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The Merchant of Power: Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  36 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews

A timely rags-to-riches story, The Merchant of Power recounts how Sam Insull--right hand to Thomas Edison--went on to become one of the richest men in the world, pivotal in the birth of General Electric and instrumental in the creation of the modern metropolis with his invention of the power grid, which still fuels major cities today. John Wasik, awarded the National Pre

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Paperback, 288 pages
Published December 23rd 2008 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published March 7th 2006)
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Todd
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I approached this book conversely to the way many others did; I already knew a bit about Insull, but not much about Edison aside from the bubblegummy movie stuff. A great deal was learned about both regardless. This book examines two completely different personalities -- one, of an inventor (Thomas Edison) and second an innovator (Sam Insul). And makes it clear that inventions are not innovations. In a subtle manner it also draws a point that certain kind of innovations only leads towards disast ...more
Judy Aulik
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The community where I grew up was badly affected by the collapse of the Insull empire. One of my historical interests is his electric railroad system: just think about how efficient transportation would be in Chicagoland if not for greed and the Great Depression!
But I digress. This biography is well worth the effort to obtain and to read. It patches together the history of many of the quirky north suburbs while being a fascinating narrative.
Stephen Rynkiewicz
Samuel Insull is a Horatio Alger hero in John Wasik's sympathetic telling, except the story arc is rags to riches to rags. This keeps the Bloomberg News reporter from being too critical of Insull's frothy churn of the Jazz Age stock bubble. But it does energize his description of the transformative change carried by Insull's Midwest power lines.
Stephen
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars for a good, detailed history that doesn't get too dense or boring...might deserve another but I couldn't shake the sense that the author was somewhat predisposed to be more lenient with Mr. Insull and his actions.
Elise
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of how electricity came to dominate our lives is usually told through the lives of its inventors. By focusing on the business genius who brought us centralized power, John Wasik fills an important gap in our understanding of how our lives became in separable from the electrical grid.
Debbie
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