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A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
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.
Andrew Mellon, one of America’s greatest financiers, built a legendary personal fortune from banking to oil to aluminum manufacture, tracking America’s course to global economic supremacy. As treasury secretary under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and finally Hoover, Mellon made the federal government run like a business–prefiguring the public official as CEO. He would be hailed as the architect of the Roaring Twenties, but, staying too long, would be blamed for the Great Depression, eventually to find himself a broken idol. Collecting art was his only nonprofessional gratification and his great gift to the American people, The National Gallery of Art, remains his most tangible legacy.
“A fascinating biography. . . . A compelling portrait of a dour and lonely financier who was wounded in love, disappointed in his children and, tragically, ill-rewarded by his government. . . . Mr. Cannadine paints a vivid picture of 19th-century Pittsburgh as a crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Among Mellon’s customers or business partners were a Who’s Who of American tycoons. . . . A sprawling work for a sprawling life.” —Roger Lowenstein, The New York Times
“Though scarcely known today, Andrew W. Mellon was a colossus in late 19th-century and early 20th-century America. He would come to play a major role in the management of the American economy, but first he built one of the country’s great fortunes, one that would rank him today with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. . . . David Cannadine, the distinguished British historian [gives us] a well-written, richly detailed chronicle.” —Steve Forbes, TheWall Street Journal
“Magisterial. . . . David Cannadine’s well-wrought account of Andrew Mellon’s life, with its sometimes poignant echoes of a Buddenbrooks or indeed The Great Gatsby, is in its nuanced richness likely to remain another lasting memorial to a man who, for all his meticulous concern with day-to-day business, devoted surprisingly little attention to his posthumous reputation.” —A. J. Sherman, The Times Literary Supplement
“David Cannadine has done readers on both sides of the Atlantic a great service in writing an erudite and compelling biography of a man immensely prominent in his day, virtually forgotten now, who believed, as his father did that the ‘serious business of life was business.’ . . . Cannadine shows exceptional skill in describing how, late in life, Mellon
became a serious collector of art and the lasting contribution he made to American culture in creating the National Gallery in Washington D.C.” —Stephen Graubard, Financial Times
“David Cannadine, our foremost historian of the British aristocracy, has painted a rich, full-length portrait, warts and all, of one of the most important plutocrats America has ever produced. It turns out the taciturn old conservative and master collector Mellon had an inner life as well as an amazing career, which Cannadine re-creates with his usual
thoroughness, humaneness, and wit.” —Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
“British historian David Cannadine brings this important and elusive figure to life in a book that is a model of the biographer’s craft. . . . An extensive, careful, fascinating study that will satisfy the scholar and appeal to a general audience as well. . . . A welcome and much needed work.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Of all of America’s great men, Andrew Mellon is arguably the least-known and under-appreciated. Yet the life of this banking tycoon, politician and philanthropist was remarkable, and its impact on his country wider and far more beneficial than those who know of him generally believe. And it is a life that deserves to be studied more than ever, since so much of it raised issues that are relevant today. . . . [A] superb biography.” —The Economist
“David Cannadine has spent the past 12 years on this brilliant and reclusive figure. . . . There is no easy way to sum up a figure so complex, influential, ruthless and benevolent, whose faults and virtues loom equally large. . . . Cannadine has accomplished the rare feat of describing in meticulous detail the personality of someone one can admire and even feel sympathy for, who is nevertheless not very likable.” —Meryle Secrest, The Washington Post
“Absorbing. . . . Cannadine . . . has the gifted writer’s eye for a good story. He is a rarity among modern academics: a historian who writes well and has the storyteller’s instinct for exploring personality and its effect on events. . . . [H]e dares to write history as if he wants his readers to enjoy reading it. . . . [T]he book often reads as compulsively as one of those immense fictional sagas that weigh down the bestseller lists. Sin and redemption are always close to the center of those family tales, and so they are in Mellon.” —Russell Baker, The New York Review of Books
“Cannadine tells [Mellon’s] story in copious detail with considerable skill and sensitivity. . . . One [can] appreciate the biographer’s difficult but ultimately remarkable accomplishment of dispassionately reconstructing the history of the Mellon dynasty and the world it inhabited.” —Eric Arnesen, Chicago Tribune
“Mellon is an extraordinary life in the fullness of all its complexity and contradictions—of a man, a family, their associates, and of America from 1850 onward. An unvarnished portrait painted in the full light of day.” —Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury
“Fine and very readable. . . . Indisputably the best written, most reliable and insightful biography of one of America’s greatest capitalists and empire-builders.” —The Plain Dealer
“The rehabilitation . . . [of] the Alan Greenspan of his time. . . . Cannadine . . . a distinguished historian . . . enjoyed luxurious access to Mellon’s records. . . . The outcome: a book that delivers on the dignity and the achievements of Mellon. . . . A complete biography, containing also—how could I forget to mention it?—details of Nora Mellon’s adultery, Ailsa’s self-absorption, and Paul Mellon’s education in philanthropy. It introduces us to a man we need to know, and all there is to say is: Welcome, Andy.” —Amity Shlaes, The New York Sun
“Grand successes and epic failures, engrossingly recounted. . . . [A] lavish, multifaceted portrait of the early-20th-century American businessman, emphasizing the man rather than the money. . . . Cannadine’s insightful account reveals Mellon as a man who took personal risks that seemingly defied his upbringing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This biography . . . is incredibly useful as a guide to the pipelines of finance of the late 19th century. It is also a terribly sad story. . . . Ultimately, what saved Mellon from utter gloom—and utter unlikability as a biographical subject—was his love of art.” —Louisville Courier-Journal
“As Cannadine eloquently shows, Mellon was a true genius at the art of making money. . . . [His] recounting of Mellon’s public career make[s] this a worthy contribution to our understanding of the man and his era.” —Booklist (starred)