The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance

The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance

by Ron Chernow

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Published to critical acclaim twenty years ago, and now considered a classic, The House of Morgan is the most ambitious history ever written about American finance. It is a rich, panoramic story of four generations of Morgans and the powerful, secretive firms they spawned, ones that would transform the modern financial world. Tracing the trajectory of J. P. Morgan’s empire from its obscure beginnings in Victorian London to the financial crisis of 1987, acclaimed author Ron Chernow paints a fascinating portrait of the family’s private saga and the rarefied world of the American and British elite in which they moved—a world that included Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Nancy Astor, and Winston Churchill. A masterpiece of financial history—it was awarded the 1990 National Book Award for Nonfiction and selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century—The House of Morgan is a compelling account of a remarkable institution and the men who ran it, and an essential book for understanding the money and power behind the major historical events of the last 150 years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802198136
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 01/19/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 848
Sales rank: 95,128
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

RON CHERNOW is the author of six books, including The Warburgs, a history of the German-Jewish Warburg banking family, and the award-winning biographies Alexander Hamilton and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.


Brooklyn, NY

Date of Birth:

March 3, 1949

Place of Birth:

Brooklyn, NY


Yale University; Cambridge University

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Winner of the National Book Award

“As a portrait of finance, politics and the world of avarice and ambition on Wall Street, the book has the movement and tension of an epic novel. It is, quite simply, a tour de force.”—The New York Times Book Review

“As informative and entertaining a history, especially of the period from 1880 to 1930, as this reviewer has ever read . . . Nowhere has our tenuous financial system been better described than by Chernow.”—John Rothchild, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Chernow deftly mixes biography with economics and explicates arcane matters of high finance with sparkling clarity. . . . A fascinating historical journey from Charles Dickens’ London to Tom Wolfe’s New York.”—David M. Kennedy, The Atlantic Monthly

“An astonishingly detailed and fascinating story of the Morgan banks and the men who have run them. Chernow uses his gift for description to bring out vividly the personalities of his principals.”—Don Keown, San Francisco Chronicle

“Epic . . . Chernow melds deep insights into the life and times of Morgan bankers over 150 years with the flow of world history and the growth of banking and finance. With rich detail and warmth, he brings to life the defunct species of gentleman banker.”—Bill Barnhart, Chicago Tribune

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House of Morgan 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In ¿The House of Morgan¿, Ron Chernow gives a fascinating account of the rise to prominence of the Morgan, one of the world¿s most influential banking dynasties during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The author narrates, with much clarity, the metamorphosis of JP Morgan into a powerhouse during the Baronial Age, the taming and breakdown during the Diplomatic Age, and its comeback with a vengeance during the Casino Age. Furthermore, Chernow excels in giving life to the characters of the House of Morgan, their allies as well as foes, against the economic, political and social backdrop of their time. The reader progressively comes to the understanding of how much the US financial system is indebted to the domestic and overseas tribulations of a single bank. No other US bank has been able to emulate the power and influence that the House of Morgan has exercised under its various legal disguises since its birth in the City. The eventual repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act does not offer the guarantee that JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the current incarnations of the House of Morgan, will one day be reunited again. Powerful public and private interests probably have too much to fear and lose from the rise of the Phoenix from its ashes.
PubliusAZ More than 1 year ago
House of Morgan, though lengthy, is a most enjoyable and easy read, filled with political and economic intrigue. It is especially pertinent in light of today's banking "crisis." In the book, we see the rise of central banking again, following Andrew Jackson's killing of the bank, and the role of central banks globally in terms of government policies and the financing of both governments and their policies. Detailed also are a series of domestic and global economic collapses, not unlike what we are experiencing today. The incestuous relationships between big business, big government, and big banks is entertainingly chronicled and should disabuse anyone of the notion that we have a truly free economy founded on market competition--a concept JP Morgan detested. While disagreeing with some of Chernow's assertions--the role of Smoot-Hawley in the great depression being an example, where Chernow is at variance with Milton Friedman--he has on balance produced a highly readable, entertaining, and most informative book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The House of Morgan' is a fascinating book that grasped my attention and introduced me into an intriguing world of finance that I had never before experienced. Expecting a bland, strictly analytical book about Morgan and his banking system, I was shocked to learn about all of the various personalities and characters involved in Morgan's world. This book tells an enticing story of a man and his legacy, along with the system that he helped create and refine. The author's authentic descriptions and attention to details make this book personal and quite enjoyable. Although the book is rather lengthy, it is most definitely worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be an excellent history of the American banking and finance industry. By using the House of Morgan as a vehicle for explaining the whole system and its evolution, it both personalized it and also made it eminently more readable by focusing on a smaller number of personalities which drove the change in the industry. I have only two issues with this book. First, I would have appreciated more treatment of J.P. Morgan himself. I realize that this book is not a biography of the man himself, but he is dead within the first quarter to a third of the book and the rest of the book follows the subsequent history of the bank after his death. My second issue with the book has nothing to do with the writing or quality of the book but rather with the date it was written. It covers the subject excellently up to the point it was published in the late 80's or early 90's. However, given the developments of the financial sector in the last 5-10 years, this is a book which is screaming for an update to address J.P. Morgan Chase's role in the financial crisis of 2008.
WaldoRWE More than 1 year ago
Ron Chernow is my favorite author. With all the financial turmoil today he really educates us about the importance of financial leadership.
Bookmeister More than 1 year ago
If you think today's financial crises spring from something new, read this book. You will see how time after time free markets will out, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Moreover, reading this study of the "bank of banks" will make it clearer than ever that those who do not read history and understand it are doomed to repeat it. While it can be tough reading for those not interested in the inner workings of international finance, its a load of great history for those who are interested.
rexmedford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I consider Chernow to be one of the best biographers I have read. This was an enlightening and timely read. I was astounded of the power of banking, and the fact that the Morgans bailed out the US several times, including putting us back on the gold standard. A very detailed history, written so you can actually read it, and want to read it! I have enjoyed several of Chernows other works....and this was no exception. I would have been interested in History at a younger age if the writers of it were this good. I not only learned about an iconic family, their institution, but the inner workings and ever changing world of banking....a very interesting adventure.
heathweaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although not as captivating as Titan (Chernow's biography of J.D. Rockefeller) The House of Morgan is fascinating and informative. Chernow is a master of his material; drawing the reader through the life and times of J.P. Morgan. The book doesn't make many judgements, but lets the reader decide.I highly recommend any book by Ron Chernow.
kukulaj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Accounting, money... these are ancient, fundamental, as rooted in the essential structure of reality as arithmetic. Or maybe not. This book traces the Morgan bank from its prehistory with George Peabody in 1839 England up until 1989, with the absorption of the British branch into Deutsche Bank and with the two American branches, Morgan Guaranty and Morgan Stanley, become competing colossi. Chernow does a great job of showing the coupling between the evolution of the bank(s) and the world. A cornerstone of Darwin's evolutionary theory is that biological species are not universal eternal essences like the Platonic solids, but instead are historical accidents to the core. New structures arise spontaneously and are then pruned severely. This process of co-adaptation gives rise to a marvelous display of diverse capabilities.It seems that money, accounting, finance, are very much the same sort of affair. The marketplace is a space where great creativity and powerful pruning are constantly at play. The resulting structures are constantly evolving and historical to the core.To understand the detailed mathematical relationships behind underwriting or leveraged buy-outs - Chernow doesn't help us with that at all; he just sketches the coarsest skeletal structure. But the details are constantly changing! We would need a yearly new edition! But instead, Chernow gives us the history. Sure, it would be wonderful to carry the story forward from 1990. The decades following have surely given us escapades and fireworks to match those of the century and a half that Chernow covers. But Chernow's book is surely as useful today as when it was written. The past twenty years grew out of the preceding century. Chernow's book gives an excellent background to help anyone understand more recent events in the world of banking.Chernow does a splendid job of fleshing out many key characters, the top banking executives and the star performers.Reading this book changes how I see the world. It is a transformative work.
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Lawrence_Von_Frederick More than 1 year ago
Chernow does a very good job of placing the history of the House of Morgan in its historical context. He writes well and explains most in sufficient detail. For those, like me, who have limited economic knowledge the details can be overwhelming even if readable. He places the House generally in American history but concentrates on the history of banking. The strengths of the book are the detailed biographies of the leaders of the House of Morgan and similar details about how the House, or least some parts of it, adapted to the extreme changes in banking over 100 years or so. Must read for those who want to see how banks as institutions declined and became just another vehicle for profit. The transformation explains the tenuous nature of a global economy dominated by a search for profit rather than concentrating on the core business. Part of the core business was being a guardian of quality in all types of negotiable instruments and working with clients. With those attributes gone it is sad to see business become truly a dog-eat-dog world all done to maximize profit. Certainly makes a case for government regulation as the banks no longer do that institutionally.
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