The Other Half of History Daily Blog

Thoughts on modern politics from a historical perspective.

An Accurate Account of the “Men Who Built America” Part 6

This is the sixth in my series of posts about the five businessmen the History Channel profiled in a terribly inaccurate and un-historical TV miniseries titled The Men Who Built America. I’m writing these posts in response to several comments and e-mails from TV viewers who have expressed interest in a more accurate version of the story. (Click here to see all Al’s columns on the program and its subjects.)

Post #6: Vanderbilt Crosses the Atlantic

In April of 1855, in the middle of his feud with Garrison and Morgan, Vanderbilt announced the opening of a trans-Atlantic ship line. He called it the European Line. His ongoing fight over Accessory Transit may have made the Commodore a little gun-shy about publicly traded companies; he created the European Line as a private company. Although the great majority of Atlantic traffic was still being carried by sailing ships at that time, Vanderbilt focused exclusively on steamships.

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An Accurate Account of the “Men Who Built America” Part 5

This is the fifth in my series of posts about the five businessmen the History Channel profiled in a terribly inaccurate and un-historical miniseries titled The Men Who Built America. I’m writing these posts in response to several comments and e-mails from TV viewers who have expressed interest in a more accurate version of the story. (Click here to see all Al’s columns on the program and its subjects.)

Post #5: Vanderbilt to Traitors: “I Will Ruin You” 

In 1835, the year Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland, Vanderbilt started offering steamboat service up Long Island Sound from New York City to Providence, Rhode Island, in anticipation of the completion of a railroad from Providence to Boston later that year. His competitor for this business was the Boston and New York Transportation Company, which operated six small steamboats in the Sound. This time, instead of launching into a price war, Vanderbilt decided to collude with the competition to keep prices high. He and the B&NY agreed on a price of eight dollars for one way service between New York and Providence.
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An Accurate Account of the “Men Who Built America” Part 4

This is the fourth in my series of posts about the five businessmen the History Channel profiled in a terribly inaccurate and un-historical miniseries titled The Men Who Built America. I’m writing these posts in response to several comments and e-mails from TV viewers who have expressed interest in a more accurate version of the story.

Post #4: Cornelius Vanderbilt, Age Thirty-Four to Forty 

 In last week’s post I described Vanderbilt’s career as a steamboat captain and business manager in Thomas Gibbons’ company. In 1829 Vanderbilt went back into business for himself. He called his new company the Dispatch Line.

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An Accurate Account of the “Men Who Built America” Part 3

This is the third in my series of posts about the five businessmen the History Channel profiled in a terribly inaccurate and un-historical miniseries titled The Men Who Built America. I’m writing these posts in response to several comments and e-mails from TV viewers who have expressed interest in a more accurate version of the story.

 Post #3: Cornelius Vanderbilt, Age Twenty-Four to Thirty-Four

In last week’s post I described the first eight years of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s career, up to the point where he shut down his profitable shipping business and accepted a job as a steamboat captain. There were good reasons for this move, although Vanderbilt might have been the only person who could see them at the time. Vanderbilt, like all the really successful businessmen of the nineteenth century, had a knack for thinking strategically.

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An Accurate Account of “The Men Who Built America” Part 2

This is the second in my series of posts about the five businessmen the History Channel profiled in a terribly un-historical miniseries titled The Men Who Built America. You can click here to read Part 1.

 Post #2: Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Early Career

 The History Channel exaggerated Cornelius Vanderbilt’s role in the post-Civil War railroad industry to some extent. By 1968, the year where the History program really starts, Vanderbilt was in his mid-seventies and suffering from syphilis-related dementia, and his son William was for all intents and purposes running his businesses.

At any rate the really remarkable part of the Cornelius Vanderbilt story is the early years, when he started with nothing and achieved tremendous success.
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