The First Tycoon

I got unexpectedly swept away by the biography of Cornelius, one of the original robber barons. The book opens on a scene from the court battle over his will, led by his daughters who were awarded $500k each, while the bulk of the millions went to William.
* I was surprised by his role in uniting the North and South post-Civil War– posting bond for Jefferson Davis’ release from prison, funding Vanderbilt University, marrying his southern cousin Frank.
* He progressed from Staten Island ferries to steamboats to railroads, created Grand Central station and is immortalized in the frieze outside it. Grand Central cost $6.5M in 1870. Is this why we no longer have grand buildings built? We no longer have titans who can afford it?
* He created wealth on an unimaginable scale, 1 out of every 20 dollars in circulation belonged to Vanderbilt.
* Horace Greely loaned money to Cornelius’ gambling addicted son
* Vandy was the first person to truly take advantage of Wall Street and its then lack-of rules (hello, insider trading)
* Stiles’ writing style heavily overused foreshadowing, beating us over the head with dramatic “this will be important later” ends of paragraphs.


auth=Stiles, T.J.
pub=2009
sub=The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt