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

Charles R. Morris

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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What we think of as 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, and lived at a moment of riotous growth—and real violence—that established America as the richest, most inventive, and most productive country on the planet. They are, quite literally, the founding fathers of our economy—and, thus, of modern America.

Acclaimed author and journalist Charles R. Morris vividly brings these four men to life. On one side are Carnegie, the ruthless competitor; Gould, the provocateur in the shadows; and Rockefeller, the visionary who understood how to manage sprawling empires. These three were obsessed with progress, experiment, and speed. In steel, railroads, oil, and money markets, they rallied behind a single-minded code: bigger, cheaper, faster. And then there was Morgan, the gentleman businessman, who fought, instead, for a global trust in American business. Through their competition over the last decades of the nineteenth century, they built a powerful nation populated with consumers as well as producers, fostering the growth of the middle class. The Tycoons tells the incredible story of how four determined men wrenched the economy into the modern age, inventing a nation of full economic participation that could not have been imagined only a few decades earlier.


Praise for The Tycoons

"Morris skillfully assembles a great deal of academic and anecdotal research . . . Impressive."—The New York Times Book Review
"In an engaging synthesis, Morris persuasively describes Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gould, and Morgan as vital forces of creative destruction who undermined the localized, genteel, monopoly-ridden economy of the mid-nineteenth century. The tycoons had what today's managers often lack, says Morris: the imagination and drive to overthrow conventional limitations on growth."—Harvard Business Review
"Morris displays a cultural diarist's careful attention to detail that makes a reader feel like a time traveler plopped down among men who were by turns vicious and visionary."—The Christian Science Monitor
"Superb . . . Gracefully and eloquently clarifies these men's frequently misunderstood roles in the shaping of modern U.S. commerce."—The Providence Journal
"A lively, incisive account of a tumultuous, often misunderstood era in American economic history. A good read with a solid message."—H.W. Brands, author of The Age of Gold and Lone Star Nation
"Morris has a striking command of his material and his analysis is highlighted time and again by vivid sketches and thought-provoking comparisons with contemporary circumstances. Altogether, The Tycoons is a valuable contribution to the presentation and interpretation of one of the most vital yet all-too-often romanticized periods of American economic growth."—Kenneth Warren, author of Big Steel and Triumphant Capitalism

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead shortly after seven o’clock on a rain-soaked Holy Saturday morning, April 15, 1865. It was less than a week after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The little group of officials and family gathered around the blood-soaked bed in Will Peterson’s boardinghouse across from Ford’s Theater stood silently for several minutes. Then Mary Lincoln’s pastor, Phineas Gurley, said a short prayer, and a detachment of soldiers was summoned into the room. They placed the body in a military coffin and
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  • Charles R. Morris

  • Charles R. Morris is the author of eight books, including American Catholic and Money, Greed, and Risk. A regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, he has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is a lawyer and former banker, and was most recently president of a financial services software company. He lives in New York City.