Editor’s note: Gloria Vanderbilt passed away on June 17, 2019, at the period of 95. Here is a look at her family"s renowned fortune, and also how they mainly squandered it.

You are watching: How did the vanderbilts make their money

The Vanderbilts" lavish homes, opulent parties and also colorful characters made lock the Gilded Age"s poster family. At once some the America"s richest thanks come a booming railroad business, they have seen your dollars turn to dust.So where did it all go?


Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt started the family company by borrowing $100 indigenous his mother and also piloting a passenger boat on Staten Island in 1810. He broadened into steamboats and also then went on to build railroadempire new York Central. Its tracks extended Vanderbilt"s empire throughout the united States and also gave the a monopoly for all rail service in and out of new York city. The reportedly gathered a$100 million happiness by the time of his fatality in 1877 - an ext than was held in the U.S. Treasury in ~ the time.

Full coverage: America’s wealthiest Families

"Any fool deserve to make a fortune; it takes a male of brain to organize onto it," Commodore is claimed to have actually told his sonWilliam Henry "Billy" Vanderbilt, according toFortune"s Children: The autumn of the house of Vanderbilt,a family history written by cousin Arthur T. Vanderbilt II.


Young Billy walk his best: the inherited the family"s 87% stake in brand-new York central and increased the business, apparently doubling the family members fortune to end $200 million.


Cornelius had urged the the bulk of the household fortune it is in endowed ~ above one descendant, yet when Billy died in1885, heleft the family"s stake in the agency to both that his sons, Cornelius Vanderbilt II and also William Kissam Vanderbilt. The division of the Vanderbilt luck in the third generation coincided with a decline in family interest in new York main - and a progressive increase in spending.


Cornelius Vanderbilt II managed the railroads until his fatality in 1899. William Kissam Vanderbilt took over but retired shortly after to concentrate on his yachts and also thoroughbred horses, while brothers George Vanderbilt"s 146,000 acre Biltmore estate ate into his branch that the family members fortune.According come Vanderbilt"s book, wilhelm is said to have actually remarked: "Inherited wide range is a actual handicap come happiness...It has actually left me v nothing to expect for, through nothing definite to seek or effort for."

The Gilded Age brought with astonishing spending and endless rallies to keep up appearances.Among the Vanderbilt family"s prized assets were an superior art arsenal of old masters and also a cable of dwellings in Newport, Rhode Island, consisting of The Breakers, and also 10 mansions on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

The Vanderbilts also became philanthropic - 3rd generation wilhelm Kissam Vanderbilt gave$1 million to developed tenement homes in new York city, and also hundreds of hundreds of dollars to Columbia University, the YMCA, the Vanderbilt Clinic and also Vanderbilt University. It was the 3rd generation that stopped farming the fortune: William"sextensive philanthropy and spending left one estate reportedly worth the quantity he had inherited in 1885 once his father died.


Socialite and also heiress Gloria Vanderbilt through her sons Anderson Cooper (left) and Carter Vanderbilt... <+> Cooper circa 1969 in Southampton, new York. (Photo credit: Jack Robinson/Getty Images)


Perhaps the most notable 4th generation Vanderbilt to be Cornelius" sonReginald "Reggie" Claypool Vanderbilt, an avid gambler and also playboy. He to be the father of fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, and grandfather come CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. His brother,Cornelius "Neily" Vanderbilt III spent large sums on maintaining a high culture appearance."Every Vanderbilt son... Has actually increased his fortune except me," Niely once remarked, follow toFortune"s Children.

As the family members inheritance was dispersed between more and an ext descendants, brand-new York main was experience changes. The transport organization had peaked in late 1920s, however freight shortly declined and also by the finish of people War II trucks, barges, airplanes and buses had cut into its industry. In between 1946 and also 1958 it dropped four of its 6 fast day-to-day passenger operation between new York and Chicago.

The family additionally sold share in brand-new York Central, allowing the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway to ended up being a major shareholder. C&O"s Robert Young took over the Vanderbilt"s previous prize in 1954; he committed suicide in 1958 after a damaging year at the ailing company forced him come suspend dividends. Brand-new York main then merged with the struggling Pennsylvania Railroad agency in 1968, developing a bigger failing firm known together Pennsylvania new York central Transportation Company.

New York main was when the second-largest rail in the united States, with 11,000 miles of track extending 11 states and also two Canadian provinces. Through 1970, its latest iteration claimed bankruptcy; passenger services were taken over by the federal Amtrak in 1971.

In April this year, 6th generation Vanderbilt Anderson Cooper told Howard Stern"s radio show:"My mom"s made clean to me that there"s no trust fund."

Indeed, all of their new York city residences had been torn under by 1947.Today, the wrought iron entrances from a Vanderbilt mansion are now the entrance to a 5-acre conservatory garden in central Park; Cornelius and AliceVanderbilt"s block-long home in Manhattan"s midtown district 57th Street is now lived in by high-end department save Bergdorf Goodman.

See more: He Said I Have A Beautiful Soul : A Novel: Donahue, William J

And though there are not enough readily i can identify businesses or comprehensive inheritances come warrant the Vanderbilt household a spot onbuzzpatterson.com" inaugural America"s Richest family members list, their heritage lives onthrough theVanderbilt Universityin Nashville, Tennessee, and also Vanderbilt way in new York"s Manhattan and Brooklyn.


*

Kim Kardashian"s mobile universe and China"s Hollywood ambitions, plus features on suppliers from White castle to Paddle8. Online, i tally the world"s highest-paid actors to models, writer and also rappers, keeping tabs ~ above the glitz and glamour the the Hollywood hustle. I likewise co-edit the 30 Under 30 Music and also Hollywood lists, and also the Entertainment ar of Under 30 Europe. Together a former reporter on buzzpatterson.com’ riches team, I covered the world"s 1,820+ billionaires, analyzing how they made, spent and also gave away their fortunes. I very first joined buzzpatterson.com together an intern in 2012, extending startups and also entrepreneurship. A graduate that Columbia University, I"ve created for The nationwide newspaper in my hometown of Abu Dhabi and also CNN.com in Hong Kong, among others. Follow me top top Twitter or acquire in touch: nrobehmed(at)buzzpatterson.com(dot)com. You have the right to send me a secure guideline at buzzpatterson.com/tips or submit sensitive records anonymously and securely at SafeSource.buzzpatterson.com.">