Summary of The First Tycoon

The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

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The First Tycoon book summary
Commodore Vanderbilt’s 19th-century robber baron fortune would be worth $147 billion today. Just how did he earn it?


9 Overall

7 Importance

8 Innovation

10 Style


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.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Who Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt was
  • How he built his vast fortune
  • How he helped usher in the age of modern capitalism


The Commodore
Cornelius Vanderbilt, nicknamed “Commodore,” was a larger-than-life figure, a street brawler, savvy entrepreneur and brilliant opportunist – the first American corporate visionary. By example and deed, Vanderbilt laid the groundwork for the modern capitalistic system. In ...
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About the Author

Historian T.J. Stiles held a fellowship in American history at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He is also the author of Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War.

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Contained in Knowledge Pack:

  • Knowledge Pack
    Biographies of the giants of industry show how they rose to the very top, what they did to stay there and just how ruthlessly they did it.

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