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)
Easier on the ears than the eyes
A wonderfully comprehensive history of America's crucial time period.
A great reference of great American historical significance.
While a little long, this book tells about the rise of one of our greatest entrepreneurs. I really did not know much about the Vanderbilts and Cornelius' influence on modern transportation. I am a bit of a history fan so may not be for everyone but I highly recommend it for a detailed discussion of the beginnings of the Vanderbilt fortune. Narrator is good so it is easy to listen.
A great example of American history. This book includes details at just the right pace.
Exhaustingly researched and exhausting to (try to) listen to. I challenge anyone to stay focused on this narative for more than 5 minutes. This book is simply very poorly written, which is a shame, because the missed, fascinating story, buried in this endless listing of facts and dates, is the invention of the concept of investor ownership and corporations; purchase and sale of "shares of a company" and the birth of the NY stock exchange. I long to read a well written book of this story. The author of such a well written book will find a lot of facts and dates to use from this very poorly written one - if he can get through it.
We rarely hear much of Vanderbilt today, but this well written work show the vast array of unique historical actions he touched… I found Cornelius Vanderbilt on the short list of historical actors who impressed me.
The biography is interesting. But my highest compliments go to the author and reader of the book. I enjoyed listening to the authors point of view and interpretation of the facts and the reading was excellent.
More anecdote interwoven with facts. Listening to this is like listening to an entire semester of lecture in one very long session.
Nothing brought the real man to light. Stiles should have read Brand's "Titan" before he wrote this.
100 percent average.
None. I do not believe in abridging, even in a boring book.
VERY disappointed. I like long, factual biographies but only when the person becomes a person not just a vehicle for facts.
Yes. It is historically accurate and presents both personal and business views of the character which allows the listener to fully develop an understanding of the persona of the first Vanderbilt. Like his type or not, remember he did business in a different time and the results often created wealth and livelihood for many. Besides the account of his life, this book describes well the times in which he lived.
Story did not drift from the chronological events that made up the life of the character. It is just the facts. ma'am.
Vanderbilt's favoritism of one child over others
Long but worth the listen especially for business historians
Too detailed business information. Not enough of personal history.
Delivered in very monotone, but would be hard not to with the material provided.
Very high - probAbly number one for historical works
The commodore of course. Rags to riches with cunning and a concern for integrity
Strong, clear voice
I knew I couldn't listen to it in one setting as it it long but I was always eager to return to it.The story and characters so engrossing , I never felt lost when I began again.
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