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The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Hardback National Book Award - Nonfiction

By (author) T.J. Stiles

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  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Format: Hardback | 752 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 239mm x 51mm | 1,247g
  • Publication date: 1 December 2009
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0375415424
  • ISBN 13: 9780375415425
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: 32 Pages of Photographs
  • Sales rank: 324,135

Product description

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.

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Author information

T. J. Stiles has held the Gilder Lehrman Fellowship in American History at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, taught at Columbia University, and served as adviser for the PBS series "The American Experience. "His first book, " Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, "won the Ambassador Book Award and the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship, and was a "New York Times "Notable Book. He has written for "The New York Times Book Review, "Salon.com, "Smithsonian, " and the "Los Angeles Times." He""lives in San Francisco.

Review quote

"T.J. Stiles has given us a balanced and absorbing biography of this colorful and often ruthless entrepreneur, the first of the 'robber barons' who transformed the American economy in the nineteenth century." -James M. McPherson, author of" Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era ""At long last a biography worthy of the Commodore, meticulously researched, superbly written, and filled with original insights." -Maury Klein, author of" The Life and Legend of Jay Gould ""T.J. Stiles writes with the magisterial sweep of a great historian and the keen psychological insight of a great biographer." The First Tycoon "is the fullest, most perceptive chronicle ever written of the life and times of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the original American robber baron and the epitome of unfettered, winner-take-all capitalism. With panache and admirable ease, Stiles maps the financial and political currents on which Vanderbilt buccaneered and shows that it was Vanderbilt, more than anyone else, who enabled business to evolve into Big Business." -Patricia O'Toole, author of" When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House """The First Tycoon" is a brilliant exposition of the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and the entrepreneurial environment that he shaped. Readers will look at Grand Central Station and much else in American life with fresh eyes." -Joyce Appleby, author of "The Restless Revolution: A History of Capitalism "