Cornelius Vanderbilt Net Worth & Biography

Popular Name: Cornelius Vanderbilt
Real Name: Cornelius Vanderbilt
Birth Date: May 27, 1794
Birth Place: Staten Island, New York, United States
Age: Died on January 4, 1877 (aged 82)
Gender: Male
Nationality/Citizenship: American
Height: N/A
Weight: N/A
Sexuality: Straight
Marital Status: Married
Spouse(s): Sophia Johnson ​(m. 1813; died 1868)​
Frank Armstrong Crawford ​(m. 1869)
Children: 13
Profession: Businessman
Years active: N/A
Net Worth: $185 Billion
Last Updated: 2022

Cornelius Vanderbilt was a famous American industrialist who was prominent in railroads and shipping. According to reports, he had accumulated the largest wealth heard of in the United States at the time of his passing in 1877.

Vanderbilt is said to have started a passenger ferry business with one boat in New York harbor. He then started his own steamship company and eventually started controlling Hudson River traffic. He is reported to have provided the first rail service between Chicago and New York. When he died in 1877, this business tycoon had built the largest fortune accumulated in the country at that time. He is deemed one of the United States’ leading businessmen and is recognized as one of the men that helped in shaping the present-day United States. The article below contains all we know about him.

Early Life: Childhood, Family, Education

Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York, the United States on May 27, 1794, to Cornelius van Derbilt and his wife Phebe Hand. His father worked as a seaman. He had many siblings but the reports claim that most of them died at a young age.

At the age of 11, he left school and started working, on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor as a boy. When he was 16, he decided to start his own ferry service and bought a sailboat with which he commenced his own company ferrying freight and passengers in New York Harbor between Manhattan and Staten Island. Subsequently, his business grew and during the 1812 War, he managed to secure a government contract to deliver supplies to forts along the Hudson River.

Between 1814 and 1818, he expanded his business with additional boats for passenger and freight services in Long Island Sound, as well as in the coastal trade from Charleston to New England in South Carolina.

Professional Life: Entrepreneurial Career

In 1817, upon spotting the advent of steam vessels in the sea transport business, Vanderbilt sold his sailing vessels and began working, in partnership with Thomas Gibbons, as a steamboat captain, operating a ferry service from New York to New Jersey. The business thrived and turned out as one of the most dominant ferry businesses on the busy New York City-Philadelphia route. In the 1820s, he started his own company, operating ferry lines and building steamships in the New York region. He subsequently expanded its services to the Connecticut, Long Island Sound, and Providence areas. Eventually, his business controlled nearly most of the Hudson River traffic and by the 1840s, he was operating with a fleet of more than a hundred steamboats. During this time, he also operated a number of other businesses such as purchasing large amounts of real estate in Staten Island and Manhattan. Subsequently, he became a part of numerous ventures in Central America and started supervising a steamship between New York and France. In 1859, he launched the Atlantic & Pacific Steamship Company.

In the 1860s, he seized another business opportunity and diverted his focus to the railroad industry which was by that time witnessing great expansion in the United States. Subsequently, he acquired and interconnected existing railway lines operating in the country, and established an interregional railroad system. After getting hold of the Long Island Railroad, Vanderbilt acquired a controlling stake in the Hudson River railway in the year 1864 and became its president the following year. In 1867, he acquired the Central Railroad and amalgamated it with other railroads he held. Over the next decade, he stretched his railroad empire, purchasing the Michigan Central Railroad, the Canada Southern Railway, the Michigan Southern Railroad, and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway.

Achievements: Awards & Honors

In 1999, Cornelius Vanderbilt, because of his significant contributions to the railroad industry, was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame. He is respected to this day as one of the men who helped in shaping America due to his efforts in rail and shipping services.

Personal Life: Wife, Children, Demise

In December 1813, the successful business mogul married Sophia Johnson, his first cousin. They had thirteen children in their marriage and stayed together until the demise of Sophia in 1868.

In 1869, he married Frances Armstrong Crawford, his distant cousin from Alabama who was younger than him by 45 years. They remained married until Vanderbilt’s passing in 1877.

Vanderbilt died at his home in New York, United States, on January 4, 1877, after a long illness, and was interred in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island. He left the majority of his estate to his first son, William.


In 1870, the real estate and rail tycoon gave $1 million as seed capital for what went on to become Vanderbilt University, named in his honor. It was the largest charitable donation in American history till that date.

He also donated large amounts of money to churches and numerous other organizations.

Cornelius Vanderbilt Net Worth: Salary, Income Sources

One fascinating thing about this man is how he started paving the way for himself when he was just 11 years old after quitting school to go work on ferries. Upon the time of his passing in 1877, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s net worth was equal to $185 billion. He is an early investor in the United States railroad industry, and many today remember him for creating an immense shipping and rail empire after establishing connections in the water trade that eventually led him to become the owner of the New York Central Railroad.

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