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Villard: The Life and Times of an American Titanby Alexa De Borchgrave
Synopses & Reviews
Henry Villard was one of the most remarkable and important figures to shape the tumultuous history of nineteenth -century America. A preeminent Civil War journalist, an industrialist, and a financial maverick, his courage, perseverance, and farsightedness made him the equal of such titans of his day as J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie.
Penniless and not speaking a word of English, Villard emigrated in 1853 from Germany at the age of eighteen, leaving behind the privileges and expectations of his affluent, stifling parentage. Within five years of arriving on American soil, he had mastered the language and was covering the events of the day for the nation's top newspapers. Villard reported firsthand on the Lincoln-Douglas debates and later, from the front lines of the Civil War, filed graphic, hard-hitting reports that earned him the admiration of the newspaper community. His circle of acquaintances included President Lincoln, General Grant, and the famed abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, whose daughter he married.
When the Civil War ended, Villard's penchant for risk-taking and adventure and his uncanny business acumen led him to become a restless innovator, breaking new ground in many areas. In journalism, he launched the first news syndicate in the United States; in the world of finance, he was a pioneer of venture capitalism and one of the first to employ the leveraged buyout. He catapulted himself into presidency of the Northern Pacific Railroad and shared with Thomas Edison the vision of an electrified nation. His investment in Edison's electrical enterprises eventually paved the way for Villard to mastermind the consolidation of what is now known as the General Electric Company. In 1883, triumphantly driving the last spike himself, he completed the nation's second transcontinental railroad. Later that year a financial panic nearly ruined him, but within a few years he made a phenomenal comeback based on his faith in Edison and the future of electricity. Throughout his life, Villard's unfailing ability to impart his convictions to others, his talent for meeting the right people and gaining their confidence, enabled him to conquer adversity.
Drawing on unpublished letters, Henry Villard's German and English memoirs, and many other sources, Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave's and John Cullen's fast-paced, absorbing biography vividly re-creates Villard's times and tells the rags-to-riches story of a German immigrant who made major contributions to his adopted homeland.
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