Cornelius Vanderbilt

By: Christopher Le

The Commodore

Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island in 1794 to Cornelius van Derbilt and Phebe Hand. He began working on his father's ferry in New York Harbor as a small boy, quitting school at age 11. Then at age 16 Vanderbilt started his own ferry service.


  1. He started his own boat service as a teenager (16) that would transport goods. here he learned about ship design.
  2. He was a steamboat entrepreneur and had his own steam boat business on the Hudson river. There was a monopoly on the river competing against him, and he was such a fierce competitor that the monopoly had to pay him a large sum of money in order for him to quit competed. After he was payed to move out of the Hudson river he moved his operations to Long Island Sound and again dominated there.
  3. When the California gold rush started in 1849 Vanderbilt switched to ocean-going steamships because the gold going to the east coast went on steamship to Panama. Then he founded the Accessory Transit company that would carry passengers across the Nicaragua.
  4. After the civil war Vanderbilt took control of the Harlem in a famous stock market corner, and became its president. He explained later that he wanted to take the railroad that was relatively worthless and make it valuable. So he won control of the Hudson Railroad, the NY Central Railroad, Lakeshore Railroad, Southern Railroad, and other various railroads. Which then became one of the first giant corporations in American history
  5. Once he got complete control of Harlem he began construction of the Grand Central Depot 42nd Street in Manhattan which is now one of the most important railroad stations in the nation and is almost identical to it's original architecture today.


Vanderbilt lived to be 82 when he died in 1877 from prolonged suffering of chronic disorders. He had a net worth of about 1.5 billion dollars in today's money which put him in 2nd place for the wealthiest person in history. He was also inducted into the North American railway Hall of Fame. He donated 1 million dollars to the construction of Vanderbilt University. He distributed his willed money throughout his children in which they created some of the most beautiful houses in the nation. Lastly, his construction of the Grand Central station is one of the most significant land marks in railroad and American history.