Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow
Review by Dappered Arts and Culture Correspondent Ben Madeska
The story of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company is the story of modern America, the modern world. As perhaps the wealthiest private citizen in history, Rockefeller set the bar for modern capitalists, utilizing every advantage he could find, legal and less-than-legal, to destroy competition and maximize profits. Along the way, he established the first trust, one of the largest and richest multinationals in history, and many business practices still common today. A towering figure even among the other tycoons of his era, Rockefeller viewed his work as putting order to chaos and had no patience for those lacking vision who stood in his way. Competitors, and increasingly the public, viewed him as a tyrant.
In many ways, the rules of capitalism that we live by are the rules that Rockefeller wrote. The debates about wealth, the reach of business, and the relationship between individual enterprise and government regulation that Rockefeller provoked are still raging today. The companies formed by breaking up the Standard Oil trust remain among the largest companies in the world. Rockefeller is without a doubt, for better and worse, one of the most influential figures in history. “Titan” explains why.