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Cornelius Vanderbilt

Business Magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt

Profession: Business Magnate

United States of America

Biography: Cornelius Vanderbilt rose from humble beginnings to become one of the richest people in nineteenth century America as an influential shipping and railway magnate and the founder of the Vanderbilt family dynasty.

Vanderbilt began his trade ferrying goods and people along the inland waterways around New York. During the 1812 war he secured government contracts and enlarged his fleet. After the war he switched to the steamboat industry, making his way by undercutting competitors and offering more luxurious services to passengers. Vanderbilt's business made him tremendously wealthy and he was nicknamed 'the Commodore' for his dominance in maritime trade.

After the California gold rush Vanderbilt formed the Accessory Transit Company to transport people, via Nicaragua to the West Coast. During the American civil war Vanderbilt lent his flagship steamship the Vanderbilt to the Union Navy at the request of Abraham Lincoln.

If was only later in his career that Vanderbilt turned his hand to railways, for which he is most remembered. He had gained control of the New York and Harlem Railroad by 1863, which controlled access into New York. He then acquired a network of other railways so that by 1873 he could offer the first rail service from New York to Chicago. In 1869 he began construction of the first New York railway terminal, that would be eventually replaced by Grand Central Station. When he died in 1877 his personal estate was the world's largest at 105 million.

Born: May 27, 1794
Birthplace: Staten Island, New York, USA
Star Sign: Gemini

Died: January 4, 1877 (aged 82)
Cause of Death: Exhaustion, from a complication of chronic disorders

Articles and Photos

Historical Events

  • 1833-11-08 Train derails at Hightstown, New Jersey, killing two people. Also onboard are Cornelius Vanderbilt and former President John Quincy Adams.
  • 1853-09-24 1st round-the-world trip by yacht (Cornelius Vanderbilt)
  • 1860-12-26 Maiden voyage of 1st steamship owned by 1 man (Cornelius Vanderbilt)
  • 1869-09-01 Construction begins on the Grand Central Depot for Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York and Harlem Railroad (later replaced by Grand Central Station)

Famous Industrialists