Drawing on never-before-seen documents and told from a unique insider’s viewpoint, the CNN anchor and New York Times bestselling author tells the story of his legendary family and their remarkable influence. 300,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)
Drawing on never-before-seen documents and told from a unique insider's viewpoint, the CNN anchor tells the story of his legendary family and their remarkable influence. - (Baker & Taylor)
New York Times bestselling author and journalist Anderson Cooper teams with New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Katherine Howe to chronicle the rise and fall of a legendary American dynasty—his mother’s family, the Vanderbilts.
One of the Washington Post's Notable Works of Nonfiction of 2021
When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginning of the nineteenth century, no one could have imagined that one day he would, through ruthlessness, cunning, and a pathological desire for money, build two empires—one in shipping and another in railroads—that would make him the richest man in America. His staggering fortune was fought over by his heirs after his death in 1877, sowing familial discord that would never fully heal. Though his son Billy doubled the money left by “the Commodore,” subsequent generations competed to find new and ever more extraordinary ways of spending it. By 2018, when the last Vanderbilt was forced out of The Breakers—the seventy-room summer estate in Newport, Rhode Island, that Cornelius’s grandson and namesake had built—the family would have been unrecognizable to the tycoon who started it all.
Now, the Commodore’s great-great-great-grandson Anderson Cooper, joins with historian Katherine Howe to explore the story of his legendary family and their outsized influence. Cooper and Howe breathe life into the ancestors who built the family’s empire, basked in the Commodore’s wealth, hosted lavish galas, and became synonymous with unfettered American capitalism and high society. Moving from the hardscrabble wharves of old Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue, from the ornate summer palaces of Newport to the courts of Europe, and all the way to modern-day New York, Cooper and Howe wryly recount the triumphs and tragedies of an American dynasty unlike any other.
Written with a unique insider’s viewpoint, this is a rollicking, quintessentially American history as remarkable as the family it so vividly captures.
*Starred Review* "This is the story of the greatest American fortune ever squandered," a dramatic tale expertly told of rapacious ambition, decadent excess, and covert and overt tyranny and trauma. Distinguished CNN anchor Cooper identified with the down-to-earth Mississippian heritage of his father, Wyatt Cooper, only exploring his Vanderbilt side as he and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, collaborated on The Rainbow Comes and Goes (2016). Here he and historian and novelist Howe (The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, 2019) vividly portray key figures, beginning with the first Dutch descendant on Staten Island and the gritty ascent of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who amassed the dynasty's gargantuan wealth, institutionalized his wife when he was weary of her, and drove his namesake son to suicide. With resplendent detail, the authors capture the gasp-eliciting extravagance of the Vanderbilt Gilded Age mansions and lifestyles, which rarely made them happy. As most people struggled to survive, New York's elite Four Hundred goaded "brilliant, witty, cunning, and utterly ruthless" socialite and future suffragist Alva Vanderbilt, who married, then daringly divorced Cornelius' grandson and heir, to maniacal heights of social competitiveness. The authors track the pitfalls of twentieth-century celebrity as the Vanderbilts coped with a dwindling fortune, until resilient Gloria became the last to truly experience "a Vanderbilt life." With its intrinsic empathy and in-depth profiles of women, this is a distinctly intimate, insightful, and engrossing chronicle of an archetypal, self-consuming American dynasty.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Cooper's magnetism, Howe's fan base, and an irresistible subject add up to a nonfiction blockbuster. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.