The Merchant of Power

Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis

Palgrave Macmillan Trade

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 fuels major cities today. John Wasik, awarded the National Press Club Award for Consumer Journalism, had unprecedented access to Sam Insull's archives, which includes private correspondence with Thomas Edison. The extraordinary fall of a man extraordinary for his time is revealed in this cautionary tale about the excesses of corporate power.


Praise for The Merchant of Power

"Brilliant . . . brings Insull back to complicated life, and should revive interest in a forgotten giant."--Chicago Sun-Times
"[A] focused look at one of the most interesting historical figures you've never heard of . . . a fascinating cautionary tale."--Fortune
"Does a fine job of telling the early story of utilities, moguls and scandal."--Chicago Tribune
"One of the most magnetic and powerful con artists of the Great Depression was Sam Insull. Patron of the arts, philanthropist and Thomas Edison's right hand, he shafted thousands of investors large and small. . . . I found the work of John Wasik not only personally enthralling but an informal history of that traumatic time."--Studs Terkel
"[A] bittersweet biography of one of the titans of American industry, business and finance . . . Highly readable. . . ."--Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Wasik writes well, and Insull is a complex man whose life and times makes worthwhile reading."--Publishers Weekly

"Bloomberg News columnist John Wasik points out in a new biography, Merchant of Power, Insull started as the financial manager for a big man--not Ken Lay, but Thomas Edison. . . ."--The New York Sun

"Wasik [has] taken his cue from current corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom in deciding to pluck Insull from semiobscurity, as many of Insull's contemporaries (including FDR) believed him to be guilty (he was acquitted) of orchestrating the first large-scale corporate deception."--Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • John F. Wasik is one of America's most prominent business and finance journalists and the author of nine books on investing. His column for Bloomberg News, the world's third largest news service, is read in more than 400 newspapers worldwide in five continents.





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    The Merchant of Power

    Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis