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Titan summary

Ron Chernow

The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

4.5 (93 ratings)
30 mins

Brief summary

Titan by Ron Chernow is a biography of the American industrial magnate John D. Rockefeller. It chronicles his rise to immense wealth and power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as examining his business practices and philanthropic legacy.

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    Young John D. Rockefeller’s family relocated often thanks to his absentee father.

    Around the year 1723, a German miller called Johann Peter Rockefeller, together with his wife and children, collected their belongings and headed for the United States. After initially arriving in Philadelphia, they settled on a farm in Amwell, New Jersey, acquiring a few properties over time. It was a modest start for a family that would, just over a century later, count one of the richest men in American history, John D. Rockefeller, among their number.

    The man later known as “the oil titan” was born John Davison Rockefeller in 1839 in Richford, New York. He was the second child and first son of William “Bill” Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison Rockefeller.

    Those first few years were spent in Richford. It was a small town with a schoolhouse church, but its sawmills, gristmills and whiskey distillery signaled its position as a growing industrial center.

    In the early 1840s, Rockefeller's father decided to relocate his family to the more dignified town of Moravia, some 30 miles north of Richford. The rest of the hard-drinking, hillbilly Rockefeller clan was left behind. Bucolic Moravia marked a halcyon period for young John, as he watched his father’s logging business boom.

    The family was religious. Rockefeller was brought up a Baptist, and the Church was an institution that would impact Rockefeller’s life significantly. Not only was Rockefeller to become the Protestant work ethic incarnate, Baptist religious dogma also taught him the value of continuous self-improvement and honor.

    However, in the spring of 1850, the family moved once more – this time to Owego on the Pennsylvania border – after Bill was accused of raping the young househelp. Bill himself was generally a shadowy figure during Rockefeller’s childhood. He was a distant traveling salesman who was often absent for months at a time.

    In his absence, Eliza gave Rockefeller tasks around the house, and he matured rapidly. In fact, he was more of a father than a brother to his siblings.

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    What is Titan about?

    Titan (1998) is a comprehensive biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., the original oil tycoon and founder of Standard Oil, the industry’s biggest name through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book tells Rockefeller’s story from his humble childhood through to his becoming the richest man in American history and his quirky retirement. It provides an insight into Rockefeller’s personal life, business practices and philanthropic efforts.

    Titan Review

    Titan (1998) by Ron Chernow is a captivating biography of John D. Rockefeller, one of the most influential figures in American history. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • It provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man who built an empire and shaped the modern world.
    • The book offers detailed insights into Rockefeller's ruthless business strategies and his impact on the oil industry and philanthropy.
    • Through a meticulously researched narrative, Chernow brings to life the complex character of Rockefeller, making the story absolutely compelling.

    Best quote from Titan

    Rockefeller got his first job at Hewitt and Tuttle on September 26, 1855. For the rest of his life and more than his birthday, Rockefeller celebrated September 26 as Job Day.

    —Ron Chernow
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    Who should read Titan?

    • Lovers of biographies and inspiring life stories
    • Advocates and skeptics of capitalism
    • Entrepreneurs looking for inspiration

    About the Author

    Ron Chernow is an award-winning author of several best-selling books, including The House of Morgan, The Warburgs, Washington: A Life and Alexander Hamilton. He has been awarded the National Book Award, the George S. Eccles Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, in addition to seven honorary doctoral degrees.

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    Titan FAQs 

    What is the main message of Titan?

    The main message of Titan is the life and impact of John D. Rockefeller.

    How long does it take to read Titan?

    The reading time for Titan varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Titan a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Titan is a worthwhile read, offering insights into the life of one of history's most influential figures.

    Who is the author of Titan?

    The author of Titan is Ron Chernow.

    What to read after Titan?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Titan, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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