Cornelius Vanderbilt Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on May 27, 1794, on Staten Island, New York. His parents were poor farmers and his father also transported goods on a ship called a periauger between Staten Island and Manhattan. In 1813, Vanderbilt married his cousin, Sophia Johnson, when he was just 19 years old and she was 18. They had 13 children together, with 11 surviving to become adults. He was known to be a horrible husband and father, as he only paid attention to his sons and was very misogynistic. He also placed his son Cornelius Jeremiah in a mental asylum not once, but twice and cheated on Sophia with prostitutes. When Sophia died in 1868, Vanderbilt married his other female cousin, Frank Armstrong Crawford, who was almost 40 years younger than him (seven of his children were older than her). Cornelius Vanderbilt was not a very charitable man. The only donation he made was in 1873 when Reverend Holland Nimmons McTyeire asked for money to build a Methodist University in Tennessee. The $1 million he donated went toward the building of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee (the mascot is the Commodore after his nickname). Vanderbilt was not one for owning big houses. The mansions associated with the Vanderbilt name were built by his descendants, with the 250-room Biltmore estate being the largest privately owned home in the U.S. today. Some of his descendants include Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper. On January 4, 1877, Vanderbilt died at the age of 82 of exhaustion from various medical disorders he had. He died in his Manhattan home and was buried in the Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp, Staten Island. He left most of his money to his son William, who took over his business and who had influenced him to expand his rail service to Chicago. By the time of his death, Vanderbilt had collected the largest fortune in the United States at the time and is still considered the second wealthiest person in American history with a worth of about $200 billion. Cornelius Vanderbilt is considered one of America’s most successful and important businessmen. At age 11, Vanderbilt dropped out of school to work under his father. By the age of 16, he ran his own periauger and earned $1000 in his first year. At age 18, he signed a contract with the government that stated that he would provide supplies to the nearby outposts during the War of 1812. By the end of the war, Vanderbilt had gathered a small fleet of boats and began studying ship design. In 1817, he gained the opportunity to learn more about the steamship industry by going to work as a ferry captain. He then moved on to going into business on his own in the late 1820s. Because of his clever and aggressive nature, Cornelius made a lot of enemies. When he built a house for his family in Manhattan, the neighbors were wary of the family and slow to accept them. In the early 1850s, he created the Accessory Transit Company that transported passengers and goods from New York to San Francisco through a route that cuts across Nicaragua. Through this steamship service, he made about $1 million a year (about $26 million in today’s terms). During his time in the steamship industry, he partnered with Thomas Gibbons in 1817 and together, they started the Union Line. However, the route they used violated a state-approved monopoly given to Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston in 1808. Aaron Ogden, the operator of Fulton and Livingston’s business and coworker of Gibbons, sued Gibbons. Daniel Webster was hired by Gibbons and Vanderbilt to defend them and in the Supreme Court Case of Gibbons v. Ogden, the Court voted in favor of Gibbons. Gibbons soon passed away, causing Vanderbilt try to buy Gibbons’ share of the company, which Gibbons’ son refused to sell. However, Vanderbilt established his own Dispatch Line and forced Gibbons’ son to buy him out. Vanderbilt earned a lot of his money this way: by forcing his competition to buy him out and pay him to move his business elsewhere. During the Civil War, Vanderbilt donated his fleet’s largest ship, the Vanderbilt, to the Union Navy. After the Civil War, he shifted his attention to the growing railroad industry. He bought and took over many railroad lines including the Long Island Railroad, New York and Harlem Railroad, and the Hudson River Railroad. He established a system of railroads that spanned the region. He encouraged the building of Manhattan’s Grand Central Depot, which was later replaced by the Grand Central Terminal. Cornelius Vanderbilt was inspired by many people during his lifetime. One of those who inspired him the most was his business partner, Thomas Gibbons. During his time working with Gibbons, Vanderbilt learned how to run a large-scale operation and studied law. He was also influenced by his son William, who became the senior manager of the business after Vanderbilt died. William had encouraged his father to expand his rail service to Chicago, which led to the creation of the largest system of railroad transportation in the U.S. He was also influenced by his first wife Sophia, who helped him make important business decisions. Some events that impacted Vanderbilt include the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The War of 1812 allowed Vanderbilt to be able to sign a contract with the government to supply nearby outposts. This helped him advance his business and allowed him to gain a small fleet of ships. The Civil War caused Vanderbilt to shift his attention to the growing railroad industry. The Civil War made the railroad increasingly popular as it made shipping supplies and people more efficient. He was able to take over many lines of railroad and connect them to create a large railroad system that spanned the region. The Gilded Age, named by Mark Twain, referred to a period of rapid economic growth and a change in the economy, technology, and social aspects of the United States. The nation transformed from a series of small, isolated communities to a nation of interconnected businesses and industry. Many famous, wealthy people emerged during this time period, including Cornelius Vanderbilt. He represents the Gilded Age because of the work he put into creating both a steamship and railroad empire. He merged different railroad companies to create one large system that helped build the industrial economy that rose up at this time. With as much wealth as Vanderbilt acquired, many speculated that he had no interest in helping others and only used his business as a way to gain wealth and power, causing him to sometimes be referred to as a “robber baron” by those who dislike him. However, others see him as a “captain of industry” as he helped lead the country to an industrial economy with his business. Cornelius Vanderbilt should be a part of the “National Gilded Age Monument” because he was one of the key figures in leading America to an industrial economy. Early on in his career, he was one of the leading shipping entrepreneurs in the nation. He was a smart businessman who built shipping lines that were top of the line and beat out all of his competitors. He forced his business rivals to buy him out or pay him to take his business elsewhere. He also merged railroad companies into the New York Central Railroad empire, and created a large corporation of record size for the time and sparked a “managerial revolution”. He was considered a philanthropist and donated $1 million to the building of Vanderbilt University. Throughout his life, he acquired a sum of money larger than any other person at the time of his death and is still considered the second wealthiest man in American history.