William Henry Vanderbilt
William Henry Vanderbilt was born at New Brunswick, New Jersey on May 8th, 1821. He was the main heir to his father, Cornelius Vanderbilt's vast estate. William Vanderbilt was known for doubling his family's fortune by expanding their railroad network.
William Vanderbilt was one of thirteen children, but was the oldest son born to Sophia and Cornelius Vanderbilt. When he was a child, he had attended public school only for four years. For some time, William would disappoint his father, who felt that his son was too frail and lacked ambition. William had moved with his father to New York City and attended Columbia Grammar School in 1829. When William turned sixteen, his father sent him off to work for a rival business owner, Daniel Drew, at Drew Robinson & Co Bankers on Wall Street. However, the work was too overwhelming and William suffered from a nervous Breakdown. Out of frustration, his father exiled him to the family farm on Staten Island. At the age of nineteen. William was able to improve the profits at the farm, in which was noticed by his father.
From the years 1839 to 1842, he was in the banking business as a clerk. When he started, his salary was $150,000 per annum. In the second year, it had increased to $300,000 per year. Later in the years, William's father decided to purchase his son a farm located at New Dorp. The farm was 75 acres and located between the Moravian church in the area. The farm was not so big and had to be carefully taken care of and fertilized so they were able to grow crops. There was an outcome of success with the farming. William followed his father success and lives by the motto hard work during the day and rest in the night.
During this time, his father had exerted more control over the Long Island Railroad. William was called to reorganize the ailing organization, just like he did on the farm. He was able to turn the business into a thriving operation, making him a public figure in the family's railroad empire, just like his dad.
When William was 20 years old, he was married to Miss Maria Louisa Kissam. She was the daughter of Brooklyn’s clergyman of the Dutch Reformed church.
In 1860, the Staten Island Railroad became William’s focus. He was an appointed receiver. In 1865, he had become the vice president of the Hudson River railway. Then in 1869, he became vice president of the New York and Hudson River railway. By 1877, he was the president of these railways.
Also in 1877, when William was fifty-five years old, his father passed away. The Vanderbilt organization was turned over to William. He carried on with his father's work by expanding railroad operations and overseeing the formation of the New York Central System. His assets included railroads in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, as well as many other countless cities.
A year after his father's death, there were complications that occurred, such as vigorous rate cuts among truck lines in the westbound freight. However, William looked for a peaceful solution, despite the trouble that followed; Riots and strikes happened due to the cuttings of rates and wages that taken away from the employees. William made a promise that all of this will be solved, and he stuck by it. As time had passed, William had purchased the Canada Southern Railroad.
William retired in 1883 due to his health. He died two years later, on December 8th, 1885, just eight years after his father passed away. His money was inherited to his wife and children.
During his brief time running the Vanderbilt organization, he had doubled the family's fortune from $100 million to $200 million.Return to Famous Staten Islanders