[Read] ➱ The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt By T.J. Stiles – Saudionline.co.uk


The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt quotes The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, litcharts The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, symbolism The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, summary shmoop The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt 0221fed7 A Gripping, Groundbreaking Biography Of The Combative Man Whose Genius And Force Of Will Created Modern CapitalismFounder 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 Than Perhaps Any Other Individual To Create The Economic World We Live In TodayIn 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


10 thoughts on “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

  1. says:

    Whew I m sure that such a comprehensive book deserves a comprehensive review, and yet I barely had the fortitude to make it through the reading Right now I don t even have the desire to attempt a Binksian or Sorensenian book review so I ll just ramble and pretend T.J Stiles the author of this book won t be offended Maybe he should be He took the time to organize over 100 pages of footnotes at the end of the thing the least I owe him is a well organized book review.100 pages of notes How do you research that Stiles leaves no doubt that he developed a certain affection for Vanderbilt in all his research, and how could he not I feel like Jim Halpert and Ben Folds are my friends because I hang out with them so much, but Stiles ends up really KNOWING Vanderbilt.The First Tycoon chronicles The Commodore s uber capitalistic rise to power first in the steam boat industry, and most famously maybe notoriously in railroads.Stiles argues that nobody has affected economic change in U.S history world history then our dear Commodore He was able to grasp economic abstractions that would come to define what the market became long before anyone else And he was relatively uneducated I love the quote from The New York Sun And old sea captain who knew him well used to say it was fortunate that the Commodore was not educated for had he been he would have been a god Much of the book was economic Steamboat acquisitions and sales and partnerships, followed by railroad acquisitions and sales and mergers and consolidations and the gold standard and moving off the gold standard and dividends and watering the stock Though it gives the context of an economically changing nation, and shows history from a different lens then I ve studied in the past, I found it quite tedious.The book delves into the personal as well And I mean personal I m sure our stock watering friend Cornelius would have loved to learn how much was written of his flatulence Or his child rearing skills Or his, terrible bowel disorders and anal stenosis, a constriction often caused by scar tissue in his case, the result of surgery he had had decades earlier for hemorrhoids LET ME DECLARE THIS NOW IF I EVER BECOME RICH AND FAMOUS AND IMPORTANT, AND SOMEONE DECIDES A BIOGRAPHY SHOULD BE WRITTEN ABOUT ME, PLEASE LEAVE OUT MY MEDICAL HISTORY Thank you.I actually liked much of the personal I loved the interplay between Vanderbilt and his sons Talk about living in the shadow of your father And some of the things he said to his daughters about his grandchildren Yes, they are nice children, but they are not Vanderbilts I m not a violent person, but if I was his daughter I think I would have slapped him and walked out And damn the money.Speaking of money, was he the richest man in America s history Most people would go with Rocka on that one, but Stiles argues that that s like comparing apples to economic principles that haven t been invented yet Like another founding member of Jordabecker book club mentioned, If three guys are on an island and 1 has three apples and the other two have nothing, based on that islands GNP that guy s the richest person in the world right It really depends on the factors you take into account.Like I said, a rambling review of a well researched book I ll never read it again, but I ll proudly display it on my shelf and subtly drop fishing comments hoping someone asks me about it.


  2. says:

    I admit that I m not too comfortable with the world of high finance and economics This might be odd, considering I majored in finance in college Then again, I spent most of my college years smoking in the library, checking out coeds on the quad, starting food fights in the cafeteria, and playing tricks on the crusty dean My copy of Adam Smith s Wealth of Nations sits unread on my bookshelf I swear, I ll get to it someday as of now, however, I can t get past the first turgid page When I think of the various economic types, I find myself agreeing with John Kenneth Galbraith s observation that Under capitalism, man exploits man Under communism it s just the opposite To the extent I think about economics, I conceive the free market as a python that swallows its own tail You may start with open and spirited competition, but as winners emerge and losers fall away, your free market tends to constrict and become a little less than free That is the cycle that T.J Stiles recounts in his biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon In the 18th Century, the U.S economy was marked by aristocratic privilege, where friendly state legislatures conferred charters on wealthy families and passed laws preventing competition At the beginning of the 19th Century, following the ratification of the Constitution and the rise of Republicanism, the old order gave way to a middle class resentful of aristocracy and scrambling to enter the marketplace By the end of the 19th Century, of course, we found ourselves in the era of robber barons and impossibly huge monopolies It s an interesting journey, and Stiles has chosen a good character to follow Cornelius Vanderbilt is that favorite American archetype the self made man Quitting school at a young age, he started his own ferry service in the tricky waters off New York City Eventually, he went to work for steamboat entrepreneur Thomas Gibbons, and was in the thick of Gibbons fight against monopoly holder Aaron Ogden This fight, as any first year law student can tell you probably with a shudder at the remembrance of all things pertaining to first year con law , went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it became a seminal case delineating the reach of the Commerce Clause If this sounds horribly boring, or complex, rest assured that Stiles tells the story in an entertaining, easy to follow manner Suffice it to say, I got through these sections with nary a single flashback to the Commerce Clause induced nightmares I suffered in law school When Thomas Gibbons died, Vanderbilt started his own steamboat line From there, his wealth and prestige grew, till he was known as the Commodore Later in life, he extended his influence into railroads, and built the Grand Central Depot Along the way, he piloted steamships through the dangerous Nicaraguan rivers, donated boats to the Union Navy during the Civil War, and was betrayed by so many former friends that I stopped keeping count When he finally died, his fortune was so vast as to be literally immeasurable It was estimated that if Vanderbilt had sold all his assets at the moment of his death, he would have taken out one of every twenty dollars in circulation My wallet is currently stuffed with old movie ticket stubs, and I m eating old cheese on my couch, so I can t really conceptualize how much scratch that is But it seems like a lot I went into this book expecting to hate Cornelius Vanderbilt I thought I d be able to draw a line from Vanderbilt s desiccated corpse to the fat cats on Wall Street who caused the Great Recession but still swim in pools filled with Spanish doubloons, and smoke cigarettes laced with 100 bills or whatever it is that wealthy people do in their leisure time Surprisingly, I came to the end of this doorstop sized volume thinking Vanderbilt was an okay guy This is true for a couple reasons First, in my ignorance, I probably confused Cornelius hard working, prescient, dutiful, and relatively humble with his Paris Hilton like descendants, who were known for building extravagant monuments to the estate tax see, e.g., the Breakers mansion than for actually contributing anything to society Second, Stiles really likes the guy And really, there s much to like He is a an example of that rare yet exalted breed of self made men, who was able to succeed in our sainted free market by dint of hard work, canny decisions, and guts Unfortunately, Stiles gets a little carried away with his reverence Yes, he had many positive traits, including personal courage, devotion to country exemplified by his generous donations to the Union war efforts in the Civil War , foresight, and vision He had a bad side too A cutthroat side A colluding, labor crushing, influence peddling side This gets glossed over quite a bit Interestingly, in a book so large and detailed, I never felt like I got a grasp of Cornelius Vanderbilt This isn t for lack of effort on Stiles part It s just the reality of the historical record Vanderbilt was barely literate, and he didn t leave behind a ream of documents letting us know what he thought or felt His childhood and early years are mostly a black hole, lit only by a few anecdotes that Stiles admits are apocryphal A hundred pages into the book, Vanderbilt is already in his 30s His home life he had two wives and a passel of children is virtually unknown The only personal details we get that serve to humanize Vanderbilt are in his relationship with Cornelius Jr., the black sheep son, who tended to write a lot than his father thereby leaving a long record of failed ventures, gambling debts, and trips to the asylum It s a little disappointing to read so much about a man, without ever feeling that the man lived, breathed, walked this earth and died However, Stiles is triumphant in evoking Vanderbilt s place within his times, and the contributions he made to America s expansion He wasn t simply a super rich man, though he was super rich He was at the forefront of the transportation revolution His steamboats helped open the American west by transporting easterners across Central America and on to California And though he didn t build railroad tracks across the continent, his consolidation of the New York Central and Hudson Railroad assured the preeminence of the railroad while ushering in the age of the mighty corporation Stiles places great emphasis on context, so that you understand the world in which Vanderbilt operated, even if you never really know Vanderbilt Moreover, Stiles does a really good job explaining the often difficult financial concepts presented in this book Even though yesterday s corporations are like lemonade stands compared to today s, it still takes a talented author to lucidly explain the various stock splits and financial chicaneries that Vanderbilt and his competitors engaged in Ultimately, Vanderbilt s life is emblematic of the schizophrenic nature of the free market, which tends to get less free the longer firms compete He began as a strident free marketer, fighting sometimes with his knuckles for the ability to simply hang his shingle and compete At the end of his life, he was the richest man in America, and engaged in creating an unconquerable dynasty that would last well beyond his death He started small and transformed into a man who would in the immortal words of The Simpsons C Montgomery Burns trade it all for a little .


  3. says:

    The early 19th Century time was a fascinating time for American business Before railroad transportation most businesses consisted of small shops and farms The primary means for shipping goods to far away places was the use of rivers and oceans through shipping The rights to shipping had dated back to the Revolutionary times when a family controlled water way rights and continued to do so up and until the mid 19th Century One shipper spent his life attempting to break this monopoly His name was Thomas Gibbons Gibbons went to war over shipping rites with the Livingston s monopoly over steamboat traffic in New York The book details the difficult task of overturning a century s worth of doing business Cornelius Vanderbilt was a little lucky because he landed a job as a young man on the steamship of Mr Gibbons Gibbons mentored Vanderbilt in the areas of shipping Vanderbilt responded by spending endless hours mastering the art of directing a steamboat As Gibbons spent his time wrestling with the legal system Vanderbilt took over the steamboat duties.Gibbons case would make its way up to the Supreme Court where he would prevail Gibbons vs Ogden opened the way for free competition among steamboat operators.Soon after this Supreme Court monumental decision Gibbons died Vanderbilt took over the business and devised ways of competing with the Livingston s and other well established businesses He first looked for quicker ways to get passengers to desired destinations He studied the boats design and engineered improvements He also sought out powerful engines His most successful effort though was reducing ticket prices He lowered the price, setting off price wars and continued lowering until his competitors could take no He would offered them an option to pay him off and he would leave the area He took that money, bought and better steamboats and moved to another location He continued to do the same trick in the next location.He quickly learned how to manipulate the stock market before there were rules to regulate stock market improprieties He bought stock in rival steamboat companies until he had enough to take control He only did it to those he saw as potentially profitable.He had enemies just as good at stock manipulation but he somehow always knew how to outsmart them When gold was discovered in California in 1849 Vanderbilt quickly took advantage of the situation East coasters who looked to go to California to make their fortune had to take a steamboat to Panama At Panama they had to travel over land and then take another steamboat to California Vanderbilt envisioned another quicker route and came up with one through Nicaragua and named it the Accessory Transit.The author then ventures into the odd story of William Walker Walker was a private American citizen who led invasions of foreign countries attempting to make them a state of America, much like Texas had done He jumped into Nicaragua s Civil War and led his side to victory He afterwards became Nicaragua s Governor As Governor he abolished Vanderbilt s Accessory Transit He did not realize what a mistake this was because he offended Vanderbilt Vanderbilt, as a response, made an alliance with neighboring Costa Rica and funded an invasion of Nicaragua which disposed Walker.Another odd story revolves around America s Civil War The U.S government asked Vanderbilt to provide his greatest steamship which he named after himself It was equipped to battle and destroy the Confederates most devastating ocean vessel the Merrimack He met with President Lincoln to discuss the details The author surmises that Vanderbilt was uncomfortable in this meeting because Lincoln was one of the very few men that Vanderbilt was not taller than.The Railroad replaced the steamboat as the dominant means of transportation in the 1860 s As the transportation went so went Vanderbilt He saw the struggling to make a profit New York and Harlem Railroad and bought it He recognized that it was a potential money maker because it was the only train in a bustling Manhattan At the time, four huge railroads controlled all the traffic between the West and the Atlantic Ocean Of those Vanderbilt owned half of them the New York Central and Hudson He made them the most profitable of the giants through quick transportation, low rates and upscale improvements He then continued to buy up railroads, as he had done with steamboats, by buying up stock in a particular company until he could control it In 1869, Vanderbilt built the continents largest railroad station the Grand Central Depot on New York s 42nd street The Depot turned that area of the city into a major economic center as businesses sprouted up around it He had many children, too many to keep tabs on His son Corneil did not live up to his fathers expectations He became a big time gambler that Vanderbilt refused to bail out many times Corneil though would use his father s name to befriend other prominent and wealthy people who eagerly would lend Corneil money in hopes of garnering a relationship with his father One such person was Horace Greeley, the founder of the New York Tribune Vanderbilt seemed to prefer the use of his son in laws to run various parts of his organization For example, his daughter Sophia married Daniel Torrance whom Vanderbilt placed as head of the New York Central Railroad He did however turn his enormous empire over to his eldest son William When he died in 1877 he left William a 95 million dollar inheritance He was viewed in the Church of the Strangers on Mercer Street and buried at the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island Cornelius Vanderbilt was a hard working smart individual who became America s original Tycoon and helped turn New York City into one of the World s greatest cities.


  4. says:

    Some reads are quick jogs, others are walks in the park and some gallop along This was a marathon.Now, let me explain myself in that it s a good marathon, the type you feel good about because you think you ve accomplished something Most biographies fill the pages with just enough information to keep the reader involved But this book s paragraphs are packed with details so that the reading itself takes longer just to be able to comprehend it all The life of Cornelius Vanderbilt was amazing, but so were the times in which he lived.He exemplified the Jacksonian ideal of being a self made man An exceptionally hard worker from Dutch roots, he started his career young by running his own ferry service between his Staten Island home and Manhattan From there, he built the fastest ships before becoming a railroad baron Tying this all together was the transition America was making from a pre Civil War rural economy to a post Civil War urban economy where the very first tycoon, Mr Cornelius Vanderbilt, was at the top of the 1 percenters He and a select few created the first corporations and started controlling the markets, leading to and financial panics as the many started being controlled by the few How wealthy was Cornelius Vanderbilt In the book s Epilogue, author T.J Stiles points out that if Microsoft s Bill Gates liquidated his estate, he would take 1 out of every 138 circulating in the United States By contrast, Vanderbilt would have taken 1 out of every 9 C mon, that s astonishing I first encountered the existence of Vanderbilt from the movie musical, Hello Dolly There is a song in the movie where the characters sing, Vanderbilt, kowtows to us , and I always wanted to know who that was and why he was so important After Vanderbilt, there was J.P Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Astor, Ford, a whole universe of men who changed the way America and the world thought of money Oh right, and Vanderbilt also controlled timethe railroad presidents created the time zones we know today, not the politicians, so money could be made So, Vanderbilt was Dr Strange AND Scrooge McDuck More and , the national impinged upon the local, the institutional upon the individual, the industrial upon the artisanal, the mechanical upon the natural.I m not sure I have ever read a researched biography Stiles has done a superb job of not only outlining the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt but of explaining the dynamic shift that took place in the 19th Century as the Gilded Age began In the Bibliographical Essay, the author also takes time to refute a wild theory about Vanderbilt being syphilitic, doing so with clear precision As a reader, I appreciate that, as I know that the history of the person I am reading has been written honestly and not for sensationalism.The only reason I don t give it five stars is because I was never emotionally involved with the subject, perhaps because of the overwhelming amount of data Still, this is a knockout and worthy.Book Season Winter use dollar bills for matches


  5. says:

    This is a very, very, very exhaustive and detailed tome on Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt He was quite a man and a pioneer in the steamship and railroad business Considered one of the robber barons of the gilded age, Vanderbilt made friends and enemies on his rise to the top of the financial and transportation business He was a smart and cunning man You either loved or hated him depending on which side of the deal you were on He was a powerful man and he deserves a powerful biography This is it Stiles follows Vanderbilt from the time he started working for his father running an import export business on an old sailboat through his time building paddle boats and steamships, building a route from Nicaragua to California during the gold rush, moving into the railroad business and to his death at the age of 82 He almost died many times due to crashes and ill health, but he rallied each time and persevered through to be one of the richest men in the world This book really deserves a higher rating, but it was too much for me at the time I was reading it I appreciate the details Stiles was well researched and it shows I will certainly take a stab at his other works, but for this reading, I found myself struggling to stay interested and often found my mind wondering at times.


  6. says:

    Now that I finally finished this thing up what do I think I think it s still hampered by the fact that the subject, Cornelius Vanderbilt, just didn t do very many interesting things The author does a game job of presenting things, and while I appreciate the stunning amount of research that must have gone into this thing, as a book it just reads way too detailed There s plenty of non fiction books out there that are really educational but also well written and entertaining, I d stick to those Recommended if you have a lot of interest in the subject matter, otherwise I d suggest you read through Cornelius Vanderbilt s surprisingly detailed Wikipedia page and save yourself a bunch of hours I did learn a lot and it was quite interesting in some parts The three most interesting parts of the book 1 William Walker, the private American citizen who launched an invasion of Nicaragua and immensely screwed up Vanderbilt s business interests in building a canal there.2 The Erie War, displaying the stunning amount of corruption and unethical behavior that permeated the business, legal, and governmental worlds of the time3 The material on the relationship of Vanderbilt to his children.


  7. says:

    This is a very good book, but like Vanderbilt s life, extremely long Vanderbilt himself was awkward with language, and consequently neither wrote or spoke publicly much during his life, so there is no introspection in this book And while he aged, perhaps gracefully, to be the preeminent American businessman of his age dying with as much as 10% of all American monetary value his life didn t have the progression of Rockefeller or Carnegie who transformed from businessman to philanthropist during their long lives Vanderebilt did endow a University interestingly in the South as part of his personal reconstruction effort after the Civil War , but it consumed neither much time nor resources.So the book, while extremely well written and researched, is essentially repetitive as his life was repetitive He conquered the Steamboat and the Railroads both interesting but using many of the same techniques and philosophy.So while this was an interesting book, I am delighted to be finished with it Like one of Vanderbilt s railroads, it was well run and stayed on the track, but didn t go anyplace you didn t expect when you left the station.


  8. says:

    The First Tycoon The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt was a meticulously and extensively researched biography of Cornelius Commodore Vanderbilt This interesting and compelling book told not only the story of this powerful man but also the history of America during one of the most sweeping and memorable times in our history Born in Staten Island, New York in 1794 at the time of George Washington, Vanderbilt began as a young boy working for his father s ferry service in New York Harbor and later starting his own ferry service as a young man He later became associated with Thomas Gibbons and his steamboats as well Gibbons, fighting against a steamboat monopoly, ultimately prevailed when the U.S Supreme Court ruled in his favor in the landmark decision in Gibbons v Ogden Ultimately Vanderbilt went on to become an entrepreneur in the steamboat and steamship industry It was during this time that he also began to build up his interests in the railroad industry During his lifetime, there was the war of 1812, the Industrial Revolution, The Civil War, the doctrine of Manifest Destiny as the country moved westward, as well as the panic of 1873 and resulting depression Stiles opens this epic biography in a packed courtroom in lower Manhattan on November 12, 1877 where the will and massive fortune of Cornelius Vanderbilt was being contested by two of his children As he points out so poignantly, most of those in the courtroom had lived their entire lives in the shadow of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Commodore I loved this book and the exciting tale it told, not only of the man but of America Perhaps there were those who understood that Vanderbilt s true significance was complex, even contradictory How could it not be His life spanned a period of breathtaking changes, from the days of George Washington to those of John D Rockefeller with whom he made deals Yet in those daily handfuls of silver shillings he discovered his hunger for money, an ache that would mingle with his pride and longing for control to shape his life at every turn In the immediate aftermath of Gibbons v Ogden, however, no one doubt that the world had become a better place The Livingston monopoly could not stop steamboats from entering New York waters from other states, the Supreme Court ruled to the public, this was a blow for freedom Chief Justice Marshall s decision provided one of those rare turning points in history that is recognized as one at the time At fifty four, Vanderbilt could look back on a career of breathtaking leaps of imagination Steamboats and railroads, fare wars, market division agreements, and corporations all were virtually unknown in America when he mastered them He was about to imagine a work of global significance to create a channel of commerce that would help to make the United States a truly continental nation


  9. says:

    A great biography of a major American business leader Cornelius rose to become one of the wealthiest men in the United States by the time of his death He began in a family of very modest means Step by step, he rose into the highest echelon of American entrepreneurs.At the outset of his working life, he was just another employee But, with time, hard work, and some luck, he developed a presence in the ferry boat business in the New York City area Early on, he found a benefactor and in this manner became a modest player in the great Supreme Court decision Gibbons v Ogden which struck down monopoly contracts between states and the shipping passenger water industry He began to develop a greater presence in steamboats and shipping This eventually led him to operate transatlantic ships and transportation from the east coast to California with an overland link through Nicaragua.Even as he was at his peak in the steamboat business, he turned his interest to railroads, which had become a major sector in the United States business galaxy By his death, he had accumulated massive wealth The book does an excellent job in providing details of the evolution of his business career as well as his private life.Among issues discussed that are worth considering while he could play hardball in the business world his Wall Street machinations are well described , he also developed efficiencies in his businesses leading him to be able to deliver good service at a lower cost than his competitors This is fascinating in that many major businessmen used their position in the market to increase prices and increase profits Poignant are some of the challenges faced bu his family, such as a son who was a gambling addict.Overall, a wonderful telling of the tale of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the admiral.


  10. says:

    The Commodore comes aliveIt s hard, quite hard, translating 19th century finances to today, or stature.But, pretend that one person was a pioneer in both the equivalent of computer operating systems AND online communications, and had the money of both In other words, Cornelius Vanderbilt approaches a combination of Bill Gates and Sergey Brin, or something like that, with a fortune worth a least 100 billion in today s economy.It would be easy indeed to stereotype this person as a Gilded Age robber baron And, previous biographies have primarily done that.T.J Stiles writes a sympathetic, yet not overly high gloss, take on the life of the man who gained the honorary title Commodore for his prowess in developing the steamship industry before moving into railroads.As part of that, Stiles situates Vanderbilt s rise within that of the nation as a whole, the nation s attempt to wrestle with the power, legal definitions, and legal control of corporations and .That said, while Vanderbilt had a sense of personal honor, it does appear that his personality might not have adapted so well to the growing size, and form, of the corporation in the 20th century.Stiles portrays a deep enough description of the Commodore for individual readers to make those judgments and .


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