Cornelius Vanderbilt
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Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794 - 1877)

Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt
Born in Port Richmond, Richmond, New York, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 19 Dec 1813 (to 17 Aug 1868) in New York, New Yorkmap
Husband of — married 21 Aug 1869 in London, Middlesex County, Ontario, Canadamap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 82 in New York City, New York, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 7 Oct 2009
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Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in New York.

Cornelius Vanderbilt was a 19th Century American shipping and railroad tycoon. He was best known as the patriarch of the socially prominent Vanderbilt family of New York, and as the founder of the New York Central Railroad. [1][2]

Cornelius was born and grew up in Staten Island, New York. He was the child of Cornelius van Derbilt and Phebe Hand van Derbilt, and had nine brothers and sisters.

His name translated from Dutch, literally means "From De Bilt" which is where his great-great-great grandfather, Jan Aertzoon, came from.

He quit school at age 11 to work on his father's ferry in New York Harbor; when he was age 16 he operated his own boat and transporting goods and passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan.[3]

Cornelius worked as a Ship Transport entrepreneur, later after building his wealth he paid the expenses for the building of new rail lines and was considered a Rail Transport Magnate.

During the 1830s, textile mills were built in large numbers in New England as the United States developed its manufacturing base. Some of the first railroads in the United States were built from Boston to Long Island Sound, to connect with steamboats that ran to New York. By the end of the decade, Vanderbilt dominated the steamboat business on the Sound, and began to take over management of the connecting railroads. In the 1840s, he launched a campaign to take over the most attractive of these lines, the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad, popularly known as the Stonington. By cutting fares on competing lines, Vanderbilt drove down the Stonington stock price, and took over the presidency of the company in 1847. It was the first of the many railroads he would head.[1]

In 1873, he made the $1 million dollars gift that founded Vanderbilt University. [2][3]. He also founded the Provident Loan Society[2] and the New York Central Railroad[2][3]. He served on the Board of Directors of the Erie Railway, Central Railroad of New Jersey, Hartford and New Haven Railroad, and the New York and Harlem Railroad.[1]

The one thing that people in modern day know most about him is his incredible wealth, which, he acquired with hard work throughout his life. Upon his death in 1877, his wealth was estimated to be worth $215 billion in 2016 United States dollars.

It was January 4, 1877 when Cornelius passed away from typhoid fever. He was buried in the family vault in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island.[1]


  • Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt was born on May 27, 1794, in Staten Island, New York to Phebe Hand, age 27, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, age 29.[1][2][3][4]


  • Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt married Sophia Johnson, his cousin, in Staten Island, New York, on November 19, 1813, when he was 19 years old. They had 13 children.[1][5][2][3][4]
  • Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt married Frank "Frankie" Armstrong Crawford in London, Ontario, Canada, on August 21, 1869, when he was 75 years old.[1][6][7][2][4]


  • Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt died on January 4, 1877, in Staten Island, New York, when he was 82 years old. At the time of his death, aged 82, Vanderbilt had an estimated worth of $105 million ($215 billion at 2016 $ value).[1][2][3][4]


  • Cornelius was buried in the Moravian Cemetery, and later reinterred in The Vanderbilt Mausoleum in the Vanderbilt Family Cemetery and Mausoleum in New Dorp, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York.[8][1]


  • Cornelius and Sophia had the following issue:[1]
    1. Phoebe Jane Vanderbilt, b. 1814, d. 1878
    2. Ethelinda Vanderbilt, b. 1817, d. 1889
    3. Eliza Vanderbilt, b. 1819, d. 1890
    4. William Henry Vanderbilt,1 b. 8 May 1821, d. 8 Dec 1885
    5. Emily Almira Vanderbilt, b. 1823, d. 1896
    6. Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt, b. 1825, d. 1912
    7. Maria Louisa Vanderbilt, b. 1827, d. 1896
    8. Frances lavinia Vanderbilt, b. 1828, d. 1868
    9. Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt, b. 1830, d. 1882
    10. George Washington Vanderbilt (1832–1836)
    11. Mary Alicia Vanderbilt, b. 1834, d. 1902
    12. Catherine Juliette Vanderbilt, b. 1836, d. 1881
    13. George Washington Vanderbilt, b. 1839, d. 1864


  • 1873 - Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee[2][3]
  • Accessory Transit Company
  • Provident Loan Society
  • New York Central Railroad[2][3]


  • Opened Grand Central Depot, later replaced by theGrand Central Terminal in 1913. [1][3]

Businesses Owned by Vanderbilt (other than Railroads) [1][3]

  • Staten Island Ferry (1838-1858)
  • Accessory Transit Company, Founder
  • Several other small businesses,

Railroads controlled by Vanderbilt [1][3]

  • New York and Harlem Railroad (1863–)
  • Hudson River Railroad (1864–)
  • New York Central Railroad (1868–), Founder
  • Canada Southern Railway (1873–)
  • Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway (1873?–)
  • Michigan Central Railroad (1877–)
  • New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate Road, 1882–)
  • West Shore Railroad (1885–)
  • Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad
  • Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh Railroad
  • Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway
  • Lake Erie and Western Railroad
  • Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad

Honors Received

  • Cornelius was awarded the United Stated Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions during the Civil War.[1][3][4]
  • In 1999, Cornelius Vanderbilt was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame, recognizing his significant contributions to the railroad industry[1]


  • Railroad/water transport businessman, philanthropist[1][2][3][4]

Research Notes

  • Mistress: Tennessee Celeste Claflin Bartels Cook.[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Wikipedia contributors, "Cornelius Vanderbilt," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed November 13, 2021)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Hamm, Margherita Arlina. Famous Families of New York - Historical and Biographical Sketches of Families which in successive generations have been Identified with the Development of the Nation, Vol II, page 207-209. G.P. Putnum’s Sons; New York; 1901
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Wilson, James Grant and Fiske, John, Editors. Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American History, Volume VI, . Sunderland - Zurita, page240-241. D. Appleton and Company; New York; 1889.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Hall, Henry, Ed. America's Successful Men of Affairs: An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography. Vol I.Page 207-209. New York: The New York Tribune; 1895.
  5. Renehan, Edward J., Jr. (2009). Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Basic Books. p. 39. ISBN 9780465010301 – via Google Books
  6. Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928; Reel: 1, page 367.
  7. Weekly Atchison Champion; Publication Date: 28/ Aug/ 1869; Publication Place: Atchison, Kansas, USA; URL:,0.65701246,0.977191,0.6785212&xid=3398
  8. Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 12 November 2021), memorial page for Cornelius Vanderbilt (27 May 1794–4 Jan 1877), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1058, citing Vanderbilt Family Cemetery and Mausoleum, New Dorp, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .

See also:

  • "Fortune Magazine's "richest Americans"". [1] CNN. Archived from the original on September 13, 2009
  • Renehan, Edward J., Jr. (2009). Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Basic Books. p. 39. ISBN 9780465010301 – via Google Books
  • New York, Births and Christenings, 1640-1962 index, FamilySearch, Cornelius Van Der Bilt, 27 May 1794; citing , reference ; FHL microfilm 476226.
  • Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927 index, FamilySearch, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Frank A Crawford, 21 Aug 1869; citing registration 1108, London, Middlesex, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1862473.
  • London Public Library Marriage of Cornelius Vanderbilt & Frank Armstrong (Crawford) Elliot. August 21, 1869. London, Ontario, Canada.
  • Wilson, John Grant and Fiske, John, Ed., Appleton’s Cyclopedia to American Biography, Sunderland -Zurita, Volume VI, D Appleton and Company; New York; 1889. Page 240-242.
  • Rand, Jean M. 1991. Some Descendants of Jan Aertsen Vanderbilt. Baltimore (1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21202): Gateway Press.

Memories: 2
Enter a personal reminiscence or story.

"Cornelius Vanderbilt." All Biographies. 2005. Web. 28 Oct. 2009. <>.

"Cornelius Vanderbilt biography - Transportation tycoon." Financial Inspiration Cafe - Your companion on your journey to financial freedom. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. <>.

"Cornelius Vanderbilt." NNDB. 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2009. <>.

Crandall, John. "Cornelius Vanderbilt:Commodor Vanderbilt." 20 July 2006. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. <>.

Davidson, James West, and Micheal B. Stoff. The American Nation: Civil War to the Present. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003. Print.

posted 30 Oct 2009 by Cornelius Vanderbilt
Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island, New York where he lived with his family on a small farm his father, Cornelius Van Derbilt, owned. His father sold his farm products in New York from Staten Island. At the age of 11 years, young Cornelius dropped out of school to help his dad ship items. At 16 years he had bought his own boat for 100 dollars with the money from his mother. Later on in life he stated "If I had learned education, I would not have had time to learn anything else."

He made a very successful ferry service that carted people and produce from Staten Island to New York. In 1812 he earned the name Commodore and a heavy profit by building forts around New York. Soon after in 1817 he got a job working on a steamboat with a man named Thomas Gibbons, Cornelius was the captain. He continued Ferrying people only he sold his schooners and sloops for the job and the route now moved from New York City and New Brunswick. He flattened his competitors with a lower price for fares, only charging $1 for a ride. Fulton and Livingston had issues with him charging such low wages, their rides were around $4. They took them to court where Gibbons and Cornelius won. Cornelius left Gibbons in 1829 and set up his own ferry service where he proved to be very successful. In 1863 after selling his boats in 1857 he became the president of the New York and Harlem railways. He sold his boats because he thought of railroads to be the way of the future. Later on he also acquired the Hudson River, New York Central, Lake shore and Michigan, and the Canada southern railways. He improved the quality of all the railways and combined a few of them together before dying. His strong ambition to be rich which drove his competitors out of business and made him the richest man in America. The other companies always saw him as a threat because his low prices sent them hurtling out of business some even paid him to stop using the same routes that they used. He always did what was necessary to put him on top. Cornelius Vanderbilt was a significant person because he made transportation available, more comfortable, and affordable. He was not known as the nicest man but he built a strong railway and enough money to support his family many times over.

posted 29 Oct 2009 by Cornelius Vanderbilt
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Hi my name is Richard Hand,phebe hand who was married to cornelius vanderbilt ,phebe Hand might be a long lost relative,does anyone have time and resources to help me trace me to her Hand-1735 thats me and phebe hand Hand-784,says were Phebe and Richard are fourth cousins 6 times removed
posted by Richard Hand
Do you have a subscription to GENi? If you do and have uploaded a GEDCOM file to them of what you now have, this will allow them to search for connections. Once GENi has assigned ID numbers to your tree members, you can search for Phoebe and enter her ID number and yours.
posted by John Akard III
Can you please confirm if Vanderbilt University was named after him. If so, could we identify this as such. Is there any category that his notability would be reflected in? Thanks.

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