Cornelius Vanderbilt

American businessman and tycoon (1794–1877)

Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877)[1] was an American businessman, philanthropist, and slave owner.[2] A lot of his wealth came from railroads and shipping.[3][4]

Cornelius Vanderbilt
BornMay 27, 1794
DiedJanuary 4, 1877(1877-01-04) (aged 82)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Railroad/Water transport businessman, philanthropist
  • Phebe Jane Vanderbilt
  • Ethelinda Vanderbilt
  • Eliza Vanderbilt
  • William Henry Vanderbilt
  • Emily Almira Vanderbilt
  • Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt
  • Maria Louisa Vanderbilt
  • Frances Lavinia Vanderbilt
  • Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt
  • George W. Vanderbilt
  • Mary Alicia Vanderbilt
  • Catherine Juliette Vanderbilt
  • George Washington Vanderbilt
  • Cornelius van Derbilt
  • Phebe Hand

He was also the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family. He was one of the richest Americans in history. He provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University, which is named in his honor.

Vanderbilt died on January 4, 1877 in New York City, New York from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), aged 82.[3]

Vanderbilt was worth more than $100 million at the time of his death (equivalent to approximately $2,671,921,875 in 2024 dollars).[5]


  1. "Commodore Vanderbilt's Life". New York Times. January 5, 1877.
  2. "9 White Celebs, World Leaders Whose Families Owned Slaves". Atlanta Black Star. 2013-08-22. Retrieved 2020-11-04. Anderson Cooper was connected, in a familial way, to slavery. His bloodline is tied to the Vanderbilts, one of the richest families in American history. Cooper's great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt – who was also Cooper's cousin through inbreeding – was a tycoon who built his wealth from shipping and railroads. He also owned plantations: one, in particular, was in Georgetown, S.C., where Michelle Robinson Obama's ancestor Jim Robinson, who was born a slave in 1850, worked.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Cornelius Vanderbilt.; A Long And Useful Life Ended. The Renowned Commodore Dies After Eight Months' Illness His Remarkable Career As A Man Of The World His Wealth Estimated At $100,000,000 Particulars Of His Illness And Death" (PDF). The New York Times. January 5, 1877.
  4. "Commodore Vanderbilt's Life" (PDF). New York Times. January 5, 1877.
  5. Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996). The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group. p. xi. ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8. OCLC 33818143.

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