Using previously unreleased archives, Edward J. Renehan Jr. narrates the compelling life of Cornelius Vanderbilt: willful progenitor of modern American business. Vanderbilt made his initial fortune building ferry and cargo routes for sailing vessels. Then he moved into steamboats and railroads. With the New York Central, Vanderbilt established the nation's first major integrated rail system, linking New York with Boston, Montreal, Chicago, and St. Louis. At the same time, he played a key role in establishing New York as the financial center of the United States. When he died in 1877, Vanderbilt left a fortune that, in today's dollars, would dwarf that of even Bill Gates. Off Wall Street, Vanderbilt was a hard-drinking egotist and whoremonger devoid of manners or charity. He disinherited most of his numerous children and received an editorial rebuke from Mark Twain for his lack of public giving. Commodore sheds startling new light on many aspects of Vanderbilt's business and private life including, most notably, the revelation that advanced stage syphilis marred his last years. This is the definitive biography of a man whose influence on American life and commerce towers over all who followed him.