Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1794 - 1877 *** Full Name: Cornelius Vanderbilt *** Nickname: The Commodore *** Occupation: American Railroad/Water Transport Businessman and Philanthropist *** Date of Birth: Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on May 27th 1794 *** Place of Birth: Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island, New York, U.S. *** Family background: His father was Cornelius van Derbilt and his mother Phebe Hand. His father's family originated from the Netherlands and the family name was believed to have been van der (“of the”) Bilt being the name of the village the family came from. The name later merged into van Derbilt and finally Vanderbilt *** Early life and childhood: He grew up on Staten Island *** Education: Cornelius Vanderbilt quit school when he was eleven years of age ***
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 1: Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on May 27th 1794 and during the 18th century period in history when France and America both went through revolutions and the Industrial Revolution began in Britain.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 2: Having quit school to work on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor, when he reached sixteen he wished to start his own business venture. Some say he borrowed money from his mother to buy his own sailing vessel while others say the vessel belonged to his father and he gave his father half of his profit.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 3: Whichever is true, he did have vessel and he did begin his own ferry business and it was at this time he acquired his nickname when captains nearby began calling him The Commodore.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 4: In December of 1813 he married Sophia Johnson, his first cousin, and together they would thirteen children of which twelve reached adulthood. Nine were daughters and three sons.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 5: At the same time as running his own ferry he also bought a schooner from his brother-in-law John De Forest and began trading in food and merchandise.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 6: He was offered a job by another ferry entrepreneur by the name of Thomas Gibbons to captain his steamboat between New York and New Jersey which Vanderbilt consented to do as well as keeping his own business going.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 7: While working for Gibbons he learned to run a vast and complicated business. He moved his family to New Brunswick which was on the route between New York and Philadelphia. His wife, Sophia, ran an inn that supported the family in food, clothing and education.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 8: When Thomas Gibbons died in 1826 Vanderbilt had continued to work for his son William until 1829 when although he had always run his own business on the side he now took up the rains and ran it full time.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 9: He began to expand his lines to the surrounding regions. He took over Gibbons’ ferry to New Jersey and then switched it to Long Island Sound.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 10: As he built his ferry business he also had his hand on other areas of business, including large amounts of real estate in Staten Island as well as Manhattan.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 11: As the California gold rush took off he decided to monopolize on the interest and switched from local steamboat lines to larger ocean going steamships.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 12: A very shrewd businessman whenever competition arose, he would begin to undercut prices to such an extent that he would force his competitors to buy him out.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 13: After a grand tour of Europe with his family upon his return having dealt with Morgan and White buying him off, he turned his attention to transatlantic steamship and into competition with Edward K. Collins and the Collins Line and eventually drove the Collins Line out of business.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 14: In 1891 with the outbreak of Civil War, Vanderbilt offered the United States Navy his largest vessel the Vanderbilt but was turned down as the war was thought to be a short affair the ship too large and costly.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 15: As the war progressed and the Confederates ironclad vessel Virginia wrought havoc for the Union, Vanderbilt was approached and the Navy was happy to accept the use of the Vanderbilt on this occasion. For his assistance Vanderbilt was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 16: During the 1850’s he turned his attention to the railroad and began to build his Empire. He became a board member on the Erie Railway, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Harford and New Haven as well as the New York and Harlem, his main desire in securing these railroads considered to be worthless was to make them valuable.Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 17: He would bring his eldest son, Billy in to assist him. Billy had had some mental health issues previously but given the opportunity to show his worth to his father he did not disappoint and his father would make operational manager of his entire railroad business.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 18: It was Cornelius Vanderbilt that commissioned the Grand Central Depot to be built in and finished in 1871. By 1913 the Grand Central Depot was replaced with Grand Central Terminal.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Fact 19: Cornelius Vanderbilt died on January 4th 1877 at his home on Washington Place from exhaustion, aged eighty two year. His body laid to rest in the family vault in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island, U.S. His net worth when he died was one hundred and five million United States dollars.
Influence and Legacy of Cornelius Vanderbilt: His legacy is vast, aside from what he did for the railway networks of America and building the Grand Central Terminal, he also invested in what would become the Vanderbilt University. He donated untold money to various charities and worth causes and would at that time, gift the largest charitable sum of one million dollars.
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