There is a beautiful romance in this book, a romance with achievement in an age when achievement was valued. It can happen again, and a good first step is to study the lives and values of the greats of the last century to learn how and why.
The Gilded Age produced not only some of the richest men and women of all time; its freedom and opportunities built a nation of people of superlative character. This fantastic book from 1901 provides an in-depth look at the lives and choices of some of the most famous among them. The idea is to document the traits that make for great entrepreneurs.
Here it is presented with beautiful personal profiles. From the interviews and reporting, certain common features of success emerge: the need for a work ethic, the necessity of sacrifice, the role of being alert, the centrality of passion to success, the urge to serve others, the desire to break the mold, the willingness to adapt to change, profound attentiveness to real conditions, and also the biographical details of how a person goes from rags to riches.
These stories come out of an age of free enterprise. The American population was very anxious not to demonize the "men of wealth" but to celebrate and emulate them. There was a popular magazine called SUCCESS that was expertly edited. It ran a long series of interviews and profiles. This great book collects the best of them in a single volume. Most of these people have been forgotten, though their examples were once held up for generations of school kids.
Capitalistic success is heralded in these pages. But it's not only about money. It's about success in every field, so poets, dancers, composers, philanthropists, and journalists are in here. But the common thread here is entrepreneurship, which is that special capacity for acting on good judgments about an uncertain future. This quality is the driving force of the market and civilization.
Some of the names that were once known by everyone but are tragically forgotten today, all beautifully profiled here: Marshall Field, Alexander Bell, Helen Gould, Philip Armour, Mary Proctor, Jacob Could Schurman, John Wanamaker, Darius Ogden Mills, William Dean Howells, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, John Burroughs, James Whitcomb Riley and many others.
You will find out more about these people through these bite-size reports by top-flight journalists than from full biographies. You get to hear their own words about how they evaluate their success. It's a great book for kids too, offering unforgettable life stories and lessons.
Because it was first published in 1901, a time when individual character truly mattered for success, there are ways in which this book is old fashioned but in the best possible sense: there is an extolling of the bourgeois virtues here, many of which seem to be lost today. In this way, this book is not only educational; it is deeply inspirational.
It's true that this book is not perfect, and some of the profiles are incomplete. However, we can assume a certain intelligence on the part of readers. The great aspect of this book is that it profiles some of the great capitalists, philanthropists, and writers of the Gilded Age, and each of them tells a story of great achievement without government help. The true history of this country can be read through the private-sector achievements of its people, and this book gets that idea. It is both beautifully written and wonderfully inspiring.
As a keen supporter of Austrian Economic Principles I am very disappointed in this book as one of our core values is honesty. "In their own words" should be regarded as a warning flag as each of these people would obviously have wanted to be seen in the best possible light and to at least one of the people in this book that meant not telling the whole truth.
In the case of the much celebrated Alexander Graham Bell the man actually is successful only in commercializing an invention which he stole from a poor Italian immigrant. Bell shared a work shop with Antonio Meucci who more than a decade after inventing the telephone could not afford to renew his Patent. Bell is very far from being a man of "character" and should be remembered for what he really was - a liar and a thief.
In support of the statements above please view this declaration from 2001 by the US House of representatives:
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