The Original Robber Baron

After all the slimy CEOs we’ve read about, it may be just the time to plow through 600 pages on the original robber baron. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the first sinner of capitalism, is the subject of a new biography by T.J. Stiles: The First Tycoon. It’s a “whacking” account of Vanderbilt’s early corporate life and details his purchase and restructuring of New York’s major railroad line. But it doesn’t do so with rose-colored glasses: Stiles also addresses the consequences of Vanderbilt’s enormous wealth—he propagated a disparity between rich and poor, and fed the fraud of an unregulated market. Writes The New York Times’ Dwight Garner, “Mr. Stiles gets Vanderbilt the man onto paper.”