A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Encyclopedia of American Wealth > Profiles of wealthy Americans [ A-C ] [ D-H ] [ I-M ] [ N-Z ]

 Vanderbilt Family

 "Commodore"Cornelius Vanderbilt ( 1794-1877 ) , New York City, New York

 Parents :  Cornelius Vanderbilt and  Phebe Hand
 Married :  Sophia Johnson (1795-1868)
     Frank Armstrong Crawford (1839-1885)
 Children :     Phebe Jane (Vanderbilt) Cross (1814-1878)
    Ethelinda (Vanderbilt) Allen (1817-1889)
    Eliza (Vanderbilt) Osgood (1819-1890)
    William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885)
    Emily Almira (Vanderbilt) Thorn (1823-1896)
    Sophia Johnson (Vanderbilt) Torrance (1825-1912)
    Maria Louisa (Vanderbilt) Clark Niven (1827-1896)
    Frances Lavinia Vanderbilt (1828-1868)
    Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt (1830-1882)
    Mary Alicia (Vanderbilt) LaBau Berger (1834-1902)
    Catherine Juliette (Vanderbilt) Barker LaFitte (1836-1881)
    George Washington Vanderbilt (1839-1864)

 Fortune :
 105,000,000     $


  75,000,000     $


  1,500,000     $


  3,500,000     $


  250,000     $


 Activity : Shipping and Railroads
 Main property : The largest fleet of steamships in the USA; later New York Central & Hudson River Railroad
 Other activities : more railroads, telegraph companies
 Associated properties : Lake Shore RR, Michigan Central RR, Hudson River RR, Western Union Telegraph

Biographical sketch :

The son of a farmer of Staten Island NY, who left school at an early age to operate a boat between the island and the city. Cornelius Vanderbilt had the qualities to succeed in his times : a strong will, unbound energy and an education to parsimony. After the war of 1812, Vanderbilt rapidly extended his transportation business, operating many schooners along the North American east coast. Gifted with enough vision to understand when a technology had become obsolete, Cornelius Vanderbilt sold out his sailors in 1818 and took a job as a steamboat captain for Thomas Gibbons. Always a keen competitor, Vanderbilt challenged the Fulton-Livingston monopoly, running his steamboat on the Hudson river without a license, at particularly low rates. His position was popular and the dispute climaxed in the famous US Supreme Court case Ogden vs Gibbons, which ended the monopoly and made Cornelius Vanderbilt famous. The young steamship entrepreneur built a reputation for good service at low cost and one of the largest steamship fleets in the United States, which earned him the title “Commodore”. During the 1850’s, Vanderbilt’s reputation as a tough competitor allowed him to extort sizeable bribes from the government subsidized shipping lines. As Civil War broke out, the Commodore divested his fleet, selling many of his ships to the Union navy. Aged 69 and now the owner of $ 15 million in cash, Cornelius Vanderbilt once again reshuffled his fortune along technological progress. Within a few short years, Cornelius Vanderbilt bought a controlling interest in the New York & Haarlem and the Hudson River railroads and merged them, thwarting experienced Wall Street bear Daniel Drew. Then, as he controlled the railroads between New York and Albany, he sought control of the New York Central, to complete his system through to lake Erie. With the intention to build a monopoly, Vanderbilt tried to absorb the Erie railroad as well, but was defeated by Jay Gould and Jim Fisk. Cornelius Vanderbilt then merged his railroads and acquired other lines, building a through connection to Chicago, the fast growing capital of the Midwest. In the process he increased his fortune to $ 105'000'000, which made him the richest man in America when he died in 1877.

Links :

>> The Robber Barons
Find a biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt and other robber barons at Christian Muller's Railroad Tycoon II web site

Books :
The Vanderbilts  The Vanderbilts 
Author        : Jerry E. Patterson
 Publisher    :
Harry N. Abrams Inc, 1989

 Fortune's Children - The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt (Paperback) 
Author        : Arthur T. Vanderbilt II
 Publisher    :
Harper Collins, 1991

 The Myth of the Robber Barons 
Author        : Burton W. Folsom jr
 Publisher    :
Young America's Foundation, 1996

  Search at BN : Out of Print, Used & Rare 

 The Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age - Architectural Aspirations, 1879-1901 
Author        : John Foreman and Robbe Pierce Stimson
 Publisher    :
St.Martin's Press, 1991

  Search at BN : Out of Print, Used & Rare 

 Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography : Railroads in the Nineteenth Century 
Author        : Robert L. Frey
 Publisher    :
Bruccoli Clark Layman Inc, 1988

  Search at BN : Out of Print, Used & Rare 

 Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders (4 volumes) 
Author        : John N. Ingham
 Publisher    :
Greenwood Press, 1983

  Search at BN : Out of Print, Used & Rare 

 History of the Great American Fortunes 
Author        : Gustavus Myers
 Publisher    :
The Modern Library - Random House Inc, 1937

  Search at BN : Out of Print, Used & Rare 


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