Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I (RMS Lusitania victim)

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Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, I

Birthdate:
Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Death: Died in Irish Sea off County Cork, Ireland
Cause of death: Sinking of RMS Lusitania by German sub U-20
Immediate Family:

Son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, II and Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt
Husband of Elsie Vanderbilt Fitz-.Simmons and Margaret Amory
Father of William Henry Vanderbilt, III; <private> Vanderbilt; <private> Vanderbilt; Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, II and George Washington Vanderbilt III
Brother of Alice Vanderbilt; William Henry Vanderbilt; Cornelius Vanderbilt III; Gertrude Whitney (Vanderbilt); Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and 1 other

Managed by: Darlene Patricia Potts
Last Updated:

About Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, I

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt - Wikipedia - English

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I (October 20, 1877–May 7, 1915) was a wealthy sportsman and a member of the famous Vanderbilt family of philanthropists. He died on the RMS Lusitania.

Death

On May 1, 1915, Alfred Vanderbilt boarded the RMS Lusitania bound for Liverpool as a first class passenger. It was a business trip, and he traveled with only his valet, leaving his family at home in New York. On May 7 off the coast of County Cork, Ireland, the German submarine, U-20 torpedoed the ship, triggering a secondary explosion that sank the giant ocean liner within 18 minutes. Vanderbilt and his valet, Ronald Denyer, helped others into lifeboats, and then Vanderbilt gave his lifejacket to save a female passenger. Vanderbilt had promised the young mother of a small baby that he would locate an extra lifevest for her. Failing to do so, he offered her his own life vest, which he proceeded to even tie on to her himself since she was holding her infant child in her arms at the time. Many consider his actions to be very brave and gallant since he could not swim, he knew that there were no other lifevests or lifeboats available, and yet he still gave away his only chance to survive to the young mother and child.

Because of his fame, several people on the Lusitania who survived the tragedy were observing him while events unfolded. They took note of his brave actions. He and Denyer were among the 1198 passengers who did not survive the incident. His body was never recovered.

A memorial was erected on the A24 London to Worthing Road in Holmwood, just south of Dorking. The inscription reads, "In Memory of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt a gallant gentleman and a fine sportsman who perished in the Lusitania May 7th 1915". This stone is erected on his favourite road by a few of his British coaching friends and admirers.

According to A. A. Hoehling and Mary Hoehling (in their study, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania) Vanderbilt's fate was ironic as three years earlier he had made a last minute decision not to return to the U.S. on RMS Titanic.

Life and Career

Born in New York City, the third son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843–1899) and Alice Claypoole Gwynne (1845–1934), Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was educated at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and at Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones.

His siblings include: William Henry Vanderbilt II (1870–1892), Cornelius Vanderbilt III (1873–1942), Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942), Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880–1925) and Gladys Vanderbilt, Countess Széchenyi (1886–1965). As his eldest brother, William, had died in 1892 at the age of 22 and their father had disinherited Cornelius III, Alfred received the largest share of his father's estate when he died in 1899, though it was also divided among their sisters and youngest son. Among Alfred Vanderbilt's many holdings, were positions in the New York Central Railroad, Beech Creek Railroad, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, Michigan Central Railroad and Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad as well as the Pullman Company.[1]

Married life and children

Elsie French

On January 11, 1901 Alfred Vanderbilt married Ellen French, known as Elsie, in Newport, Rhode Island. She was the daughter of Francis Ormond French (1839–1893), president of the Manhattan Trust Company, and his wife Ellen Tuck. Elsie was niece to famous banker Edward Tuck and a sister of Amos Tuck French. Later that same year, on November 24, Elsie gave birth to their only child, William Henry Vanderbilt III (1901–1981), later governor of Rhode Island.

A scandal erupted in April 1908 after Elsie filed for divorce, alleging adultery with Agnes O'Brien Ruíz, the wife of the Cuban attaché in Washington, D. C.. The publicity ultimately led Agnes Ruíz to commit suicide in 1909.

Elsie French Vanderbilt remarried to Lieutenant Paul Fitzsimons, U.S.N., on April 3, 1919 in Newport, Rhode Island. He was a marine officer ten years her junior and he served on the same destroyer as Elsie's son William H. Vanderbilt. She died in Newport on February 27, 1948.

Margaret Emerson

Vanderbilt spent considerable time in London after the divorce and remarried there on December 17, 1911 to the wealthy American divorcée Margaret Emerson (1884–1960). She was the daughter of wealthy instructor in chemistry and drug manufacturer Captain Isaac Edward Emerson (1859–1937) and his first wife Emily Askew. She was heiress to the Bromo-Seltzer fortune. Margaret had been married from 1902-1910 to Dr. Smith Hollins McKim, a wealthy physician of Baltimore, Maryland.

Alfred and Margaret had two children: Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt II (1912–1999), businessman and racehorse breeder, and George Washington Vanderbilt III (1914–1961), yachtsman and a scientific explorer.

After Alfred's death, Margaret remarried twice: On June 12, 1918 in Lenox, Massachusetts to politician Raymond T. Baker (1875–1935), with whom she had a daughter, Gloria Baker (1920–1975) (Mrs. Henry J. Topping, Jr.). Emerson and Baker were divorced in October, 1928. On November 5, 1928, Margaret was wed in Manhattan to Charles Minot Amory of Boston, Massachusetts. He had been formerly married to Gladys Munn. There were no further children from this marriage. In newspaper articles and reports concerning America's "Old Money" Margaret was considered to have been "the most married woman of her time". Margaret died on January 2, 1960 at the age of 75.

Hobbies

Vanderbilt was a sportsman, and he particularly enjoyed fox hunting and coaching. In the late 19th century, he and a number of other millionaires, such as James Hazen Hyde practiced the old English coaching techniques of the early 19th century. Meeting near Holland House in New York City, the coaching group would take their vehicle for a one, two, or more day trip along chosen routes through several states, going to prearranged inns and hotels along the routes. Vanderbilt would frequently drive the coach, in perfectly apparelled suit as a coachman or groom. He also enjoyed fox hunting, and in the spring of 1915 was headed for England to purchase hunting dogs and horses. --------------------

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt

Born: 20 Oct 1877

Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Died: May 1915

Irish, Lusitania, [country]

-Family Groups View alternate family members

Spouse 1

Ellen Tuck French

Born: 1881

Died: 1948

Marriage: 11 Jan 1901 View Info

Children Sex Birth

William Henry Vanderbilt M 24 Nov 1901 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt M 22 Sep 1912 in London, [parish], [county], England

George Vanderbilt M 1914

  

Spouse 2

Margaret Emerson McKim

Born: 1884 in Sunderland, [parish], Durham, England

Died: 1960

Marriage: 22 Feb 1911 View Info

Children Sex Birth

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt M 22 Sep 1912 in London, [parish], [county], England

George Vanderbilt M 1914


-------------------------------

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt

  • 20.10.1877 + no mar 07.05.1915

Parents

Father: Cornelius Vanderbilt * 27.11.1843

Mother: Alice Claypoole Gwynne * 1845

MarriagesMarriage I: Newport 11.01.1901

Ellen French

Marriage II: 22.02.1911

Margaret Emerson * 1884

Children

Children from Marriage I:

William Henry Vanderbilt III * 24.11.1901

Children from Marriage II:

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. * 22.09.1912

George Washington Vanderbilt III * 1914 Anita Zabala

---------------------

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, 38, from New York and his valet Ronald Denyer, assisted many others, especially children, to safety. Alfred was born in New York on 20 October 1877 to Cornelius and Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt. As a youth, Alfred was educated at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Graduated Yale, 1899. He was a member of the Skull and Bones secret society. All of his brothers were Yale alumni. His father contributed to the construction of Vanderbilt Hall on the Yale campus in 1894 in memory of William Henry, Alfred's eldest brother who had died while a junior there.

When Alfred's older brother Cornelius, Jr. married Miss Grace G. Wilson against Cornelius Sr.'s wishes in 1896, Cornelius, Sr. cut off the elder brother from the bulk of the inheritance. When Cornelius, Sr. died suddenly at age fifty-six of a cerebral hemorrhage, he still had not forgiven his elder son. The bulk of the $72 million estate passed to Alfred Gwynne, who hurried home from a world tour. Alfred's inheritance symbolically included the gold Congressional Medal awarded to Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the Vanderbilt family fortune, for his donation of the S. S. Vanderbilt to Union forces during the Civil War. Most of the other siblings received $7 million. Cornelius, Jr. only received $1 million. The squabble over the inheritance created an irreparable rift between the once affectionate brothers.

In order to remedy the injustice done to Cornelius, Jr., Alfred offered his brother $6 million to make Cornelius' share equal to that of the other siblings. Far from reconciling the two brothers, only more arguments resulted. Up to the time of Alfred's death, the two were still unreconciled.

On 11 January 1901, Alfred married Miss Elsie French, daughter of the wealthy Francis Ormonde French, and brother of Amos Tuck French, father of Miss Julia Estelle French who married Jack Geraghty, the son of a liveryman. They were married in the Sabriske Memorial Church, Newport, Rhode Island, by Reverend George Brinley Morgan, a cousin of Miss French, and the Rev. Charles E. Beattie, rector of the Church. Alfred's brother Reginald Vanderbilt was best man. A son, William Henry, was born to them on 24 November 1901.

Vanderbilt was on his yacht with friend Thomas Slidell when they watched the Lusitania complete her maiden voyage to New York in September of 1907. Alfred was a frequent traveler and some years made as many as seven crossings.

Ellen filed for divorce on 1 April 1908 for Alfred's adultery aboard his private railway car the Wayfarer with Mary Agnes O'Brien Ruiz, wife of the Cuban attaché in Washington. The two had met during one of Vanderbilt's trips to London, when he had saved her life. She had been on a horse in Rotten Row that had run away with her on it, and Vanderbilt, with much style, grabbed the reins and brought the horse to a stop. The divorce papers were sealed, and the divorce reportedly cost Vanderbilt $10 million. Agnes Ruiz was duly divorced by her husband. Devastated, she committed suicide by poison in her London hotel room in 1914. The incident was to follow Vanderbilt for some time afterward.

----------------------

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt 1877-1915

Alfred Gwynne a noted horse breeder, a playboy and he went down on the Lusitania.

Alfred was born in New York on 20 October 1877 to Cornelius and Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt. Alfred was educated at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Graduated Yale, 1890. All of his brothers were Yale alumni. Alfred Vanderbilt owned a farm noted for horses in Portsmouth, Rhode Island (near Newport) called Oakland Farm. His father contributed to the construction of Vanderbilt Hall on the Yale campus in 1894 in memory of William Henry, Alfred's eldest brother who had died while a junior there. When Alfred's older brother Cornelius, Jr. married Miss Grace G. Wilson against Cornelius Sr.'s wishes in 1896, Cornelius, Sr. cut off the elder brother from the bulk of the inheritance. On 11 January 1901, Alfred married Miss Elsie French, daughter of the wealthy Francis Ormonde French, and brother of Amos Tuck French, father of Miss Julia Estelle French who married Jack Geraghty, the son of a liveryman. A son, William Henry, was born to them on 24 November 1901. Ellen filed for divorce on 1 April 1908 for Alfred's adultery aboard his private railway car the Wayfarer with Agnes (Mary) O'Brien Ruiz, wife of the Cuban attaché in Washington. The divorce reportedly cost Vanderbilt $10 million. Agnes Ruiz was duly divorced by her husband. Devastated, she committed suicide by poison in her London hotel room not long afterward. Pressured by family, Alfred married again on 17 December 1911 to Margaret Emerson Smith Hollins McKim, a divorcée herself. Margaret was a daughter of Captain Isaac E. Emerson of Baltimore and heiress to the Bromo-Seltzer fortune. Alfred and Margaret were married in Reigate, 25 miles outside of London. Margaret and Alfred both had a passion for horses, and the Vanderbilt estate in Newport had the largest private riding ring in the world.

Vanderbilt's purpose in traveling on the Lusitania in May 1915 was to direct a meeting of the International Horse Breeders' Association. Margaret and the two children decided to stay in New York City, in the Vanderbilt Hotel on Park Avenue. The morning of the sailing, a notice from the German Embassy appeared in the newspapers, warning Americans away from Allied ships. Vanderbilt and his wife just laughed the warning off. After the ship was torpedoed, Alfred and his valet Ronald Denyer calmly assisted several women and children to safety. "Hurry Mr. Vanderbilt, or it will be too late!" Vanderbilt did not listen and continued assisting women and children. The truth was, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, the renowed sportsman and ladies man, did not know how to swim. the Lusitania took her final plunge and Vanderbilt's body was never found. His death date is given as May 7, 1915. He is recorded being at the Moravian Cemetery Staten Island Richmond County New York.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt left $ 26 million, most of it to his infant sons, who would also share in the Emerson fortune. His eldest son was William Henry Vanderbilt III

--------------------

-------------------- Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I was a wealthy sportsman and a member of the famous Vanderbilt family of philanthropist. He died on the RMS Lusitania.

Vanderbilt particularly enjoyed fox hunting and coaching. In the late 19th Century he and a number of other millionaires, such as James Hazen Hyde practiced the old English coaching techniques of the early 19th Century. Meeting near Holland House in New York City, the coaching group would take their vehicle for a one, two, or more day trip along chosen routes through several states, going to prearranged inns and hotels along the routes. Vanderbilt would frequently drive the coach, in perfectly apparelled suit as a coachman or groom. In the spring of 1915 Vanderbilt headed for England to purchase hunting dogs and horses.

On May 1, 1915 Alfred Vanderbilt boarded the RMS Lusitania bound for Liverpool as a first class passenger. It was a business trip, and he traveled with only his valet, leaving his family at home in New York. On May 7 off the coast of County Cork, Ireland, the German submarine, U-20 torpedoed the ship, triggering a secondary explosion that sank the giant ocean liner within eighteen minutes. Vanderbilt and his valet, Ronald Denyer, helped others into lifeboats, and then Vanderbilt gave his lifejacket to save a female passenger. Vanderbilt had promised the young mother of a small baby that he would locate an extra lifevest for her.[2] Failing to do so, he offered her his own life vest, which he proceeded to even tie on to her himself since she was holding her infant child in her arms at the time. Many consider his actions to be very brave and gallant since he could not swim, he knew that there were no other lifevests or lifeboats available, and yet he still gave away his only chance to survive to the young mother and child.

Because of his fame, several people on the Lusitania who survived the tragedy were observing him while events unfolded at the time and so they took note of his brave actions. He and Denyer were among the 1198 passengers who did not survive the incident. His body was never recovered.

A memorial was erected on the A24 London to Worthing Road in Holmwood, just south of Dorking. The inscription reads, "In Memory of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt a gallant gentleman and a fine sportsman who perished in the Lusitania May 7th 1915. This stone is erected on his favourite road by a few of his British coaching friends and admirers"

According to A. A. Hoehling and Mary Hoehling (in their study, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania) Vanderbilt's fate was ironic as three years earlier he had made a last minute decision not to return to the United States on R.M.S. Titanic.

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Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I (RMS Lusitania victim)'s Timeline

1877
October 20, 1877
New York, NY, USA
1901
January 11, 1901
Age 23
Newport, Rhode Island, New York, USA
November 24, 1901
Age 24
New York, New York, United States
1911
December 17, 1911
Age 34
London, England
1912
September 22, 1912
Age 34
London, England
1914
September 23, 1914
Age 36
1915
May 7, 1915
Age 37
Irish Sea off County Cork, Ireland