Biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Celebrated Americans

CORNELIUS VANDERBILT, known as "Commodore" Vanderbilt, was the founder of what constitutes the present immense fortune of the Vanderbilt family. He was horn May 27, 1794, at Port Richmond, Staten Island, Richmond county, New York, and we find him at sixteen years running a small vessel between his home and New York City. The fortifications of Staten and Long Islands were just in course of construction, and he carried the laborers from New York to the fortifications in his "perianger," as it was called, in the day, and at night carried supplies to the fort on the Hndson. Later he removed to New York, where he added to his little fleet. At the age of twenty-three he was free from debt and was worth $9,000, and in 1817, with a partner he built the first steamboat that was run between New York and New Brunswick, New Jersey, and became her captain at a salary of $1,000 a year. The next year he took command of a larger and better boat and by 1824 he was in complete control of the Gibbon's Line, as it was called, which he had brought up to a point where it paid $40,000 a year. Commodore Vanderbilt acquired the ferry between New York and Elizabethport, New Jersey, on a fourteen years' lease and conducted this on a paying basis. He severed his connections with Gibbons in 1829 and engaged in business alone and for twenty years he was the leading steamboat man in the country, building and operating steamboats on the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, on the Delaware River and the route to Boston, and he had the monopoly of trade on these routes. In 1850 he determined to broaden his field of operation and accordingly bnilt the steamship Prometheus and sailed for the Isthmus of Darien, where he desired to make a personal investigation of the prospects of the American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company, in which he had purchased a controlling interest, Commodore Vanderbilt planned, as a result of this visit, a transit route from Greytown on the Atlantic coast to San Juan del Sad on the Pacific coast, which was a saving of 700 miles over the old route. In 1851 he placed three steamers on the Atlantic side and four on the Pacific side to accommodate the enor mous traffic occasioned by the discovery of gold in California. The following year three more vessels were added to his fleet and a branch line established from New Orleans to Greytown. In 1853 the Commodore sold out his Nicaraugua Transit Company, which had netted him $1,000,000 and built the renowned steam yacht, the "North Star." He continued in the shipping business nine years longer and accumulated some $10,000,000. In 1861 he presented to the government his magnificent steamer "Vanderbilt," which had cost him $800,000 and for which he received the thanks of congress. in 1844 he became interested in the railroad business which he followed in later years and became one of the greatest railroad magnates of his time. He founded the Vanderbilt University at a cost of $1,000,000. He died January 4, 1877, leaving a fortune estimated at over $100,000,000 to his children.

A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.


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