"With boundless energy and ambition, Cornelius went to work. The tan, six-foot teenager, broad-shouldered and strong, with a shock of sand-colored hair and bright blue eyes that squinted from the sun on the bay, soon became a familiar sight on the waterfront, as he hustled for business, racing the other ferryboats back and forth to the Battery. The boatmen laughed at this eager kid, who swore and cursed like an old sea dog as he poled his scow across the waters of the harbor. They nicknamed him Commodore in jest, but the moniker stuck for life."
—Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt
"A fascinating picture of a social and financial struggle in New York a hundred years ago . . . a truly fascinating book.”
Set against a backdrop of monumental Fifth Avenue mansions, sprawling country estates, oceangoing yachts, private railroad cars, fleets of Rolls-Royces, and squads of maroon-liveried servants, Fortune's Children is a riveting account of a bygone world of privilege, money, power, and self-indulgence.
This irresistible narrative follows the creation of the first great American industrial fortune by Cornelius Vanderbilt through its dissipation by the family who spent their vast inheritance in a fabled golden era.
William K. Vanderbilt Mansion, 660 Fifth Avenue, New York City—A French Renaissance-style château designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt.
Biltmore, Asheville, NC—A 250-room winter retreat turned family home, built on 146,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Marble House, Newport, RI—Alva Vanderbilt chose a temple of white marble for her summer cottage.
The Breakers, Newport, RI—A seaside palace modeled after the sixteenth-century palace of a Genoese merchant prince.
Florham, Madison, NJ—A grand estate with working farm created as "an earthly paradise" for the owner's children.
The Commodore (1794–1877)
The Blatherskite (1877–1883)
Alice of the Breakers (1895–1899)
The Court Jesters (1895–1912)
The Kingfisher (1899–1931)
Mrs. Vanderbilt (1934–1955)
PRAISE FOR FORTUNE'S CHILDREN
A financial fairy tale so bizarre it dwarfs the antics of modern Midases such as Malcolm Forbes and Donald Trump.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Witty, entertaining ... merits a prize for the writer.
A spellbinding tale of how money really does change everything.
KANSAS CITY SUN
Fortune's Children is a monument to the mesmerizing power of money. . . . The author has been assiduous in combing memoirs, biographies, and private papers and in raiding the social columnists of the period. He has an eye for a memorable quotation.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW