Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877) was an American business magnate who built his wealth in railroads and shipping. After working with his father's business, Vanderbilt worked his way into leadership positions in the inland water trade and invested in the rapidly growing railroad industry. Nicknamed "The Commodore", he is known for owning the New York Central Railroad. His biographer T. J. Stiles says, "He vastly improved and expanded the nation's transportation infrastructure, contributing to a transformation of the very geography of the United States. He embraced new technologies and new forms of business organization, and used them to compete....He helped to create the corporate economy that would define the United States into the 21st century."
As one of the richest Americans in history and wealthiest figures overall, Vanderbilt was the patriarch of a wealthy, influential family. He provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. According to historian H. Roger Grant: "Contemporaries, too, often hated or feared Vanderbilt or at least considered him an unmannered brute. While Vanderbilt could be a rascal, combative and cunning, he was much more a builder than a wrecker [...] being honorable, shrewd, and hard-working."
|Born||May 27, 1794|
|Died||January 4, 1877 (aged 82)|
|Resting place||Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, New York, U.S.|
|Occupation||Railroad, water transport|
|Net worth||US $215 billion (2016 dollars; inflation-adjusted)|
Cornelius Vanderbilt's great-great-grandfather, Jan Aertson or Aertszoon ("Aert's son"), was a Dutch farmer from the village of De Bilt in Utrecht, Netherlands, who emigrated to New Amsterdam (later New York) as an indentured servant in 1650. The Dutch van der ("of the") was eventually added to Aertson's village name to create "van der Bilt" ("of the Bilt"). This was eventually condensed to Vanderbilt.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island, New York on May 27, 1794 to Cornelius van Derbilt and Phebe Hand. He began working on his father's ferry in New York Harbor as a boy, quitting school at the age of 11. At the age of 16, Vanderbilt decided to start his own ferry service. According to one version of events, he borrowed $100 from his mother to purchase a periauger (a shallow draft, two-masted sailing vessel), which he christened the Swiftsure. However, according to the first account of his life, published in 1853, the periauger belonged to his father and the younger Vanderbilt received half the profit. He began his business by ferrying freight and passengers on a ferry between Staten Island and Manhattan. Such was his energy and eagerness in his trade that other captains nearby took to calling him The Commodore in jest – a nickname that stuck with him all his life.
While many Vanderbilt family members had joined the Episcopal Church, Cornelius Vanderbilt remained a member of the Moravian Church to his death. Along with other members of the Vanderbilt family, he helped erect a local Moravian parish church in his city.
On December 19, 1813, at age 19 Vanderbilt married his first cousin, Sophia Johnson, daughter of Nathaniel Johnson and Elizabeth Hand. They moved into a boarding house on Broad Street in Manhattan. They had 13 children together: Phebe in 1814, Ethelinda in 1817, Eliza in 1819, William in 1821, Emily in 1823, Sophia in 1825, Maria in 1827, Frances in 1828, Cornelius Jeremiah in 1830, George in 1832 (who died young in 1836), Mary in 1834, Catherine in 1836, and another son named George in 1839.:9–27
In addition to running his ferry, Vanderbilt bought his brother-in-law John De Forest's schooner Charlotte and traded in food and merchandise in partnership with his father and others. But on November 24, 1817, a ferry entrepreneur named Thomas Gibbons asked Vanderbilt to captain his steamboat between New Jersey and New York. Although Vanderbilt kept his own businesses running, he became Gibbons's business manager.:31–35
When Vanderbilt entered his new position, Gibbons was fighting against a steamboat monopoly in New York waters, which had been granted by the New York State Legislature to the politically influential patrician Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton, who had designed the steamboat. Though both Livingston and Fulton had died by the time Vanderbilt started working for Gibbons, the monopoly was held by Livingston's heirs. They had granted a license to Aaron Ogden to run a ferry between New York and New Jersey. Gibbons launched his steamboat venture because of a personal dispute with Ogden, whom he hoped to drive into bankruptcy. To accomplish this, he undercut prices and also brought a landmark legal case – Gibbons v. Ogden – to the United States Supreme Court to overturn the monopoly.:37–48
Working for Gibbons, Vanderbilt learned to operate a large and complicated business. He moved with his family to New Brunswick, New Jersey, a stop on Gibbons' line between New York and Philadelphia. There his wife Sophia operated a very profitable inn, using the proceeds to feed, clothe and educate their children. Vanderbilt also proved a quick study in legal matters, representing Gibbons in meetings with lawyers. He also went to Washington, D.C., to hire Daniel Webster to argue the case before the Supreme Court. Vanderbilt appealed his own case against the monopoly to the Supreme Court, which was next on the docket after Gibbons v. Ogden. The Court never heard Vanderbilt's case, because on March 2, 1824, it ruled in Gibbons' favor, saying that states had no power to interfere with interstate commerce. The case is still considered a landmark ruling. The protection of competitive interstate commerce is considered the basis for much of the prosperity which the United States has generated.:47–67
After Thomas Gibbons died in 1826, Vanderbilt worked for Gibbons' son William until 1829. Though he had always run his own businesses on the side, he now worked entirely for himself. Step by step, he started lines between New York and the surrounding region. First he took over Gibbons' ferry to New Jersey, then switched to western Long Island Sound. In 1831, he took over his brother Jacob's line to Peekskill, New York, on the lower Hudson River. That year he faced opposition by a steamboat operated by Daniel Drew, who forced Vanderbilt to buy him out. Impressed, Vanderbilt became a secret partner with Drew for the next thirty years, so that the two men would have an incentive to avoid competing with each other.:72, 84–87
In 1834, Vanderbilt competed on the Hudson River against the Hudson River Steamboat Association, a steamboat monopoly between New York City and Albany. Using the name "The People's Line," he used the populist language associated with Democratic president Andrew Jackson to get popular support for his business. At the end of the year, the monopoly paid him a large amount to stop competing, and he switched his operations to Long Island Sound.:99–104
During the 1830s, textile mills were built in large numbers in New England as the United States developed its manufacturing base. They processed cotton from the Deep South, so were directly tied to the slave societies. Some of the first railroads in the United States were built from Boston to Long Island Sound, to connect with steamboats that ran to New York. By the end of the decade, Vanderbilt dominated the steamboat business on the Sound, and began to take over management of the connecting railroads. In the 1840s, he launched a campaign to take over the most attractive of these lines, the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad, popularly known as the Stonington. By cutting fares on competing lines, Vanderbilt drove down the Stonington stock price, and took over the presidency of the company in 1847. It was the first of the many railroads he would head.:119–46
During these years, Vanderbilt also operated many other businesses. He bought large amounts of real estate in Manhattan and Staten Island, and took over the Staten Island Ferry in 1838. It was in the 1830s when he was first referred to as "commodore," then the highest rank in the United States Navy. A common nickname for important steamboat entrepreneurs, by the end of the 1840s, only Vanderbilt was referred to by this nickname.:124–27
When the California gold rush began in 1849, Vanderbilt switched from regional steamboat lines to ocean-going steamships. Many of the migrants to California, and almost all of the gold returning to the East Coast, went by steamship to Panama, where mule trains and canoes provided transportation across the isthmus. (The Panama Railroad was soon built to provide a faster crossing.) Vanderbilt proposed a canal across Nicaragua, which was closer to the United States and was spanned most of the way across by Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan River. In the end, he could not attract enough investment to build the canal, but he did start a steamship line to Nicaragua, and founded the Accessory Transit Company to carry passengers across Nicaragua by steamboat on the lake and river, with a 12-mile carriage road between the Pacific port of San Juan del Sur and Virgin Bay on Lake Nicaragua.:174–205
In 1852, a dispute with Joseph L. White, a partner in the Accessory Transit Company, led to a business battle in which Vanderbilt forced the company to buy his ships for an inflated price. In early 1853, he took his family on a grand tour of Europe in his steamship yacht, the North Star. While he was away, White conspired with Charles Morgan, Vanderbilt's erstwhile ally, to betray him, and deny him money he was owed by the Accessory Transit Company. When Vanderbilt returned from Europe, he retaliated by developing a rival steamship line to California, cutting prices until he forced Morgan and White to pay him off.
He then turned to transatlantic steamship lines, running in opposition to the heavily subsidized Collins Line, headed by Edward K. Collins. Vanderbilt eventually drove the Collins Line into extinction. During the 1850s, Vanderbilt also bought control of a major shipyard and the Allaire Iron Works, a leading manufacturer of marine steam engines, in Manhattan.:217–264
In November 1855, Vanderbilt began to buy control of Accessory Transit once again. That same year, the American military adventurer, William Walker, led an expedition to Nicaragua and briefly took control of the government. Edmund Randolph, a close friend of Walker, coerced the Accessory Transit's San Francisco agent, Cornelius K. Garrison, into opposing Vanderbilt. Randolph convinced Walker to annul the charter of the Accessory Transit Company, and give the transit rights and company steamboats to him; Randolph sold these to Garrison. Garrison brought Charles Morgan in New York into the plan. Vanderbilt took control of the company just before these developments were announced. When he tried to convince the U.S. and English governments to help restore the company to its rights and property, they refused. So he negotiated with Costa Rica, which (along with the other Central American republics) had declared war on Walker. Vanderbilt sent a man to Costa Rica who led a raid that captured the steamboats on the San Juan River, cutting Walker off from his reinforcements from insurgent groups in the United States. Walker was forced to give up, and was conducted out of the country by a U.S. Navy officer. But the new Nicaraguan government refused to allow Vanderbilt to restart the transit business, so he started a line by way of Panama, eventually developing a monopoly on the California steamship business.:268–327
When the Civil War began in 1861, Vanderbilt attempted to donate his largest steamship, the Vanderbilt, to the Union Navy. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles refused it, thinking its operation and maintenance too expensive for what he expected to be a short war. Vanderbilt had little choice but to lease it to the War Department, at prices set by ship brokers. When the Confederate ironclad Virginia (popularly known in the North as the Merrimack) wrought havoc with the Union blockading squadron at Hampton Roads, Virginia, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and President Abraham Lincoln called on Vanderbilt for help. This time he succeeded in donating the Vanderbilt to the Union navy, equipping it with a ram and staffing it with handpicked officers. It helped bottle up the Virginia, after which Vanderbilt converted it into a cruiser to hunt for the Confederate commerce raider Alabama, captained by Raphael Semmes. For donating the Vanderbilt, he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. Vanderbilt also paid to outfit a major expedition to New Orleans. He suffered a grievous loss when George Washington Vanderbilt II, his youngest and favorite son, and heir apparent, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, fell ill and died without ever seeing combat.:341–64
Though Vanderbilt had relinquished his presidency of the Stonington Railroad during the California gold rush, he took an interest in several railroads during the 1850s, serving on the boards of directors of the Erie Railway, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Hartford and New Haven, and the New York and Harlem (popularly known as the Harlem). In 1863, Vanderbilt took control of the Harlem in a famous stockmarket corner, and was elected its president. He later explained that he wanted to show that he could take this railroad, which was generally considered worthless, and make it valuable. It had a key advantage: it was the only steam railroad to enter the center of Manhattan, running down 4th Avenue (later Park Avenue) to a station on 26th Street, where it connected with a horse-drawn streetcar line. From Manhattan it ran up to Chatham Four Corners, New York, where it had a connection to the railroads running east and west.:365–386
Vanderbilt brought his eldest son Billy in as vice-president of the Harlem. Billy had had a nervous breakdown early in life, and his father had sent him to a farm on Staten Island. But he proved himself a good businessman, and eventually became the head of the Staten Island Railway. Though the Commodore had once scorned Billy, he was impressed by his son's success. Eventually he promoted him to operational manager of all his railroad lines. In 1864, the Commodore sold his last ships, in order to concentrate on the railroads.:387–90
Once in charge of the Harlem, Vanderbilt encountered conflicts with connecting lines. In each case, the strife ended in a battle that Vanderbilt won. He bought control of the Hudson River Railroad in 1864, the New York Central Railroad in 1867, and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway in 1869. He later bought the Canada Southern as well. In 1870, he consolidated two of his key lines into the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, one of the first giant corporations in United States history.:391–442, 474–520
In 1869, Vanderbilt directed the Harlem to begin construction of the Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street in Manhattan. It was finished in 1871, and served as his lines' terminus in New York. He sank the tracks on 4th Avenue in a cut that later became a tunnel, and 4th Avenue became Park Avenue. The depot was replaced by Grand Central Terminal in 1913.:391–442
In 1868, Vanderbilt fell into a dispute with Daniel Drew, who had become treasurer of the Erie Railway. To get revenge, he tried to corner Erie stock, which led to the so-called Erie War. This brought him into direct conflict with Jay Gould and financier James Fisk Jr., who had just joined Drew on the Erie board. They defeated the corner by issuing "watered stock" in defiance of state law, which restricted the number of shares a company could issue.:207–32 But Gould bribed the legislature to legalize the new stock.:262–64 Vanderbilt used the leverage of a lawsuit to recover his losses, but he and Gould became public enemies.
Gould never got the better of Vanderbilt in any other important business matter, but he often embarrassed Vanderbilt, who uncharacteristically lashed out at Gould in public. By contrast, Vanderbilt befriended his other foes after their fights ended, including Drew and Cornelius Garrison.
Following his wife Sophia's death in 1868, Vanderbilt went to Canada. On August 21, 1869, in London, Ontario, he married a cousin from Mobile, Alabama with the name — unusual for a woman — of Frank Armstrong Crawford.
Vanderbilt's second wife convinced him to give $1 million, the largest charitable gift in American history to that date, to Bishop Holland Nimmons McTyeire, the husband of her cousin, Amelia Townsend, to found Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, named in his honor. He also paid $50,000 for a church for his second wife's congregation, the Church of the Strangers. In addition, he donated to churches around New York, including a gift to the Moravian Church on Staten Island of 8½ acres (34,000 m2) for a cemetery (the Moravian Cemetery). He chose to be buried there.
Cornelius Vanderbilt died on January 4, 1877, at his residence, No. 10 Washington Place, after having been confined to his rooms for about eight months. The immediate cause of his death was exhaustion, brought on by long suffering from a complication of chronic disorders. At the time of his death, aged 82, Vanderbilt had a fortune estimated at $100 million. In his will, he left 95% of his $100 million estate to his son William (Billy) and to William's four sons ($5 million to Cornelius, and $2 million apiece to William, Frederick, and George). The Commodore said that he believed William was the only heir capable of maintaining the business empire.
Commodore Vanderbilt willed amounts ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 to each of his daughters. His wife received $500,000, their New York City home, and 2,000 shares of common stock in the New York Central Railroad. To his younger surviving son, Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt, whom he regarded as a wastrel, he left the income from a $200,000 trust fund. The Commodore had lived in relative modesty considering his nearly unlimited means, splurging only on race horses. His descendants were the ones who built the Vanderbilt houses that characterize America's Gilded Age. (Although his daughters and Cornelius received bequests much smaller than those of their brothers, these made them very wealthy by the standards of 1877 and were not subject to inheritance tax.)
According to The Wealthy 100 by Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther, Vanderbilt would be worth $143 billion in 2007 United States dollars if his total wealth as a share of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1877 (the year of his death) were taken and applied in that same proportion in 2007. This would make him the second-wealthiest person in United States history, after Standard Oil co-founder John Davison Rockefeller (1839–1937). Another calculation, from 1998, puts him in third place, after Andrew Carnegie.
In 1999, Cornelius Vanderbilt was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame, recognizing his significant contributions to the railroad industry. He was inducted in the "Railway Workers & Builders: North America" category.
A statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt is located on the south side of Grand Central Terminal, facing the Park Avenue road viaduct to the south. The 8.5 feet (2.6 m) tall bronze statue was sculpted by Ernst Plassmann and was originally sited at the Hudson River Railroad depot at St. John's Park before being moved to Grand Central Terminal in 1929.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was buried in the family vault in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island. He was later reburied in a tomb in the same cemetery constructed by his son Billy. Three of his daughters and son, Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt, contested the will on the grounds that their father was of unsound mind and under the influence of his son Billy and of spiritualists whom he consulted on a regular basis. The court battle lasted more than a year and was ultimately won outright by Billy, who increased the bequests to his siblings and paid their legal fees. A living descendant is his great-great-granddaughter Gloria Vanderbilt, a renowned fashion designer. Her youngest son is Anderson Cooper, a television news anchor. Through Billy's daughter Emily Thorn Vanderbilt, another descendant is actor Timothy Olyphant.
Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt was childless when he committed suicide in 1882. George Washington Vanderbilt died during the Civil War and before he had any children. All of the Vanderbilt multimillionaires descend through the oldest son Billy and his wife.
Shortly thereafter, his son Cornelius (brother to Jacob II, and the second in the family to bear the name Cornelius) was among several signers who petitioned the leaders of the American Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for permission to build a meeting house. Once the New Dorp worthies received the proper authority from Bethlehem, Cornelius, Jacob II, and many more of the by-now ubiquitous Staten Island Vanderbilts helped construct an austere but sturdy house of worship, which opened its doors in 1763.
Almahmoud (1947–1971) was an American Thoroughbred racemare that was best known as an influential broodmare who produced Natalma and Cosmah
She was sired by the 1936 Epsom Derby winner Mahmoud who was imported to the United States in 1940 by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. Her dam was the unraced mare, Arbitrator, a daughter of the 1934 Belmont Stakes winner, Peace Chance. Almahmoud won important races at age two and three before being retired to broodmare duty.C. V. Wood
Cornelius Vanderbilt "C. V." Wood (December 17, 1920 – March 14, 1992) was an American developer of theme parks and planned communities. He was the chief developer of Disneyland and then, through his own company, Marco Engineering, he developed other parks in several locations across the country. These theme parks included Freedomland U.S.A. in New York City and Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.Cornelius Vanderbilt II
Cornelius Vanderbilt II (November 11, 1843 – September 12, 1899) was an American socialite, heir, businessman, and a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family. He was the favorite grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who bequeathed him $5 million, and the eldest son of William Henry "Billy" Vanderbilt (who bequeathed him about $70 million) and Maria Louisa Kissam. In his turn he succeeded them as head of the New York Central and related railroad lines in 1885.Cornelius Vanderbilt III
Brigadier General Cornelius "Neily" Vanderbilt III (September 5, 1873 – March 1, 1942) was an American military officer, inventor, engineer, and yachtsman. He was a member of the Vanderbilt family.Cornelius Vanderbilt II House
The Cornelius Vanderbilt II House was a mansion built in 1883 at 1 West 57th Street in New York City. It was sold in 1926 and demolished.Cornelius Vanderbilt IV
Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (April 30, 1898 – July 7, 1974) was a newspaper publisher, journalist, author and military officer. He was an outcast of high society who was disinherited by his parents when he became a newspaper publisher. He desired to live a "normal" life but was burdened by large debt and could not maintain the lifestyle associated with his family's social position.Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
Cornelius Vanderbilt "Sonny" Whitney (February 20, 1899 – December 13, 1992) was an American businessman, film producer, writer, philanthropist, polo player, and government official, as well as the owner of a leading stable of thoroughbred racehorses.Grace Vanderbilt
Grace Graham Wilson Vanderbilt (September 3, 1870 – January 7, 1953) was an American socialite. She was the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt III. She was one of the last Vanderbilts to live the luxurious life of the "head of society" that her predecessors such as Alice and Alva Vanderbilt enjoyed.Grand Central Terminal art
Grand Central Terminal, one of the main railroad stations in New York City, features public art by a variety of artists. Through its status as a transportation and architectural icon, the terminal has also been depicted in many works of art.
Grand Central features permanent works of art, including the celestial ceiling in the Main Concourse, the Glory of Commerce work and the statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of the building's south facade, and the two cast-iron eagle statues adorning the terminal's facades. As well, Vanderbilt Hall is regularly used for temporary art exhibitions and events. The Dining Concourse has a series of lightboxes also used to display temporary art exhibits. The terminal is also known for its performance and installation art, including flash mobs and other spontaneous events.List of richest Americans in history
For the contemporary lists, see List of Americans by net worth and Forbes 400.Most sources agree on John D. Rockefeller being the richest American in history, although some define richest as an individual's wealth as a share of contemporary GDP.
This method of comparing individuals' wealth across time is disputed. For example, economic blogger Scott Sumner noted in 2018 that Rockefeller was worth $1.4 billion when he died in 1937, which was about $24 billion in dollars adjusted to 2018. Meanwhile, Bill Gates in 1999 was worth nearly $150 billion in dollars adjusted to 2018.Second richest in terms of wealth over contemporary GDP is disputed, with various sources listing Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor IV, Bill Gates, or Henry Ford, or John Pitcairn. Most sources agree on Carnegie. Further places are a matter of even bigger debate.
Given the economic rise of the United States of America since its origins, with America becoming the foremost economic power in the world by the late 19th century, the wealthiest men in America were often also the wealthiest men in the world.National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame
The National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, in the Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs, New York, was established in 1986. It contains photographs, videos, artifacts, costumes and biographies. The museum is located in the former Washington Bath House and was founded by Marylou Whitney. It is related to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and also provides dance classes and master classes through the Lewis A. Swyer School for the Arts, which hosts the New York State Summer School of the Arts during July and August.The National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame purposed a mission from its very foundation. It was "to cultivate, promote, foster, sponsor, and develop among its members and the community at large, the appreciation, understanding, taste, and love of the Musical Arts, especially the Dance; to create a National Hall of Fame for the advancement of such purposes; to secure the interest of the patrons of these Arts, and to promote and encourage the means for popular instruction and enjoyment thereof."Robber baron (industrialist)
"Robber baron" is a derogatory metaphor of social criticism originally applied to certain late 19th-century American businessmen who were accused of using unscrupulous methods to get rich, or expand their wealth, for example Cornelius Vanderbilt taking money from government-subsidized shippers, in order to not compete on their routes.
The term was based on an analogy to the German robber barons, local feudal lords or bandits in Germany who waylaid travellers through their ostensible territory, claiming some tax or fine was owed.T. J. Stiles
T. J. Stiles (born 1964 in Foley, Minnesota) is an American biographer who lives in Berkeley, California. His book The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) won a National Book Award and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. His book Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History.The First Tycoon
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt is a 2009 biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a 19th-century American industrialist and philanthropist who built his fortune in the shipping and railroad industries, becoming one of the wealthiest Americans in the history of the U.S. It was written by American biographer T. J. Stiles. The book was honored with the 2009 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania
Vanderbilt is a borough in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 476 at the 2010 census, down from 553 at the 2000 census. The town is named for the railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. It is served by the Connellsville Area School District.Vanderbilt Avenue
Vanderbilt Avenue is the name of three thoroughfares in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island. They were named after Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794–1877), the builder of Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.Vanderbilt family
The Vanderbilt family is an American family of Dutch origin who gained prominence during the Gilded Age. Their success began with the shipping and railroad empires of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the family expanded into various other areas of industry and philanthropy. Cornelius Vanderbilt's descendants went on to build grand mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York City, luxurious "summer cottages" in Newport, Rhode Island, the palatial Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, and various other opulent homes.
The Vanderbilts were once the wealthiest family in America. Cornelius Vanderbilt was the richest American until his death in 1877. After that, his son William acquired his father's fortune, and was the richest American until his death in 1885. The Vanderbilts' prominence lasted until the mid-20th century, when the family's 10 great Fifth Avenue mansions were torn down, and most other Vanderbilt houses were sold or turned into museums in what has been referred to as the "Fall of the House of Vanderbilt".Branches of the family are found on the United States East Coast. Contemporary descendants include fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, her youngest son, journalist Anderson Cooper, actor Timothy Olyphant, musician John P. Hammond and screenwriter James Vanderbilt.Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience or Whitney Marine Lab at the University of Florida is a research and teaching facility, that conducts research pertaining to Marine Bioscience.The Marine lab can be traced back to the benefactor Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, who donated numerous acres to the University of Florida so that a site could be used. It was the intention of this benefactor to study the natural history of marine animals. Whitney paid a large share of the construction costs, and the Laboratory officially opened on January 30, 1974. In the years that followed an additional building, named Whitney Hall, containing dormitory rooms, conference centers, and apartments were constructed with funds provided primarily by Cornelius and Marylou Whitney.William Henry Vanderbilt
William Henry "Billy" Vanderbilt (May 8, 1821 – December 8, 1885) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He was the eldest son of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, an heir to his fortune and a prominent member of the Vanderbilt family. Vanderbilt was the richest American after he took over his father's fortune in 1877 until his own death in 1885, passing on a substantial part of the fortune to his wife and children, particularly to his sons Cornelius II and William. He inherited nearly $100 million from his father. The fortune had doubled when he died less than nine years later.