Summary of Mellon

An American Life

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Mellon book summary
The secret lives of a famous capitalist, Secretary of the Treasury, philanthropist, art-collector and scandalized cuckold.


8 Overall

7 Applicability

7 Innovation

9 Style


You will savor this account of the tumultuous life of Andrew Mellon, an arrogant turn-of-the-last-century industrialist and millionaire. He was torn to tatters by a scandalous divorce and, later, by opposing politicians. However, he transcended those humiliations by establishing the lavish National Art Gallery just before he died. "Andy" Mellon's life (1855-1937) stretched across critical years when the U.S. was transformed from an appendage of Europe to a superpower. His work as treasury secretary was held in such esteem that the Republican Party considered running him for president. However, even given his role as head of the Treasury, Mellon could not curtail the 1920s margin-buying stock market mania that led to the 1929 crash and the Great Depression. He is mostly remembered for the National Art Gallery and for his sex-scandal divorce fight. David Cannadine offers a highly readable biography, which is very balanced though Mellon's son, Paul, commissioned it. However, some readers may decide to skim through the extensive coverage of the politicized "Tax Trial," and Andy's ordinary trade in minor art and small firms. getAbstract highly recommends this extraordinary saga.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What drove industrialist Andrew Mellon
  • How his new ventures became giant companies
  • How he served as treasury secretary in three administrations
  • How this greedy capitalist established the National Art Gallery
  • How he survived marriage, divorce, impeachment, infamy, trial and taxes


The Rise of the Mellon Clan
Andrew Mellon came from a Scotch immigrant family. His father, Thomas Mellon, seemed destined to become just a Pennsylvania farmer, but he broke the mold. Fired with ambition, Thomas became enamored of the idea of becoming very wealthy. He admired the values...
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About the Author

British historian David Cannadine spent 12 years preparing this definitive biography. He has written other histories and co-authored The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815.

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