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Titans of American industry

January 27, 2014 | Raya | Comments (0)

Carnegie   Morgan   Rockefeller   Vanderbilt
     Andrew Carnegie        J.P. Morgan        J .D. Rockefeller       Cornelius Vanderbilt


In the waning days of the American civil war Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and J.P Morgan were beginning careers that would  help America become the richest, most inventive and productive country on the planet. Through their drive, ambition, and business savvy, they created  some of the greatest industries of our time.

Shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt began making his fortune by running ferries from New York’s harbours filled with cargo and people. He began his entry into business at age 16 with a $100 loan from his mother that he used to buy a ferry. The New York Central Railroad became the centerpiece of his railroad empire, and he owned the largest rail company in the world.  He envisioned a monument that symbolized his grand power, and construction of the Grand Central Depot began- today known as Grand Central Station.  It was the biggest building in New York City and the largest rail-station in the country  spanning 22 acres.

As a boy John D. Rockefeller sold candy to neighbourhood children using the money to help support his family. Later he would go on to loan money to neighbours at interest to earn money.  At 24 years old, he invested everything that he owned into his first oil refinery and made a deal with Vanderbilt whom he supplied with the cargo he needed to make his railroad successful. This move gave Rockefeller the opportunity to corner the oil market. After offering his competitors an opportunity to sell to him early and in exchange receive cash and stock in Standard Oil, he established the country's first monopoly and became the most powerful man in the country. He then decided to build a pipeline to bring his own oil to his refineries which, once completed, was over 4,000 miles long.

Andrew Carnegie, although well-known for his philanthropy later in life, made his fortune in the steel industry.While working for Pennsylvania Railroad early in his career, Carnegie began investing in various business ventures. He left the railroad in 1865 to focus on his other business interests, namely steel. By the late 1880's, the Carnegie Steel Company revolutionized steel production in the United States and had become the largest company of its kind in the world. He built plants around the country, using technology and methods that made manufacturing steel easier, faster and more productive. For every step of the process, he owned exactly what he needed: the raw materials, ships and railroads for transporting the goods, and even coal fields to fuel the steel furnaces. This strategy helped fuel the economy and helped America become the nation that it is today.

John Pierpont Morgan was born into a financially well-off family and took over the family banking business after his father's death. He began making changes by moving from safe loans to riskier venture capital loans. In 1892 he financed the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson Houston Electric Company to form General Electric. Not only did Morgan invest and loan to businesses but he often bailed out financially strapped organizations such as the U.S. Treasury in 1895 and New York banks during the Panic of 1907. By investing and lending money to various business enterprises, Morgan played a crucial role in helping to expand business in the United States during the progressive era.

To read more about these titans of industry and how they were responsible for building massive empires in America, check out what the library has to offer:

Carnegie Vanderbilt Tycoons Rockefeller

America Rockefeller Carnegie Carnegie



A sweet history of chocolate

December 12, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)




Chocolate has a long and storied history that began with the Olmec Indians of Central America who are believed to have been the first to grow cocoa beans. Then the Mayans established plantations and restricted cocoa consumption to the Mayan society's elite in the form of an unsweetened drink made from ground cocoa beans. The cocoa bean was also used as a unit of calculation and currency. In 1502 Christopher Columbus became the first European to witness the uses of cocoa during a voyage but didn't act on the discovery. Then, in 1528, Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes established a plantation in Spain's name. In time, the Spanish begin adding cane sugar and flavorings such as vanilla to their sweet beverages. In 1585,the first official shipments of cocoa beans began arriving in Seville and the delicacy quickly spread across Europe, such that by the mid-1600's "Chocolate houses" become fashionable meeting places. The invention in 1732 of a table mill for grinding cacao made chocolate production easier and more affordable. In 1824, John Cadbury opens a grocery store in Birmingham, England, grinding and selling his own cacao bean, thereby laying the groundwork for the Cadbury empire.

Chocolate was introduced to the United States in the late 1765 when Irish chocolate-maker, John Hannon, imported cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts He began refining them with the help of American Dr. James Baker and the pair soon built America's first chocolate mill;  by 1780 the mill was making the famous BAKER'S chocolate. Further advances followed over the next century: in 1849 Domingo Ghiradelli began selling chocolate to miners, thus beginning Ghiradelli chocolates; Swiss chocolatier, Rudolph Lindt, used a machine to produce a smooth chocolate he called "fondant"; Milton Hershey purchased Geman-made chocolate equipment and produced the first Hershey bar and the first Hershey's "Kiss"; in 1922 H. B. Reese, a former Hershey employee, used Hershey's chocolate to create the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. And then, in 1930, the chocolate chip cookie was inadvertently created by Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, who, having run out of baking chocolate, decided to add chunks of a Nestle bar to her cookie dough. In the years since, many of these companies have merged, forming food conglomerates that sell everything from beverages to boxed chocolate. The competition for dominance over your tastebuds continues!

To read more about chocolate, take a look at these sweet books:

Chocolate Chocolate1 Chocolate2

Chocolate3 Chocolate4 Chocolate6




Twitter goes public

November 15, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)

Social media company Twitter began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7th and was able to raise $1.8 billion due to investors demand. Twitter priced its inital public offering at $26 (U.S.) on Wednesday but on Thursday it rose to $45.10 (U.S.) and moved as high as $50.09 (U.S.) in early trades before settling down to $46.00 (U.S.) later in the day.  Analysts, however, are skeptical that the seven year old firm will become profitable mainly due to its size and slowing growth rate. This same market buzz was seen when Facebook launched its disastrous IPO. Twitter is smaller than Facebook, with 300 million users, much less than Facebook’s one billion users. Facebook had $3.7 billion in annual revenue at its debut, while Twitter had $317 million last year.

Twitter, Inc. was founded in 2006 by Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, a former punk rocker turned computer programmer, Christopher Stone and Noah Glass. Twitter enables users to send and read "tweets", which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets but unregistered users can only read them. Twitter is now one of the ten most visited websites. In 2009, Twitter was mainly used by older adults who might not have used other social sites before Twitter. It then began moving into the mainstream when celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears and Shaquille O'Neal jumped on the bandwagon. Twitter has also been used for a variety of purposes in many industries and scenarios, such as organizing the 2011 Egyptian protest, 2010-2011 Tunisian protest and 2009-2010 Iranian election protests, or as an emergency communication system by the company itself during earthquakes, and as a place to build and promote businesses.

Here are just a few of the many books the library has about Twitter:

  Twitter Twitter2 Twitter3 Twitter4



Sears reboots

November 7, 2013 | Teresa | Comments (4)

Sears canada

It's the end of an era - Sears Canada announced recently that it will be closing some of its famous locations after Christmas.  Those locations include the Toronto flagship store at the Eaton Centre. Sears, like many other large retailers is facing the ever changing retail landscape being affected by the growing trend of on-line shopping.

Sears has been an institution in Canada since its incorporation in 1952.  This was when a partnership agreement was signed between Simpsons Ltd. of Toronto and Sears, Roebuck and Co of Chicago to form a catalogue and retail company that operated under the name Simpsons-Sears.  This arrangement continued until 1984, when Sears Roebuck, bought controlling interest of the company, which was renamed Sears Canada. 

For a detailed history of the company, log into FP Advisor, through the TPL website.  There are historical reports for many companies, including Sears.  The records include overviews of the company, as well as historic financials, including balance sheets, earnings and dividends. 

Want to explore more about Sears?  Why not try some of these titles, that are available at TPL.

Sears has been known throughout the history of the company, both in the United States and Canada, for its catalogue, from which almost anything could be purchased.  The Christmas Wish Book became a hotly anticipated delivery for most children of a certain age, which allowed for leisurely browsing of possible presents to ask of Santa. 

Original historic copies of the Simpsons- Sears catalogues are available at the Toronto Reference Library.  Want to see images of products from years ago? The library has some titles that show products that were for sale in past catalgues. 


Sears - This DVD examines the role that Sears has played throughout U.S history - its merchandise, catalogue service and its founders.

And of course, there are the books:

Sears1     Sears2    Sears3

Google it

October 22, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)




Last week Google shares reached an all time high of $1000 after it posted a third-quarter surge in profit and revenue. And because analysts have boosted their target on Google shares, who knows how high shares will go.

In 1996, PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin began working together on a research project that involved developing a search engine they eventually entitled BackRub. This search engine was designed to look at the connecting links between web pages in order to determine a site's authority. In 1998, Page and Brin set up their first data center in Page's dorm.  They decided to start a company and started looking for investors to back them. Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, invested $100,000 in the company after receiving a demo of their search technology. Eventually the pair raised over $1M. Google, Inc. was established on September 7, 1998 in a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California. The company name Google is based on a mathematical term that is actually spelled "googol" which means the number "1" followed by 100 zeros. Apparently they had no idea how to spell it and came up with the word "google" instead.

In the beginning Google served over 10,000 queries a day and quickly gained a reputation as a trustworthy source of information. By 1999, it was serving 500,000 queries a day and the company moved their business from that garage in Menlo Park to the Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Users began flocking to Google as news of their reliability, speed, effectiveness and relavance spread. In 2000, Google replaced Yahoo's own internal search engine as the provider of supplementary search results on Yahoo. Now, with more than 50% share of the total search market, Google provides search results for numerous search engines on the web.

To read more about Google and its founders take a look at these books and DVDs:

Google2 Google3 Google4 Google5

    Google6     Google7 Google8

Business scandals

September 20, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)



Everybody loves a scandal, be it about politicians, actors or corporations. Business scandals whether centered around corruption, bribery, fraud, or other greed tend to have a significant impact on the economy. Many companies fail at some point for one reason or another, but other companies are so spectacularly corrupt that they make headlines.

The business world has been rocked by one scandal after another in the past 15 years. Enron brought the first shock. The energy trading firm was a virtual cash machine, until its accounting fraud was revealed.The company filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2001, laying off thousands. And employees who had invested their retirement funds in Enron stock had the money disappear. The scandal also led to the demise of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

Then, another scandal hits the headlines.  Executives at Tyco were accused of using the company's treasury as a personal piggy bank. There were lavish homes and bonuses which included a $2 million birthday party for the wife of CEO Dennis Kozlowski. The party featured an ice sculpture in the form of Michelangelo's David, a laser show and a performance by Jimmy Buffett.

In 2003 Martha Stewart was indicted by a grand jury on charges related to insider trading. The following year, a jury found her guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

One of the biggest scandals in recent years is the epic fraud committed by Bernard Madoff, who's Ponzi scheme took tens of billions of dollars and left investors with a fraction of their savings.  In 2009 Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and is currently serving 150 years, the maximum allowable sentence.

And then, with flaws exposed at Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG in 2008, we had a 777-point one-day plunge in the Dow (plus plenty of dismal trading days that followed) and more than 7 million job losses. This scandal not only made headlines, it also affected the world economy in such a deep and profound way that we are still recovering from it to this day.

To read about these and other business scandals, check out these books:

Scandal Scandal2 Scandal3 Scandal4

Scandal5 Scandal6 Scandal7 Scandal8




Life Savers celebrates milestone

August 26, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)



Did you know that Life Savers celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012?  Back in 1912, chocolate-maker Clarence Crane wanted to create a candy that wouldn't melt in the summer heat.  He ended up creating the original Pep O Mint Life Saver. The candy's name comes from it's similarity to little life preservers and were originally called Crane's Peppermint Life Savers, Although we now view Life Savers as simply candy, it was originally sold as a "breath improver" with the original packaging picturing an old sailor throwing a life preserver to a young female swimmer with the slogan "For that stormy breath". In 1913 Crane sold the rights to the peppermint candy to Edward John Noble and that same year Noble founded the Life Savers Candy Company.

Originally the candies were sold in cardboard rolls, which were not very successful. Noble came up with the idea to use tin-foil wrappers to keep the mints fresh. He also significantly expanded the market for the candy by tempting shoppers with displays of Life Savers placed next to the cash registers of restaurants and grocery stores. Since 1913, many different flavours of Life Savers have been produced. The five-flavour roll first appeared in 1935 and three years later the classic Butter Rum flavour makes its debut. During World War II, the Armed Forces are supplied with 23 million boxes of Life Savers. Rolls of Life Savers were packed into American G.I.'s field ration kits as a reminder of home. Three varieties of Life Savers Gummi candy were introduced in 1992, and in 1994 peg bag packaging changes the way Life Savers are sold. The following year a sugar-free version makes its appearance on store shelves and ten years later Life Savers Candy Company joins the Wrigley family. In 2002 production of the candy moves from Michigan, U.S.A to Montreal, Quebec due to lower sugar prices.

   Candy1   Candy2     Candy2

       Candy               Candy                                                  

Loblaws buys Shoppers Drug Mart

August 23, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)


Loblaw Companies Ltd. recently announced a friendly $12.4-billion deal to acquire Shoppers Drug Mart. Shoppers will retain its brand name and operate as a separate division of Loblaw. Loblaw products, such as their private label President’s Choice, will be available in Shoppers stores, while some of the pharmacy retailer’s products and services, such as Life brands, will be available in the grocery retailer’s stores. The purchase of Shoppers is part of a bigger plan to give the company a larger share of urban consumers looking for convenience.

The first Loblaw Groceterias Inc. store opened in 1919 and was the first grocery store to offer a self-serve, cash-and-carry retail experience. It quickly became a hit with shoppers as it offered quality goods at lower prices. By 1928 the company expands throughout Ontario and into the U.S., and in 1939 the name Loblaws replaces the name Loblaw Groceterias on store fronts. In 1947 W. Garfield Weston, president of George Weston Limited, acquires 100,000 shares of Loblaw stock from company co-founder J. Milton Cork and proceeds to take the company to new heights.The 1950s sees store sizes expand and large parking lots are built to accomodate suburban consumers. In 1972 W.Galen Weston is appointed Chief Executive Officer and makes more exciting changes by redesigning stores and the Loblaw logo.The No Name Brand is introduced in 1978, and  No Frills stores, President's Blend Coffee, the President's Choice product line, the Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie appear in subsequent years. And now, with Galen Weston at the helm, Loblaws has begun yet another new chapter in it's 100 year history by changing the Canadian retail landscape.

To read more about these and other great Canadian businesses, check out these books:


  41lwkZJSpGL.Image._AA300_ 41+mZczlQsL._SL500_SY346_        Retail



           Eatons Retail    Retail2




It's the season of lists.

July 22, 2013 | Teresa | Comments (0)

Business lists 2This time of year has always been my favorite - and not because summer vacation is right around the corner.  A few of our venerable business magazines, around this time of the year, publish special issues of their magazines, ranking a large number of Canadian companies.

Why should this be so exciting?  These issues contain a wealth of information on companies that are of value to investors, job seekers and business start ups.  And best yet, they all cover Canadian companies. 

Years ago, our users only had access to the print versions of these publications.  Now many of these titles offer added features (some free, some paid) on their websites which allow downloads and manipulation of some of the information. 

Let's have a look at a few of these titles:


Rob 2013The Globe and Mail's July/August issue of Report on Business is their annual ranking of Canada's most profitable companies.   This issue documents the 100 biggest companies by revenue, the 50 biggest private companies, as well as industry rankings and outlooks.  The top 10 companies are given for such sectors as banks, transportation, mining, technology and wireless, retailers, oil and gas  as well as some smaller areas such as agriculture, investment dealers, management companies, life insurers.  Great stuff if you are doing an analysis of industry sectors. 


Canadian business 500 2013Canadian Business magazine, in its May issue reports on the top 500 companies to invest in for the year.   This issue includes analysis of the stock market by a number of top analysts, as well as giving a snapshot of some of the best companies in Canada.  

This list is celebrating it's 50th anniversary and includes information on how the list has evolved since its inception back in 1964. 

The issue also takes a look at the coming year in investing, exploring areas of potential growth for investors. 





 Profit 500 2013Profit magazine, which covers issues of interest to entrepreneurs, covers the 500 fastest growing companies in Canada in its 25th annual guide. 

The rankings table can be downloaded into Excel and includes rankings by city and region and by industry. 

This issue includes profiles of some of the top and fastest growing companies in Canada, as well as start up advice from successful entrepreneurs, and tips and tricks covering such areas as sales strategies, HR  tactics and favorite technology tools.





A reminder that these issues, while available online, are also available in print at a number of TPL branches. 







Beach blanket business books

June 28, 2013 | Raya | Comments (0)



Beach reading isn't necessarily literature. It may be hard to believe but there are quite a few busines books that actually qualify as beach reading material. A good beach book should have an excellent narrative flow and widespread appeal. A good beach book is engaging and a quick enough read that you can finish most of before your sunscreen wears off. With any of the following beach books in hand, all you need to remember is your towel and sunscreen. Enjoy!!


Beach Forbes: the legendary name in finance journalism.  Synonymous with wealth, grand excess, glamour, and fun as well as style, insight, gossip, and hard-nosed reporting, the media empire and the family behind it form a remarkable story that has never been told. Now, in The Fall of the House of Forbes, veteran journalist Stewart Pinkerton reveals the hidden machinations, disastrous decisions, and personal foibles of a century-old dynasty that rose to glittering heights and crashed just as spectacularly.

 A compelling narrative account of a powerful family’s dysfunction, The Fall of the House of Forbes is a parable of capitalism at its best and worst, and a metaphor for the current state of digital turmoil in media.



Beach4In 2006, hedge fund manager John Paulson realized something few others suspected--that the housing market and the value of subprime mortgages were grossly inflated and headed for a major fall.  Paulson's background was in mergers and acquisitions, however, and he knew little about real estate or how to wager against housing. But Paulson was convinced this was his chance to make his mark. He just wasn't sure how to do it.  Colleagues at investment banks scoffed at him and investors dismissed him.  Even pros skeptical about housing shied away from the complicated derivative investments that Paulson was just learning about.  But Paulson and a handful of renegade investors such as Jeffrey Greene and Michael Burry began to bet heavily against risky mortgages and precarious financial companies. Initially, Paulson and the others lost tens of millions of dollars as real estate and stocks continued to soar. Rather than back down, however, Paulson redoubled his bets, putting his hedge fund and his reputation on the line. In the summer of 2007, the markets began to implode, bringing Paulson early profits, but also sparking efforts to rescue real estate and derail him. By year's end, though, John Paulson had pulled off the greatest trade in financial history, earning more than $15 billion for his firm--a figure that dwarfed George Soros's billion-dollar currency trade in 1992.  Paulson made billions more in 2008 by transforming his gutsy move.  Some of the underdog investors who attempted the daring trade also reaped fortunes. But others who got the timing wrong met devastating failure, discovering that being early and right wasn't nearly enough.


Beach5The time was the 1980s. The place was Wall Street. The game was called Liar's Poker. Michael Lewis was fresh out of Princeton and the London School of Economics when he landed a job at Salomon Brothers, one of Wall Street's premier investment firms. During the next three years, Lewis rose from callow trainee to bond salesman, raking in millions for the firm and cashing in on a modern-day gold rush. Liar's Poker is the culmination of those heady, frenzied years—a behind-the-scenes look at a unique and turbulent time in American business. From the frat-boy camaraderie of the forty-first-floor trading room to the killer instinct that made ambitious young men gamble everything on a high-stakes game of bluffing and deception, here is Michael Lewis's knowing and hilarious insider's account of an unprecedented era of greed, gluttony, and outrageous fortune.



 Best friends Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg had spent many lonely nights looking for a way to stand out among Harvard University’s elite, competitive, and accomplished  student body. Then, in 2003, Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard’s computers, crashed  the campus network, almost got himself  expelled, and was inspired to create Facebook, the social networking site that has since revolutionized communication around the world.
With Saverin’s funding their tiny start-up went from dorm room to Silicon Valley. But conflicting ideas about Facebook’s future transformed the friends into enemies. Soon, the undergraduate exuberance that marked their collaboration turned into out-and-out warfare as it fell prey to the adult world of venture capitalists, big money, lawyers.


 Beach7Love him for saving you 50 percent on last night’s Indian dinner or hate him for cashing in big when he could be losing millions for merchants and investors alike, Mason---Groupon’s thirtysomething founder and CEO---made an incredible gamble when he turned down Google’s $6 billion buyout offer to go it alone. The experts thought he was insane. Groupon was little more than two years old and staffed from top to bottom with twentysomethings. The wild ride couldn’t last, but Mason thought otherwise, and with dreams of a potential IPO that could be massive, he liked his odds.

But did he make the right decision, or did he blow a chance to continue to grow “the fastest growing company in history”? Is Mason an Internet genius, or is he sitting on another bubble that could burst at any moment?

Welcome! We are specialized librarians in our business department and we write about current issues for small business owners and those interested in personal finance matters. For more information and resources see our Small Business & Personal Finance page.