Mellon: An American Life by David Cannadine Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Mellon: An American Life

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.

Following a boyhood in nineteenth-century Pittsburgh, during which he learned from his Scotch-Irish immigrant father the lesso

Following a boyhood in nineteenth-century Pittsburgh, during which he learned from his Scotch-Irish immigrant father the lessons of self-sufficiency and accumulation of wealth, Andrew Mellon overcame painful shyness to become one of America’s greatest financiers. Across an unusually diverse range of enterprises, from banking to oil to aluminum manufacture, he would build a legendary personal fortune, tracking America’s course to global economic supremacy. Personal happiness, however, eluded him: his loveless marriage at forty-five to a British girl less than half his age ended in a scandalous divorce, and for all his best efforts, he would remain a stranger to his children. He had been bred to do one thing, and that he did with brilliant and innovative entrepreneurship. The Mellon way was to hold companies closely, including such iconic enterprises as Alcoa and Gulf Oil. Collecting art, a pursuit inspired by his close friend Henry Clay Frick, would become his only nonprofessional gratification. And by the end of his life, Mellon’s “pictures” would constitute one of the world’s foremost private collections.

Mellon’s wealth and name allowed him to dominate Pennsylvania politics, and late in life he was invited to Washington. As treasury secretary under presidents Harding, Coolidge, and finally Hoover, he made the federal government run like a business—prefiguring the public official as CEO. But this man of straightforward conservative politics was no politician. 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. The New Deal overthrew Andrew Mellon’s every fiscal assumption, starting with the imperative of balanced budgets. Indeed, he would become the emblem—and the scapegoat—for the Republican conviction and policy that the role of government is to help business create national wealth and jobs. At the age of seventy-nine, the former treasury secretary suffered the ultimate humiliation: prosecution by FDR’s government on charges of tax evasion. In the end Mellon would be exonerated, as he always trusted he would be, and throughout the trial, which lasted more than a year, he never abandoned what had become his last dream: to make a great gift to the American people. The National Gallery of Art remains his most tangible legacy, although he did not live to see its completion.

The issues Andrew W. Mellon confronted—concerning government, business, influence, the individual and the public good—remain at the center of our national discourse to this day. Indeed, the positions he steadfastly held reemerged relatively intact with the Reagan revolution, having lain dormant since the New Deal. David Cannadine’s magisterial biography brings to life a towering, controversial figure, casting new light on our history and the evolution of our public values.
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    Priscilla

    Mar 11, 2017

    rated it
    it was amazing

     · 
    review of another edition

    Andrew Mellon was such a stereotypically dour, humorless, emotionally stunted banker that he’s probably the reason bankers have that reputation. This personality can be blamed on his Scotch-Irish heritage and his father, who was a similar personality. Life was about hard work and accumulating wealth. There wasn’t room for cultivating a personal life or anything else, so his marriage was a shambles, and his two children were a mess. His son Paul seemed to have found some sort of peace in later li

    Andrew was not a self-made man, but his father was; and Andrew turned out to be the most capable of his brothers in building his father’s wealth into an impressive fortune. The Mellon brothers were financiers and bankers. The most famous companies associated with them are Alcoa and Gulf Oil. Half of this book is devoted to Andrew’s life building his fortune, and the other half is devoted to his life as Secretary of the Treasury (the greatest since Alexander Hamilton, it was often said), under three Presidents–Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. He presided over one of the greatest economic booms of our history in the 1920s, and he was still there when the Depression took hold. The Depression was not his fault, but his life-long commitment to a laissez-fair philosophy when it came to the economy meant that he was not supportive of any governmental involvement to fix it, and it gave him the reputation of being oblivious to the country’s suffering. In his world, a capitalist free-enterprise economy suffered natural ups and downs, and this was just one of them that would eventually work its way out. The fact that millions of people would suffer while that happened was one of the unfortunate consequences; their jobs would eventually return.

    After a lifetime of praise and veneration, he found himself in the center of the bull’s-eye in his late 70s and early 80s after FDR was elected. Mellon hated the New Deal, and FDR hated him and his ilk. Mellon spent the last years of his life defending himself against FDR’s personal vendetta, charges of fraud and a lengthy tax evasion trial, from which he was eventually completely exonerated, but not until after his death. Both of his parents lived into their 90s, as did Paul. The enormous stress at the end of his life undoubtedly hastened his death.

    Mellon’s father’s idea of philanthropy was to give his fortune to his sons (he hated the idea of charity), so Andrew had no foundation to build on. He did start making contributions to the University if Pittsburg later in life, but his primary focus was a National Gallery of Art. He had started to collect “pictures” after his wife betrayed him, and the only female solace he found was in the paintings of aristocratic British women that he began to collect and hang on his walls. By the end of his life he had one of the greatest collections of art of his age, and he was determined to give it to the American people. Ironically, it was FDR who had to accept the gift on Mellon’s terms in the middle of his tax trial (there is absolutely no evidence it was meant as a bribe, since he had been working on the plan for decades, and he was near the end of his life, with this task being his final one). To FDR’s credit, he did not refuse it.

    This aspect of Mellon’s life, his love of art and the desire to share it with his country (the NGofA is free), humanizes him in a way that no other aspect of his life does. He was cold, shy and inarticulate, but he was moved by art.

    He was also a decent, loyal, honorable man, who was deceived and betrayed by his disloyal and dishonorable wife. He was a brilliant banker, a creative genius for business with an eye for opportunity. Many thousands were gainfully employed in the companies he created. He was an outstanding Sec. of Treas., who understood that what’s good for business is good for America. The Depression wasn’t his fault, but he believed it was an ill that must be endured in a free-enterprise economy subject to ups and downs, and that the government should not try to cure it. He believed in small government, fiscal responsibility, and the universal benefits of trickle-down economics. It had worked for him for eighty years, and he saw no reason why it shouldn’t continue to work. Consequently, while he was a transformative figure in his time, he failed to adapt. By the beginning of the 1930s, the Andrew Mellon philosophy was dead.
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    Bob Wallner

    May 14, 2017

    rated it
    really liked it

    Shelves:
    biography,
    audible

    A very interesting biography of a man that time has somewhat forgotten about. Unlike Rockefeller, Carnegie or Morgan who liked to be in the limelight, Mellon preferred, especially early on, to be a “behind the scenes” guy. He liked keeping his business dealings private and wholly within his circle of influence. Starting off as a banker, he and his brother soon found themselves investing in and ultimately controlling businesses. Although they didn’t directly run any, they put men in charge who wo

    More interesting that the business life of Mellon was his personal life. In his mid-40’s he married Nora a woman half his age and very restless. The time of their married life reads very much like a soap opera. He was always working and she was the restless house wife. The author coveys that Mellon truly did love Nora. The other supplies evidence that even during their bitter divorce where she was discovered to be unfaithful he never used it against her. All the while she was lying to the newspapers about abuse and neglect to take him down. All the while, he never threw allegations of adultery against her.

    Mellon’s character was questioned many times during FDR’s time in office. FDR, in a politically motivated charge, used the IRS to attack people who bad mouthed him and his policy. The people of money at the time were great targets. For several years the Roosevelt administration used unethical and illegal methods to try to prove Mellon was a criminal. Every time they tried, Mellon came out victorious, but left him scars among society as his private earnings and savings for future philanthropy were exposed.

    This is now a second book that I have read that has scorn the Roosevelt administration for using harassing tactics and illegal means to harass men who opposed them. As one of the “Top rated Presidents” ever, I am interested to find out more about the duress his administration used not only against the wealthy, but any who opposed him.

    I feel the author has done a very good job of not writing a biased biography. As much as possible he keeps his feelings out of the mix. As an example, during Mellon’s time as Treasurer, the author acknowledges that there was a very high probability that he was still influencing the businesses he once owned. He also he acknowledges that businesses that Mellon was “friendly” with were often awarded government contracts. These are not the acts of a wholly moral individual.

    All and all an excellent biography of one of the richest men in America.
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    Eric

    Dec 18, 2017

    rated it
    liked it

    Andrew Mellon was a man so hopelessly dull that the first 6th of the book is about his father, and each chapter contains excerpts from his autobiography. David Cannadine has done his best considering the subject, fleshing out what would be his most enduring legacy in the National Gallery of Art, showing the development from pedestrian art collector, to amassing one of the finest collections in the nation. I wish that there was more done with his time during the Coolidge and Hoover administration

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