Cornelius Vanderbilt Facts and Information

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The Commodore

Cornelius Vanderbilt is the grandfather of George Vanderbilt who built the Biltmore House Mansion located in Asheville North Carolina

Cornelius Vanderbilt started with nothing and worked his way to wealth. He was a son of a poor farmer. He quit school at a 11 years old to work on the waterfront. Borrowed money from his parents, and used the money to buy a boat at 16 years old. The boat was used to ferry people between New York and Staten Island.

During the war in 1812, Vanderbilt bought more boats to expand business. In 1818 Vanderbilt sold his fleet so he could work a steamboat with Captain Thomas Gibbens. From Gibbens, Vanderbilt learned the steam ship business. From the money he saved , he started his steam boat company in 1829. Buy cutting fairs in adding luxury amenities to his steamboats, he was able to gain control on the Hudson. His competitors paid him dearly to move.

Vanderbilt then began a steamboat business from Long Island to Boston. In 1846, he began another company to transport passengers and commodities to the west coast. The 1849, the gold rush, made the company a successful adventure. His prices were so cheap that his competitors paid him to quit again.

In 1861, he presented a high-speed side-wheel steamer to the US Navy. At the time, there were less than 50 ships in active naval service. The cruisers named the Vanderbilt, captured three Blockade Runners during the American Civil war and in 1865 participated in the bombardment and amphibious assault on Fort Fisher NC. The federal navy at that time had grown to a fleet of more than 550 steam powered ships.

By investing in stock, Vanderbilt became the owner of the Harlem and New York Railroads in 1863. Next he bought the New York Central railroad and Hudson River Railroad, then the Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad. He had the first rail service from New York to Chicago. He ordered the construction of the Grand Central Terminal in New York City giving jobs to many. At the time of his death, William Henry Vanderbilt inherited over 90,000,000.

Facts about the Commodore

  • Quoted as saying Law, who care about law! Hasn't I got power¯
  • A robber baron was an entrepreneur who used any means necessary to succeed even at expense of competitors and employees.
  • Raged a battle to gain control over the Erie railroad. This was known as the Erie Wars.
  • Vanderbilt fought the Erie railroad in the courts, the legislature, in the streets (using street gangs) and at sea.
  • Nicknamed the commodore.

Vanderbilt mansion Biltmore house and gardens in Asheville North Carolina

Suggested Reading: Books

Legend of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney

The Vanderbilts

The Vanderbilt Women

The Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age:

Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt.