28 Oct

I feel I finally understand who Rockefeller was

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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow is a great work telling Rockefeller’s life in the context of his family, his beliefs, and his time. I only had a superficial, almost vague understanding of Rockefeller and his role in American history. I knew he founded Standard Oil and was a ruthless (but not a violent) monopolist. I didn’t know he basically founded The University of Chicago or historically black Spelman College (named after his mother).

Rockefeller was a complex person, who was amazingly generous and amazingly stingy at the same time. He was in some ways progressive (for his time) and reactionary at the same time. The storytelling is masterful. 35 hours (in the Audible version) went by quickly, and at no point did I get bored or want to skip over. I learned a lot about Rockefeller and his legacy, but also about the Gilded Age in American history, the birth of the petroleum industry and the rise of Standard Oil.


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