William Henry Vanderbilt

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About William Henry Vanderbilt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Henry_Vanderbilt

Born May 8, 1821

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Died December 8, 1885

William H. Vanderbilt (May 8, 1821–December 8, 1885) was a businessman and a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.

William Henry Vanderbilt was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He inherited nearly $100 million from his father, one of the wealthiest men in the world, railroad mogul and family patriarch "The Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt and had increased it to almost $200 million at his death less than nine years later. At the time, he declared himself the richest man in the world, which was the truth, as no living person, even the world's richest royalty, even approached him in wealth at his time of death. In 1841 he married Maria Louisa Kissam (1821–1896), the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

Vanderbilt was infamous for his contempt of the public. He once said in an interview,[citation needed] "The railroads are not run for the benefit of the dear public. That cry is all nonsense. They are built for men who invest their money and expect to get a fair percentage on the same." He was also known for a comment he made in 1883 when being harangued by a reporter about the discontinuance of a fast mail train popular with the public: "The public be damned! I run my railroads for my stockholders!" he snapped exasperatedly.[1]

His mean, intimidating father Cornelius constantly berated and criticized him, thinking Billy (as he was called), a "blockhead" and a "blatherskite", two of the Commodore's favorite insults that he loved to hurl at his eldest son.[citation needed] Billy longed to show his father that he was not, in fact, a blatherskite, but he never dared stand up to the fearsome Commodore, always cringing under his father's rudeness. His father carefully oversaw his business training, at age 18 starting him out as a clerk in a New York banking house. After joining the executive of the Staten Island railway, he was made its president in 1862 then three years later he was appointed vice-president of the Hudson River railway. Billy showed a knack for business, being a valuable part of the family railroad empire, gaining him the long awaited respect and friendship that he felt he deserved from his father. In 1869, he was made vice-president of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company, becoming its president in 1877. As well, he took over from his father as president of New York Central Railroad, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, the Canada Southern Railway, and the Michigan Central Railroad at the time of the Commodore's death.

He had actively expanded the family's railroad empire, and had added millions to the gargantuan Vanderbilt family fortune. In 1883, his elder sons assumed the head positions in the family railroad empire at his retirement and inherited his massive fortune at his death. It was in his sons time that the Vanderbilt family demanded social recognition, and gained it with the efforts of his daughter in law Alva Vanderbilt, from the older but less moneyed (while still being some of the country's richest people) families of New York City high society, centered on the Astor family, whom the Vanderbilts had by then far outstripped in wealth. After Alva's social conquests, the Vanderbilts were recognized as one of the leaders of American high society in the Gilded Age.

He was a kind, gentle man all his life, who loved his wife very much, never once speaking to her harshly throughout their long marriage.[citation needed] They had eight children: four sons and four daughters.

Vanderbilt was an extremely active philanthropist, giving back extensively to a number of philanthropic causes including the YMCA, funding to help establish the Metropolitan Opera and an endowment for the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. In 1880, he provided the money for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee to construct the Wesley Hall building for use as the Biblical Department and library and included 160 dormitory rooms for students and professors, lecture halls, as well as a cafeteria. The building was destroyed by fire in 1932 and his son Frederick made another donation to help cover the insurance shortfall and allow a new building to be constructed.

Vanderbilt was an avid art enthusiast; his collection included some of the most valuable works of the Old Masters, and over his lifetime Vanderbilt acquired more than 200 paintings, which he housed in his lavish and palatial Fifth Avenue mansion.

Among his holdings were:

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad

Chicago and Canada Southern Railway

Detroit and Bay City Railroad

Hudson River Railroad

Hudson River Bridge

Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad

Michigan Midland and Canada Railroad

New York Central and Hudson River Railroad

New York Central Sleeping Car Company

New York and Harlem Rail Road

Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad

Staten Island Rail-Road

In 1883, he resigned all his company presidencies and had his sons appointed as important chairmen but left the day-to-day running of the businesses to experienced men appointed president.

Vanderbilt is less known as the grandfather of the superhighway. His ill-fated South Penn Railroad led to the creation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the 1930s and 1940s. Most of Vandebuilt's right-of-way and tunnels were used in creation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.[citation needed]

On his passing, he was interred in the Vanderbilt family mausoleum at the Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp on Staten Island, New York.

William Henry Vanderbilt's enormous estate was divided amongst his eight children and his wife, the bulk of the estate going to his eldest two sons, William K. Vanderbilt and Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Children of William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam:

Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843–1899)

Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt-Shepherd (1845–1924)

William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849–1920)

Emily Thorn Vanderbilt (1852–1946)

Florence Adele Vanderbilt-Twombly (1854–1952)

Frederick William Vanderbilt (1856–1938)

Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt-Webb (1860–1936)

George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862–1914)

References

^ The American Pageant. David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Henry_Vanderbilt"

Categories: Articles lacking sources from March 2007 | All articles lacking sources | Articles with unsourced statements since March 2007 | All articles with unsourced statements | 1821 births | 1885 deaths | American art collectors | American philanthropists | American railroad executives of the 19th century | People from New Brunswick, New Jersey | American socialites | Vanderbilt family


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William Henry Vanderbilt (May 8, 1821 – December 8, 1885) was an American businessman and a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.

William Vanderbilt was born in New Brunswick, NJ.[1] In 1877 he inherited nearly $100 million from his father, railroad mogul and family patriarch "The Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, and had increased it to almost $194 million at his death less than nine years later. When he died, he was the richest man in the world. In 1841 he married Maria Louisa Kissam (1821–1896), the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

Vanderbilt said in an interview with the Chicago Daily News on October 9, 1882, "The railroads are not run for the benefit of the 'dear public' -- that cry is all nonsense -- they are built by men who invest their money and expect to get a fair percentage on the same." In 1883, when questioned by a reporter about the discontinuance of a fast mail train popular with the public, he declared: "The public be damned!... I don't take any stock in this silly nonsense about working for anybody but our own."

His father Cornelius constantly berated and criticized him, thinking his eldest son a "blockhead" and a "blatherskite", two of the Commodore's favorite insults. Billy (as he was called) longed to show his father that he was not, in fact, a blatherskite, but he never dared stand up to the fearsome Commodore, always cringing under his father's rudeness.

His father carefully oversaw his business training, at age 18 starting him out as a clerk in a New York banking house. After joining the executive of the Staten Island Railway, he was made its president in 1862 then three years later was appointed vice-president of the Hudson River railway.

In 1869, he was made vice-president of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, becoming its president in 1877. As well, he took over from his father as president of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, the Canada Southern Railway, and the Michigan Central Railroad at the time of the Commodore's death.

He had actively expanded the family's railroad empire, and had added millions to the gargantuan Vanderbilt family fortune. In 1883, his elder sons assumed the head positions in the family railroad empire at his retirement and inherited his massive fortune at his death. It was in his sons' time that the Vanderbilt family demanded social recognition, and gained it with the efforts of his daughter-in-law Alva, from the older families of New York City high society, centered on the Astor family, whom the Vanderbilts had by then far outstripped in wealth. After Alva's social conquests, the Vanderbilts were recognized as one of the leading families of American high society in the Gilded Age.


Vanderbilt YMCA, New YorkHe and his wife had eight children: four sons and four daughters.

Vanderbilt was an active philanthropist, giving extensively to a number of philanthropic causes including the YMCA, funding to help establish the Metropolitan Opera and an endowment for the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. In 1880, he provided the money for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee to construct the Wesley Hall building for use as the Biblical Department and library and included 160 dormitory rooms for students and professors, lecture halls, as well as a cafeteria. The building was destroyed by fire in 1932 and his son Frederick made another donation to help cover the insurance shortfall and allow a new building to be constructed.

Vanderbilt was an avid art enthusiast; his collection included some of the most valuable works of the Old Masters, and over his lifetime Vanderbilt acquired more than 200 paintings, which he housed in his lavish and palatial Fifth Avenue mansion.

Despite his great wealth he never considered himself happy with it- shortly before his death he said: "The care of $200million is too great a load for any back or brain to bear. It is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it."

In 1883, he resigned all his company presidencies and had his sons appointed as important chairmen but left the day-to-day running of the businesses to experienced men appointed president.

He died on December 8, 1885 in New York City.[2] He was interred in the Vanderbilt family mausoleum at the Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp on Staten Island, New York. His estate was divided amongst his eight children and his wife, the bulk of the estate going to his eldest two sons, William Kissam Vanderbilt and Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

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William Henry Vanderbilt's Timeline

1821
May 8, 1821
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States
1841
1841
Age 19
1843
November 27, 1843
Age 22
New York, NY, USA
1845
July 23, 1845
Age 24
New York, Richmond County, New York, United States
1846
1846
Age 24
1849
December 12, 1849
Age 28
Staten Island,NY
1852
January 31, 1852
Age 30
New York, Richmond, New York, United States
1854
January 8, 1854
Age 32
Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States
1856
February 2, 1856
Age 34
1860
September 20, 1860
Age 39
New York, New York, United States