The Scrapbook is pleased to note that Philip Anschutz, chairman and CEO of The Weekly Standard’s parent company, has just written a book that not only adds some authorial luster to our own ranks but makes a genuine contribution to our understanding of America. Out Where the West Begins: Profiles, Visions & Strategies of Early Western Business Leaders by Philip F. Anschutz, with William J. Convery and Thomas J. Noel (Cloud Camp, 392 pages, $34.95), is published this week, and available at bookstores and at Amazon.com.
How was the West won? It’s a question for which there will never be a single definitive answer, but Out Where the West Begins shows us one way to understanding.
In the hundred years between the beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries, an astonishing variety of business entrepreneurs, visionaries, inventors, and all-purpose risk-takers headed toward the Pacific to build, swiftly and largely from scratch, a frontier empire and distinct American region. They marshaled resources, settled towns and cities, created institutions, and connected the country by road, wire, and rail. They made the West a magnet for immigrants and dreamers. And they did it by putting their lives and money at risk, sustained not by government or even political doctrine, but by the larger purpose of building a society of limitless potential.
Philip Anschutz has spent a lifetime studying the lives and works of these pioneers, and frames his thesis in the form of a series of deft biographical essays. They range from the architects of business empires (James J. Hill, John D. Rockefeller) to financial wizards (A. P. Giannini, Jay Cooke), inventor-visionaries (Cyrus McCormick, Henry Ford), and master communicators (Harrison Gray Otis, Carl Laemmle). Not all were angels, of course, but each gave the West the means to grow, and something of its distinctive character.
Images and perceptions of the American West have been reflected, and in some cases distorted, by mythology. By directing our attention to the business pioneers whose hands, hearts, and brains made the West possible, Anschutz puts that image into sharper, and more accurate, focus.