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THE CHANGE MAKERS: From Carnegie to Gates, How Great Entrepreneurs Transformed Ideas into Industries

Maury Klein, Author . Holt/Times $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6914-3

"The watershed event in American history is not the Civil War but the industrial and managerial revolutions of the late nineteenth century," asserts Klein (Rainbow's End) in this lively survey of influential American entrepreneurs. He draws a clear distinction between such entrepreneurs and robber barons who left no concrete legacy and argues that the 26 men (yes, they're all men) he celebrates here share more qualities with artists committed to creating something new and valuable than with their more notoriously rapacious commercial brethren. Drawing on a vast store of vivid anecdotes, Klein shows that his subjects, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Wanamaker, are as idiosyncratic as many artists are; a comparison of Klein's profiles of Henry Ford and Warren Buffett defines the extremes of the personality spectrum from curmudgeonly to congenial. The artistic metaphor fades, however, once the focus shifts to the men's work as innovative producers, organizers, merchandisers, technologists and investors: all were driven to succeed with a decidedly nonbohemian dedication to business epitomized by Thomas Edison, who worked so much that his daughter Madeleine first realized she had a father on a family trip to an ore-separating mine. While many of these men became philanthropists to share the fruits of their success, others kept their fortunes to themselves. For those following the Microsoft antitrust case, Klein's discussion of his entrepreneurs' run-ins with the law (nine have butted up against the Sherman Antitrust Act) will illuminate the shifts in government policy toward entrepreneurship and competition over the last century. (Apr. 11)

Reviewed on: 02/10/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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