Synopses & Reviews
"In this blockbuster biography, Abrahamson brings the business history of Southern California--and the national postwar housing boom!--to new levels of scholarly presentation. Building Home
offers readers the opportunity to examine the federally managed housing economy, now in disarray, at its highpoint of efficiency, as seen through the flamboyant figure of one of its most successful Mad Men
practitioners!"and#151;Kevin Starr, University of Southern California
"Eric John Abrahamson has accomplished a great feat: Using interviews and detective work in the archives, he chronicles the personality and vision of Howard Ahmanson, a man as elusive in the written records as he was imposing in the memory of those who knew him. Abrahamson tells an impressive history of Ahmansonand#8217;s innovations in the savings-and-loan business, revealing how the man and his company left a long-lasting influence on the cultural as well as business landscape of southern California."and#151;Adam Arenson, author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War
and#147;Eric Abrahamson takes us back to an earlier era for America and Southern California when dreams were realized not only for a few but literally for millions. The optimism and nerve of howard ahmanson's times are displayed with balance and critical insight. But it's clear that we have lost much of our focus on home and family. The question for us is can we somehow restore the American dream before it devolves into the mists of history?and#8221;and#151;Joel Kotkin, the author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, The City: A Global History
"Howard Ahmanson's gifts to culture in Los Angeles were enormous. As the sole owner of Home Savings, the nation's largest savings and loan, Ahmanson became one of the richest men in California by catering to middle-class dreams of home ownership. During his lifetime, he played a key role in funding the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Music Center, the Otis Art Institute and other civic organizations. With his endowment of the Ahmanson Foundation, he created an institution that provides $40 million a year in grants to benefit education, social services, healthcare and the arts in Los Angeles. Yet to most Angelenos, Ahmanson was and remains a mystery. Eric John Abrahamson's biography reveals the man and places him within the broader economic, political and cultural streams of mid-century America and Southern California."and#151;Stephen D. Rountree, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Music Center
"Abrahamson (Anytime, Anywhere) maps changing patterns of trust in government as economic steward, and mid-century regulatory approaches of mutual protection for consumers and lenders, onto the life of Howard Ahmanson, a savings and loan magnate who profited by homeownership. The kaleidoscopic approach succeeds; its subject is as complicated as his milieu. Ahmanson earned the modern equivalent of about ,000 as a teenager before helming the 'largest savings and loan of any kind in the country,' with nearly two billion in assets. A decade after the war ended the percentage of savings deposited in savings and loans more than doubled; forward-thinking Ahmanson diversified risk by loaning to individual residents rather than few large entities. However, he also reflected mainstream social ideas of his day: though some 'marginalized' borrowers benefited from his loans granted on the basis of housing quality, until federal regulation shifted, minorities continued to suffer from systematic avoidance of lending in pockets of poverty. At heart, this is about a son surpassing his goal to earn back a family company lost when his father died, but Abrahamson's dense analyses make this study relevant to today's debates about how to fairly regulate the financial marketplace. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
is an innovative biography that weaves together three engrossing stories. It is one part corporate and industrial history, using the evolution of mortgage finance as a way to understand larger dynamics in the nationand#145;s political economy. It is another part urban history, since the extraordinary success of the savings and loan business in Los Angeles reflects much of the cultural and economic history of Southern California. Finally, it is a personal story, a biography of one of the nationand#145;s most successful entrepreneurs of the managed economy and#151;Howard Fieldstad Ahmanson. Eric John Abrahamson deftly connects these three strands as he chronicles Ahmansonand#8217;s rise against the background of the postwar housing boom and the growth of L.A. during the same period.
As a sun-tanned yachtsman and a cigar-smoking financier, the Omaha-born Ahmanson was both unique and representative of many of the business leaders of his era. He did not control a vast infrastructure like a railroad or an electrical utility. Nor did he build his wealth by pulling the financial levers that made possible these great corporate endeavors. Instead, he made a fortune by enabling the middle-class American dream. With his great wealth, he contributed substantially to the expansion of the cultural institutions in L.A. As we struggle to understand the current mortgage-led financial crisis, Ahmansonand#8217;s life offers powerful insights into an era when the widespread hope of homeownership was just beginning to take shape.
About the Author
Eric John Abrahamson is co-author of Anytime, Anywhere: Entrepreneurship and the Creation of a Wireless World and founder and principal of Vantage Point History, a consulting firm that focuses on history, public policy and communications.
Table of Contents
1. Father as Mentor
2. Among the Lotus Eaters
3. Undertaker at a Plague
4. The Common Experience
5. Building Home
6. Scaling Up
7. Home and the State
8. Political Economy
9. Big Business
10. The Crest of a New Wave
11. Southland Patrician
13. Short of Domestic Bliss
14. Breakdown of Consensus
15. Crisis of the Managed Economy
16. A New Way of Life
17. A Personal Epic
Abbreviations Used in Notes