The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

T.J. Stiles

Language: English

Pages: 736

ISBN: 1400031745

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this groundbreaking biography, T.J. Stiles tells the dramatic story of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, the combative man and American icon who, through his genius and force of will, did more than perhaps any other individual to create modern capitalism. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, The First Tycoon describes an improbable life, from Vanderbilt’s humble birth during the presidency of George Washington to his death as one of the richest men in American history. In between we see how the Commodore helped to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation. Epic in its scope and success, the life of Vanderbilt is also the story of the rise of America itself.

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revolution. President Rivas, long his quiescent puppet, suddenly declared Walker “an enemy of Nicaragua” and fled to the protection of an antifilibuster alliance consisting of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. With Rivas's support, the allied army marched over the northern border and advanced on León. Walker responded with a rigged election for the presidency at the end of June. He won by a landslide.26 Bloodshed wracked the United States as well, as tensions over the extension of slavery

heard a paddlewheeler bearing down on them. They clutched at the guardrails as their boat was swamped, and were hauled aboard. Soon after they joined their colleagues at Taylor's Hotel. The desperate flight to New Jersey left the public agog. What had been merely a private (if outlandish) fight over a disreputable stock became a symbol of all that seemed wrong in post-Civil War America: public corruption, grasping monopolists, outsize corporations, and an utter disregard for morality As Charles

epizootic struck New York's forty thousand horses, afflicting them with disease. The New York Herald remarked on “the singular spectacle… of a great city almost at a standstill; of thousands of persons, male and female, young and old, unable to reach their homes after a day of toil except on foot.” Omnibuses, streetcars, carts, and drays sat in the streets, or “were dragged slowly around by horses more dead than alive.” On November 15, thinking the worst had passed, Vanderbilt drove out behind

failure, exacerbating the panic. The result might ruin Vanderbilt himself. In one of the most painful moments of the Commodore's life, he faced the full repercussions of the greed—the treachery—of three of his most trusted lieutenants. In righteous fury, he forced them to face the consequences, demanding that Banker, Schell, and Clark's estate put in personal notes to repay the advances made to them against Lake Shore securities. Banker and Schell knew it was nearly impossible for them to pay,

those foes who met him in open combat—Cornelius Garrison, Charles Morgan, Marshall Roberts, William Aspinwall, Erastus Corning, and his quondam partner Daniel Drew—admired him, and socialized with him after their conflicts ended. It is a fact of human nature that one need not be nice to be liked and respected, and so it was with Vanderbilt. His fellow businessmen appreciated his forthrightness, capability, honesty, dignity, sense of honor, and force of personality. They felt that he had earned

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