Vanderbilt : the rise and fall of an American dynasty

Published 2021
Item Details

Anderson Cooper chronicles the rise and fall of a legendary American dynasty--his mother's family--the Vanderbilts. When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father's small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginning of the nineteenth century, no one could have imagined that one day he would, through ruthlessness, cunning, and a pathological desire for money, build two empires-one in shipping and another in railroads-that would make him the richest man in America. His staggering fortune was fought over by his heirs after his death in 1877, sowing familial discord that would never fully heal. Though his son Billy doubled the money left by "the Commodore," subsequent generations competed to find new and ever more extraordinary ways of spending it. By 2018, when the last Vanderbilt was forced out of The Breakers-the seventy-room summer estate in Newport, Rhode Island, that Cornelius's grandson and namesake had built-the family would have been unrecognizable to the tycoon who started it all. Now, the Commodore's great-great-great-grandson Anderson Cooper, joins with historian Katherine Howe to explore the story of his legendary family and their outsized influence. Cooper and Howe breathe life into the ancestors who built the family's empire, basked in the Commodore's wealth, hosted lavish galas, and became synonymous with unfettered American capitalism and high society. Moving from the hardscrabble wharves of old Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue, from the ornate summer palaces of Newport to the courts of Europe, and all the way to modern-day New York, Cooper and Howe wryly recount the triumphs and tragedies of an American dynasty unlike any other. Written with a unique insider's viewpoint, this is a rollicking, quintessentially American history as remarkable as the family it so vividly captures.

First edition.
xvi, 317 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some colour), colour map, genealogical table ; 24 cm
Other Title:
Rise and fall of an American dynasty
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Prologue. The Breakers: March 30, 2018
The tycoon: January 4, 1877
Van der Bilt: c. 1660
The Blatherskite and the namesake: April 2, 1882
Society as I have found it: October 22, 1883
Venetian princesses: March 26, 1883
American royalty: November 6, 1895
Failure is impossible: May 4, 1912
Down with the ship: May 1915
Standing in a cold shower, tearing up hundred-thousand-dollar bills: September 15, 1934
Living a Roman à Clef: November 21, 1934
Gloria at La Côte Basque: November 28, 1966
The last Vanderbilt: October 28, 1978, and June 17, 2019
Epilogue. Christmas Eve, 1930.
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