A Full Cup: Sir Thomas Lipton's Extraordinary Life and His Quest for the America's Cup (Hardcover)

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If you were clattering down the cobblestones of Clydeside, Scotland in the 1850's, you might have bumped into a scrawny teenager wheeling a barrow from docks laden with basic foods from local farms.  Tommy Lipton was a grocer's son, eking out a living close to the margins of destitution.  His father was a master of the word "no"... while his mother was an open door to possibility.  And in the decades ahead, Thomas Lipton built a fabulous food enterprise based on innovation, perseverance and passion. From his humble beginnings, Lipton never forgot where he came from -- and treated the poor like royalty.  Unfortunately, in a stuffy/snobby old world across the pond, the powdered wig set treated him like a vermin.  Never more was this as apparent as his constant and shameless "black balling" from the Royal Yacht Squadron -- even though Lipton assembled five spirited challenges to the greatest yacht trophy in the world, The America's Cup.  Lipton redefined sportsmanship, and for this, he was revered by millions of Americans.  He was part P.T. Barnum.  Part Bill Gates.  Part Will Rogers.  But alas, because he grew out of a humble "tea bag" (which he invented, by the bye), stuff shirts like Teddy Roosevelt went out of their way to avoid him.  (And we all thought Teddy was a tolerant fellow...) Lipton's yachts were marvels.  All Shamrocks -- the last of which is still sailing off Newport today!  The only problem for Lipton was a wizard in Bristol, Nathanael Herreshoff, who had a habit of designing speed-demons on water.  Each time he tried, Lipton lost.  For decades, he lost.  And as each challenge was mounted, even Americans crossed over to root for him... so much so that after his final loss, money poured in from everywhere to have Tiffany create a surrogate cup he could steam back home with.  Sir Tea was bigger than life.  An icon of good.  Never married  -- with no children.  Yet he left the world as his family, and an indelible image that continues to live on.  And thanks to Michael D'Antonio, we will know him more than through a teeny tea bag. Beyond skipping through waves, this book is packed with tasty little morsels.  Who knew that R.H. Macy's red star logo was copied from a tattoo Macy received while working on a whaling ship?  Then there's a tale of an adventurous Scotsman named Robert Fortune (amazingly...) who bucked the Chinese penchant for beheading anyone who swiped tea seeds and planted them firmly in British Empire plantations in Ceylon and India.  Bad boy!   So, all you history buffs, pull on your boots and take a ride through the transformation of "retail", the development of sound over wires, the blaring of "ooh-gah" horns startling horses and flimsy flying machines flopping in fields.  A Full Cup is great summer reading. Bob Wells

— From Bob's Book Talk


An in-depth biography of Sir Thomas Lipton, the founder of Lipton Tea-a portrait of a remarkable self-made man and intrepid sailor.
Today Lipton means tea. However, in his time Sir Thomas Lipton was known for much more. Raised in desperate poverty, he became rich beyond his wildest dreams. He built a global empire of markets, factories, plantations, and stockyards. And his colorful pursuit of the America's Cup trophy made him a beloved figure on both sides of the Atlantic.
In "A Full Cup," Michael D'Antonio tells the tale of this larger- than-life figure. Beginning with a journey across the United States just after the Civil War, Thomas J. Lipton developed the ambition and learned the business techniques that helped him create the first chain of grocery stores. Wealthy before the age of thirty, he set his sights on the tea trade, and soon his name became synonymous with his product. Lipton's great business success makes for a compelling story of innovation and achievement. Moreover, though, Lipton's most intriguing creation was a public persona-one of the first formed with the help of a modern mass media-that appealed to millions of ordinary people, as well as the elites in America and Europe. Concocting simple stunts like elephant parades, Lipton mastered the new art of obtaining free publicity. With shameless self-promotion, he became one of the world's most eligible bachelors, a patron of the poor, and ultimately reached legendary heights when he revived the competition for the America's Cup. With one losing attempt after another, the gallant Lipton, who didn't even know how to sail his own yacht, became ever more popular. D'Antonio's biography brings to vivid life this remarkable figure.

About the Author

Michael D'Antonio is the author of many acclaimed books, including "Atomic Harvest, Tin Cup Dreams, Mosquito, The State Boys Rebellion," and "Hershey." His work has appeared in "Esquire," "The New York Times Magazine," the "Los Angeles Times Magazine," "Discover," and other publications. Among his many awards is the Pulitzer Prize, which he shared with a team of reporters for "Newsday."

Praise For…

"A Full Cup celebrates a remarkable man: a great philanthropist and entrepreneurial tradesman, blessed with style, flair and, most of all, great spirit."
-The Washington Times

"Lipton made all the right moves, and there are few flaws in Mr. D'Antonio's nicely crafted volume."
-The Wall Street Journal

"Entertaining and instructive"

"A Full Cup turns the life of grocer and tea entrepreneur Thomas Lipton into a thrilling story you won't be able to put down."
-Connecticut Post

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781594487606
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Publication Date: July 8th, 2010
Pages: 368