Book of the Week: The First Tycoon

By Holly Tucker

In the spring of 1873, a seventy-nine year old Cornelius Vanderbilt made a $1 million dollar gift to allow the Bishop Holland McTyeire to establish a university just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Vanderbilt University now consistently ranks among the top twenty universities in the United States. As a faculty member at Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt's legacy is quietly woven into my daily life. But I have to admit that I didn't know much about the university's namesake other than the basics.

T.J. Stiles' new book The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt is a masterful biography of a deeply complicated and, at times, volatile character. I know that you'll find T.J.'s upcoming guest post on the ruthless Commodore's complicated family life as fascinating as I have. As his son Corneil's travails remind us, life as a child of Vanderbilt could not have been easy.

(Image: Vanderbilt University. Kirkland Hall, which still stands--minus the right tower--on campus and serves as the central administration building.)

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