Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt also called Commodore was an American entrepreneur and humanitarian who built his fortune by controlling the country’s transportation business. At the time of his death in 1877 his net wealth was worth more than $100 million.

Vanderbilt was born on 27th May 1794 in Staten Island, New York. As a boy he worked with his father on his ferry in the New York Harbor. He went to school till the age of 11. When he turned 16, he started his own ferry service. His first boat was a periauger. During the 1812 War, Vanderbilt’s business flourished. He delivered supplies to the soldiers and took the soldiers to and from the harbor. From his profits, Vanderbilt purchased more sailing ships. In 1817 the ferry entrepreneur Thomas Gibbons requested Vanderbilt to captain his steamboat from New Jersey to New York. Soon, he was Gibbons business manager. The steamboat entrepreneur was extremely dedicated to his work. Because of his hard work, the ferry service became very lucrative.

Vanderbilt separated from Gibbons in 1929 and started his own boat fleet. It consisted of over 100 steamboats. His steamboats worked the Hudson River; his prices were so cutthroat that his competitors eventually fled the market. He expanded his service from New York to New England and Long Island. His boats and ships were famous for being highly dependable and safe. Consequently his business became stronger and at 40, Vanderbilt was almost a millionaire. In the California Gold Rush of 1849, Vanderbilt initiated an ocean-going service that took people from the West Coast to Central America. During the 1850s Vanderbilt sensed an opportunity in railroad business so he scaled back his interests in the waters and started buying stocks in railroad. By 1960s Vanderbilt was full fledge involved in the railroad business. After just five years in this business, he had earned $25 million. He served on the board of directors of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, Erie Railway, Hartford and New Haven and New York and Harlem. He purchased many railroads in New York to build the Hudson River Railroad and New York Central. Together these formed the greatest corporations of all times.

Vanderbilt was one of the first tycoons of America. His wife Sophia died in 1869 however a year later; Vanderbilt remarried a distant cousin who was almost 40 years younger to him. His son William looked after the business in the final years of his father’s life. Vanderbilt died on 4th January 1877 at the age of 83. He left most of his wealth to William. He had twelve other children out of which nine were alive at his death. Vanderbilt left an ineffaceable mark on the American industry. He passed his legacy to his son William Henry Vanderbilt. The Commodore lead an epic life with his genius and willpower. He founded a dynasty and earned a vast fortune using his business skills and intelligence. Many say that he has helped shape the American economy in more ways than any other entrepreneur.


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