This book is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, other in the manufacture of sorrow.
– Erik Larson.
This is a fascinating book. Yes it is a great read full of suspenseful moments, and at times horrific details, of the murders by H. H. Holmes in Chicago circa 1890s. Yes it is a great book about the Columbus World's Fair that was built in Chicago in 1893 by America's greatest architects. Yes it is entertaining and yes it is historic.
But what makes this book fascinating to me is the fact that it's a case study of entrepreneurship in America in the late 1800s.
The project at hand was the World's Fair and the man behind it was Daniel Burnham. Burnham was a successful Chicago-based architect when his firm was selected to design and manage what most thought was an impossible undertaking: build a World's Fair that makes America (and Chicago in particular) proud. Expectations were very high given the astounding success of the World's Fair in Paris a few years earlier at which the Eiffel Tower was unveiled.
Burnham was not a man with small vision. He was known for this frequent admonition:
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.
Burnham made no little plans indeed. He built the Montauk–the first skyscraper ever.
Once built, the Montauk was so novel, so tall, it defied description by conventional means.
He was one of the most celebrated entrepreneurs of his time and this book is about how he managed to take on something so ambitious, so impossible, and made it a reality.
Burnham had to deal with government bureaucracy, inflated egos, unexpected setbacks, budgetary issues, amongst other things. Sounds familiar?
The Burnham story is a testament to the American innovative spirit. It's also an inspiration to all entrepreneurs and those who "choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible."
Are you one of those lucky few? Find out if you got what it takes. Read this book.