American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States
By Larry Schweikart, PhD, and Lynne Pierson Doti, PhD
This formidable tome (535 pages, including more than 50 pages of notes) scrutinizes U.S. entrepreneurship from multiple perspectives, including the following:
- Historical: Going back to the establishment of the Virginia Company in 1606, analyzing several entrepreneurial eras, from the time of budding New-World enterprises to the current global market;
- Biographical: Providing descriptions of key individuals, from pioneering early 17th-century merchants to 21st-century high-tech wizards;
- Philosophical: Including a synopsis of George Adam Smith’s 1776 work and observations about “the spiritual side of capitalism”;
- Psychological: Embracing discussions of the “entrepreneurial type” and the so-called entrepreneurial “life pattern”;
- Organizational: Offering capsule descriptions of companies, from Astor’s American Fur Company to Google;
- Economical: Encompassing the “Entrepreneurial Explosion” from the 1820–1850 era to the recession of 2008–2009;
- Lexical: Defining an entrepreneur as “the person who takes the risk to create material wealth in the economic realm.” There are those, of course, who would add the necessity of creativity, originality, or innovation in such a definition, but authors have the right to delineate the scope of their inquiry.
American Entrepreneur is an ambitious, sweeping survey of vast and complex territory—whole books could be (and have been) devoted to each of the many entrepreneurs, companies and industries discussed in the book. However, there is sufficient detail to make the capsule description of King Gillette’s safety razor, the brief tale of Wells-Fargo’s adventure, and the snapshot of Smith’s FedEx enterprise quite engaging and instructive.
So, if you want a microscopic analysis of an isolated business trend, a thorough study of a single industry, or a comprehensive description of a business tycoon’s life, look elsewhere. But if you seek a worthwhile overview of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs throughout the history of the U.S., peer into Schweikart and Doti’s telescope. It’s worth a look.