The story of J.P. Morgan is the story of American finance, and no one tells it in more detail than Jean Strouse. But do not take it lightly, it's three weeks of your life.
What distinguishes Strouse, as a historian, from someone like Daniel Yergin (author of 'The Prize') is her wonderful focus on relationships. Every interpersonal nuance is enunciated. Every friendship explored. Every letter written read. The story is more than a timeline, it's a feeling.
Included is the time Morgan and his friends pissed off Morgan's father, also Pierpont, and announced the departure of a gold-filled ship to England, then turned it around, debarked the gold, and sold it at an inflated price.
J.P. Morgan: celebrated, powerfully unambiguous, oligarchically connected, pillar of American history. The man with the bushy furrowed brows, pudgy fat nose, and bulging adams apple. As a school boy, he was infirm, aloof, and disliked. As a business titan his stubby fingers horned on every corner of gilded America.
During the gold standard, prices responded quickly to species flow.
The beginnings of the Morgan family are also explored. The first generation were Calvinists, who emigrated to the new world and found a trading post on a mid-west crossroad. Morgan senior inherited their motel and turned it into a chain, while branching off into the banking business. In those days opening a bank was the coolest thing young money could do, and that's what Morgan senior did.
Then he move to England to facilitate the transfer of European old-money into American railway bonds. International banking had been since the Medici's a family affair.
The beauty of this book is that it emphasizes what banking is really about. There is nothing about efficient algorithms or big-O programs, and everything about people.
I recommend this read to anyone new to finance, with time, discipline, and desire to explore a unique view into the history of the richest empire the world has ever known.