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.
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