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)
This is a perfectly fine biography but the only part I really found interesting was the back story to Gibbons v. Ogden, a famous and extremely important Supreme Court case.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
Fascinating look at Cornelius Vanderbilt and his long, successful life. To start from an industrious young man working for his father's boat to become a "Commodore" of the steam boat industry, and then a railroad tycoon was amazing. Much of the book talks of his time from the late 1700s to the 1870s. A man of amazing energy, stamina and discipline. The book covers the changes caused by changes by steamboats and rail by moving communication, people and products. It also shows the changes in New York during this time, and Vanderbilt's role during the Civil War.
While interesting, I felt it could have been shorter. It was not as riveting as book "Lindbergh", "Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.", "The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright", "The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin" or many similar books that portray a person and their times. I became impatient towards the end. Another reviewer I read commented that he appreciated the epilogue because it helped make sense of the rest of the book. Sad but true.
Great story....could have been better written. While I appreciate the old world language and the authenticity of the descriptions, I would have preferred the author come back to the present day language once in awhile. I think the change in language would have made the book easier to plow through....its quite a tome and requires endurance to finish. I own a home in Asheville where Vanderbilt's grandson built a beautiful "castle". I've always wondered about the origin of the money and the sensibilities that allowed such a grand vision come to fruition.
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.
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