©2007 Edward J. Renehan Jr.; (P)2008 Recorded Books
"Vanderbilt's personal life is fascinating; highlights include the Vanderbilts' grand tour of Europe, his lifelong penchant for prostitutes (including the Woodhull sisters, whom Vanderbilt made the first female brokers on Wall Street) and the syphilis-induced madness that plagued his final years - material new in this biography and a testament to Renehan's typically assiduous research." (Publishers Weekly)
Cornelius Vanderbilt was, with John Jacob Astor, the first millionaire industrialist in America. Both men accumulated their millions, and contributed mightily to US industrial development, long before the "takeoff" period in the US economy, which took place in the decades after the Civil War, and took the US to preeminent status among the world's developed countries by 1900. This book suffers alittle because Cornelius was not that interesting as a person, not all that colorful, but that is offset by the new material the author brings forth about steamships, railroads and corporations in the period from around 1810 to 1860. This is a little known and little studied period, so I think it can open the eyes of many readers.
Because the book is more corporate & economic history than biography, it does not click along like many biographies ... it does not have a potboiler or gossipy base. And even I, a lover of economic history, missed some of that. But I do think it is worth reading if you are interested in US history and in US economic development.
Cornelius Vanderbilt had an iron will, was aggressive and fearless in business, and was an extremely hard worker. Other than that he really had few redeeming qualities. His business ventures are more interesting than the man himself, and the author rightly focuses and that subject. It was Cornelius' son who actually created the vast bulk of the Vanderbilt wealth and built the massive railroad empire that Cornelius would come to be historically associated with. Nevertheless, this book is worth a listen. It does a great job showing the ruthless battleground of business that early American entrepreneurs battled in.
I enjoyed this book, the first I have listened to, on the life of the Vanderbilt Patriarch. The narrator's performance was enjoyable and he was easy to understand. The book focused on life from the protagonists view and most of the time characters who were closely associated with him - either in business or personal life. Negative views of opponents were shared, but the majority of the information shared seemed to be neutral or positive.
Overall, the author accomplished their goal to provide information on his life and did so in a meaningful way.
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