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Vanderbilt and American Free Enterprise

Eric Daniels

Presented at: OCON 2003

Date: Jul 05, 2003

The history of American business in the 19th century is an inspiring story of accomplishment and innovation. This lecture examines the life and achievements of one of America's great businessmen of that era: Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt. He was condemned for his virtues by contemporaries and maligned by historians as a corrupt "robber baron." Ayn Rand admired Vanderbilt and considered him a businessman-hero, and we can see shades of Vanderbilt in the character of Nat Taggart in Atlas Shrugged.

This lecture investigates how Vanderbilt first entered and dominated the steam-shipping industry and then the railroad industry. Dr. Daniels reviews Vanderbilt's major accomplishments–which included promoting free competition–and discusses the impact of Vanderbilt's accomplishments in the larger context of American business history.


Parts: 1

Handout: none