VANDERBILT, van'der-bilt, Cornelius, American capitalist: b. near Stapleton, Staten Island, N. Y., 27 May 1794; d. New York, 4 Jan. 1877. He was the son of a farmer, re ceived but little school education, and at 16 purchased a ferryboat with which he carried passengers and farm products between Staten Island and New York. Two years later he had control of three boats, and his ferry was well established. It was not long before he was ex tensively engaged in transportation enterprises, and he came to be popularly called ((Com modore." Marrying in 1813, he removed his residence to New York. In addition to his river and harbor boats, in 1817 he built a steamer to run between New York and New Brunswick, N. J., himself acting as captain. In 1827 he leased a ferry running to Elizabeth, N. J.. and afterward held interests in steam boat lines on the Hudson and on Long Island Sound. In 1851 he established a fast line to California, passengers being transferred across the Isthmus of Nicaragua. This enterprise was said to have returned him $10,000,000. During the Crimean War, when English ship-• ping forsook the seas, he established a steam ship line between New York and Havre, France. A little later he began to transfer his
capital from water traffic, and entered upon a career of railroad financiering and management, buying in 1863 a great part of the New York and Harlem Railroad, afterward obtaining con trol of the Hudson River Railroad and of the New York Central, becoming president of the last-named in 1867. All these lines he managed with great ability, securing marked improve ment in their organization and service. Hav ing in 1869 consolidated the line of the New York Central and the Hudson River roads, he extended his system to Chicago by obtaining interests in the Lake Shore, the Canada South ern and the Michigan Central lines. During the Civil War he presented the steamship Van derbilt to the United States government, and for this patriotic act received a gold medal from Congress. Among his public benefactions the most noteworthy was his contribution of $1,000,000 for the founding of Vanderbilt Uni versity (q.v.). His fortune was estimated at about $100,000,000, the bulk of which he left to his son, William H. Vanderbilt.