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The First Tycoon Audiobook

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2010

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2009

A 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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (573 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Haim Mizrahi 06-26-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Very informal book"

    Nice a bit long , it can be a shorter book !
    Very informal book
    I would recommend

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mama C 04-02-15
    Mama C 04-02-15 Member Since 2014
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    "If you are an economist..."
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael M. 02-20-15
    Michael M. 02-20-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Great!"

    Didn't have a solid expectation but thrilled with what I learned. Narrator was the right selection for the book. Clear and easy to listen to for long stretches.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jose 02-01-15
    jose 02-01-15 Member Since 2012

    Engineer in St Louis, Missouri, United States

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    "Good book and the Narrator is Awesome"

    Cool story on how Vanderbilt built himself into a force of nature. Details on his style of business combat was awesome

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    steve j harwater 01-01-15
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    "Enjoyed very much"

    Great book, first time i read about vanderbilt. I reccomend it very much . I very interesting and powerfull man that had much to do with the usa growth

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa PALM SPRINGS, CA, United States 06-03-14
    Teresa PALM SPRINGS, CA, United States 06-03-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Interesting back story to Gibbons v. Ogden"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca 11-16-13
    Rebecca 11-16-13 Member Since 2009

    Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!

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    "A Fascinating Life and History of early America"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn 04-20-13
    Carolyn 04-20-13

    Curious, searching avid reader.

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    "Love the history... thorough profile of the man"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David S. California 06-18-12
    David S. California 06-18-12 Listener Since 2006

    Gwynaro

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    "monumental work"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The First Tycoon to be better than the print version?

    Easier on the ears than the eyes


    What did you like best about this story?

    A wonderfully comprehensive history of America's crucial time period.


    Any additional comments?

    A great reference of great American historical significance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy 06-09-12
    Nancy 06-09-12
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    "The start of modern American business"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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