Customer Reviews for

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Average Rating 3.5
( 83 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 5
  • Posted August 2, 2009

    Early Development of the Transportation Industry

    T. J. Stiles writes well. The research is evident and the subject matter is presented in a style that is easily digested. Cornelius Vanderbilt comes alive in these pages as a complex individual, with principled attitudes towards his adversaries, colleagues, friends, even his own family members.

    This biography ranks with Ron Chernow's tomes on Morgan and Rockefeller, and David Nasaw's biography of Carnegie. In fact, the four books, taken together, give a very solid and informative narrative of the early stages of capitalist development in the United States. Vanderbilt's construction of a vertically integrated corporation, first in shipping and later in railroads, provided a blueprint for the "Robber Barons" that followed in other industries. Clearly Vanderbilt blazed a trail in corporate development that was in many ways duplicated by Rockefeller, Carnegie and many others in their quest for massive accumulations of wealth. It would be difficult to understand modern corporate structures, with their interlocking directorates and complex influence throughout society, without knowing the history of corporate development in the United States.

    The book is also successful in showing Vanderbilt's human qualities as son, husband, father, and member of his community. He cared deeply about how he was perceived by members of his own class. As a newly arrived "upper cruster", he was at first not easily welcomed by the "old money". This changed over time, giving him great satisfaction as his exorbitant wealth and obvious success became indisputable.

    Taken as a whole this biography contributes substantially to a well rounded understanding of late 19th century American history.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2010

    A must read for the history buff and anyone interested in economics.

    This is a wonderfully researched book of the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and his rise, through hard work and imagination, to one of the richest men in America. Vanderbilt's life took in the launch of the steamship, a route across Nicaragua (transporting passengers and gold) during the Gold Rush, the establishment of our railroad system. A man with no formal education, he rose to the top and left a legacy for future generations.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Epic Story Gets an Epic Telling

    I had no idea how crucial Cornelius Vanderbilt was, and remains, to the American idea.

    Did YOU know that this storied name Vanderbilt, started life as the lower middle-class son (merchant class) of a Staten Island farmer cum ferry boat captain?

    If you didn't know that, you may also not have known that Cornelius (I feel like we're on a 1st name basis after reading this book) literally invented:

    - Modern public transportation (think ferry boats, railways)
    - Modern Finance (think Wall Street)
    - Modern Commerce and Capitalism (think about underwriting both the
    above and making capital markets)

    Vanderbilt invented the genre of multi-millionaire setting the stage for ALL who came after, including the likes of John D. Rockefeller; Carnegie; Frick and a slew of less-desirable robber-barons of the 19th century).

    The author gets a tad into the weeds in most chapters as he describes in excruciating detail some of the less interesting aspects of a particular ferry, railroad or wall street deal - but once I felt myself drifting - found that I could migrate to the end of the chapter and still get most of the great content from each chapter.

    T.J.-- note to self: let the editor do his or her job on your next fantastic journey!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    First Tycoon

    Amazing how an individual could amass one of the largest fortunes of his day through shipping. Vanderbilt started with sail boats running between Staten Island (the forgotten borough?) to Manhattan. But, he took advantage of newer technology (steam and paddle wheelers), mastered it, pushed it; then added in relentless focus on what the customer wanted (imagine that...) low costs, fast transits, multiple routes.
    Vanderbilt was personally strong and a classic example of taking advantage of opportunities and maximizing them. A good (long) read. Nicely ties in the surrounding historical events (nothing occurs in a vacuum). Has some interesting lessons for today (lobbying, shady deals, etc). Curious how Vanderbilt treated his wife, children, in-laws, friends, end enemies. All of which could be mixed in their roles.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Insightful biography of Commodore Vanderbilt

    Robber baron Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt emerges from T.J. Stiles's biography as a captivating character and a ferocious competitor. Nineteenth-century America's most powerful tycoon had an imposing presence. At more than 200 pounds and six feet tall (two inches taller than the average American male at the time), Vanderbilt stood ramrod straight. A ferocious street fighter in his youth, he remained hale and hearty into his 80s. As a young steamboat skipper, Vanderbilt often beat his business rivals senseless and took their customers. Stiles tracks Vanderbilt's remarkable business career, from his rowdy youth and family life to his later achievements as America's founding capitalist, king of steamers, trains and international shipping. getAbstract recommends this fascinating, colorful book to anyone who wants to learn about the birth of the modern corporation through the life of its grandstanding father.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    Corporate Greed!

    Stiles writes with a clear view of history,
    on a very interesting subject

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A gripping biography of an aloof and mysterious tycoon

    "The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt" is an impressive and gripping biography, wonderfully evocative of the quiet man with enormous power, influence and wealth. At the time of his death he owned five percent of America's wealth.

    Even though he was known as the king of the railroad, he was much more than that: he was the king of the steamboats and ships, and the king of industries and corporations as well. He built the original Grand Central Terminal in New York, and also the mighty New York Central Railroad system connecting New York with Chicago.

    This tycoon also had his share of pains, disappointments, sadness, and regrets that life offers all mortals. His son Cornelius Jeremiah's addiction to gambling and also the affliction of epilepsy greatly distressed him.

    Written in simple and lucid prose, the book is entertaining to the very end and highly readable: "Vanderbilt was an empire builder, the first great corporate tycoon in American history. Even before the United States became a truly industrial country, he learned to use the tools of corporate capitalism to amass wealth and power on a scale previously unknown, creating enterprises of unprecedented size."

    Mr. T. J. Stiles has written a marvelous biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Reading this book was a joy.
    Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2013

    Highly recommended if you have interest in the building forces of our country.

    Simply a wonderful allinclusive book on the founder of the dynasty and what he accomplished in his lifetime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Excellent and engrossing

    For the fan of historical biographies or economic history in an expansive and thorough yet digestable book. I highly recommend this book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2012

    Very good book about CV but also his historical era as a whole a

    Very good book about CV but also his historical era as a whole and the evolution of the U.S. economy during the period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2010

    Beautifully Written and Researched

    Highly recommend! Superb bio.

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    Posted June 12, 2010

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    Posted January 12, 2011

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted March 15, 2011

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    Posted July 7, 2011

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    Posted January 29, 2011

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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