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Building home : Howard F. Ahmanson and the politics of the American dream / Eric John Abrahamson.


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Abrahamson, Eric John.
Publication date:
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2013.
  • Book
  • x, 357 p., [24] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 273-344) and index.
  • Introduction
  • Father as Mentor
  • Among the Lotus Eaters
  • Undertaker at a Plague
  • The Common Experience
  • Building Home
  • Scaling Up
  • Home and the State
  • Political Economy
  • Big Business
  • The Crest of a New Wave
  • Southland Patrician
  • Influence
  • Short of Domestic Bliss
  • Breakdown of Consensus
  • Crisis of the Managed Economy
  • A New Way of Life
  • A Personal Epic
  • Conclusion.
"Building Home 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 nation'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 nation's most successful entrepreneurs of the managed economy --Howard Fieldstad Ahmanson. Eric John Abrahamson deftly connects these three strands as he chronicles Ahmanson'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, Ahmanson's life offers powerful insights into an era when the widespread hope of homeownership was just beginning to take shape. "-- Provided by publisher. "This book is not only a biography of Howard F. Ahmanson but also the story of the financing of the postwar housing boom and the tremendous growth of Los Angeles. Americans have long believed that homeownership is fundamental to the strength of our democracy and the character of our people. Victory in World War II, combined with new government policies designed to stimulate mortgage lending, sparked a tremendous surge in rates of homeownership in the 1950s. With savings and loans providing more than half of the mortgages for these homes, the industry enjoyed a golden era in its history--especially in southern California. Among its peers, Home Savings & Loan Association of Los Angeles was a giant. By 1954 it had more customers and assets than any other thrift in America. Through its real estate development entities, the company played a leading role in the postwar suburban explosion that made LA the quintessential postmodern city. As the crown jewel among a handful of mortgage-related businesses launched and controlled by Howard F. Ahmanson, the company generated philanthropic capital to build L.A.'s cultural centers and finance the campaigns of the region's leading politicians. 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. Like many elites, Ahmanson shared a fundamental confidence in his ability to lead the nation to prosperity. His death in 1968 came just as the era of deregulation was beginning. In this new era, the central role of the savings and loan in financing the American dream diminished and Home Savings was sold to help create one of the biggest branch banks in America--Washington Mutual"-- Provided by publisher.

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