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.
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.
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.
The History Channel recently aired a dreadfully inaccurate mini-series called The Men Who Built America. It was billed as a historical account of the careers of businessmen Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford; but it was basically all fiction.
I love America’s great rags-to-riches success stories, so I tuned in eagerly to see how the History people would tell them. After each of the four episodes I vented my disappointment by publishing a blog post exposing some of the more glaring inaccuracies. In my post about the last episode I lamented that an honest and accurate account of this era would have been far more entertaining that the fiction History put on the air.
I ran across an interesting news item today. Earlier this month Dr. Mark C. Carnes, who co-wrote one of the freshman history textbooks I critique in my columns, published an article titled Setting Students’ Minds on Fire. He describes an “active-learning concept” that he helped invent, which is supposed to increase students’ level of involvement. Instead of studying what actually happened in earlier times, his students play elaborate games in which they act out their own version of history, fueled by their own imaginations.