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Fortune's Children: The Fall Of The House Of Vanderbilt [Paperback]

Arthur T Vanderbilt

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Book Description

Dec 13 2012

For fans of Downton Abbey, a real-life American version of the Crawley family—Fortune's Children is an enthralling true story that recreates the drama, splendor, and wealth of the legendary Vanderbilts.

Vanderbilt: The very name is synonymous with the Gilded Age. The family patriarch, "the Commodore,” built a fortune that made him the world's richest man by 1877. Yet, less than fifty years after his death, no Vanderbilt was counted among the world's richest people. Written by descendant Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, Fortune's Children traces the dramatic and amazingly colorful history of this great American family, from the rise of industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt to the fall of his progeny—wild spendthrifts whose profligacy bankrupted a vast inheritance.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; Reprint edition (Dec 13 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062224069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062224064
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #127,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

Vanderbilt: the very name signifies wealth. The family patriarch, "the Commodore," built up a fortune that made him the world's richest man by 1877. Yet, less than fifty years after the Commodore's death, one of his direct descendants died penniless, and no Vanderbilt was counted among the world's richest people. Fortune's Children tells the dramatic story of all the amazingly colorful spenders who dissipated such a vast inheritance.

About the Author

Arthur T. Vanderbilt II is the author of many books, among them Changing Law, a biography of his grandfather Arthur T. Vanderbilt, which won the American Bar Association's Scribes Award. He practices law in New Jersey.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  70 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read Jan. 17 2014
By Sean K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I almost never buy paper copies of books, but after reading this on my Kindle I went and purchased this in physical form to give out to friends.

I had just got done reading an extremely dry, very boring, biography of Commodore Vanderbilt. I frankly do not know why I tortured myself with finishing it. However, Fortune's Children, was a breath of fresh air after that. It is anything but boring and dry.

This book breathes life into a fascinating sociological part of American history: the Gilded Age. Prior to reading this book, I really did not have an appreciation for this time in history. The extravagance and the opulence (before income tax existed!) that this book details is fascinating. The book delivers its message without being gossipy, but it also does not bore with dry and academic droll. The author has a wonderful grasp on his style, and walks the line between personal family history and historical account with wonderfully professional ability. At no point did I feel like I was reading a gossip tabloid (I am currently reading a bio by another author that feels that way and it feels cheap and sultry).

In summary the book was extremely well written, captured my attention on every single page, and was one of my most favorite historical bio books of all time.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." April 27 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Commodore" Vanderbilt started poor, but ended life as the wealthiest man in the world. The author is one of his descendants, and notes that fifty years after his death, none of his descendants were rated in the nation's richest men. But starting with the Commodore", the family did live like American royalty. In fact it is just this comparison that was intended by by this eminent family of the Gilded Age. This book is replete with details of the homes and furnishings of a family who felt their obligation was to set the standard as the head of wealthy society.

Not everything in the family was their fortune. Some of the most colorful characters one might encounter are introduced in this book. Two of the most imposing were the Commodore's daughters in law. Alva and Alice vied with each other to surpass in wretched excess. And for the most part, Americans bought into their right to do so. Like a daily written version of Dynasty, their possessions and exploits decorated the front pages of the papers. Few of its denizens were indeed happy with each other or their mates. The undoubtable Ava even bucked a major taboo and divorced her husband. This book is a fascinating look into one of the founding families of the upwardly mobile. It makes for interesting reading that maintains a flowing prose that is clear and enjoyable in form.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Page Turner June 23 2013
By Padanelle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book far exceeded my expectations. It reads like a novel, but is so well anecdoted, the notes for each chapter are also must reads. It is very well researched, and gives a wonderful picture of the Vanderbilts and life of the priviledged during the Gilded Age in NYC.

My only negative is that I felt the book should have included a lineage chart, to follow who was descended from who, but I solved this by downloading it from Wikipedia.

A major focus of the book was on the Commodore's 2 grandchildren - Cornelius II and William K and their children. The story bounced back and forth among them, which is why I felt the need for the lineage chart. I would have preferred if it was laid out one family line at a time.

But that did not take away in any way from my overall enjoyment of the book. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fortune's Children Oct. 14 2013
By Julia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent book, keeps you wanting to read more and it gives it to you. This book tells of the gaining of the great wealth by Commodore Vanderbilt and what each one of his children and subsequent generations did with his money after his death, until, finally all was spent and there were no more Vanderbilt millionaires. I also enjoyed hearing about the "Gilded Age,"the mansions in Newport, R.I., where the "summer" cottages of the rich were. This book will not disappoint.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After Biltmore visit May 2 2013
By Aussie mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Following Biltmore visit, this really was fascinating! Power, money, deception, egos....the Vanderbilt family was the American royalty of their era!
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