The life of Cornelius Vanderb spans years of phenomenal economic growth in American history. From his boyhood on Staten Island where he ferried passengers and freight to Manhattan to the foundation of his railroad empire, Vanderbilt's story reflects the compulsion and streak of genius that characterized his life. An employee on the ferry lines, he soon gained control and expanded his holdings. In 1851, spurred on by the Rush, Vanderbilt opened a shipping line from the East coast to California including land transit across Nicaragua. After obtaining ownership of the New York Central railroad, he again expanded his holdings to enormous proportions. The strength and craftiness that made all of this possible is captured in Edwin Hoyt's portrait for readers inspired by the Horatio Alger legend as well as by the great figures of 19th century America.