Conundrum for Chapter 17:
The North After the Civil War


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The chapter describes how the United States became industrialized. One of the wealthiest people to take advantage of this process was William K. Vanderbilt. He made his money in shipping and railroads. For cities to become industrial centers, large amounts of natural resources had to be brought in and processed. As a result, transportation systems became important.

The Vanderbilt wealth began with"Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who changed the ferry business he had begun in 1800 with a $100 flat bottom boat into a steamship and railroad empire that established descendents of America's wealthiest family. His younger brother, William Vanderbilt, also was important in this family business: He bought some ships and rail lines and began hauling materials to the large industrial centers in the east.

William Vanderbilt became so rich he built a mansion in Newport, which became a center for many of other wealthy industrialists to gather in the summer. Because of its location near New York City, Boston, and Baltimore, and with its nice summer weather on the coast, the important and wealthy folks from the east built summer "cottages." Marble House was one of the cottages to be built by Vanderbilt, with many others to follow. He wanted to build "the very best living conditions that money could buy."

The Vanderbilt house was built with tons of marble from Africa, Europe, and America. It cost eleven million dollars in the late 1880s. Marble house was a birthday present to his wife Alva and was meant to be an original reproduction of 17th century French architecture and art. He made the interior walls and ceilings lined with gold, put expensive tapestries over the windows, and filled the rooms with fantastic art, paintings, and sculptures.

In this chapter, you learn about this unique time in the history of our country. You learn how cities were built as industrial centers, how the economy changed and some individuals became extremely wealthy, and how the social system changed as a result of all these developments. What do you think about such incredible wealth in the hands of a few? What do you think about how such wealthy people made and spent their money?

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