Cornelius Vanderbilt, II

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About Cornelius Vanderbilt, II

Cornelius Vanderbilt II (November 27, 1843 – September 12, 1899) was an American socialite, heir, businessman, and a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.

He was the favorite grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who left him $5 million, and the eldest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, who left him close to $70 million. In his turn he succeeded them as head of the New York Central and related railroad lines in 1885.[1]


He had a reputation as something of a workaholic, though a stroke in 1896 compelled him to reduce his active business involvement. In 1867 he married Alice Claypoole Gwynne (1845–1934) whom he met at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church where both taught Sunday School. Their eldest son William Henry Vanderbilt II (1870–1892) died of typhoid fever while a junior at Yale University, and Cornelius endowed a large dormitory there. He disinherited his second son Cornelius Vanderbilt III (1873–1942) for marrying without his approval. Third son Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877–1915) went down with the RMS Lusitania. His remaining son was Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880–1925), the father of Gloria Vanderbilt and grandfather of television news anchor Anderson Cooper. His daughters were Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942) and Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi (1886–1965).[2]

The fabulous Fifth Avenue mansions he, his brothers, and his sons lived in have been demolished, but the Newport, Rhode Island vacation home he built, The Breakers, still stands as a memory of the lifestyle of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Vanderbilt was active in numerous organizations including the YMCA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Trinity Church, St. Bartholomew's Church, and the Newport Country Club.

On his death, family leadership passed to his brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt. His philanthropy had been such that he did not increase the wealth that had been left to him.[3]

Noted Financier and Head of the House of Vanderbilt in the third generation. Eldest son of William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885) and Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt (1821-1896) ~ grandson, and namesake, of 'Commodore' Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877).

Cornelius II assumed leadership as Chairman of the Board of the New York Central, and related railway systems, in 1885; withdrawing from active management in July, 1896, as the result of a paralytic stroke. Though retired from active control he took an advisory role in the many properties in which he, and the family, had made investments. Regarded as a capable and conservative railroad manager, and a splendid accountant; mastering the intricacies of the banking system during his association with the Shoe and Leather Bank of New York. Between 1885 and his untimely death in 1899 the stock of the leading railroads, with which the Vanderbilt name was then identified, had enhanced in value to the amount of $173,497,000. over their worth at the time he assumed control. Kindly, charitable, and democratic, he held the respect of employees at all levels of the Vanderbilt railroad interests. This Cornelius, deriving no pleasure in yachting, or the Turf, sought the satisfactions of philanthropy, fine music, good paintings and exquisite architecture. His New York residence on Fifth Avenue, imposing and dignified, was the largest private townhouse ever built in the City; his country retreat, "The Breakers," at Newport, Rhode Island, was the most splendid house at that summer resort.

Cornelius Vanderbilt

Born: 27 Nov 1843

Brooklyn, Kings, New York, USA

Died: 12 Sep 1899

Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA


Alice Claypoole Gwynne

Born: 1845 in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, USA

Died: 22 Apr 1934 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Marriage: 1867 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA View Info

Children Sex Birth

Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt F 1867 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

William Henry Vanderbilt M 1870 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Cornelius Vanderbilt M 1873 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Gertrude Vanderbilt F 1875 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt M 20 Oct 1877 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt M 1880 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Gladys Moor Vanderbilt F 1886 in Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

In August 1895, when "The Breakers," rose above the seagirt cliffs of Newport, Rhode Island, it was the largest, most opulent residence ever built in High Society's most exclusive summer enclave, at a 7 millions dollars budget. He helped to establish in New York City the Vanderbilt Clinic, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. They had 7 children: Gertrude 1875-1942, Gladys Moore Szechenyi 1890, Cornelius III 1873-1942, Alfred Gwynne 1877-1915, Reginald Claypoole 1880-1925, William Henry II 1870-1892.

Financier and philanthropist; built "The Breakers" in Newport, RI.

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Cornelius Vanderbilt, II's Timeline

November 27, 1843
New York, NY, USA
Age 23
Staten Island, Richmond, NY, USA
December 21, 1870
Age 27
September 5, 1873
Age 29
New York City, New York, USA
January 9, 1875
Age 31
New York City, New York, USA
October 20, 1877
Age 33
New York City, New York County, New York, United States
December 19, 1880
Age 37
August 27, 1886
Age 42
Newport, Newport, RI, USA
September 12, 1899
Age 55
New York, NY, USA