This chatty, informal history of the Goldman and Sachs families was not at all what I expected. This is no formal history of the great financial house of Goldman Sachs, no instructive tale of banking lore. Fisher meanders through 150 years of family history like a loquacious aunt, throwing off anecdotes and idiosyncratic personal appraisals of family members, dropping brief mention of scandals, then dallying over details of mundane daily affairs. The men of the family are handsome and intelligent, the women beautiful and elegant, the children far above average. She mentions the deficit of attention that the children suffer from their parents, but does not delve into their emotional lives in any detail. She uses colloquial expressions and cliché's with abandon: "The cat was out of the bag." "Tall dark and handsome..." "Sam, a rock ribbed Republican..." This is an easy and pleasant book to read, but not particularly informative.
The author sometimes misstates factual details, especially in the financial arena. She uses footnotes to some original sources, but also refers to popular non fiction. She relies on authors like Steven Birmingham and Lisa Endlich for many details. The result is a mostly uncritical and occasionally gushing assessment of the family and the firm.
I cringed a few times, particularly when, at Henry Goldman's funeral, the author describes how her father quoted Polonius and attributed it to Hamlet. He asserted that the deceased might be summed up in a few words, namely the "To thine own self be true" speech. There was apparently no recognition that this speech was made by one of the biggest blowhards in Shakespeare, full of trite syllogisms that were crafted to seem insufferable. There was no mention of the irony that this same speech includes the admonition "neither a borrower nor a lender be." The author quotes it without comment or correction.
The Sachs family gets very little room in this history. The author devotes most of the book to her immediate relatives. The Goldman family has a fascinating history, but this account of their history is only mildly entertaining.
Written by Henry Goldman's granddaughter, this well researched tale does an excellent job of explaining the early days of Wall Street and how the Goldmans and the Sachs got together to form the most powerful brokerage firm. The firm was actually founded by Henry's father Marcus and his good friend Joseph Sachs who also founded a top boy's prep school. At first the Goldman's and the Sachs were very close and several of their family were married in "arranged" fashion. … more
"When Money was in Fashion provides a much needed and fascinating look into the life of one of Wall Street's original elder statesmen. Fisher's story is both revealing and personal and provides behind-the-scenes insight into the formative period of Wall Street's growth." --Charles Geisst, Author of The Last Partnerships and Wall Street: A History
"Most Americans know more more about string theory than they do about high finance -- and even less about the character, family background and inner life of Wall Street's principle protagonists. This beautifully written and quietly revealing biography provides a timely, fascinating and discretely unflinching account of the life of Henry Goldman -- the sixth child and second son of Bertha and Marcus Goldman, the founder of Goldman Sachs, and a key if complex force in the evolution of the firm during the first two formative decades of the 20th century. Written by Goldman's granddaughter, June Fisher, it combines a rare inside family portrait of America's most powerful banking dynasty with an unusual degree of elegance, irony and restraint. Anyone interested in the history and lineage of Goldman Sachs will be riveted by Ms. Fisher's story." --Ric Burns, documentary filmmaker
"When Money Was in Fashion is a fascinating and enlightening window into a major part of Wall Street history: the now legendary investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs ...