Good solid job, this winner of the first Knopf Fellowship in Biography, in the life story of the founder of a fortune and a line, exponent of early American enterprise. The character of the man, -- shrewd, aggressive, able, energetic, selfish, vein, -- is revealed through his exploits. Son of a religious unimaginative Staten Island family, from whose waterfront activities grew his early career, ferryman, owner of a line of boats, boomed by the Gold Rush, which brought Vanderbilt into international finance. Trans Atlantic boat service before the Civil War -- a railroad empire afterwards. This is a detailed study of his strategy, his manipulations, his sharp business dealings, his mastery of transportation, his large scale ideals, his independence -- a book of greater interest to men than to women, for this side of his career overbalances the stories of his family life and social beginnings. The biographer manages to sustain a reasonably objective attitude towards his subject.