesting book focusing on the post civil war era into the the early 1900s. I learned so much about financing, railroads, steel, and manufacturing. My conception of JP Morgan changed for the better and my view of Carnegie, and Gould changed for the worst, though my knowledge of them all was very limited. My opinion of Rockefeller stayed the same. ...more
Aiman Adlawan
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a great book about the business life of greatest american entrepreneurs during the 19th century. I really wanted to read this book because I wanted to learn more about these gigantic names in business. Such a brilliant story. These people really knew what type of business can make them money and how to run them and manipulate the people and the market around it. The Steel Fabrication which made the industrial revolution prosper. The crude oil business which ignited ever engines that was bui ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This book is a highly mixed bag. On one hand, it's a thoughtfully researched history of gilded age economic changes and profiles of four men who played an outsized role. On the other hand, it's badly organized, frequently exhausting, and a bit scattershot, with an annoying libertarian perspective sprinkled heavily throughout. On the balance, I wouldn't recommend, and in finishing it, I realized why I abandoned it the first time I read it. That said, I learned a fair bit and will likely follow up ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you like American history this is a great read. It gives a perspective on how our world was shaped by leading businessman of the late 1800's. And they had a massive impact.

Really well written and researched and provides some fresh perspective in a number of characters, events, and philosophies. I really like the last part about Taylorism and how horrible it was. I also liked his take on Andrew Carnegie as a very bad man.

I felt this was very even handed overall.

And it inspired me to read mor
James Thomas
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this economic history book of the industrial revolution in America post civil war. It did include stories of Rockefeller, Gould, Carnegie, and Morgan but also included a modern analysis of foreign and domestic circumstances which helped these men and others (Singer, Ward, Sears et al.) become tycoons in their respective industries. Ultimately, these men, like others today (Gates, Jobs, Bezos, Buffet et al.), had/have the entrepreneurial vision and smarts to become capitalist superstars. ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, history
First. This is not not a biography of the four tycoons as much as it is a trawling history from the end of the Civil War through the early 1900s.

However there are many lessons in the boom/bust cycle of frothy investing that are playing out again today with technology firms.

A great read that goes several manager structures deeper than just the figureheads and how that impacted the everyday man. Just be prepared for chapters of context that are skim-able.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Great book if you have a good knowledge of each single tycoon as it shows episodes in which they confronted/ linked with each other. However, it is not a good account of every single tycoon. I'd even dare to say that most of the book is focused on what was going around the Tycoons, other than telling detailed experiences of each. However, I understand having 4 mini bios in one book is not simple task.
I wouldn't recommend it.
Rachel Wanlass
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Even though this was a textbook for my Economics 1740 class, I really enjoyed reading this book. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan are so cool and their lives have some of the best advice for business majors! It was a good read. At times, I didn't always know what was going on because the chapters do jump around at times, but it was good! ...more
Aug 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Somewhat misleading title - the book certainly touches on the lives of the Tycoons, but also addresses other lesser known figures and reads as a economic history of the US vs. UK at times. The more interesting parts of the book were when the author touched on the non-titular tycoons- such as those tycoons who created the US armaments industry and set the stage for later manufacturing boom.
David Shaffer
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the Tycoons, I have read individual biographies on Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller, but as a synthesized book which covered both these people and the age I would recommend to all interested in the robber baron period.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
One of my favorites, and it was very unexpected. With the Robber Barons on the cover, you'd think it was to be entirely about them. That is not the case. A really great insight into how American business and industry flourished in the 1800's. ...more
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Charles R. Morris

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