Fortune's Children

  • by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II
  • Narrated by Patrick Lawlor
  • 18 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


If you could sum up Fortune's Children in three words, what would they be?

My headline sums it up along with a third description: EXCELLENT, HONEST, WELL-RESEARCHED. That's FOUR words but you get my drift!

Who was your favorite character and why?

There were way too many characters to pick a favorite. However, if I have to choose, it would be the author, Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, for writing such an amazing history of his ancestors. He didn't pull any punches and remained totally unbiased. It's easier to name my LEAST favorite person: the family patriarch, Cornelius Vanderbilt, a crude, ignorant, penny-pinching and spiteful man.

What does Patrick Lawlor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Patrick Lawlor has the perfect non-regional white boy voice to narrate the history of a uniquely American creation: gilded age robber barons.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, indeed. I almost did but one MUST eat!

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- Linda Lou "OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!"

The Rise and Fall of the Gilded Age

Hats off to Arthur Vanderbilt II for combing through the family archive and putting this rich history down in one, cohesive place – it must have been fantastically challenging.

The book starts off with the life story of the family patriarch, Cornelius, who single-handedly built his empire. He dropped out of school at 11 and at 16, with a $100 loan from his mother, he bought his first boat. He outwitted, out worked and intimidated his competition. He was a domineering and sadistic father of 13. He disowned his daughters who married (and no longer carried the family name) and berated his sons relentlessly.

The story continues by developing the history and life of each of the most prominent family members: the rivalry to be crowned THE Mrs. Vanderbilt, the races to win the inheritance by each succeeding generation. Some family members were shrewd and had significant inheritances to pass on, while others spent money with gross frivolity, bankrupting some branches of this wild tree.

Even with ALL of these unique and very different characters, the story is told coherently. It is not difficult to follow and figure out how each person is related, as Vanderbilt lays out this story logically, generation to generation.

I found the story of Gloria Vanderbilt's childhood so fascinating, I purchased her autobiography to get her side of her story. She was fiercely manipulated as a child. Her alcoholic, gambling, reckless father was dead before she was two, leaving her with a social-climbing 20 year old mother who was manipulated by the Vanderbilts (specifically Gertrude) to gain control Gloria and her trust. It is unclear if it was truly in Gloria’s best interest, which is why I want to dive further into this subject.

This is a great book - a thorough history of a very important part of America’s Gilded Age.
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- Hilary "avoiding road rage one book at a time..."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-06-2014
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio