Cornelius Vanderbilt Biography

Cornelius Vanderbilt

industrialist, financier
Born: 5/27/1794
Birthplace: Port Richmond, N.Y.

Having gotten his feet wet operating the Staten Island ferry in 1810, Vanderbilt then worked for Thomas Gibbons before forming his own very successful and lucrative steamboat business. When the California gold rush increased demand for transportation, he devised a steamship route in 1849, including an overland passage through Nicaragua. By 1862 his interest had shifted to railroads. He acquired stock in the New York & Harlem, then bought the Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central. He continued expanding his holdings to include lines in Michigan and Canada, but he failed to buy the Erie Railroad in 1868 when Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, and James Fisk declared the “Erie Wars,” in which the three managed to manipulate stock to prevent Vanderbilt from buying Erie. Vanderbilt was responsible for the $1 million donation that was used to found Vanderbilt University.

Died: 1/4/1877