CORNELIUS VANDERBILT and the rise of modern finance

May 12th, 2009

While we are just beginning to get a wave of books about the current financial crises, it's important to have a real historical understanding of how Wall Street, finance and big business got that way. The place to start that understanding is with with the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Starting as a Staten Island farmer, he rose to control one of the greatest fortunes in world history. He played a central role in the rise of the modern corporation, the emergence of Wall Street, and the birth of big business. His life played out on an enormous stage. His relationships went from George Washington to John D. Rockefeller. T.J. Stiles, who's just authored a new biography of Vanderbilt, entitled THE FIRST TYCOON, says that "no one kept his hands of the levers of the economy for so long and pushed so hard."

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