Summary of Commodore

The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

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Commodore book summary
How Cornelius Vanderbilt made one of the world’s great fortunes with sail, steam and rail.


8 Overall

7 Importance

8 Innovation

7 Style


Tycoon “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt is an important figure in the history of American business. Author Edward J. Renehan Jr. set out to “put a face” on Vanderbilt’s ambition, enterprise and mania for wealth, and he succeeded. You will get a solid understanding of the vast, rapid changes the U.S. experienced during Vanderbilt’s life and his significant role in that change. His descendants, including his granddaughter, designer Gloria Vanderbilt, and her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, continue to be prominent. Though this interesting, reportorial biography could have focused more on the historic context and economic impact of this financial giant, and a bit less on his all-too-human failings, getAbstract finds that it deserves to be read by anyone who is interested in American history.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How Cornelius Vanderbilt began his career in shipping;
  • How he expanded into railroads;
  • How he lived his life; and
  • How he built his fortune.


A Life of Endless Work
Cornelius Vanderbilt’s father, also named Cornelius, was illiterate, bitter and coarse. He worked steadily as a skilled seaman with no view beyond his daily labor. He married Phebe Hand, who was his intellectual superior. Their son, the future Commodore, was born...
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About the Author

Edward J. Renehan Jr., the author of six books, is an occasional lecturer and an active participant in conservation efforts in his home state of Rhode Island.

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