Empire Builder: John D. Spreckels and the Making of San Diego

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This book tells the story of the son of the major sugar magnate, Claus Spreckels – John Spreckels, and the role he played in developing San Diego into what it is today. Claus Spreckels immigrated from German-speaking lands and was able to build up a sugar empire in California and Hawaii in the 1800s. One of his sons, John, helped to start a steamship line in San Francisco and became more and more involved in San Diego after the 1906 earthquake. While, at times a ruthless businessman, even to his own siblings and children, John always had a special place in his heart for his adoptive hometown.

This book, at times, reads like a booster book, elevating the life of a particular man and the city. Nothing is too small to mention or be talked about. One does really get a sense of San Diego history to know much about the man. There is not too much introspection. While John was not a perfect man, at times, it feels like any of John’s enemies are always wrong and that he can only do right. An interesting bit of California history.


Reviewed By:

Author Sandra E. Bonura
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 440 pages
Publisher University of Nebraska
Publish Date 2020-Nov-01
ISBN 9781496222916
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue December 2020
Category History
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