There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Edward J. Renehan Jr.’s Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, is the first new biography of the man in some 65 years. In that time, plenty of other historians have examined the Vanderbilt family as a whole, but Renehan focuses solely on the “bootstrapper” who birthed the family fortune through his massive transportation and financial dealings. Perhaps the most weighty new revelations from Renehan involve Vanderbilt’s notoriously erratic final years: According to newly unearthed records from his longtime personal physician, Renehan reveals that Vanderbilt suffered from advanced syphilis. And just in case you think that the Vanderbilt and Rockefeller mean nothing in this day of high-tech billionaires, keep this in mind: When he died in 1877, Vanderbilt left a fortune of some $103 million, which Renehan estimates would represent more than $150 billion in today’s dollars—dwarfing Bill Gates’ current $50 billion fortune. Renehan Jr. discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610.