Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2010
National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2009A gripping, groundbreaking biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism.
Founder of a dynasty, builder of the original Grand Central, creator of an impossibly vast fortune, Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt is an American icon. Humbly born on Staten Island during George Washington's presidency, he rose from boatman to builder of the nation's largest fleet of steamships to lord of a railroad empire. Lincoln consulted him on steamship strategy during the Civil War; Jay Gould was first his uneasy ally and then sworn enemy; and Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States, was his spiritual counselor. We see Vanderbilt help to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation - in fact, as T. J. Stiles elegantly argues, Vanderbilt did more than perhaps any other individual to create the economic world we live in today.
In The First Tycoon, Stiles offers the first complete, authoritative biography of this titan, and the first comprehensive account of the Commodore's personal life. It is a sweeping, fast-moving epic, and a complex portrait of the great man. Vanderbilt, Stiles shows, embraced the philosophy of the Jacksonian Democrats and withstood attacks by his conservative enemies for being too competitive. He was a visionary who pioneered business models. He was an unschooled fistfighter who came to command the respect of New York's social elite. And he was a father who struggled with a gambling-addicted son, a husband who was loving yet abusive, and, finally, an old man who was obsessed with contacting the dead.
The First Tycoon is the exhilarating story of a man and a nation maturing together: the powerful account of a man whose life was as epic and complex as American history itself.
©2009 T.J. Stiles; (P)2009 Random House
"Rousing . . . An exemplary biography." (Kirkus)
"For all its complexity, T.J. Stiles's appreciative account of Vanderbilt's derring-do is a model of clarity, briskness and brio, and Mark Deakins's unhurried, pleasantly grave delivery serves it well." (Washington Post Book World)
A well researched and sweeping portrait of Vanderbilt's motivations, intelligence, and tenacity deftly woven into the shared American experience.
For a history buff, this was an excellent book. It combined the personal and business life of Vanderbilt perfectly, and spun them together with the political and historical context. It was clearly well-researched, and flew counter to other historical analyses of Vanderbilt based on Stiles' more complete study of his subject. Deakins' performance could be a bit monotone at times, but he seemed to come more alive as the biography progressed.
Dude, after reading Titan on John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegies autobio, and The Billionaire Who Wasn't, this was next up on the list. The men back in that time who built Americas infrastructure were men of iron. To be able to document that much about mans life shows he truly lived---- from working at a port to getting into the steamboat carrier business, to the rail lines in the end, he was most definitely a Tycoon.
A great read to follow up with is What Would the Rockefellars do showing what the JDR family did differently than the Commodors family to ensure their wealth lasted into future generations,,,,,,,, if I had to relisten to this, I prob would, just see how much a man can accomplish and even more so that it doesn't mean your wealth will carry on if you don't plan for it to long after you are there to manage it----
DCObrigkeit West Orange N
This books shows the evolution of out financial system in a very personal way by showing its human perspectives by the people involved that yes we have heard of in history texts but this reveals very real of how each change came about using real transactions and real companies
There are few books that I give up on, but having tried over and over to listen with interest, I am almost ready to say, "No more." Perhaps this could be considered a scholarly work; maybe more suited as a textbook. One needs a flowchart of characters and a passion for and/or a degree in economics to appreciate the plethora of facts recited in this tome. If I were forced to consume the facts in this book, I would prefer to have a print copy, list of characters and an atlas of the world and United States.
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