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This is a history of the Yanderbilt family, with a record 
of their vicissitudes, and a clironicle of the method bj 
which their wealth has been acquired. It is confidently 
put forth as a work which should fall into the hands of 
boys and young men — of all wdio aspire to become Cap- 
tains of Industry or leaders of their fellows in the sharp 
and wholesome competitions of life. 

In preparing these pages, the author has had an am- 
bition, not merely to give a biographical picture of sire, 
son, and grandsons and descendants, but to consider 
their relation to society, to measure the significance and 
the influence of their fortune, to ascertain where their 
money came from, to inquire whether others are poorer 
because they are rich, whether they are hindering or 
promoting civilization, whether they and snch as they 
are impediments to the welfare of the human race. A 
correct answer to these questions will solve half of the 
problems which most eagerly beset this generation. 

This story is an analogue of the story of all American 
successes. When Commodore Yanderbilt visited Europe 
in 1853 at the head of his family, he seemed to defy 
classification. He was apparently neither lord nor com- 
moner, lie was too democratic for a errandee : too self- 



poised for a plebeian. He was untitled, but his 3'acht 
surpassed in size and splendor the ocean vehicles of 
monarchs. No expense was too great to be indulged, 
no luxury too choice to be provided, but he moved mod- 
estly and without ostentation, with the serene compos- 
ure of a prince among his equals. There were wealthy 
English citizens who could have afforded a similar out- 
lay, but they would have been sneered at and charged 
with pretentiousness and vanity, with aping customs 
rightly monopolized by the nobilitj-. They would have 
been rated as snobs, cads, upstarts, and would have been 
twitted with their humble origin, as if an impi'ovement 
of one's condition were a reproach instead of an honor. 

But the cruising Commodore came from a land where 
prevalent conditions and not antecedents are considered ; 
Avhere a coat-of-arms is properly regarded as a foolish 
affectation ; where a family's "descent" is of no impor- 
tance, and its ascent of all importance ; whei'e the M'heel 
of fortune runs rapidly around and every man is, not 
only permitted bnt required to stand for what he is. 

So when William 11. Yanderbilt erected for himself 
a palace, and enriched it with an art collection more 
valuable than any private gallery in Great Britain, the 
English found it impossible to think of him as he was — a 
quiet citizen, despising parade and display — and the Lon- 
don Spectator said when he was dead: "• lie occasionally 
flaunted his wealth in a uiaimer a Roman noble could 
not have exceeded. He gave an entertainment, it is 
said, one day last year at which his guests ate off gold 
laid upon fine lace, the wines cost thousands, and flowers 
were brought from the Southern States at an expense of 
£4,000." And the editorial inventor went on to an- 


iiounce that the host on tliis occasion " was accused of 
giving each journalist among his guests a thousand-dol- 
lar note tied up in his napkin, in order that his magnifi- 
cence might be reported in detail." This from one of 
the most cautious and conservative journals in England ! 
The British mind apparently cannot conceive of a man 
who has made a hundred million dollars and yet is not 
a pompous vulgarian filled with " the pride that apes 

America is the land of the self-made man — the em- 
pire of the parvenu. Here it is felt tliat the accident of 
birth is of trifling consequence ; here there is no " blood " 
that is to be coveted save the red blood which every 
masterful man distills in his own arteries ; and here the 
name of parvenu is the only and all-sufficient title of 
nobility. So here, if nowhere else in the world, should 
such a dominant man without hesitation or apology 
assume the place to which he is entitled, in commerce 
or the industrial arts, in professional life or society. 

A wealthy man is as much in the public eye and as 
much an object of popular intei'est as a successful gen- 
eral, a famous inventor, a great poet, or a distinguished 
statesman, and an opulent family is the focus of much 
legitimate and respectful curiosity. Xeither Stephen 
Girard, John Jacob Astor, nor Alexander T. Stewart is 
a familiar personage to this generation, because there 
is no complete narrative of their lives, thoughts, and 
methods, telling how they acquired their money, and to 
what purpose they lived. Traditions there are, in abun- 
dance, and rumors and myths, largely discreditable ; but 
the real men are not known, and probably never will be. 
Yet a rich man, if only because he possesses the rare gift 


of money-getting and money-keeping, and the skill and 
wisdom that are a part of it, is necessarily one of the 
most interesting figures of his generation. In this is a 
sufficient justification for the preparation of this work. 

Acknowledgment is gratefully made to Chauncey M. 
Depew, Isaac P. Chambers, Dr. Jared Linsly, Thomas 
C. Purdy, Robert Bonner, E. H. Carmick, Dr. Fuller- 
Walker, and Rev. Dr. Deems, for valuable information, 
and to Mrs. Frank Leslie and Harper & Brothers for 



Ancestors 1 

The Dutch Emigrants — Men Self-made or not Made at all — 
Distinguislied Examples — Aris on Long Island— Jacob 
goes to Staten Island — The Moravians — Jacob's Son and 
Grandson— Thrifty but Unambitious— The Fruit of the 
Family Tree. 

Boyhood and Poverty 10 

His Father and Mother — The Humble Home — Avoiding 
School — Fun and Hard Work — Wants to be a Sailor — 
Earns a Periauger — Ready for Business at Sixteen. 

Youth and Ambition 19 

Sails his Boat on the Bay — Fare, Eighteen Cents — Makes 
$1,000 a Year— Sturdy, Abrupt, and Honest — In War 
Times— Beats Van Duzen — Marries at Nineteen. 


Steamboat and Tavern 27 

Abandons Sails for Steam— New York to New Brunswick — 
Fight with a Monopoly — Dodging the Sheriff — Making 
his Point — Large Profits — Pluck and Enterprise. 

Home and Children 37 

His Return to New York Harbor — Residence in the City — 
A New House on Staten Island — His Three Sons — Stern 
Management — William 11. 's Exile to New Dorp. 

Till CO^s^TENTS. 


From Steamboats to Steamships 43 

, Running Steamboats in all Directions — To California via 

/ the Isthmus — Worth Ten Million Dollars — A Yachting 

Cruise to Europe — A Line Across the Atlantic — The Mails 
— Lending a Vessel to the Government. 


TwEXTT Tears a Farmer 57 

William at New Dorp, Staten Island — The Farm — Energy 
and Economy — The Seat on the Fence — A Mortgage and 
Consequent WVath — " Four Dollars a Load" — A Spurt on 
the Road — A New House— The Farm Pays. 

William's Apprenticeship 66 

The Staten Island Railroad — Its Ruin and Regeneration — 
Death of Cap'ain George — An Obedient Son — New 


The Harlem Corner 71 

1 Into Railroads — Harlem at 3 — Buying to Keep — Public Sym- 

\j pathy — Aldermen Set a Trap — Get Caught — Six Rules of 

Management — The Legislature in Trouble — Harlem at 

285 ! — Fights and Conquers the Central — No Sympathy 



The Erie War 86 

The Commodore Covets Erie — Daniel Drew"s Little Game 
— The Vanderbilt Party Buys — Drew and Gould Sell Short 
— Drew's Duplicity — Fisk Throws 100,000 Bogus Sliares 
upon the Market — Dodging the Sheriff — Flight to Jersey 
— Surrender and Restitution. 

Trophies of Victory 98 

Twent3'-five JMillion Dollars in Five Years — William's Way — 
i Consolidation Succeeds — Freight Depot on St. John's Park 

^J — Dedication of the Commodore's Monument, the Bronzes 

— Watering Stock — What is It, and Whom does it Rob ? 




Habits and Charactek 106 _^ 

Methods of Work — Location in Various Years — Keeping Ac- 
counts in His Head— Punctuality— Close at a Bargain— 
Wliist after Dinner— Tells a Story of His Mother— Death 
of His Wife. 


Family Matters 114 

His Grandchildren— Cornelius, Jr., and William K. at Work 
— The Thorn in the Flesh — Horace Greeley — " Cornele's 
Wife " — The Commodore Marries at Eighty — His Wife's 


Father and Son 123 

Buying New Roads Westward — Building the Grand Central 
Depot — William H.'s Office Habits — Overwork — A Glance 
at His Mail — A Good-natured Pessimist — The Complacent 


Thr Commodore's Charities 131 

His Opinion of Beggars — The Way He Gave — Careful about 
Money — Meets Dr. Deems — Gives the Church of the 
Strangers — The Tennessee University. 

Death of the Commodore 142 

Taken 111 at Eighty-two — Great Public Interest — The Vigi- 
lant Newspapers — Rej^orters Besiege the Invalid — Death 
after Eight Months— A Simple Funeral— The Will. 

The Commodore's Successor 148 

Industrious and Prudent — Compromises with Foes — Deal- 
ing with Laborers— Contest of the Will — The Quarrel 
Ended — Generosity and Human Nature — Accurate Biisi- 
ness Habits. 



The Mansion 155 

Tlie Stj'le and Cost — Six Hundred Workmen and Sixty 
Sculptors — Description of the Rooms— The Vestibule — 
The Picture Gallery — Hoping to Live There Ten Years — 
Leaves in Five. 

The Art Gallery 163 

Modern French Art— Best Collection in the World— A Good 
Investment — Mr. Yanderbilt's Tastes and Fancies — His 
Visits to Artists — Abuse of Hospitality. 


The Vaxderbilt Family 175 

Captain "Jake" — His Wealth and Habits — His Children — 
The Sisters of William H.— His Widow and Children— 
Their Homes and Families. 

Social Position 190 

What is Good Society ?— Our Plutocracy— Mrs. W. K. Yan- 
derbilt's Great Ball — Preparations — The Guests — The Cos- 
tumes — The Display. 


Horses and Stables 198 

Love for Horses — Fondness for Fast Teams — Excellent Ama- 
teur Driver — Perils of the Road — MaudS. — Summer Rec- 
reation — The Derby — His Stables — Resigns the Reins. 


William H. Yanderbilt's Donations 206 

His Method of Giving — The Tennessee University — The Col- 
lege of Physicians and Surgeons — The Grants — Minor 
Gifts— The Obelisk— Public Ingratitude. 



The Mausoleum 213 

Original Design Rejected — Too Grand — Moravian Thrift — 
The Site Secured — Tlie Plan Adopted — A Romanesque 
Tomb — Granite, Limestone, and Bronze — The Interior — 
Allegorical Sculptures. 

Closing Labors 219 

Sensitive to Public Opinion — Relinquishes His "Monop- 
oly" — Fifty Millions in Government Bonds — Resigns His 
Presidencies — Letter to Associates — "The Public be 
Damned ! "' — Succeeded by His Sons— Working Westward 
— Acquiring the Nickel Plate — Letter on Freight Dis- 
criminations — On Labor — To Grover Cleveland. 

W. H. Vanderbilt's Death 231 

Worry and Anxiety — His Declining Health — Morning of 
the Last Day — At Ward's Studio — Conference with Mr. 
Garrett — Paralysis and Quick Death — Effect on the Public 
Mind — Simple and Inexpensive Funeral — The Vault at 
New Dorp — Home Again. 

The Will j 239 

Two Hundred Million Dollars given Away — The Great Bur- 
den Distributed — Widow, Children, and Relatives well 
Provided for — The " Residue" of a Hundred Millions — 
Charities — The Testator's Purposes and Dreams. 


Estimate of His Character 248 

Temperate Habits — Abstemious — Domestic — Tribute of the 
Directors — Opinions of Jay Gould and Russell Sage — 
Letter to Matthew Riley — A Much-abused Man— Fond 
of Opera — The Student Waiters — The Undelivered Apple- 



The Sons and their Heritage 264 

The New Residences — Cornelius and William K. Vander- 
bilt — Theii- Public Trusts and Private Character — A Nota- 
ble Present — Law-abiding and Self-restraining — Compari- 
son of the Central with other Roads — Reduction of Pas- 
senger and Freight Charges. 

Some Reflections About It 269 

Commercial Philanthropy — Promiscuous Charity — Do the 
Yanderbilts Possess their Money '? — The Envious and 
Malevolent — Can a Man "Earn a Million Dollars?" — 
Brain and Brawn — The Genealogy of Civilization — Re- 
productive Wealth. 


Appendix A 277 

Appendix B 279 

Appendix C 280 

Appendix D . . 286 

Appendix E 293 

Appendix F 294 

Appendix G 298 




The Dutch Emigrants — Men Self-made or not Made at all — Dis- 
tinguished Examples — Aris on Long Island — Jacob goes to 
Staten Island — The Moravians — Jacob's Son and Grandson — 
Thrifty but Unambitious — Tiie Fruit of the Family Tree. 

A GENERATION Or two after tlie Hudson River was dis- 
covered and the bold explorer who gave liis name to it 
liad perished in tlie Arctic seas, the Vanderbilts came 
with the early Knickerbockers to the Western World. 
They settled on New York Bay because it seemed like 
their home in the Low Countries — the same wash of 
the aggressi ve wave, the same stretch of indented shore, 
different only in its peaceful aspect. Holland is always 
besieged by an alert and sleepless foe. Inheriting the 
savage conflict from generation to generation, the garri- 
son has thrown up huge fortiiications a thousand miles 
long, stronger than Gibraltar or the dykes which wail 
in the great harbors of France ; for many centuries 
they have slept on the battle-field, weapon in hand and 
armor on, never relaxing vigilance, never beguiled by a 
treacherous flag of truce. The incessant combat has 


made them a robust, patient, abstemious and obstinate 
people. Marp :tisan :five hundred years ago the weary 
fight-began" i't'wlH' continue, undiminished in ferocity, 
five : liiindred j^e^rs' hence. The foe is the sea ; his 
ailies, the rivers and tlie lakes. 

Manhattan Island had won the alluvial battle centu- 
ries before and was at peace. The array of observation 
had ceased to countermarch along the parapet, and had 
exchanged its weapons for implements of luisbandiy ; 
so the fugitives from the Holland conflict found it a 
grateful and restful camping-gi-ound. 

The founder of the wealth of the Vanderbilts, known 
to New Yorkers for half a century as "the Commo- 
dore," was, like almost all men of unusual vigor and 
personal power, a rustic of humble oi-igin. Few boys 
born in homes of luxury ever greatly increase their 
wealth or attain a leading position among men. The 
dominating and over-mastering qualities are nurtured in 
poverty and grown in hardy soil. Nine-tenths of all 
the citizens of the metropolis who have acquired con- 
spicuous influence in manufactures, commerce, litera- 
ture, or professional life, have been born and reai^ed 
afar in farming districts, and have been thrown upon 
their own resources from their very earliest years. In 
this country men are either self-made or not made at 
all. Parental nursing and coddling seem to be en- 
feebling in their effect on boys : they make the muscles 
flabby and the energies inert. " Young man ! " said 
Henry Ward Beecher, the greatest preacher of our days, 
"if you are poor, thank God, and take courage ; for lie 
has given you a chance to be somebody ! " The young 
learn the value of money only from needing it and 


earning it bj liard work. Abstinence is the mother of 
conipetence; self-denial the cradle of wealth. 

Peter Cooper wandered hither from Peekskill, and 
worked joyously and faithfully for $25 a year and his 
board. Cyrus W. Field descended from the sterile 
liills of Berkshire, and served A. T. Stewart as office- 
boy, at $2 a week. Horace Greeley migrated from the 
wilds of Xew Hampshire. The founders of the house 
of Harper were Long Island farm-boys, and they came 
to the city and paid $20 a year apiece for the privilege of 
working. AVilliani E. Dodge and P. T. Barnum emerged 
from Coimecticut, and began at the lowest round of the 
ladder ; so did George Law, for he was a hod-carrier in 
Troy. Russell Sage escaped from an Oneida County 
grocery-store. Daniel Drew was a Putnam County 
plow-boy. John H. Starin came from an obscure fam- 
ily in the middle of the State. John Kelly, John 
Koach, Bobcrt Bonner, and A. T. Stewart were penni- 
less Irish boys, and they acquired their trades as they 
could, in spite of every impediment. John G. Moore 
rebelled against the fate of a Maine skipper, to which 
he seemed destined. Thurlow Weed was a printer's 
" devil." Thomas A. Edison \vas a Michigan news-boy, 
and Rufns T. Bush was a Michigan school-teacher. 
Poswell P. Flower was a chore-boy on a wretched farm 
in Jefferson County. F. B. Thurber had a similar ma- 
triculation in Delaware County, and when this large- 
hearted merchant-millionaire, then a hardy boy, was 
hoeing potatoes in Delhi, Jay Gould M-as still i)ellows- 
blower and clerk for a Eoxbury blacksmith, at $2 a 
week, only live miles over the hill. 

Scratch a Xew 1 ork millionaire and you will gener- 


ally find a farm-boy nnderneatli — a youth with a strong 
bade and resolute will, Avith the umber of toil on his 
liands, and in his heart the determination to conquer. 
If Commodore Yanderbilt had been born to a Valen- 
ciennes christening-robe and a heritage of plenty — had 
grown to be a child with a nursery full of toys, and 
afterward a youth with a pocket full of money, there 
is little chance that he would ever have been heard of 
beyond the shadow of the Moravian church. Xature 
seems to begrudge her highest favors to all except those 
who walk through the thorny lane of penury, and be- 
come familiar with her in her capricious and hostile 

The early arrangement of the family name Nvas Yan 
Der Bilt, and they were farmei's for generations. Just 
when the lirst immigrant came from Holland is uncer- 
tain,* but he settled on Long Island near Brooklyn. We 
hear of Art Jansen Van Der Bilt M'ho settled in Flat- 
bush, and was the grantee of a considerable part of the 
territory of that town under the Dongan patent of 1685. 
Twenty-one years earlier the English had taken posses- 
sion of Manhattan Island, and sixty years earlier the 
Dutch had bought it for $24, and founded Kew Am- 
sterdam. Contemporary with Art Jansen — perhaps his 
brother — was Aris, who, with his M'ife Ililitje, dwelt in the 
same town. They w-orkedhard to get a living and give 
bread to a large and growing bi'ood. The family' seems 
to have been of some social consequence, for one of theni 
was an elder in the church, and another presented to the 
religious edifice " a fine bell imported from Holland." 

Among the children of Aris was Jacob Van Der Bilt, 
born January 25, 1602. In 1715 Jacob was accepted 


in marriage by Eleanor* and to set liiin np in life his 
father "sold" him a large tract of land "at Staaten 
Island," probably obtained by him from the Indians, for 
this was then a frontier settlement. The consideration 
given by Jacob is not stated, bnt thither he and his 
yonng wife repaired and fonnded the Staten Island 
bi'anch of the Vanderbilt family. Dnring the next 
thirty years eleven children were born to them.f 

Abont this time some of the persecnted followers of 
John Ilnss, called Moravians, fled to this country, and 
a few of them settled at Xew Dorp. This destination 
was most natural. Already the beautiful and lonely 
island had become the refuge of bands of Ilnguenots, 
Waldenses, and "Walloons, who had clustered here and 
there in detached communities. So thither the exiled 
Protestants from Bohemia flocked and told their story 
of outrage. The Van Der Bilts became converts. 

In 1741 Count Zinzendorf, the founder and patron 
of this martyr-sect, having been banished from Saxony, 
came to America, and visited, among others, the little 
community on Staten Island. It is related tliat the 
primal wilderness was then so untamed and xvew Dorp 
so diflicult of access, that he had a long search for the 
place on the wandering Indian t]-ails and cowpaths. Tlie 
visit of the illustrious exile fired the half-dozen IMora- 
vians with uncommon zeal, and the feeble church, of 

* Called, in Dntcli, Xeilje. 

f Aiis, born February 2, 1716 ; Dennys, born September 5. 1716 ; 
Hilitje, born March 22, 1720; Jacob, born January 6, 1723; Mag- 
delena, born December 1, 1725 ; John, born Xovember 15, 1728; 
Cornelius, born September 22, 1731 ; Anna, born February' 11, 1734; 
Phebe, born April 27, 1737 ; Anthea, born January 31, 1739 ; Eleanor, 
born September 13, 1742. 


M'hicli Jacob Van Dei* Bilt and his wife and children 
were chief pilhirs, resolved to build a ship to assist the 
immigration of the United Brethren from Germany. 
This missionary vessel was launched May 29, IT-tS, and 
was in the service of the builders iiine years. She 
crossed from ISi^ew York to Amsterdam and back twelve 
times, brino-ino; each time a freight of refugees. In 
1T57 she was captured by a French privateer and driven 
to wreck off Cape Breton. In the records of the United 
Brethren at that time, Jacob Van Der Bilt of K ew 
Dorp is mentioned as the most active and persevering 

The religious services of the Moravians were held 
first in a private residence, and then in a school-house 
at ]S^ew Dorp, but in 1762, the Cornelius Van Der Bilt 
'wdiose birth has been recorded, joined liis neighbors in 
an application to the authorities of the church in Beth- 
lehem, Pa., for the construction of a Moi'avian meeting- 
house and society on Staten Island. On July T, 1763, 
the corner-stone of the edifice was laid, and it was con- 
secrated just before the year closed, only to be burned to 
the ground by the British soldiery fourteen years later. 

Of the liberal brood of Jacob Van Der Bilt, above 
mentioned, Jacob, jr., m'Iio first saw the light in 1723, 
is the only one in whose personal fortunes this history 
is interested, as he appears "• in the line of promotion.'" 
He married in due time Mary Sprague mIio bore him 
seven children,'" and these, during their life-time, learned 

* Eleanor, born 1747 ; Jacob, born January G, 1750 ; John, 

born May 9, 1752; Dorothy, born July 29, 1754 ; Oliver, born June 
10, 1757 ; Joseph, born September G, 17G1 ; Cornelius, born Aiigust 
28. 1764. 


to economize bj uniting tlie first two syllables of the 
family name and writing it "Vander Bilt." 

The last of these, Coi-nelius, born 1764, married Phebe 
Hand, and they, in time, had nine children '-^ born to 
their humble honse. A hard time they seem to have 
had snppoj-ting life i-espectably and keeping the family 

About this time it was that the Rose-and-Crown 
cottage was kept at Stapleton by one of the Yander 
Bilts, and it is known in Revolutionary story as having 
been much frequented by British officers and made 
prosperous by British guineas. 

During this century and a half, from the coming of 
Aris to the birth of the stur.dy " Commodore," Cor- 
nelius, the hundred male members of the family and 
its collateral wings had all been solid and stolid tillers 
of the earth. They had carted on the manure and 
carted off the rocks. They had rendered arable the 
stony and fruitful the sterile land. They had pastured 
the cows and milked them. They had planted and 
hoed, ploughed and sowed, drudged and delved, died 
and been buried in the town where they were born. 
The average woi-kman in the employ of the Xew York 
Central Railroad to-day lives better and gets far more 
of the real comforts of life than any of the Yanderbilts 

* Mary, born December 21, 1787, and died August 10, 1845 ; Jacob, 
born August 28, 1789, and died October 3, 18U5 ; Charlotte, born 
December 29, 1791, married Captain John De Forest, died January 
5, 1877 ; Cornelius, born May 27, 1794, died January 4, 1877 ; Phebe, 
born February 19, 1798, died young ; Jane, born August 1, 1800, and 
became wife of Colonel Samuel Barton ; Eleanor, born January 4, 
1804, died April 21, 1833; Jacob Hand, born September 2, 1807; 
Phebe, born February 9, 1810, died April 23, 1885. 


of tlie last centni-y. Thev were not nnhappj, for tliey 
had that contented mind which, the philosopher tells 
us, is a continual feast. But the standard of their ex- 
istence M'as simple. 

In the very mode of life they had adopted, they 
were ]3reparing for a colossal output. They were 
practising an untiring industry and an economy that 
knew no bounds. They were M-restling with all the in- 
describable difficulties of a new settlement. They had 
attached themselves to a persecuted church, and were 
learning self-denial for the sake of sympathy and deep 
religious feeling. They were delving in an inhospitable 
soil, and facing hostile elements, and inuring themselves 
to hardship and exposure, and thus getting the muscles 
of steel, the unflinching pluck, and the unconquerable 
will that move and mould the world. Unconsciously, 
nerve by nerve, and fibre by fibre, they were building 
up the man who was to illustrate their name. 

There was, indeed, a cousin, John Yanderbilt, who 
became a member of the Assembly from Long Island. 
But he did not win fame. His principal mission as a 
legislator doubtless was, to move to adjourn when the 
appointed hour came around ; as the local records show 
that he was chosen to the office, not for his probity and 
ability, though he was probably both talented and hon- 
est, but "because it was his turne." The case is too 
ambiguous to disprove the rule of mediocrity. 

Generation after generation, the Vanderbilts had fed 
their stock and tilled their tough acres and asked no 
more. They had stood, successively, father and son, on 
the same green hill-side and looked down the bay 
through that open gateway, the Narrows, to the sea be- 


yond, without desiring to occupy it. Tlieyliad glanced 
languidly up the bay to the shining city in the dis- 
tance without burning to get a mortgage on it. They 
liad gazed joyously round upon the opulent earth with- 
out resolving to own it. Indeed, during all these years, 
the members of this family do not seem to have cher- 
ished any ambition of any kind, except to pay their 
taxes promptl}-, go to church regularly, and get to 
Heaven at last. AVith this they were satisfied. 

The fruit of the family tree was not yet ripe, but it was 
ripening. The man had not yet come who, filled with 
divine greed, would go forth on a magnificent crusade of 
conquest; who, inspired by personal avarice, would enter 
into the commercial emulations of his time with benefi- 
cent results ; who, determined to be master, would be- 
come pre-eminently the servant of his countrymen ; who, 
aiming only to push forward his own interests, would 
mysteriously advance the interests of all, promoting 
traffic and transit, increasing the general M^ealth and 
thrift, and augmenting the universal comfort beyond the 
dreams of philanthropy. Such a man, at the end of the 
fourth generation, made his appearance iu the person of 
Cornelius Vanderbilt. 



His Father and Mother — The Humble Home — Avoiding School — Fun 
and Hard Work — Wants to be a Sailor — Earns a Periauger — 
Readj for Business at Sixteen. 

Of the father of Cornelius we know little. He had 
no start in life, as he did not inherit even the meagre 
patriuionj ; for his father and mother died when he 
was a child, and the property that existed was dissipated 
by incapable or faithless trnstees. As he grew to man- 
hood he snot a livino- as he conld, assistino; the farmers 
at their work, and sailing a boat up to Kew York with 
produce. It is alleged tiiat he was the first boatman 
Avho established the habit of leaving his wharf near 
the Quarantine ground at a regular time ever}' morn- 
ing, and quitting ]^ew Yoj-k for home at a uniform hour 
in the afternoon. Thus he became, to a certain extent, 
the founder of tlie Staten Island Ferry that now carries 
twenty thousand passengers a daj'. 

He had just succeeded in getting a few acres together, 
when he made his fortune by meeting and marrying 
Phebe Hand, a woman of i-are qualities. She was born 
over in Rahway, and both of her grandfathers were 
farmers. Her uncle. Colonel Hand, fought at the battle 
of Long Island. A competence was left her by her 

THE commodore's mother. 


maternal grandfatlier, but tlie family patriotism in- 
vested it in "Continental Ijonds" and it was almost 
wholly lost, so she was compelled, as she emerged into 
womanhood, to rely npou her own labor for support. 
"When she first became acqnainted with Mr. Vanderbilt, 
she was residing in the family of a clergyman at Port 
Richmond, on the north side of the island, and there 
they married and set np housekeeping. 

He seems to have been an industrious plodder, but 
be was not very thrifty or forehanded. In fact, he was 
inclined to be improvident and to indulge in specula- 
tions that did not terminate profitably. They lived in 
a small house at Port Pichmond.^ More than once Mrs. 
Vanderbilt saved the little family from want, and it is 
known that on one occasion, when her husband was in a 
dire strait, she drew from an old clock s3,000, the care- 
ful hoardings of years, and rescued the place from his 
creditors. Her energy, forethought, and self-reliance 
served as an admirable countei'poise to the visionary 
projects and scheming propensities of her husband. 
The scanty family record shows that she was possessed 
of a high and strong character, and to this fact her favor- 
ite son always bore nnstinted testimony. 

The family lived for some years at Port Pichmond, 
on the Kill Yon Kull, and then moved to Stapleton, 
the residence being on the eastern face of Staten Island, 
on a gently sloping lawn that was washed by the tides 
of the Narrows, It stood ten rods or so back from the 
beach, and was not lifted moie than six or eight feet 
above high water. It was shingled all over, Avas of one 
story, with a loft above under a steep roof lighted by 

* Still standing, and the property of Dr. Harrison. 


dormer windows, and there could not have been more 
than five rooms in tlie wliole liouse. Tliis made rather 
cramped quarters for tlie father, motlier, and nine lively 
children. Even the great chimney seems to have felt 
the need of elbow-room, for it went outside and stood 
up like a grenadier at the gable end of the cabin, Cor- 
nelius and the older children were born at Port Rich- 
mond. They had opened their ej^es on the light of the 
slcy in a much smaller and humbler residence, and the 
father moved to Stapleton because it had become im- 
peratively necessary to " have more room." Taking 
possession of the fine five-roomed liouse on the beach 
was, in the Yanderbilt hive, analogous to sM'arming.* 

Cornelius Yanderbilt,t born May 27, 1794, was the 
second son, but when he was eleven years old his elder 
brother died, leaving him heir-apparent. The dauphin 
had not a vcvy brilliant prospect before him. His 
great-grandfather had brought up eleven children, his 
grandfather seven, and his father nine, and this severe 
service had quite exhausted the few acres on which the 
thrifty Aris had planted the family tree eighty years 
before. They had sailed a little, fished a little, and 
delved in the soil a good deal, and had managed to sur- 
vive in the humble fashion of those days. 

Cornelius attracted much attention by his personal 

* For description, see Ajipendix A. 
f He always wrote Ids name " Van Derbilt." as in the autograph 
upon the cover of this book ; hut he directed everybody else to 
write the name as one word. His oldest son, during his youth, com- 
promised between his father's custom and his command by leaving 
aspice after the first syllable, thus '* Van derbilt." On the old family 
tomb, built by the Commodore, the name stands " Vauder Bilt," but 
ou the new mausoleum it appears as " Vauderbilt." 


resoluteness and his love of out-door sports. That is to 
say, in the direct language of that uncircuitous age, "he 
was obstinate and disobedient, and h.ated to go to school.*' 
Indeed, he would not go to school if he could help it. 
When given his choice, limited to the two things, he 
even preferred to work. But plaj suited him best of 
all. He was hearty, hardv, tall, and strong of his age, 
bold, quick as a cat, sinewy, a good oarsman, an expert 
swimmer, an unsurpassed climber, a wrestler whom few 
could lay upon his back. In fact he seems to have 
had a remarkably vigorous mind, as \yell as body ; he 
early learned how to sail a boat and he learned the use 
of all accessible tools, — he could learn anything but his 
lessons. His mother used to tell of his riding an im- 
promptu horse-race, bare-back of course, before he was 
six years old. His antagonist was a slave-boy two yeai's 
his senior, and both of them went at full speed. The 
black contestant lived to be a Methodist minister.- 

Books and school Cornelius shunned. Multiplication 
was vexation, and Division M^as still worse, while he 
never heard of the Rule-of-Three. lie often lamented 
his illiteracy in after days. The Bible and spelling- 
book were the only books he remembered ever having 
used in school. But even orthography was a profound 
mystery to him, and all his life he insisted on " spelling 
according to common-sense " — a system which the Eng- 
lish language cannot tolerate. 

If young Cornelius avoided school, he loved the water. 
He seems to have been the first of his line who felt en- 
tirely at home upon the surface of the bay, and who 

* They met .again at tlie Commodore's liouse, ia Wasliington Place, 
after a separation of seventy-five years. 


looked down tlirongli the Xarrows with an acquisitive 
eje. Wliole summer afternoons, when he should have 
been, or at any rate, might have been, studying, he lay 
upon the lawn or sat in a tree-top near the house and 
watched the incoming and outgoing craft. It was a 
superb outlook, for the bay of New York is unequalled 
in the world for its generous expanse, its pleasant em- 
brace of fertile shores, its ever-changing beauty and 
its panorama of picturesque activity. Opposite was the 
forest of Bay liidge ; further off were the vacant slopes 
where now rise the white spires of Greenwood. Up the 
liarbor wei-e the first roofs of infant Brooklyn, and in 
the background, bej'ond, the greater city was dimly vis- 
ible against the sky. 

The boy was observing and had a retentive memory 
along the line of his predilections. lie soon distin- 
guished the difference between a schooner and a ship, a 
brig and a barkentine ; and it is alleged that it was not 
long before he knew by sight every ship belonging to 
the port, and learned the rig and outline of every fish- 
ing-smack or coaster that trafficked on the rivers. 

Like the other farmers along the shore, his father at 
last came to own a clumsy sail-boat of primitive pat- 
tern, with which to carry his produce to the city market. 
It had two masts and no deck, and its name had been 
Americanized from mellifluous Spanish into " periau- 
ger." * On this rude water- vehicle young Cornelius 
made himself useful, and thus escaped torment at the 
dreaded school. lie got, at an early age, so that he 

* It was the pr(Hlccessor of tlio cat-boat of flic jiresciit day. and 
its iiamo was probably carried to tlio Netliorlauds by tho terrible 


could bo trusted to sail and steer the " perianger " as 
well as anybody, for there were yet no steamers to run 
him down. 

A stoi-y is told at this time which indicates that the 
family thrift was already bi-ewing in his father's arte- 
ries. The boy, as a reward for special hard work, hoe- 
ing potatoes, had been promised a holiday •' next Tues- 
day," during wdiich he and a neighboi'ing crony, Owen, 
could "go np to New York and have a good time." 
The morning came, and the father said : " Xow Cornele, 
there's the perianger for you ; I've pitched on moi-e 
than half of the hay, yon and Owen can just pitch on 
the rest, and take it np and unload it at the wharf as 
usual, and you can play on the way — both ways, going up 
and coming back ! Here's sixpence for you, my boy." 
The Commodore, in telling the story in after years, used 
to add, " A boy can get fun out of 'most anything, and 
we got some fun out of that ; but I remember we were 
just as tired that night as if we had been working." 

Before Cornelius had finished his eleventh year, his 
father had come to trust him to oversee and manage 
jobs requiring the prudence and thoughtfulness of a 
man, sometimes sending him many miles away from 
home with teams and men to assist in the nnloading of 
stranded vessels. lie always proved himself equal to 
such emergencies. 

When he was twelve years old, his father took a con- 
tract for getting the cargo out of a vessel stranded near 
Sandy Hook, and transporting it to Isew York in 
lighters. It was necessary to carry the cargo in wagons 
across a sandy spit. Cornelius, with a little fleet of 
lighters, three wagons, their horses and drivers, started 


from liome solely charged with the management of this 
difficult affair. After loading the lighters and starting 
them for the eitv, he had to conduct his wagons home 
by land^a long distance over Jersey sands. Leaving 
the beach with only six dollars, he reached South Am- 
boy penniless, with six horses and three men all hungry, 
still far from home, and separated from Staten Island 
hj an arm of the sea half a mile wide, that could be 
crossed only by paying the ferryman six dollars. This 
was a puzzling predicament for a boy of twelve, and he 
pondered long how he could get out of it. At length 
he went boldly to the only innkeeper of the place, and 
addressed him thus : 

" I have here three teams that I want to get over to 
Staten Island. If you will put us across, I'll leave with 
you one of my horses in pawn, and if I don't send you 
back the six dollars within forty-eight hours you may 
sell the horse." 

The innkeeper looked into the bright, honest eyes of 
the boy for a moment, and said : 

" I'll do it." 

And he did it. The horse in pawn was left with the 
ferryman on the island, and was redeemed in time. 

At last came the inevital)le hour. The seductive 
vision of moving sails had done its work on the boy's 
imagination. The wizard sea had wrought its spell. 
He slyly announced to his mother that he was going to 
be a sailor and should ship before the mast. He Avas 
sixteen years old, stalwart, tougli, and hardy. Of course, 
he would have to run away, for the youth of those days 
had not the fi-eedom they have at present— every boy's 
labor belonged to liis father absolutely until lie was 


twenty-one, and the law held Iiini bound to render that 

His mother pleaded with him to give np hir, crazy 
fancy, and set before him its exposures, hardships, and 
dangers. He listened to' her. She was not only the 
family oracle, but she\vas the oracle of the neighborhood, 
whose advice was sought in all sorts of dilemmas, and 
whose judgment had weight. But he loved the sea and 
hated the farm, and he would be one of those 

" Who reap, but sow not, on the rolling fields." 

A compromise M-as possible. If he could not ship as a 
sailor, might he buy a boat ? If he only had ^100 
with which to buy a boat ! The mother's love directed 
lier to a solution of the problem. After thinking of the 
matter over night she promised the boy * that if he 
would earn the hundred dollars he should have it. 
There was on the farm an eight-acre lot, so hard, rough, 
and stony that it had never been ploughed. The bar- 
gain was that if he would plough and harrow that eight 
acres and plant it with corn before the 27th of the 
month, the day when he would be sixteen, he should 
have the $100. He closed the contract and he exe- 
cuted it — partly by hard work, partly by stratagem. 
lie interested some of the neighboring boys in his 
scheme. He confided to them the fact that he was to 
have " a new periauger " of his own as soon as he got 
the patch planted, and he added casually that anybody 
who helped him finish the job right up in a hurry would 
be permitted to sail in the Avonderful craft, and perhaps 
* On May 1, 1810. 


to some extent assist in managing her. The remark 
bore fruit. Recruits flocked to his standard. And the 
fiekl was all ploughed, harrowed, and planted complete 
the day befoi-e his birthday.* 

He claimed his reward — it M'as reluctantly given — 
produced, no doubt, from his mother's inexhaustible 
clock. She had not much faith in his venture. He 
had long had his eye on a new and beautiful " periauger " 
over at Port Kichmond, which the owner wanted to sell, 
and now he rushed off and secured it. It would carry 
twenty passengers. He used to say, in later days, when 
in a reminiscent mood, " I didn't feel as much real sat- 
isfaction when I made two million in that Harlem cor- 
ner as I did on that bright May morning sixty years 
before M'hen I stepped into my own periauger, hoisted 
my own sail, and put my hand on my own tiller." It 
will be noticed that, np to this time, the boy had not 
been " a favorite of Fortune," as the envious called him 
in after years ; he had been helped by no special " good 
luck ; " every step had been won by hard work. 

Kext morning he had his anchor up bright and early, 
and announced that he was ready to carry freight and 
passengers to Kew York. Those who came down the 
beach to look at the craft found a capable-looking youth 
of sixteen standing in the stern — tall, vigorous, firmly- 
knotted, broad of shoulder, bright of eye, deft of hand, 
with a complexion of Avhite and pink, and a reassuring 
and agreeable smile. He could back a wild colt and 
subdue it, and sail a boat on the maddest sea, but he 
could scarcely write his name. 

* He liad evidently been reading about the decorative exploits of 
"Tom Sawjer." 



Sails his Boat on tlie Bay— Fare, Eighteen Cents— Makes $1,000 a 
Year — Sturdy, Abrupt, and Honest — In War Times — Beats Van 
Duzen — Marries at Nineteen. 

In those days Kew York City was a cluster of houses 
and stores below Fulton Street ; Broadway came up to 
wliere the City Hall was rising, and disappeared in the 
cornfields to the north. The Bowery Avas a country lane, 
leading to the cow-pastures above Fourteenth Street. 
Canal Street was a brook running to the Hudson through 
huckleberry-fields. Centre Street was a lake covering 
ten acres, and a great marsh-bordered pond spread over 
the area which is now spanned by the approaches to the 
Brooklyn Bridge, Xew York had overtaken and passed 
Boston and Philadelphia, and it was growing. Most 
of the business was done in Hanover Square and Pearl 
Street ; there was no Water Street or South Street 
or Front Street or West Street, and " up-town " was in- 
habited only by farmers. 

This was the place to and from which " Young Cor- 
nele," as he was called, began his first trips of transpor- 
tation. A single fare was eighteen cents. He worked 
about sixteen hours out of every twenty-four. He car- 


ried by daylight the casual freight or incidental passen- 
ger, and at night he bore across the Bay, whenever he 
could get a load, parties of the young of both sexes who 
went to enjoy the revel of promenading on the Battery 
in the moonlight, behind the rows of old cannon which 
still lingered there, and winding up the wild festivity 
by partakiug of walnuts and llip in the fashionable 
tavern of Bowling Green. The lad made money. At 
the end of the first year he gave $100 to his mother for 
the " perianger," and $1,000 besides. At the end of 
the second he gave her another $1,000, and in the mean- 
time had bought a fractional interest in two or three 
more " periaugers." 

Just at this time there came an extraordinary demand 
for boats. On account of the joyful manner in which we 
heard of and commented on the triumphant march of 
Napoleon in Europe the relations of this country with 
Great Britain were becoming strained, and war was 
menaced. So our seaports were immediately strength- 
ened. The forts now flanking the entrance to the 
Sound and the Narrows were hastily begun, and all 
available boatmen were kept busy bringing materials for 
their construction. Cornelius got his full share of the 
business. Often he skipped his dinner, and always 
went to bed late and was out with the dawn. 

Tlie young boatman was not blessed "with popular 
manners. lie was not conciliatory, and never seemed to 
care what people thought or said of him. He lacked 
the affability and suavity which are born of a love of 
approbation — the desire to please. He was not choice of 
his language. He was sometimes harsh, abru})t, uncere- 
monious, and even uncivil — like Julius Ga'sar, Kapuleon 


Bonaparte, Wellington, Von Moltke, Belmont, and a 
good many others who liave never attained either wealth 
or fame. 

But he was honest. He charged fair prices. He al- 
lowed nobody to miderbid him. He believed in the 
competitive system of labor, which all sluggards who are 
beaten in the competition denounce as barbarous. He 
believed in " the survival of the- fittest," a law of nature 
that is never liked by the weaklings or by those who 
are unable to cope with their fellows on equal terms. 
He was thoroughly capable and willing. So he soon 
came to be the first person called on when anything dif- 
ficult or dangerous was to be done. When the winds 
were fierce, and the eyes were blinded with driving 
sleet, and the waves raged and howled for a victim, then 
the youth was in demand if anybody needed to go upon 
the bay. 

In this instance, as ever, the boy was father of the 
man. The traits he showed as a boatman on the bay 
were the very same tliat distinguished him fifty years 
later — the power of doing what he set out to do in spite 
of all obstacles. This was the key to the achievements 
of his life. 

When the British fleet tried to foi'ce its way past 
Sandy Hook, "to lay Xew York in ashes,*' as the Ad- 
miral gayly observed, the ill-equipped forts beat it off. 
The batteries had an important ally in a fearful storm 
that was raging at the time, but this niade it all the 
more diflicult to infoi'm the commanding otficer in the 
city of the attack and the repulse, and to obtain instant 
]"einforcements. A messenger was sent to Staten Island 
for its most expert boatman. Cornelius was found and 


summoned. Arriving at Sandy Hook, a staff officer 
asked him if a boat would live in such a sea. 

" Yes, if properly handled," was the answer. 

" Will yon take us to the Battery ? " 

" Yes ; but I shall carry you part way under water." 

"All right, young man ; we can stand that." 

They started, and after several hours of terrible ex- 
posure to cold and wet he landed them safely at the 
stairs at Whitehall. They were like drowned rats, and 
one of them declaimed that he did not draw one full 
breath throughout tlie stormy journey. But there they 
were, and the fort at Sandy Hook was reinforced next 

He allowed nobody to beat him at the business he 
followed. One day, when the wind was off, and he was 
pulling his boat-load of passengers up through Butter- 
milk Channel, between Governor's Island and Brooklyn, 
he suddenly found his boat neck-and-neck with the boat 
of his tall rival, Jake Van Duzen. Beaten he must 
never be, and by the most powerful exertions he sent 
his boat swiftly forward to its destination. But he held 
the pole against his breast, and he put forth such efforts 
that it bored through the flesh to the bone, and made 
there a scar which he carried to his grave. 

One day during the war an advertisement appeared 
in the papers which stirred up some emulation. "When 
the boatmen M'ere anxiously considering what they 
should do to escape the draft and thus keep at their 
profitable \vork, a card was issued from the ofhce of the 
Commissary-General, ]\Iatthew L. Davis, inviting bids 
from the boatmen for the contract of conveying provi- 
sions to the posts in the vicinity of Xew York, during 


tlie three months — the contractor to bo exempt from 
military duty. The boatmen canght at this, as a drow-n- 
ing man catches at a straw, and put in bids at rates 
pi'eposteronsly ]ow — all except Cornelius Vanderbilt. 

" Why don't you send in a bid ? " asked his father. 

" Of whatnse would it be ? " replied the son. " They 
are offering to do the work at half price. It can't be 
done at sncli rates." 

" Well,"' added the father, " it can do no harm to try 
for it." 

So, to please his father, but without the slightest ex- 
pectation of getting the contract, he sent in an applica- 
tion, offering to transport the provisions at a price whicli 
would enable him to do it with the requisite certainty 
and promptitude. His offer was simply fair to both 

On the day named for awarding the contract all the 
boatmen excepting liim assembled at the commissai-y's 
office. He stayed at the boat-stand, not considering 
that he had any interest in the aM^ard. When they all, 
one after another, returned without the prize, he strolled 
over to the office, and asked the commissary if the con- 
tract had been given. 

" Oh, yes," said Davis ; " that business is settled. 
Cornelius Vanderbilt is the man." 

He was thunderstruck. 

" What ! " said the commissary, observing his aston- 
ishment, " is it yon ? " 

" My name is Cornelius Vanderbilt." 

" Well," said Davis, " don't you know why we have 
given the contract to you 1 " 

" No." 


" Why, it is because we want this business done^ and 
we know you'll do it." 

When he was nineteen years old he fell in love with 
Sophia Johnson, an attractive and capable young woman, 
and the daughter of his father's sister Eleanor. His 
mother objected to the match on the ground of con- 
sanguinity, and his father on the ground that so useful 
and profitable a member of the household could not be 
spared ; but he overcame both impediments and mar- 
ried her.* 

There are on the lips of the old people of Staten Island 
and New York many picturesque traditions of the prow- 
ess of young Yanderbilt about these days. One tells how, 
when injustice Avas attempted against him, he attacked 
with his fists an armed oiRcer in the midst of a battalion 
of soldiers, and compelled him to succumb. Another 
narrates how, when riding up Broadway at the head 
of a cavalcade of eight hundred Staten Islanders, in a 
procession, he was insulted by " Yankee Sullivan," 
whereupon he calmly dismounted and beat that re- 
nowned pugilist " till he couldn't stand." These stories 
liave an internal resemblance to the myths wherewith 
popular prodigies and heroes are always glorified, and 
the details need not be recounted here. 

War was raging around, and business was bi'isk. The 
young husband had obtained the contract to carrj^ pi-o- 
visions to the six forts around New York, and this im- 
mediately entailed extraordinary labors. To supply each 
of the six forts took one day, and each needed provi- 
sioning once a week. His boat was busy on the Staten 
Island route during the day, so he did the additional 

* December 19, 1813. 


work at night, loading up at the Battery every evening 
after the day's ferriage was over. Sunday furnished the 
only day or night of unbroken rest. 

The profits were hirge, and he was now enabled to 
build a beautiful little schooner for the coasting-trade, 
which he called the Dread, and which he sent under a 
captain up and down the Sound or ocean-shore, wherever 
a paying cargo could be found. From his several vent- 
iu*es he was earning a good deal of money, and the fol- 
lowing year he built a very large schooner named after 
his sister Charlotte, and put it on the line between Xew 
York and Charleston, commanded by her husband, Cap- 
tain De Forest. 

In one of his cruisings up the river he stopped with a 
community of Shakers. After he had remained with 
them a day and a night tliey refused to take any pay 
for the hospitality. The circumstance made a deep im- 
pression on his mind, and he never forgot it." 

He did coasting or river business indifferently, trans- 
porting or peddling, as the case might be. He was 
above no honest toil that brought in moneyj Xow he 
would carry l)oat-loads of shad up and down the shore 
looking for a purchaser. Xow he would collect tons of 
melons in Delaware, and boat them up to Albany, sell- 
ing them out, wholesale and retail, at the little towns 
on the way. 

When the war closed and he had passed his twenty- 
first birthday, he began earnestly to plan methods of 
improving the shape and build of ships. He allowed 

* Many years afterward, when president of the Harlem, he granted 
to them an important and nnusual concession, much to the surprise 
of his associates. 


himself to be lianijDered by no precedents, and be intro- 
duced such innovations and modifications as attracted 
the attention of ship-builders, and made " Vanderbilt 
models " and " Vanderbilt methods " discussed even 
among the experienced and practical men of his craft. 
He soon built another vessel, a still greater departure 
from the usual patterns, and worked on.) Between ship- 
building and ship-owning, when he M^as twenty-three 
he balanced his books* and found that he was worth 
$9,000 in cash, besides his interest in various stanch 
sailing-vessels. But a new candidate had come to con- 
test with Boreas the supremacy of the sea, and Cornelius 
Vanderbilt sat down on ISTew Year's Day and thought it 


* December 31, 1817. 



Abandons Sails for Steam — New York to Xe\v Brunswick — Figlit 
with a Monopoly — Dodging the Sheriff — Making his Point^ 
Large Profits — Pluck and Enterprise. 

The new-comer was Steam. Two years after Cor- 
nelius Yanderbilt was boi-n, John Fitcli, of Connecticut, 
had launched a steam-yawl, propelled by a stern-screw, 
on Collect Pond, a body of fresh water sixty feet deep, 
where the Tombs now stands, and though he had but a 
twelve-gallon pot for a boiler, he ran his nondescript 
around the pond witli great rapidity.* Tlie achieve- 
ment was almost forgotten when Kobert Fulton, eleven 
years later, launched the Clermont on the Hudson and 
steamed toward Albany against wind and tide at the 
rate of five miles an hour. John Stevens simultane- 
ously launched the Phffinix on the Delaware. 

These events caused a sensation, and M'ere heard of 
and talked of even in Staten Island. The State of Xew 
York hastened to grant exclusive patents to Fulton and 
Livingston for the running of steamboats on all the 

* Fitch had been before his invention a penniless adventurer, capt- 
ured and bartered for tobacco by the Indians of Ohio ; and, after 
his failure to attract attention by his steam-vessels on Collect Pond 
and the Delaware, he returned to the West, disgusted with the 
world's stupidity, and died of drink in the wilderness of Kentucky, 
while Fulton and Livingston were reaping his harvest. 


waters within its jurisdiction, and the patentees pro- 
ceeded to profit bj it. Better boats than the Clermont 
were built, a higher speed was attained, and in some 
places they even drove off the sloops and 'schooners and 
took their place. By ISIO Fulton and Livingston had 
four regular steamboats plying on the Hudson, one on 
the Delaware and one on the St. Lawrence.* 

Ship-owners, as a class, derided the steamboat as " a 
mere plaything," which might answer for Sunday-scliool 
picnics, but could never be used to carry freight to ad- 
vantage, because the machinery took up so much room. 
Young Vanderbilt was a leader among this class, and 
participated in this sort of talk, but he did not allow it 
to blind his judgment as to probabilities. lie went and 
carefully examined Fulton's craft, took passage to Al- 
bany and back, studied the engines and machinery, and 
reluctantly made up his mind that the future of naviga- 
tion belonged to steamboats. 

lie saw that the usefulness of sailing-vessels was lim- 
ited by various conditions, \vliile the scope of steam was 
pi'actically unbounded. To the astonishment of his 
friends, he suddenly turned his back on sails, gave up 
the coasting business, sold out his interest in half a 
dozen vessels, and looked vaguely around for a steam- 
boat. He was eager to learn the business on any terms. 

Fulton and Livingston had been granted by the Leg- 
islature a monopoly of the new motor in Xew York 
State, but the privilege M'as not uncontested. Thomas 
Gibbons, a man with money and spirit, had started, a 
transportation line from iSTew York to Philadelphia, by 

* There was only one steamboat on tlie Mississippi at tlie time of 
tlie battle of New Orleans. 


steamer from tlie Battery to Xew Brunswick, at tlie 
head of liaritan River, thence by stage to Trenton, and 
by steamer again from Trenton to the point of destina- 
tion. Livingston fought him in tlie courts, got a de- 
cision against him, obtained an injunction to prevent the 
trip from the Battery to ISTew Brunswiclc, and put in the 
liands of officers warrants for tlie arrest of Gibbons and 
liis captain. Gibbons appealed to higher courts, but 
personally he stayed in New Jersey, and made reprisals 
as he could. In his defence, New Jersey passed a re- 
taliatory law, threatening with State prison any officer 
of New York who should arrest any citizen of New 
Jersey for steamboating in New York waters. But the 
officers attempting to execute the Livingston writs were 
carfeful to keep on their own side of the bay and the river. 
It was a bitter contest, and prolonged from year to year. 
Vanderbilt was naturally pugnacious. He always 
.took sides in a fight, and generally with the weaker 
party. So now, lie announced himself a Gibbonsonian, 
and was welcomed as an important recruit. A man of 
grit was needed to command the Mouse-of-the-Moun- 
tain, and though Vanderbilt had been clearing ^3,000 
a year by luffing and tacking, he now accepted $1,000 
a year as captain of that diminutive steamboat. He at 
once introduced a new order of things. He improved 
the Mouse in various ways, made his trips on time, 
discharged all superfluous help, cut down running ex- 
penses, and at the end of six months, the line began for 
the first time to return a profit to Gibbons. In a year 
the Bellona, a larger steamer, M\as built under Yander- 
bilt's supervision, and substituted for the Mouse-of-the- 


Tlie half-way-house at Xew Brunswick, where all 
passengers had to tarry over-night to take the morning 
stage, was dirtv and badlv-managed, and Vanderbilt's 
offer to " take it and run it," was promptly accepted. 
Thither he moved his M-ife with her babes from his 
father's little house at Stapleton, and put her in charge 
of the way-side tavern. This step was abundantly justi- 
fied by the results. Like his mother, his Avife proved 
to be a rare woman — strong, industrious, neat, frugal, 
skilful, courageous, and business-like. She turned the 
house wrong-side out and up-side down, cleaned it, reno- 
vated it, fumigated it, and made it fit for guests. The 
same energy, care, thrift, and economy which her hus- 
band exhibited for the next twelve years in command of 
the Bellona, she practised in command of Bellona Hall. 
The line at last was made to pay $40,000 a year to Gib- 
bons, and Captain Vanderbilt's salary was raised to 
$2,000. Besides the salary, the house at the point of 
transfer was a constant source of revenue." 

During more than half of these twelve years of ap- 
prenticeship to steam, Yanderbilt's life was one inces- 
sant fight with the monopoly created by the Legislature. 
The Bellona violated the patent of Fulton and Livingston 
from the moment she entered Xew York Bay, and the 
captain was subjected to repeated arrests and constant 
annoyance. There was one period when for sixty suc- 
cessive days an attempt was every day made to arrest 
him, but the captain baffled each attempt. He fought 

* Captain Vanderbilt is known to liave expressed some socialistic 
notions about these days, such as that John Jacob Astor was a dan- 
gerous monopolist, and "no man ever ought to be worth more than 
$20,000. ' ' 


the monopoly by every device lie could think of, and, 
as in the fable of old, made the tail of the fox eke ont 
the skin of the lion. When defiance failed to protect 
him, he resorted to stratagem and iinesse. lie took a 
young woman into the pilot-house and taught her to 
steer the boat, so that when the ofhcers of the law 
boai"ded the trespassing vessel off Governor's Island, 
they were greeted only with a confusing vision of petti- 
coats at the helm. They searched the lower decks on 
these occasions, but the crew had all been left in New 
Jersey, and the captain had retreated and hidden him- 
self in a fanel-closet which they could not find. This 
went on week after week, the M-rit of arrest being reg- 
ularly returned with the indorsement, non est inventus. 

In 1810 Captain Yanderbilt was caught on the wharf. 
In the custody of the exasperated and indignant sheriff 
he was taken to Albany on the next steamboat which 
the Stevenses sent up, and there M^as arraigned before 
the Chancellor, Livingston's successor, to answer for con- 
tempt of court. When the trial came off, it was found 
that the audacious captain had set a trap, and had gone 
ashore on purpose to be captured, having for that day only 
(Sunday) hired out to one Tompkins, who held a license 
under the Fulton-Livingston patents, lie was released. 

A little incident of these years he has sometimes re- 
lated to his children. In the cold January of 1820, the 
ship Elizabeth — the first ship ever sent to Africa by the 
Colonization Society — lay at the foot of Rector Street, 
with the negroes all on board, frozen in. For many 
days her crew, aided by the crew of the frigate Siam, 
her convoy, had been cutting away at the ice ; but as 
more ice formed at night than could be removed by day, 


tlie prospect of getting to sea was unpromising. One after- 
noon Captain Vanderbilt joined the crowd of spectators. 

" Tliej are going the wrong way to work," he care- 
lessly remarked, as he tnrned to go home. " I could 
get her out in one day." 

These words from a man who was known to mean all 
he said made an impression on a bystander, who re- 
ported them to the anxious agent of the society. The 
agent called upon him. 

" What did you mean, captain, by saying that you 
could get out the ship in one day ? " 

" Just Mdiat I said." % 

" What will you get her out for ? " 

" One hundred dollars." 

" I'll give it. When will you do it ? " 

" Have a steamer to-morrow, at twelve o'clock, ready 
to tow her out. I'll have her clear in time." 

That same evening, at six, he was on the spot witli 
five men, three pine boards, and a small anchor. The 
difficulty was that beyond the ship there were two hun- 
dred yards of ice too thin to bear a man. The captain 
placed his anchor on one of his boards, and pushed it 
out as far as he could reach ; then placed another board 
npon the ice, lay down upon it, and gave liis anchor 
another push. Then he put down his third board, and 
nsed that as a means of propulsion. In this way he 
worked forward to near the edge of the thin ice, where 
tlie anchor broke through and sunk. With the line at- 
tached to it, he hauled a boat to the outer edge, and then 
began cutting a passage for the ship. At eleven the 
next morning she was clear. At twelve slie was towed 
into the stream. 


Every effort was made by the ricli Xorth River alli- 
ance to induce this plucky young captain to desert to 
their side. They sent an emissary who offei-ed him 
85,000 a year to take charge of their largest boat. He 
declined. " No," he said, " I shall stick to Gibbons. 
He has always treated me square, and been as good as 
his Avord. (BesideSj^I don't care half so much about 
making money as I, do about making my jjoint, and 
coming out aheadP \ 

In 1S2J:, when he had continued the battle against 
monopoly seven years, the cause of Gibbons 'os. the suc- 
cessors of Livingston was decided in favor of Gibbons, 
in the Supreme Court of the United States. Daniel 
Webster made his great speech against the granting of 
such an exclusive privilege, and Chief Justice Marshall 
delivered the judgment of the Court, that it was uncon- 
stitutional. Thenceforth the boats were run in peace, 
and there was no longer before the captain's eyes the 
fear of a jail. 

The following is an advertisement of those early days : 


For Philadelphia and Baltimore. 


To Philadeli)hia in one day J 

Twenty-five miles 

of land carriage, hy New Brunswick, Princeton, and Trenton! 

The splendid new steamer, Emerald, Captain C. Vanderbilt, 
leaves the whai'f, north side of the Batteiy, at 12 o'clock noon 
every day, Sunday excepted. Travellers will lodge at Trenton 
and ariive at Philadelphia by steamboat at 10 o'clock next 
morning ! 

fare only three dollars ! 

For seats, apply to York House, No. 5 Coui-tlandt Street. 

New York, Sei>tember 15, 1826. 



Another boat left at a later hour, whose passengers 
stopped all night at Bellona Hall, Kew Brnnswick. 

During these years, too. Captain Yanderbilt had been 
making a profound stud}' of the shape and equipment 
of steamboats ; had been locating their weaknesses, 
and drawing crude designs to remedy them. Fulton 
and Livingston were long since dead, but their intro- 
duction of steam had been followed by tremendous 
growth in all directions. Captain Yanderbilt told his 
Avife that he must take a hand in the spoils of this ncM'ly 
discovered realm, and to do so advantageously they 
nmst leave jS^ew Brunswick and return to ]^ew York 
Bay. Woman-like, she di-eaded to give up her home 
to try experiments. " I love this place," she said. 
" Our children have been born here. We have friends 
about us. AYe have prospered and can now count up 
$30,000 of our own. Why should we tempt misfortune 
by changing now ? " 

She had a strong ally in Thomas Gibbons, who 
warmly remonstrated with the captain. " If you leave 
me, Yanderbilt, it will break up the line. I can't get 
along without you. I will double your pay. Stay and 
I will let you have half of the line at your own price, 
and you may pay for it out of the profits." But Yan- 
derbilt's eye was fixed on the traffic of the Hudson and 
the Sound ; his acute commercial brain showed him 
how these could be marvellously expanded and devel- 
oped, and how he could put in practice those new prin- 
ciples of construction that he had forged during his 

So in 1829 he resigned and took his now muncrous 
family back to Kcw York City. In the spring of lb30 


he made his appearance among the transportation 
grandees who controlled the waters of the State. They 
were richer than he, but they already knew him and 
feared him. It was a case of superior sagacity against 
long purses. He began to build boats with novel im- 
provements and run them in opposition to the old es- 
tablished lines. His chief and most enterprising an- 
tagonist, Stevens of lloboken, amazed at the dash of 
his onset, and supposing that he was '• backed by Gib- 
bons," surrendered the light and withdrew from the 
river rather than waste a fortime in cutting rates ; but 
that doughty couple, Daniel Drew and Dean Richmond, 
took his place in the battle. Vanderbilt constructed 
magnificent boats, faster, better, and more commodious 
than ever befoi-e seen, and he ran them at the lowest 
paying fares. His foible \vas " opposition ; " wherever 
his keen eye detected a line that was making a very 
large profit on its investment, he swooped down on it 
and drove it to the wall by offering a better service and 
lower rates."'" 

To understand what tremendous improvements were 
introduced into steamboating by this trio of giant com- 
manders, it is necessary only to travel on the shabby 
English river-boats or the primitive Rhine steamers of 
to-day, where the influence of these enterprising I'ivals 
was never felt. 

The Caroline, a little steamer which Yanderbilt con- 
structed at this time, met with an unusual doom. She 
was put on Lake Erie, and there was used by the in- 
surgents during the Canadian " rebellion." She was 

* After leaving Gibbons he made $30,000 a year for the first five 
years, then doubled it in 183(5. 


captured by an excited band of loyalists, in the Niagara 
River, and then she was cut from her moorings, set on 
fire, turned down the rapids, sent, like some splendid 
sacrificial offering over the mighty Falls, and torn to 
pieces in the mad whirlpool below. 

It is a fact worth noting that, although Vanderbilt, at 
one time or another, built or bought a hundred vessels, 
not one of them was ever wrecked, burned, or destroyed 
while in his possession. This must be assigned to the 
extreme care with which he selected his officers and 

Jle^ never insured a vessel. lie used to say, when 
spoken to on the subject: "Good vessels and good cap- 
tains are the best sort of insurance. If corporations can 
make money out of insurance, I can." 

Captain Yanderbilt came naturally by his early preju- 
dices against railroads. In October, 1833, the first se- 
rious railroad accident in America occurred on the Am- 
boy Railroad, in Xew Jersey. The Captain came near 
losing his life. He was pitched out, dragged along the 
track, and flung down a thirty-foot embankment. Sev- 
eral of his ribs were broken and pushed into the lungs, 
and the air escaped into the cellular tissue. His body 
was dangerously swollen, and lie was subjected to heroic 
treatment at his house, 13-i Madison Street,* by Dr. 
Jared Lindsey, then a young man. "I staid with him 
thi-ee weeks," says the doctor. " One night I bled him 
three times, and thus subdued the inflammation." 

* See Appendix B. 



His return to New York Harbor — Residence in the City — A New 
House on Staten Island — His Tliree Sons — Stern Management — 
William H. 's Exile to New Dorp. 

When he left l^ew Brunswick, in 1829, with his wife 
and cliildren,* he took them first to a quiet and humble 
tenement in Stone Street, near the Battery. The sur- 
roundings were narrow, unwholesome, and uncomfort- 
able, especially for the children, M'ho seriously felt the 
contrast with the open country to which they had been 
accustomed.f From here he soon sought a little more 
comfortable quarters in East Broadway, but this tene- 
ment was the reverse of spacious, and he shortly re- 
turned with his increasing family to the little honse at 
Stapleton, where his mother still resided with some of 
her daughters. 

This, of conrse, was far too cramped to be longer tol- 
erable, and Captain Vanderbilt, already regarded as a 
man of means, built his first family mansion on Staten 

* There were thirteen children in all, and ten of them were born 
in New Brunswick. One (Francis) died in infancy, and the story of 
the other three boys will be told. The nine girls all lived to marry 
and have families, but the captain and his wife were too busy to 
make a family record, and diligent inquiry fails to ascertain the dates 
of their children's birth. t ^^^ Appendix B. 


Island, in one corner of the ancestral farm. He had 
his eje on this lot early in life, and years before he built 
his permanent home there it was known among the 
neighbors as " Corneel's lot." Its site was on the north- 
east corner of the farm, near the water, on a rise of land 
overlooking the bay, midway between Stapleton and 
Tompkinsville, and those passing down that road may 
still see, surrounded by an iron fence, the residence of 
the great railroad king. It is an imposing dwelling, 
conspicuous for its high portico and tall Corinthian col- 
umns in front. IIe)"e he lived several years, du.ring the 
youth of his children. 

It was not until 1846 that the family moved to Xew 
York and made, at JSTo. 10 Washington Place, a perma- 
nent residence. It was a little too far np-town, but 
the tide was setting toward it. The "npper ten," as 
they were called, had begun to abandon that choice 
locality, St. John's Square, now occupied by the great 
freight depot of the Hudson River Railway Company. 
Bleecker Street, even, Avas ceasing to be the fashionable 
thoroughfare, and "Washington's Parade Ground, its 
name modei-nized to Washington Square, had become 
the aristocratic heart of the city. Trees had been 
planted, greensward put down, the stream that ran 
through it turned aside into the new sewer, and it had 
become the most desirable centre of resort and resi- 
dence. There the opulent AYest India merchants lived, 
and the great real estate owners and bankei's, the Rhine- 
landers, Jays, Schnylers, Lispenards, Van Rensselaers, 
and leaders of society. 

Long before this time, Yanderbilt had attracted great 
attention among the rich and pushing men of the city. 


111 a qnaint list of sncli lie is tlius mentioned: "Cor- 
nelius Vaiiderbilt, $750,000, of an old Dutch root; lias 
evinced more go-aheaditiveness than any other single 
Dutchman ever possessed. It takes our American hot 
suns to clear off the fogs and vapors of the Zuyder-Zee 
and wake up the phlegm of a descendant of old Hol- 
land." There were sixteen millionaires in the list, most 
of them now forgotten. Who remembers the million- 
aires Brandegee, Bowne, Barclay, Glover, "Ward, Leggett 
and Parrish, who flourished only forty-five years ago ? 

Captain A^anderbilt had striven to give all his chil- 
dren a fair education, and to prepare his three sons to 
follow in his footsteps and take care of the estate he 
was to leave behind liini. Of these last, George, the 
youngest, was his favorite, though, when lie was old 
enough, he sent him to West Point, thus apparently 
taking him out of the line of the commercial succession. 

His oldest son, William II.,* was never in early days 
regarded with great favor by his father. He seemed to 
him dull and commonplace, and in his candid moments 
the elder Vanderbilt was accustomed to call him a fool 
to his face. He usually addressed him and spoke of lain 
as " Billy ; " sometimes, resentfully, as '• Bill." 

The second son, Cornelius Jeremiah, was antipathetic 
to his father in all things : he was physically weak, and 
an epileptic — moody, irascible, unstable, indolent, petu- 
lant, extravagant, and fond of the gaming-table. 

The strong man had no toleration for this invalid 
ne'er-do-weel, and he early announced that no son of his 
should have any of his wealth until demonstrating his 

* William Henry, named after liis father's hero, General Harrison, 
who had won the battle of Tippecanoe ten years before. 


capacity to support liimself without any aid from him, 
Cornelius always wanted money, and one day, during 
the California excitement of '49, when his father, as 
usual, refused his demands, he ran away, and shipped 
before the mast for the land of gold. He went around 
Cape Horn, and the voyage tended to increase his physi- 
cal debility. A short stay was enough, and lie returned 
home again, only to be arrested on his arrival by his 
father and confined as a lunatic in the Bloomingdale In- 
sane Asylum. The evidence offered to prove that he 
was crazy was that he had used his father's name to 
procure funds when suffering from want in Sacramento. 
The incarceration was short, and his father thenceforth 
made liim a moderate annual allowance, increasing it 
considerably after his marriage in 1S56. Thus Corne- 
lius J. was early seen to be a failure, and the exacting 
father was not slow in assigning "William to the same 

The Captain was not only the incumbent of the 
throne, but the power behind it also. He ruled home, 
wife, and children with a rod of steel, and brooked no 
disobedience or contradiction. He manifested scant af- 
fection for his children, seldom sought their love or con- 
fidence, and treated them very nearly like anybody's else. 

After William was born at ISew Brunswick, in 18:^1, 
liis father noticed him only as much as he was compelled 
to. The boy went to the country school for four or five 
years, but he M'as not apt or ambitious in his studies, 
and when he was nine went with father and family to 
IS^ew York. Here he attended the Columbia Grammar 
School, and got some of the rudiments of youthful 
learning. At the age of seventeen he went into busi- 


ness in a small way as a sliip-cliaiidler ; but when he 
was eighteen his father transferred him as a clerk to the 
large banking-house of Diew, Kobinson & Co., in Wall 
Street, the senior partner being Daniel Drew. 

Tlie young bank clerk recalled the inverted compli- 
ments which his father had heaped upon him from time 
to time, and he resolved to disprove their applicability. 
He worked hard from morning to night. He was not 
very quick to comprehend or to learn, but by stubboi-n 
plodding he mastered the details of the business, and 
slowly but surely won the approval of his employers. 
His salary the first year was $150; the second year it 
was $300 ; and the third year it was made $1,000. 

During his twentieth year his affections became en- 
tangled with those of Miss Maria Louisa Ivissam, an 
educated young woman, and the daughter of a Brooklyn 
clergyman, and her he married — of course against the 
remonstrances of his father. 

" What are you going to live on ? " incjuired the lat- 

"Isineteen dollars a week,*' replied the son, nothing 

" Well, Billy, yon are a fool, just as I always 
thought ! " and the great ship-owner went off disgusted. 

The young bank clerk and his wife lived on the nineteen 
dollars a week in a cheap boarding-house in East Broad- 
way. The Captain was M'orth a million dollars, but 
he had made up his mind that William was shiftless and 
reckless, and going to the dogs, and it was useless to 
spend money in trying to prevent the inevitable. Or 
perhaps he thought. If I give him money now he will 
never learn those important lessons which only Poverty 


teaches. The young clei'k strnggled on, and his yonng 
wife proved a blessing to him in every way. His home 
life, thence onwai'd for forty-live years, showed a whole- 
some and agreeable contrast to that of his father, who 
was cold and suspicious, and whose imperious will com- 
pelled everybody about him to move as he directed. 
He imagined that the fact that " Billy " was his son was 
the cause of his advancement at the bank, and gave him 
little credit for it. 

Suddenly William's health began to fail, and the phy- 
sician notified his father that he would probably die if 
he were not taken from the confinement at the bank. 

The Captain said, " Well, Billy, wdiat next ? " 
- " I don't know," said the young husband, " but I can 
support us two at almost anything." 

" You two ! " exclaimed his father ; "but there'll be 
more than two. I know the way of our family. You 
must go on a farm, where there'll be room." 

He bought a little farm of seventy acres of unim- 
proved land at Kew Dorp, Staten Island, between the 
old Moravian church and the sea ; and he no doubt re- 
marked to himself, " I am the only one of all our breed 
that is fit for anything except digging in that dirt!" 
The young couple accepted the gift without the blessing, 
and took possession of the lonely little homestead. It 
stood on the slope of the southeast shore of the an- 
cestral island ; a third of the horizon was the billowy 
sea, and straight in front of the cottage, toward the 
summer sunrise, the nearest land was Spain. 



Running Steamboats in all Directions— To California via the Istli- 
mus — Worth Ten Million Dollars — A Yachting Cruise to Europe — 
A Line Across the Atlantic— The Mails — Lending a Vessel to the 

Before lie Lad readied the age of forty lie was worth 
half a million dollars. He had a score of vessels in com- 
mission, most of which he had built himself, and these 
were of so superior a character and so rapidly increasing 
in number. that there was bestowed npon him by accla- 
mation the title of " Commodore." This honorary 
badge of distinction he wore all his life, and the designa- 
tion, first applied facetiously, was at last universally em- 
ployed as a serious recognition of his worth and power. 
During the next fifteen years he launched out broadly 
upon all the waters around ^ew York. He ran boats 
to Albany, sometimes at a loss, but generally at a profit, 
till Robert L. Stevens & Son '"^ bought him off. He 
built boats of new models and of great power, and es- 
tablished lines to Bridgeport, Norwalk, Derby, Xew 
Haven, Hartford, New London, Providence and iS^ew- 

*Tlie Commodore afterward said of the Stevenses, "Thev were 
the greatest projectors of their day, with more faith than Fulton, or 
Livingston, or any of us. They projected the New Jersey Railroad 
and Canal, which nobody else thought would ever pay a dividend." 


port, and even Boston. lie reached in all directions for 
patronage, and the snppl}^ was equal to the demand. 
From 1S40 to 1S50 he made a great deal of money. 

On the outbreak of the gold fever of California in 
1849, the Commodore hastened to avail himself of the 
opportunity which it offered to the enterprising carrier. 
The Pacific Mail Steaniship Company monopolized 
most of the transportation service, running steamers in 
connection with both shores at Panama. The price for 
the round trip was $600, and the service was verj^ bad. 
" I can improve on that," said Yanderbilt ; " 1 can make 
money at $300, crossing my passengers by Lake Nica- 
ragua, a route six hundred miles shorter." 

He built a fine large steamer, the Prometheus,* and 
steamed down to the Ts icaragua crossing, three or four 
hundred miles this side of Panama, dragging a small, 
side- wheel steamboat, the Director, in tow.f This last 
was for transporting passengers across Lake Kicai'agua, 
which is a hundred miles long and fifty broad, located 
among the tops of the Andes. How to get the boat up 
into the lake was the question. The San Juan River 
empties out of it, into the Caribbean Sea, near where 
the Prometheus was anchored, but no boat had ever 
tried to ascend it. Yanderbilt sent his engineers to ex- 
plore it. They were gone a week, and reported that 
the stream was not navigable ; that there were bars and 
rocks, fallen trees and rapids and cascades in great 

* This was tlie first steamer ever owned by an individual. 

f He was so secretive about this venture that he ieft home in 1850, 
it is alleged, without bidding good-by to his wife. She missed him 
and made inquiries, found that the steamer had gone, whither no one 
knew, and that he had been recently much seen studying a map of 
Central America. In three weeks he was heard from, via Panama. 


numbers ; bnt that tliey might drag the boat along by 
easy stages, and cut side canals around the places that 
were too steep to climb. 

Tliis report disgusted the ISTapoleon of navigation, 
who felt that he was losing $5,000 a day by the delay. 
He tired up the little Director, boarded her with thirty 
men, and announced to them that he was going up to 
the lake"Mnthout anymore fooling." The engineers 
were appalled, but on he went. Sometimes he got over 
the rapids by putting on all steam ; sometiines when 
this did not avail, he extended a heavy cable to great 
trees up stream and warped the boat over in that way. 
Every device was resorted to. On returning to New 
York the engineers reported that he " tied down the 
safety-valve and 'jumped' the obstructions, to the great 
terror of the 'whole party." 

He finally got to the lake and established his through 
line. It was a good deal like the old Gibbons line — 
a boat at each end and a portage between. Then came 
an enormous rush of passengers, and the means of trans- 
portation were increased. Two steamers were placed 
on the river, the Clayton and Buhver, and a large one, 
the Central America, on the lake. On tlie Atlantic 
side the Commodore put the Prometheus, which was 
his first ocean-built steamer, the Webster, the Star-of- 
the-West, and the Northern Light, and on the Pacific 
side five others. He started a boat from New York 
every fortnight, and soon had the bulk of the travel, 
making large sums and swelling his already innnense 

He made more than a million dollars a year in Nic*a- 
ragua, besides the revenue from other enterprises at 


the same time. In the will contest, March 15, 1878, 
Jacob J. Yan Pelt, who had known the Commodore for 
lif tj years, said : " I remember when the Commodore 
went off with his family in the North Star. I asked him 
if he had everything fixed. He said yes, and added : 
'Yan, I have got eleven millions invested better than 
any other eleven millions in the United States. It is 
worth twenty -five per cent, a year M'ithout any risk.'" 

In 1853, thinkin.g he deserved a holiday, he sold out 
his Nicaragua route to the Transit Line, and celebrated 
his commercial success by going to Europe in the world- 
renowned North Star, the largest pleasure steam-yacht 
that had ever been coifstructed. It was a vessel of two 
thousand tons, palatial in capacity and equipment. Ac- 
companying him were his wife, and eleven children.* 

It was an exhibition to Europe of a notable specimen 
of republican institutions. The steamer was the largest 
that liad ever been afloat at that timcf It was con- 

* 1, Pliebe Jane, wife of one of her father's steam-ship captains ; 
2, Ethelinda, wife of D. B. Allen, a retired merchant ; 3, AVilliam 
H. ; 4, Emily, wife of W. K. Thorne ; 5, Eliza, Mrs. Osgood ; 6, 
Sophia, wife of Daniel Torrance, a Montreal merchant; 7, Marie L., 
wife of Horace F. Clarke ; 8, Frances, wlio died at the age of forty ; 
9, Maria Elecia, wife of N. La Ban ; 10, the wife of Captain Barker ; 
11, George, the yonngest, 

f Tlie steam-yacht North Star was built exjiressly for the pleasure 
excursion to Europe, by Commodore Vanderbilt. It was 260 feet 
long on the keel, 270 feet on the spar-deck, had a breadth of beam 
of 88 feet, and was 28 feet G inches deep. It was furnished with two 
lever-beam engines, and had four boilers, each 24 feet long. The 
main saloon was fitted up with satinwood with just sufficient rose- 
wood to relieve it. Tlie furniture was of rosewood carved in the 
.style of Louis XV., and upholstered with figured i)lush velvet, a 
green ground filled with llowers. The two sofas cost $o50 each ; the 


strncted on American models, by American workmen, 
in an American ship-yard, and was commanded l)y the 
man who was at once the owner, captain, designer, and 
builder, himself the most remarkable .of American 
products, for he liad risen to his position without tho' 
aid of ancestry behind him or influential friends about 
him, and was travelling in an ocean palace, the centi-e 
of a flock of children equal to those of patriarchal times. 
His story, repeated from nation to nation, did much to 
stir the hopes and hearts of millions of peasants and 
turn their eyes across the western sea. Everywhere 
Vanderbilt and the North Star were received with hon- 
ors. It was difficult to make the people of Europe be- 
lieve tliat he was not a titled personage ; for in no other 

four couches $300 eacli ; aud the six arm-chairs $50 each. There 
were ten elegant state-rooms connecting with the saloon, each with a 
large ghass door, the plate being 40 by 04 inches, and costing $100. 
The berths were furnished with silk lambrequins and lace curtains. 
Each room was in a di3erent color, as green and gold, crimson and 
gold, orange, etc. Forward of the grand saloon was a magnificent 
dining-room. The walls were covered with a preparation of "lig- 
neous marble," which was polished to a degree of mirror-like briglit- 
ness that marble is incapable of receiving. The panels were of 
Naples granite, resembling jasper, and the surbase was of yellow 
Pyrenees marble. The ceiling was white, with a scroll-work of pur- 
ple, li_ght green, and gold surrounding medallion portraits of Webster, 
Clay, Washington, Franklin, and others. The china was of ruby 
and gold finish, and the silverware was the finest that could be had. 
With the exception of a chaplain and family physician with their 
wives, the passengers in the North Star were all members of the 
family of Captain Vanderbilt, twenty-three persons in all. The cost 
of this excursion was half a million of dollars. The party visited 
Southampton, London, Stockholm, up the Neva to St. Petersburg, 
then back to Gibraltar, and on to Naples, Malta, Athens, Constanti- 
nople and Alexandria. [For further, see Appendix C] 


way could tliey account for the magnificence and ele- 
gance in wliicli lie moved. 

In Southampton he was honored with a ceremonious 
dinner at wliich two hundred sat down, many of theui 
the best known publicists of England. At Boulogne, 
Marseilles, and Genoa he was received with deep and 
wide-spread interest, and saluted by the assembled ship- 
ping. At St. Petersburg the Grand Duke Constantine 
and the Admiral of the Russian Navy visited the ship 
and obtained permission to have drawings made of her 

At Constantinople the officers of the Sultan were 
equally inquisitive, and tendered to the Commodore 
many compliments, doubtless in view of the existing 
difficulties with " the Bear of the North," and the need 
of American sympathy in the preparations being made 
for that Crimean War which broke out the next year. 

At Leghorn, under the dominion of Austria, the 
North Star was regarded as a spy, and was evenbelieve(i 
to be laden with munitions of war for the enemy at the 
Bosphorus. So it was placed under surveillance, frowned 
on by the guns of an Austrian num-of-war, and when 
the visitors walked abroad in Leghorn they were es- 
corted by a military officer for fear of unpleasant acci- 
dents, with a crowd of the ununiformed sMrri hovei'ing 
about them. 

On the i-eturn of the party to New York, the Com- 
modore rounded to in front of his old home at Stapleton, 
and gave a royal salute to his venerable mother, who 
lived in the little brown house upon the slope — the 
mother whose wisdom and frugality had supplied him 
with $100 to buy his first " periauger." Then he went 


ruNisniisrG the transit company. 49 

off in a boat and paid Iior an affectionate visit before 
proceeding on his way. Within three months the old 
lady died, expressing in her last words the pride and 
pleasure she felt in the love of lier rich and successful 
son. [See portrait.] 

He now found himself in trouble M'ith the Nicaragua 
Transit Company, to which he had sold a controlling 
interest in his short route for the transportation of Cali- 
fornians. The men to whom he sold had got rich, and 
now refused to pay him according to the terms of the 
contract. To prosecute them under the forms of law 
would be an interiuitional affair, and would involve great 
expense and nmch time. So the Commodore Avrote them 
a note, which for brevity and energy recalls those mar- 
velous epistles of twenty words which Napoleon uttered 
when he wrote to the King of Prussia, " The success of 
my arms is not doubtful. Your troops will be beaten." 
The steamship general now wrote : 

Gentlejien : You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue 
you, for law is too slow. I will ruin you. 

Yours truly, 

CoKNELius Van Derbilt. 

He kept his word. He put on another fleet of 
steamers, and in two years the opposition line was ir- 
retrievably bankrupt. Vanderbilt remained in the Cali- 
fornia shipping business nine years more, making money 
all the while, and accumulating not less than $10,000,000 
in the business. At this time a remarkable character 
appeared on the Central American stage — the filibuster. 
Walker. Vanderbilt refused to transport his men or 
munitions. Needing some money to carry out his revo- 


lutionary schemos, lie seized upon tlie Yanderbilt fran- 
chise, and arbitrarily confiscated it and resold it to 
creatures of his own. Yanderbilt managed to save his 
steamers from capture, and as soon as possible he brought 
them again under the protection of the stars and stripes ; 
for he had another large venture on his hands -which 
needed attention. 

When he returned from Europe he found the Cri- 
mean war already broken out. The Cunard line of 
steamers had been withdrawn for service between Eng- 
land and the Black Sea. Collins was running a weekly 
line of very good American steamers, but this was only 
half the service required, and Vanderbilt offered to 
form a partnership ^\^tll him and put on two more 
steamships. Collins declined ; he feared to let the ter- 
I'ible man get a foothold on his property, 

" Very well," said the Commodore. He then went 
to Washington and offered to put on two Atlantic 
steamers, running once a fortnight, if Congress would 
pay him for carrying the mail the same that the Eng- 
lish steamers had been getting— 116,000 a trip. The 
Collins line (American) was running, and receiving for 
the mail $33,000 a trip, and Mr. Collins now visited 
Yanderbilt to beg him not to bring down the price. 
"If you will charge $33,000," said Collins, " I will back 
your bill with my whole Congressional influence, and 
Ave can pass it." 

"No," said the inexorable Commodore; "my motive 
is a patriotic one. If an Englishman can carry the 
mails for $10,000, 1 can. I won't admit that a Bi'itisher 
can beat us." 

"It is not business, Connuodore," said the man of 


subsidy, " to take ^16,000 when yon can get twice that. 
1 can't make it pay as it is." 

" Then yon are probably in a business that yon don't 
understand," persisted the Coniniodoro ; " let nic try it." 

In response to Collins's ui-gency he substituted another 
proposition, whieli he called a " compromise," to carry 
the mails for it;19,750 a round trip, and agree that he 
should not be paid anything if he failed to beat the 
Collins steamers every trip. 

But he could not get even this measure through Con- 
gress. The Collins subsidy influence was too strong. 
Yet he was not embittered, and when the Arctic was 
lost he offered his rival the North Star for nothing, till 
he could replace her. Then he calmly went to work, 
built three Atlantic steamers, finer and faster than any 
in the world, and organized a new line from Xew York 
to Havre. These vessels were the Ariel, the Harvest 
Queen, and the never-to-be-forgotten Yanderbilt ; and 
their accommodations were so palatial, and their speed 
so great, that they became the favorites of travellers. 

The ocean races of this time were most exciting, and 
attracted world-wide attention. The racers of the Col- 
lins' line were the Arabia and Persia, and those of the 
Havre line the Yanderbilt and the Ariel. The Commo- 
dore's steamers made the quickest time nine trips out 
of ten. 

Then he proclaimed his grand coup. He offered to 
carry the foreign mails for nothing. This struck terror 
to the heart of Collins. President Pierce vetoed his 
subsidy, and the " Collins Line " disappeared from the 

Yanderbilt did not seize upon the Atlantic cari-ying 


trade as it was expected he would do Avlien lie got such 
a firm hold of it. He v;as not a man of sentiment or of 
chimeras. There was nothing Quixotic about him. He 
carefully examined the business, and concluded that it 
" wouldn't pay to push it." So he sold some of his ves- 
sels, transferred some to other lines of travel, and grad- 
ually began to withdraw his money from shipping, where 
it must always suffer from European competition, and 
invest it in railroads which were protected fi'om the ri- 
valry of half-paid Italians and Scandinavians. When 
the Kebellion broke upon the country, a good many of 
his investments had already been transferred from the 
water to the land, so that his prosperity suffered no 

He was now an old man ; but his usefulness was not 
3'et over. When the rebel ram, Merrimac, burst out of 
its hiding-place, and made such fearful havoc among 

* In 1818 Mr. Vauderbilt attended to the building of tlie steamer 
Bellona, of wliicli lie was fifterward Captain. He afterward bxiilt 
many other steamships, as follows: In 1820, the Caroline; 1821, 
the Fanny ; 1822, the Thistle and Emerald ; 1824, the Swan ; 1826, 
tiie Citizen ; 1827-28, the Cinderella, Bolivar, Clifton, Clayton, 
Union, Chamjiion, New Champion, Nimrod, Hunchback, Living- 
ston, Director, Cleopatra, Westchester, Sound Champion, Linnaes, 
North Carolina, Governor Dudley, Vanderbilt, and Gibraltar, the 
four last for the regular mail line between Washington and Charles- 
ton. Then followed the Gladiator, Kill von KuU, Central America, 
Sylph, Westfield, Augusta, Wilmington, Red Jacket, Traveller, Hugue- 
not, Graysia, Hannah Burt, Eastern, C. Vanderbilt, and Commodore, 
the last two forming the great Boston line, via Stonington. He next 
placed on the route across the Isthmus eight steamships, and the five 
vessels that ran between Havana and Matanzas. He also built the 
Prometheus, Daniel Webster, Star of the West, Northern Light, and 
North Star. At this time he gave employment to more men than any 
otlier one man in the country. 


onr frigates in Hampton Roads, great was the conster- 
nation in AV^ashington. Ericsson's little Monitor, arriv- 
ing at Fortress Monroe in the nick of time, had driven 
the monster into his cave, hnt it was feared that he 
would emerge again presently and continue tlie devasta- 

Thurlow Weed was at the Capital at the time, and he 
telegraphed to Commodore Yanderbilt, with whom lie 
had already been associated in the work of sending sol- 
diers to the front. The Commodore went at once. On 
liis arrival, he was taken into the presence of the Presi- 
dent, whom he found in great distress and alarm. His 
attention was called to the condition of affairs at Fort- 
ress Monroe, and Mr. Lincoln asked : 

" How mnch will you take to stop that rebel ram 
and keep it away ? " 

" No money will hire me to do it," said the visitor. " I 
will not make money out of the sorrows of my country." 

The President was perplexed and silent, but the Com- 
modore presently said: "I have a ship that I believe 
will take care of that devil. If you will man it I will 
take the command, and go down there and do the busi- 
ness up myself. I ask only that I may be free from the 
bossing of the Xavy Department." 

Instant relief was felt and expressed. He returned 
to i^ew York on the first train, and in thirty-six hours 
lie was steaming past Fortress Monroe into the mouth 
of the James River, and the admiral in chai'ge looked 
inquiringly and admiringly at the steamer whose 
shadow loomed over the water like a great cloud. Tlie 
Commodore was then sixty-seven years old, and the ship 
was his sturdy namesake, the Vanderbilt. She was the 


pride of his lieart, tlie concentrated result of all his 
matured knowledge of ship-building. 

lie showed his credentials. The officer in charge 
asked him what he proposed to do if the Merrimac 
should reappear. " Run her down," he said, " as a 
hound runs down a wolf ; strike her amidships and 
sink her." 

" How can 1 help you ? " 

" Only by keeping out of the way when I am hunt- 
ing the cutter." 

The Merrimac was seen no more. She kept her hid- 
ing-place. After the danger was over, the Commodore 
returned home, and was superseded by a naval officer. 
He wrote and offered the vessel to the government till 
the war should be over, and the offer was gladly ac- 
cepted. Wlien the Alabama commenced her ravages, 
the Yanderbilt, now equipped as a war-vessel, went after 
lier and hunted her for twelve months. 

At the close of the war, during which Vanderbilt 
had made great contributions, and had given the life of 
his favorite son, the government, instead of returning 
the borrowed vessel to her owner, had her mustered into 
the United States Navy, and formally returned thanks 
for tlie present ! 

The followino; are the resolutions of Cono-ress : 

" WIte}'eas, Cornelius Vanderbilt, of New York, did, during 
the spring of 1862, make a free gift to his imiDerilled couutiy of 
his new and stanch steamship Vanderbilt, of five thousand tons 
burden, built by him, with the greatest care, of the best mate- 
rial, at a cost of $800,000, which steamship has ever since been 
actively employed in the sei-vice of the republic against rebel 
devastations of her commerce, and 


" inm'eas, the said Covnelius Yandorbilt has in no manner 
songht any requital of this magnificent gift or any official recog- 
nition thereof ; therefore 

" BESOii\'ED, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled, That the thanks 
of Congress be presented to Cornelius Vanderbilt for his unique 
manifestation of a fervid and large-soulod patriotism. 

"Eesolved, That the President of the United States be re- 
quested to cause a gold medal to be struck which shall fitly 
embody an attestation of the nation's gratit^ide for this gift, 
which medal shall be forwarded to Cornelius Vanderbilt ; and a 
copy of it shall be made and deposited for preservation in the 
Library of Congress." 

An "appropriate" medal was struck of solid gold, 
weio'liing six oimces, and measuring three inches across. 
On the reverse is the likeness of the donor, or, ratlier, 
of tlie former owner of tlie vessel, and the legend " A 
grateful country to her generous son," and on the ob- 
verse, in has reliefs the figure of Columbia with Xep- 
tune laying his trident at her feet, and the motto, ^'' Bis 
dat qui tenipori dat " (he gives best who gives quickly), 
and in the back-ground a correct outline of the steamer 

The Congressional Committee authorized to present 
him with the resolutions and tlie twenty-five-dollar 
medal had rather a stormy time of it. lie rehearsed 
the particulars of the theft, and asked them if that was 
the way a great and noble nation ouglit to conduct itself. 
Some of them declared that they liad misunderstood, 
and wanted to return the vessel. " Xo ! devil take your 
impudence ! " shouted the Commodore, " keep her. I 
don't care about a little thing like that ! " 

Commodore Vanderbilt was now one of the richest 


men in Xew York, l^early a linndred vessels answered 
to his call. His keels fretted every sea. lie never 
speculated, but always bought property to improve it. 
He was not content unless everything that he owned 
prospered. The magnates of Wall Street began to look 
at his great wealth with an inquiring eye, for when the 
Rebellion broke out he was worth not less than twenty 
millions of dollars. 



William at New Dorp, Staten Island — The Farm — Energy and Econ- 
omy — The Seat on tlie Fence — A Mortgage and Consequent 
Wrath — " Four Dollars a Load" — A Spurt on the Road— A New 
House — The Farm Pays. 

AYhen, ill 18412, William II. Yanderbilt went to his 
farm on the southeast shore of Staten Island, at the 
foot of the lane leading from the New Dorp chnrch to 
the beach, he was no better off in this woi'ld's goods 
than his farming neighbors. Indeed, he was poorer 
than most of them. The house to which he took his 
yomig wife, and in which he lived till ISO-Jr, was a small, 
square, plain, two-stoiy structure facing the sea, with a 
lean-to at one end for a kitchen. All told, it could hardly 
have contained more than five rooms — about as many 
as that in which, two generations before, his grandfather 
had reared his family at Stapleton, five miles north 
across the fields. 

The little farm was a part of the neglected barrens of 
Staten Island, and needed abundant fertilizing and care- 
ful tillage to render it fruitful. Fortunately, it proved 
tolerably easy to cultivate. It was almost as level as a 
house-floor, without a stone or stump, and the soil a thin 
sandy loam. Then, as now, there were but few trees on 
the place, and these mostly clustered about the front of 


tlie house, or fringed the lane leading up to the road. 
Then, as now, all of these shore farms had a hit of 
woodland back on the hills, sufficient to furnish fence- 
rails and fuel for the winter's fires. 

From the first, Mr. Vanderbilt determined to make a 
success of farming. He was poor, but he meant to be 
better off. The house was small, but he resolved that 
it should be larger. The land was poor, but he planned 
how to enrich it and make it profitable. He was un- 
known and unnoticed, but he meant by-and-by to be on 
a social and financial equality with his neighbors. 

His method was novel in that region. He never 
worked much with his own hands, following the plow 
or hoeing corn, but he took care that those whom he 
employed did a good day's M'ork, and he was always 
master of the situation. He was what is called " a gen- 
tleman farmer ; " l>ut he gave his undivided attention to 
the business in hand, and got as much as it was possible 
to get out of his narrow acres. 

One-of his old farm-hands say^ : " He was a hard mas- 
ter to work for. He would hire fresh hands in the 
spring or during haying ' on trial,' and naturally they 
would take care to produce a good impression with their 
first day's work. At night Mr. Vanderbilt would count 
the number of rows of corn they had hoed, or the 
number of bales of hay they had pressed, and then re- 
quire them to do the same amount of work every day.'^ 
He would tolerate no shirk on the place ; and if a man 
did not come up to his requirements, he was paid off 
and discharged. 

" Billy," said the Commodore, visiting him one day, 
" I think you work your men too hard." 


" They are willing to work hard if I have the money 
to pay them," was the I'eply, and the old millionaire M^as 
no doubt secretly pleased. 

" He was a downright square man," says one who 
worked for him for twenty years, " sociable, reliable, 
honest, prompt to pay, quick to recognize merit. I don't 
want any better boss." 

lie looked sharply after liis men, and allowed none to 
idle. His favorite occupation was to sit upon the top 
rail of the fence surrounding the field, and whittle a 
stick or read a newspaper while watching the men. All 
the neighbors laughed at this method of tilling the 
earth, and even the workmen had their quiet fun over 
it. One of these, still living, tells a story to the young 
farmei"'s disadvantage. He was directed one afternoon 
to repair the fence where they were planting corn, and 
he adjusted the top rails with their sharp edges up. Mr. 
Vanderbilt came out in the morning as the men went to 
work, and walked all round the field looking for a com- 
fortable place to sit. 

" How's this ? " he shouted to the fence-builder. 
" What did you put all the rails on this way for — sharp 
edge up ? " 

" Because," answered the man, as his fellows began to 
titter, " so's folks won't be coming along and sitting on 
'em and wearing 'em out." 

He was already fond of horses, and at times lie rode 
behind the mowing-machine ; and every afternoon 
about four o'clock he went for a drive along the smooth 
roads of Staten Island. Society, finance, the great city, 
the world beyond the bay, seemed to have no attrac- 
tions for him. He was essentially a domestic man, lived 


largely in the midst of liis farnilj, and spent all his 
evenings at home. On Sniidays he took his wife and 
his growing children hehind liira, and had a spin np 
the island to the Episcopal clinrch at Clifton, passing 
the little Moravian clmrch of his ancestors on the way. 
The farming experiment was a success. He had in five 
years transformed the wastes of his little farm into a 
blooming garden. The seventy acres returned a fair in- 
come, and enabled him to support liis family well, and 
to keep the best horses on tlie island. But he was am- 
bitious to enlarge the fiekl of his operations, and through 
a friend he applied to his millionaire father for a loan 
of $5,000. 

" No ! " was the answer. " It is just as I expected. 
He is a lazy spendthrift, and will never amount to any- 

William then borrowed $6,000 of a neighbor, gave a 
mortgage on liis farm for it, and bought enough of the 
adjoining land to give him three hundred and fifty acres. 
He also enlarged his house. The neighbor of whom he 
borrowed the money was more talkative than discreet. 
In the grocery down at the village he took the large 
note from his pocket and exhibited it, casually remark- 
ing: "Some folks says that Cornele Yanderbilt is wuth 
two million dollars or more, and there's folks that be- 
lieved it. Well, mebby he is '; but you can't tell how much 
them New Yorkers is wuth — nor how little neither." 

The old man heard of the speech, and the next Sun- 
day he drove down to New Dorp and asked his agricult- 
ural son to go outriding with him. The invitation was 
accepted, and a conversation ensued, which was told of 
afterward by the unhappy son. 


" Billy, have you borrowed money of that old 

fool ? " 

" Yes, father ; I couldn't help it." 

" You know what I think of such things ? " 

" Yes, father ; but " 

" Bill, you don't amount to a row of pins ! You 
won't never be able to do anything but bring disgrace 
upon yourself, and your family, and everybody con- 
nected with 3'ou. There's nothing to you, and Tve 
made up my mind to have nothing more to do with 
you ! " 

Wlieu he had a chance to speak the young farmer re- 
marked that he had done nothing to be ashamed of ; 
that the mortgage was a business operation, and he 
could and should pay it off when due ; that he had al- 
ways tried to please his father, and should need no 
money from liim at any time. 

The next morning the Commodore sent him a check 
for the 86,000, with the remark that he was '' lending a 
little on real estate himself just now," and orders to his 
son to pay off the mortgage before he slept. 

In farming William II. Vanderbilt gave his atten- 
tion chiefly to hay, corn, potatoes, and oats. Sometimes 
he raised annually some 1:00 tons of timothy, 1,500 bar- 
rels of potatoes, 1,000 bushels of corn, and 10 aci-es of 
oats. Some years he had a good-sized patch of cab- 
bages, the product of which he sold ia Clifton. He M'as 
not a " truck-farmer," growing only enough vegetables 
for his own nse, and keeping enough cows to supply his 
family wants. 

At first he took his hay and corn up to Xew York on 
echooners, and sold them in open market ; but when 


liis father became interested in the horse-rail way he 
had a sure market, at top prices, for all he could raise. 
During the war he made money rapidly, selling all of his 
hay to the Government at Camp Scott, on the island, 
where Sickles's Brigade was formed, and disposing of 
his potatoes at the rate of $0 a barrel. 

In a bargain made about this time he got ahead of 
his father and turned toward himself, temporarily at 
least, some of that gentleman's admiration. His fertil- 
izing matei'ial he obtained from the city, and one day 
he got some from the Fouilh Avenue stables and car- 
ried it down on a scow\ The next day he saw his father 
and asked him how much he would charge for ten loads. 

"What'll you give?" asked the Commodore. 

".It's worth $4: a load to me," said the farmer. 

" Good enough, I'll let yon have it for that," answered 
the railroad man, having a very decided impression that 
the price named was at least twice as much as the stuff 
M^as worth. 

Kext day he found his rustic son with another scow 
just loaded for home. 

" How many loads have you got on that scow, Billy ? " 
asked the Commodore, in excellent humor. 

" How many ? " i-epeated the son, feigning surprise, 
" one, of course." 

"One! why there's at least thirty ! " the old gentle- 
man exclaimed, inspecting it curiously. 

" Xo, father, I never put bnt one load on a scow — one 
scow-load ! Cast off the lines, Pat ! " 

The senior Vanderbilt made no reply. He would let 
it go so, and Bill should have the rest of it. He was 
struck dumb with a mixture of cham-in and frratiiica- 


tion. The workman "who narrates the incident a<l<ls: 
"The Commodore wa'n't no gret hand to stan' aronnd, 
and 1 never see him stan' still so long before as he stood 
that afternoon on the dock, looking at thort scow goin' 
across the harbor." He was probably sizing np " Billy " 
anew, and wondering whether he might not make a 
railroad man after all. 

At one time Mr. Yanderbilt was deeply interested in 
a gentleman's clnb, of which he was made president, and 
which had a trotting-coni-se on his farm, near the beach. 
ISTone bnt members were admitted, and these consisted 
of the well-to-do farmers of the island. Yanderbilt's 
liorses were considered the best. 

He had conformed to his father's taste in I'aising 
choice stock and good horses. He became very fond of 
horse-flesh, and had a pair that he felt sure nothing on 
the island could pass. He was not in the habit of tak- 
ing anybody's dust. One day when he was out on the 
road exercising his favorite span, and passing every- 
thing upon the waj', he suddenly became half conscious 
of rolling wheels behind him. The half consciousness 
of rolling wheels soon became full consciousness of ap- 
proaching wheels. " Aha ! " he said to himself, " some- 
body around here has got a new team. I'll show 
them ! " And he drew tighter those leathern conductors 
which convey the purpose of a driver to an intelligent 
and spirited horse, and as liis speed increased he re- 
sumed the conversation with his companion. In a jnin- 
nte he felt that the wheels were gaining on him, and he 
uttered to his team that sound of encouragement which 
the horse knows so well, " t — ck ! t— ck ! " following it 
with a " G'-long ! " The buggy spun over the smooth 


road, and "William complacently thought that the myste- 
rious wheels had vanished. Kot so. Their solid thump 
behind him grew painfully distinct, and he drew from 
the socket the whip and gave a couple of smart cuts to 
those astonished horses that had not been struck before 
in a year ; and he remarked to his guest, " They are not 
feeling very well to-day." No use ; the spinning vehi- 
cle buzzed nearer and neai'er, the noses of the mysteri- 
ous steeds M-ere opposite his seat. He half turned and 
glanced at them out of a corner of his eye, then hauled 
up and exclaimed, " Why, father ! It's you, is it ? I 
M'ondered who on earth it could be ! " 

" Yes, it's me, Billy. Them's good horses of yours, 
but you must give 'em some more oats before you go 
out racing ! " 

Mr. Yanderbilt took no part in politics or public af- 
fairs, and is not known ever to have made a speech in 
his life. In 1855 he reconstructed the old farm-house 
of five rooms, and made large additions, more than 
doubling it in size ; the whole forming a country villa in 
the Italian style, with tower, piazzas, bay-window, etc. 
He used to regard it as the finest house in the country, 
and expected and hoped to end his days there. Within 
these walls all of his children were born, and there he 
spent the happiest days of his life. 

He M^as no longer a poor farmer. He had proved a 
success. Years before he M'as called by his father to 
engage in those vast affairs which finally crushed the 
life out of him, he had become an independent man — a 
farmer of ample means and plenty of money for all his 
wants, who afforded himself the luxury of a coachman, 
tine horses, and various sorts of ec^uipages. !Now and 


then a large entertainment was given at the farni- 
liouse, with a city caterer ; trees were liung full of Chi- 
nese lanterns, and guests were present from all parts of 
the island. 

When he finally abandoned the farm to go to Xew 
York, it was yielding him an income of §12,000 a year, 
or SI, 000 a month, or 83-i a day, or 81.-1:2 an hour 
(in the impressive method of calculating revenues which 
lias of late come so much in vogue\ contrary to the pre- 
dictions and expectations of the exacting and skeptical 



Tlie Staten Island Railroad — Its Ruin and Regeneration — Death of 
Captain George — An Obedient Son — New Schemes. 

Four or five jears before tlie war an event occurred 
having an important bearing on this history. Largely 
through the efforts of William II. Vanderbilt the Staten 
Island Railroad, thirteen miles long, was built, skirting 
the eastern shore of the island from Vanderbilt's Land- 
ing. It was a great public convenience, and was indis- 
pensable to the development of the island, but shortly 
it was well-nigh M-i-ecked by the gross mismanagement 
of its officers and directors. It was overwhelmed with 
debts and embarrassments ; and, as Mr. Vanderbilt was 
one of the most prominent of its projectors and stock- 
holders, and his father was a large owner, it was unani- 
mously decided to make him receiver of the bankrupt 
road. It is reported and understood that the proposition 
came from his father, who still had a lingering cui'iosity 
to know whether there was "anything in Billy." AVith- 
out hesitation the farmer accepted the ti-ust. lie had 
had no experience as a railroad manager, but he possessed 
hard sense and business capacity, and there M'as general 
confidence in him. 

He went at the Nvork Avith much enero-v. He re- 


dnced expenses at once ; practised rigid economy ; stopped 
all leaks ; discovered new sonrces of patronage ; con- 
nected tlie road with New York by an independent line 
of ferry-boats, and began to pay off the claims. The 
little road was without money, without credit, without 
materials, without organization ; but he introduced sys- 
tem, and in two years of the hardest times he had paid 
off the last dollar of indebtedness, and put the company 
on a secure and permanent financial basis. Then, by ac- 
clamation, he was made President of the road and con- 
tinued successfully to administer its affairs.^ It ma}'- 
well be believed, as is alleged, that his father looked on 
with astonishment. Chagrin may even have been mixed 
with his surprise, and a suspicion that he might have 
made an erroneous estimate of the qualities of his son. 
It was probably at this time that he began slowly to 
revise his old conclusions. " Is that the fool of the 
famil}' ? '' he said to himself. " Or have I made a 
mistake ? " 

Another thing happened which seriously affected the 
Commodore. His youngest son, the West Point cadet, 
George, in whose high future he had great hopes, went 
to the war, rose to the rank of captain, and broke down 
from exposure in the field in front of Corinth. He had 
been one of the most athletic young men that ever 
graduated from our military college ; he was tall, pow- 
erful, and on his twenty-second birthday lifted a dead 
weight of nine hundred pounds. But the hardships of 
the war were too much for the young captain, and he 
was now sent to Europe to save his imperiled life. He 

* When he took hold of the road it was worth less than nothing, 
and in five years its stock sold at $175 a share. 


lingered in the Riviera, bnt got worse ratiier than better. 
His father, now thoroughly alarmed, sent William to 
Europe to take care of him. The two brothers traveled 
together a year, to no good end, and the yonng soldier 
died at Paris. 

Already there -were nnmerons evidences that "Wil- 
liam H. would win his obdurate father's confidence at 
last. After his railroad Receivership, they saw more 
of each other, and the son was ti-eated M-ith somewhat 
less reserve. He was prudent and obedient, as he had 
always been. He stooped to conquer. From his boy- 
hood he had given instant and willing submission to the 
despotic will of his father, and had made boundless 
sacrifices to please him. Most men would have burst 
defiantly away from the repressive control and imperious 
requirements ; but he doubtless thought that for the 
chance of becoming heir to $100,000,000 he could affoitl 
to remain long in the passive attitude of a distrusted 

It was known to the Commodore's business asso- 
ciates at the office, that the way to please him was to 
agree with him. When his favorite watch was criti- 
cised by some visitor as being " too fast," the railroad- 
king is reported to have exclaimed, " Guess not ; liow is 

yours, R ?" calling to a clei-k in the next room. 

" Same as yours, Commodore ! "' replied the sapient 

W^illiam H. was almost equally acquiescent. He tiied 
in every possible way to please his father. It is related 
that when tiie famous trip to Europe was made in the 
North Star, the father and son were walking the deck 
one day, both smoking energetically, as usual. 


"1 wisli 3"on wonldrrt smoke, Billy; it's a bad habit," 
said the father ; " Til give you $10,000 to stop it." 

"Why, I didn't know as you objected to it, father," 
said the man of thirty. " You needn't hire me to give 
it up. Your wish is enough. 1 will never smoke 
again." And off the blue Canaries he flung his last 
cigar into the sea. But his father smoked till he died. 
Such a son was sure to make his way at last, through 
even an iron- plated distrust. 

The Conmiodore was much afflicted by the death of 
George, and, though the proud man probably did not 
confess it to himself, his heart turned thenceforth more 
warmly toward the successful farmer of Staten Island. 

About this time Harlem Railroad stood at three cents 
on a dollai", and there was no- sale. Charles W. Sand- 
ford, its counsel, viewing with alarm its deplorable con- 
dition, sought an interview with the Commodore for the 
purpose of urging him to become a director, and to give 
the property the benefit of his great executive ability. 
Yanderbilt shook his head, and was with difficulty per- 
suaded to embark in the enterprise. Finally, however, 
lie consented to take a little interest if Daniel Drew 
would go in Avith him. " Uncle Dan'l " consented. They 

1 Seeing that more money would thereafter be made 
on the land than on the sea, the Commodore had sold all 
his ships to Allen & Garrison for three million dollars 
in cash, and had put it into railroad stock. He w\^s now 
nearly seventy, the Psalmist's allotted age, and every- 
body said it was high time for him to retire, and live a 
quiet life during the evening of his days. He had ac- 
cumulated, men said, not less than twenty millions of 


dollars. It was enough. He ought not to risk it in 
speculations, and it was not likely he would do such a 
mad thing. Some laughed and shook their heads, and 
said, " Like other old men, the Commodore fancies that 
he is as young as ever, and it would be just like him to 
rush into the railroad business, which he knows nothing 
about, merely because he has succeeded in steamboat- 
ing, which was his trade ! " 

There was sense in what was said. It was fair and 
reasonable to assume that a man who had proved him- 
self so superior to all others in one important sphere of 
activity, and had practised it with rare success for more 
than half a century, could not, when past the allotted 
age of man, learn the methods and acquire all the dif- 
ficult details of an entirely new business. But this was 
not an ordinary man, and he could not be judged by 
ordinary rules. As a matter of fact, this giant of 
achievement had just entered upon the most brilliant 
period of his life, and he doubled his wealth four times 
during the next fifteen years. 



Into Railroads — Harlem at 3— Buying to Keep — Public Sympathy — 
Aldermen Set a Trap — Get Caught — Six Rules of Management — 
The Legislature in Trouble — Harlem at 285! — Fights and Con- 
quers the Central — No Sympathy Needed. 

The Commodore was a novice in the railroad realm, 
but he took a little tnrnin Wall Street in hissixtj-ninth 
year.* He went to buying stock in the Harlem Road. 
He did not bny it to speculate by selling it again, but he 
bought it to hold it. 

Indeed, he was not a speculator. None of the Yan- 
derbilts have ever been speculators in the Wall Street 
sense, and neither the Commodore nor his son was a 
member of the Stock Exchange, whei'e gamblers and ad- 
venturers howl at each other and wildly play battledore 
and shuttlecock with the table of valnes. The Com- 
modore did not believe in buying or selling invisible 
things. And he did not believe in selling the same 
thing that he bought. He bought opportunities, and'' 
sold achievements. Pie bon<»;lit nest-errors, and sold 

* It is related of the Commodore that, being solicited to subscribe 
to start the Harlem Road, in 1882, he abruptly declined, explaining : 
" I'm a steamboat-man, a competitor of these steam contrivances that 
you tell us will run on dry land. Go ahead. I wish you well ; but 
I never shall have anything to do with "em ! " 


chickens. He bought roads that were thriftless and in 
disorder, and he sold them when they had become 
models of order and thrift ; or, oftener, he did not sell 
tliem "at all, because he could make them pay moi'e than 
anybody else could. Duiing a stress of affairs once, a 
reporter called on him at his office, Xo. 5 Bowling Green, 
and a brief talk was had, as follows: 

" Good morning, young man." 

" What do you say about the panic, Commodore ? " 

" I don't say anything about it."' 

" What do you think about it, then ? " 

" 1 don't think about it at all." 

"What would you say about it if you thought about 
it. Commodore ? " 

" How can I tell ? " said the interrogated magnate, 
laughing. " See here, young man, 3'ou don't mean to 
go away till I say something. Very well ; I'll say some- 
thing. Don't you never buy anything you don't want, 
nor sell anything you hain't got ! " 

This was his settled principle. He skinned the wolves, 
but not the " lambs." He played a strong game, but it 
was not the game of the juggler. So ]iow he went into 
Harlem stock, in the winter of '62-'63, from an honest 
conviction that it was a good thing to buy and own. This 
was the first railroad built running out of Kew York 
City in any direction, and duiing its earlier years it 
went only up into Westchester County and stopped. 
Even thus it was the wonder of that time. But it had 
fallen into the hands of the incompetent and the dis- 
honest ; it had been badly managed and looted ; its 
credit was gone ; its roadbed was shaky ; and its stock, 
which went at $3 a share in 1857, and was worth only 

DIPS INTO harlp:m. 73 

$6 a share in 1S50, and $8 or $9 in ISGO, sold not mnch 
liiglier when lie began to buy lieavily. 

Wlien he had advanced a considerable sum of money 
to the road, tlie stock doubled in value under the 
magic of his name, and before spring grass was green 
it sold at 30. This was more than it M-as worth, the 
"knowing ones " said ; and when he went on buying 
right and left, they exchanged sym[>atlietic nods and 
said, " His second childhood ! This dabbling in I'ailroads 
spi'ings from the morbid, irrepressible activity of old 
age, and will end in his ruin." The world had accepted 
him as the greatest steamboat manager that ever lived, 
and it could not comprehend that he was equally great 
at everything. 

Along toward Apiil a rumor was in 'the air that the 
Commodore had got some new franchise, or advantage, 
but nobody seemed to know exactly what it was. Stock 
crept up to 50. Suddenly, on the evenhig of April 21st, 
the Common Council of the City of Xew York passed 
an ordinance authorizing him to build a street railroad 
all the way down Broadway to the Batterj' ; and next 
d*ay, when the brokers heard of it, up went Harlem to 
75 at one jump, then crept along to par. The Commo- 
dore and his friends felt rich, and he was elected Presi- 
dent of the road on May 19th ; but the game was not 
yet finished. 

Late in June a curious phenomenon was noticed by 
close observers : the very xVldermen who had been so 
generous with their franchises began to sell Harlem 
short — that is, sell it for future delivery at a pi ice lower 
than the price then prevailing. These men had made 
up their minds that they could all get rich by selling the 


stock short, and then repealing the ordinance they had 
just passed giving the street-railroad franchise to the 
Commodore. They let their confidential friends into 
the secret, and they gave their confidential friends the 
" point," till there were a thousand men throwing Harlem 
npon the market. 

To the uninitiated it may be M'ell to explain this 
familiar trick of stock-gamblers : When stock in Har- 
lem was selling at 100, they could get plenty of people 
to agree to take it in a month at 90 ; then they could 
repeal the ordinance that had sent it up, and, logically, 
it ought to drop to 50 or 60. By buying at these prices 
and delivering at 90, they could make the difference, 
$30 or $40 a share. This is what they attempted to do. 

The Commodore heard of the perfidy, but he calmly 
went on buying, and got others to buy for him. He 
took all the "shorts" which Drew and the other " bears " 
liad to offer ; and, as the total amount of the stock was 
not large (one hundred and ton thousand sliai-es), the 
greedy operatoi-s had, before they knew it, sold more 
than existed. Then the Council rescinded the ordi- 
nance, and Judge Brady simultaneously, in the Court of 
Common Pleas, enjoined the laying of rails in Broad- 
way, Everything looked like disaster foi' Yanderbilt. 
The merry brokers kept selling short. The stock 
dropped to 72, rebounded, dropped, and rose and fell 
again with febrile symptoms. 

At this juncture those who had sold short wanted to 
deliver, and Avent into the market to buy "cheap.*' 
Up went Harlem to 100, 115, 120, 130, 110, 150, 170 ! 
There was a panic and a howl of dismay. The shorts 
could not be covered, because the Commodore held all 


of tlie stock. Seeing that the assault had been made on 
him personally, he was inexorable, lie and his partnei'S 
in the bull movement took a million of dollars from the 
Council that week, and other millions from others, and 
compelled them to make their last settlements at $179 a 
share! The Common Council was ruined. 

Stock soon settled again toward the former rate, 
Vanderbilt sellino; meantime and makino; a o-ood deal of 
money, lie strengthened his hold of the property by 
associating his son William 11. with him as vice-presi- 
dent. The president did not often feel the need of 
consulting the vice-president as to projected ventures, 
but he left to him the management of details and the 
execution of the schemes he planned. William 11. im- 
mediately put in practice here the same method which 
he had used with such brilliant results in the resurrec- 
tion of the dead little road on Staten Island. It was 
found to be equally adapted to large roads and large re- 
sults. They repaired the track, improved the speed, 
and managed the road as a gi'eat property ought to be 
managed to make money decently. Before long traffic 
and travel increased, and it became obvious that this was 
a good property to own. Everything combined to favor 
the Vanderbilt experiment ; even the presence of deso- 
lating war increased the revenues. 

Commodore Yanderbilt's methods in railroad manage- 
ment may be briefly summarized : 1, buy your rail- 
road ; 2, stop the stealing that went on under the other 
man ; 3, improve it in every practicable way within a 
reasonable expenditure ; -i, consolidate it with any other 
road that can be run with it economically ; 5, water its 
stock ; 6, make it pay a large dividend. 


Having Harlem Vn'oII in hand, in the fall of 1S63 the 
Commodore began to buy Hudson River Raih-oad stock. 
It had been going at 25. The road had never paid, and 
was a foot-ball in the street. He bought everything 
in the open market without concealment. He did not 
want to speculate ; he wanted to make the road make 
money. JN^obody understood him. He was in his seven- 
tieth 3'ear, but his faculties were very alert, and he 
was physically almost as lively as when he proudl}'- 
stood in his own "periauger." Before many months he 
had secured control of the road. He saw that the two 
lines were rivals without any good result to either their 
owners or the public, and he now made up his mind to 
procure their consolidation. 

With this purpose he caused a bill to bo introduced 
into the Legislature at Albany authorizing that act. It 
was an enormous project, and its value was not under- 
estimated by members of the Senate and Assembly. 
The owners of the Central and directors of the Erie 
fought him by every device, but the Commodore went 
up and engineered his own bill with results that prom- 
ised high success. He secured the pledge of a majority 
of the members that they would pass the measure, and 
of the governor that he would sign it. Stock innne- 
diately leaped up again to 75, and then to 100, 130, 150, 
the Connnodore buying all he could at reasonable prices. 

After he left Albany, in February, 1864, treachery be- 
gan to show itself among the members who had pledged 
themselves to him. They concluded, as the Aldermen 
had done a year before, that they could make a good 
deal more money by selling Harlem for future delivery, 
and then defeating the bill, than they could by passing 


it. The gentlenifrn wlio liad cliarge of the matter re- 
ported their perfidy to the Coiiiinodore, who, in antici- 
pation of success, had been lieavily buying stock. He 
was enraged at their trickery, but he went on buying as 
usual. They carried out tlieir new progi'aniine — tliey 
defeated the bilL From 150 stock fell off fifty-nine 
points, and thei-e it stuck, refusing to go below 90. 
A damage of millions had been inflicted on Yanderbilt 
and his friends. If the gamblers had been satisfied 
to deliver the stock then, they would have made a 
good deal of money. But this was not at all what 
they had looked for and bargained for. They ex- 
pected the stock to go down to 50, giving them a clear 
profit of four or five million dollars. And this was worth 
waiting for. So they waited. 

At this juncture the Commodore sent for John Tobin, 
who had formerly been a gate-keeper of the first ferry- 
house on Staten Island, but who was now worth two or 
three million dollars, a part of which was made in the 
Harlem corner with the Commodore during the pre- 
vious summer. He, too, had been buying heavily of 
the stock, paying above par for a good deal of it. They 
talked the matter over. 

" They stuck you, too, John. How do you feel about 
it ? " asked the president of Harlem. 

Tobin said he had held on to his stock ; so he should 
meet no actual loss, unless he sold. 

"Shall we let 'em bleed us?" continued the Com- 
modore. " John, don't them fellows need dressing 
down ? " 

Tobin agreed that they did. 

" Let's teach 'em never to go back on their word 


again as long as thev draw breath. Let's try the liar- 
lem corner." 

Tobin acquiesced, and said he could spare a million 
dollars for it, and the senior partner in this plot of ret- 
ribution agreed to put in as much more as was needed. 
To buy at par all the rest of the stock that was out of 
their hands would require four or five millions of dol- 
lars. They began to buv secretly but rapidly. 

JVIeantiuie, the treacherous members of the Legisla- 
ture, having what they considered " a sure thing," not 
only sold Harlem short for all they were worth, but 
confidentiall}- let their friends in, so that in a month 
millions of dollars' worth had been sold to be delivered 
during the summer at various prices below par, the 
coalition supposing and alleging to each other that in 
two months Harlem could " be bought for a song." 

They were surprised that their treacliery did not 
bring the president of Harlem to Albany to remon- 
strate with them. Xo; he stayed at home and bouglit 
stock. The bill for consolidation had been defeated, 
and the conspirators, rich in anticipation, waited, ex- 
pecting to see Harlem drop to " where it ought to." 
To their astonishment it stood firm ; and when they 
went into the market to buy for deliver}"^, there was 
none to be had. They were caught as the Aldermen 
had been. Great were the chagrin, alarm, and distress 
of the too-cunning law-makers who had set the trap. 
They Avere at once compelled to buy at whatever price 
the holders chose to exact in order to deliver on "call." 
The Yanderbilt pool had bought twenty-seven thousand 
more shares, including contracts, than the entire stock of 
the road. 


" Put it np to 1,000 ! " exclaimed the remorseless Com- 
modore, "this panel-game is being tried too often!" 
It would have been easy to put np the stock to 1,000 ; 
but his allies, John Tobin and Leonard Jerome, urged 
prudence, for, as Jerome declared, " it Avould l^reak 
every house on the street." The next day contracts for 
fifteen thousand sliai'es matured, and the holders let it 
go at 285 ! Yanderbilt and his chief partner gained 
millions each. Many of the " bears "M'ere absolutely 
ruined. There are men who were rich M'hen they went 
into that " speculation," who have not yet recovered 
from the disaster, and never will. The Commodore, in 
telling the story nsed to say, " We busted the whole 
Legislature, and scores of the honorable members had 
to go home without paying their board-bills!" Drew 
was among the heaviest losers, but he pleaded that he 
did not understand what he was doing, and by a long 
suit forced a compromise, paying $1, 000,000. 

By this time a tacit understanding seems to have 
crept around among the frisky "boys" of Wall Street 
that the old man of three score and ten could take care 
of himself, and stood in no pressing need of their sym- 
pathy or protection. 

An English wi-iter in Fraser'^s Magazine said of Drew 
and Yanderbilt : " Between the two preference is de- 
cidedly to be given to Mr. Yanderbilt, who must be ac- 
knowledged to have his good traits, and to be in many 
respects superior to professional speculators, among 
whom he assumes the royal dignity and moral tone of a 
Ggetulian lion among the hyenas and jackals of the 

Touching on the same comparison, Charles Francis 


Adams said, in tlie North American Review, in one of 
that remarkable series of articles that began after the 
\ periodical had felt the strong touch of Thorndike Rice: 
'"Yanderbilt must be allowed to be far the superior- 
man. Drew is astute and full of resources, and at times 
a dangerous opponent ; but Vanderbilt takes lai'ger and 
more comprehensive views, and his mind has a vigorous 
grasp which that of Drew seems to want. In a wider 
field, the one might have made himself a great and 
successful despot, but the other \vould hardly have as- 
pired to be more than the head of the jobbing depart- 
ment of some corrupt government. While Drew has 
sought only to carry to peifection the old system of 
pirating successfully from the confidential position of 
director, neither knowing anything nor caring anything 
for the railroad system except in its connection with the 
movements of the Stock Exchange, Yanderbilt has seen 
the full magnitude of the sj-stein, and through it has 
sought to make himself a dictator in modern civilization, 
moving forward with a sort of pitiless enei'gy which has 
seemed to have in it an element of fatality." \ 

A rigid system of reform meantime kffd been inaugu- 
rated and enforced in the Harlem road, under the imnie- 
diate eye of "William 11. Vanderbilt. lie had dismissed 
incompetent men ; got rid of supernumeraries ; com- 
pleted the double- track ; built new stations ; increased 
the rolling-stock ; checked extravagance and looked after 
small economies whose aggregate was large. Before any- 
body suspected it, the road was a paying investment. 

Delighted and even convinced by this result, the 
Commodore placed his son l)y his side as vice-president 
of the Hudson River road, and to that they strenuously 



applied the same remedies. " I tell Billy," he was fond 
of saying, " that if these railroads can be weeded out 
and cleaned np, and made ship-shape, they'll both pay 
dividends." The old man was gifted with prophetic 
vision. In a few months it was earning a net profit. 
This was partly the result of the great prosperity which 
overflowed the whole country at the close of the war ; 
but a cause quite as potent as this was the thorough 
renovation which the road received from its new owner. 

The Commodore did not at once renew the attempt 
to consolidate his two roads, but he plainly saw how he 
was hampered and embarrassed by a short line, and how 
necessary it was to have a trunk line to the lakes under 
one management. He began to buy stock in the New 
York Central ; in fact ho put into it two of the millions 
he had made in the " Harlem pool." 

In 1864 the Central was controlled by Dean Rich- 
mond and Peter Cagger, the remains of the old Albany 
Regency. They looked with jealousy and apprehen- 
sion on the appearance of several Vanderbilt directors 
in their board, for they felt the approaching shadow of 
the Commodore. In order to keep him away, they got 
up a quarrel with him. Daniel Drew had control of the 
Hudson River steam])oats, and with him the Central 
managers made a league, offensive and defensive, against 
the ogre from the South who coveted the line in the 
Mohawk Valley, and was the dreaded lival of the boats. 
During the winter, when the boats were absent, ai'med 
neutrality prevailed, for the roads were equally depend- 
ent on each other for an outlet ; but when the ice broke 
up in the spring, the Central resumed its habit of cut- 
ting the acquaintance of the railroads and shipping its 


passengers and freight, as far as possible, ma the river. 
It sold through tickets bj way of the river and made 
connection with the boats, arranging as often as possible 
to arrive at Albany after the last Hudson River train 
had gone. 

The Commodore endured being thus discriminated 
against foi- one winter. lie remonstrated, but his re- 
monstrances were in vain. He proposed different forms 
of compromise, but his overtures were declined. He 
waited till the Hudson River froze up solid and the 
boats were congealed at their wharves, then he sent out 
the stern mandate, " Take no more freight from the 
New York Central ! " 

It was a silent order, addressed to his officers only, 
and he left them to execute it in their own way. The 
next train that went north did not connect with the 
Central at all, did not even cross the river, but stopped 
half a mile east of the bridge that leads into Albany. 
The passengers — some of them members of the State 
Government protested and supplicated, but to no pur- 
pose. The train stopped there for the night ; the fires 
were banked ; and the passengers had to walk the rest 
of the way to the city, or get vehicles as the}' could. 
Xo moi'e trains went to Albany, and the perishable 
freight hither-bound probably suffered. 

Great was the excitement. No more through fi-eight 
came over the Central. Its stock went down fifteen per 
cent, at a blow. The stock of the Hudson River Rail- 
road kept mysteriously rising. 

When the Legislature convened, it was felt to be 
proper to "investigate" the arbitrary conduct of the 
Conimodore in refusing to come all the way to Albany, 


and, if necessary, to do something to him in defence of 
the dignity of the State. 

A committee snmmoned him to testify. lie went. 
They asked him how he came to be gnilty of such high- 
handed conduct. lie showed them an old law which 
prohibited the road from running trains across the river, 
a law which had always before remained a dead letter, 
as it has since. 

" But why did you not run the train to the river \ " 

"I was not there, gentlemen." 

" What did you do when you heard of it ? " 

" I did not do anything.'' 

" Why not ? Where were you ? " 

" I was at home, gentlemen, playing a rubber at whist, 
and I never allow anything to interfere with me when 
I am playing that game. It requires, as you know, un- 
divided attention." 

It was apparent to everybody that a crisis had come 
in the aifairs of the Xew York Central, and the result 
of it was, that the Commodore's grasp on the road Avas 
tightened rather than relaxed. He made a dash for 
the management in the fall of 1SG6, hut missed it, and 
Henry Keep was chosen President, as a friend of all 
parties. It was only a temporary makeshift, and a 
year afterward Mr. Keep resigned, and the directors, 
representing a large majority of the stock, sat down and 
wrote to the all-conquering Commodore as follows : 

New York, November 12, 1867. 
C. Vanderbilt, Esq. 

The \indersigned, stockholders of the New York Central Rail- 
road Company, are satisfied that a change in the administration 
of the Company, and a thorough reformation in the manage- 


ment of its affairs, wonld result in larger dividends to the stock- 
holders and greatly promote the interests of the public. They 
therefore request that you "will receive their proxies for the 
coming election, and select such a board of directors as shall 
seem to you entitled to their confidence. They hope that such 
an organization will be effected as shall secure to the Company 
the aid of your great and acknowledged abilities. 
Yours respectfully, 

Edwaed Cunabd, 
John Jacob Astok, Jr., 
Bernard V. Hutton, 
John Steward and others, 
representing over thiiieen millions of stock. 

He accepted the trust in tlie spirit in which it was 
given. An eyewitness of the election tlie next month 
thus describes the scene : 

" The recent revolution in the Central Railroad sug- 
gests the changing nature of all earthly things. Only 
a short time ago the Pruyns, the Martins, the Pages, and 
other leading men of the road were to be seen in the 
directors' rooms, bat they passed away like a dream. 
Even Erastns Corning, the beloved manager, whose fiat 
was law, is here no more, and another dynasty appears 
on the stage. The change M-as wrought by an agency 
of the most simple character, and one from which no 
such great end might have been expected. It was a 
slip of paper a few inches square and containing a few 
lines of written characters. The circumstances were 
these. On the eleventh day of December a half-dozen 
gentlemen marched into the rooms of the Company, 
rooms into which this was in some instances their first 
entrance. At 11.15 one of these gentlemen arose and 
dropped a piece of paper into the ballot-box, and presto, 


the cliange is wrought, an old empire passes away and a 
new empire is inaugurated. The appearance of the gen- 
tleman referred to was striking and impressive, lie 
was of large size and finely proportioned, a splendid 
specimen of muscular and intellectual development, 
with an easy bluff air which suggested the quarter-deck, 
and with that peculiar at-home-ness which showed that 
lie felt himself master of the situation. Such was the 
sfyle of the last election of the ' Central.' At eleven 
o'clock the poll was opened, and remained open for five 
liours ; for five weary hours the inspectors stood guard 
over the ballot-box, and during that time one vote was 
received. When the poll was closed the potency of the 
solitary ballot was disco vei'ed. It bore the names of 
thirteen directors, and represented stock to the amount 
of $18,000,000. Such was Commodore Vanderbilt's 
accession to the control of the Central. He came, bring- 
ing his directors with him, elected those directors, and 
then received through them the management." It was 
a signal triumph for a man seventy-three years of age. 

Then he gave that road, too, what he vigorously 
called " an overhauling." He gave it the same medicine 
that he had already applied through William II. to the 
Harlem and the Hudson River. He administered even 
a more drastic dose. He improved it enormously in 
its rolling stock, its time-tables, and its service, ballasted 
anew the track, straightened out the kinks in it, and 
multiplied its connections. The stock i-ose from the 
moment his mysterious talisman touched it. 



The Commodore Covets Erie — Daniel Drew's Little Game — The Van- 
derbilt Party Buys — Drew and Gould Sell Short — Drew's Du- 
plicity— Fisk Throws 100,000 Bogus Shares Upon the Market- 
Dodging the Sheriff — Flight to Jersey — Surrender and Restitu- 

Now a battle of magnificeut proportions took place 
between the Coinraodore and those whom, by his ag- 
gressiveness, he made his enemies. Having bought 
and regulated the great trunk lines to the north, he 
looked around to see where else he was "needed," as he 
called it. The Pennsylvania was out of the State and 
strongly buttressed ; but there was the Erie. 

In 1859 it had failed to meet the interest on its first, 
second, third, fourth and fifth mortgages, and had passed 
into the hands of a ]-eceiver. It emerged in a crippled 
condition, and Daniel Drew and other railroad wreckers 
went for the flotsam and jetsam. " Uncle Dan'l " was 
known by the dishonorable designation of the Specula- 
ting Director, because he used his official position in the 
Erie road to put its stock up or thrust it down, which- 
ever would enable him to make money. He was a very 
devout man, and occupied as much time at prayer as 
Vanderbilt did at whist. He was a curious combination 
of simplicity and cunning, of boldness and cowardice, of 


frankness and secretiveness, of lionesty and nnscrupu- 
lousness, of superstition and faithlessness. An English 
critic * says of him : " Daniel Drew had for a long time 
regarded Erie as his own special preserve. It was set 
all over with his spring-guns and man-traps in which he 
dailv caught throniirs of unwai'v intruders, and never let 
them go till they had emptied their pockets into his 
private coffers." lie cared nothing whatever for the 
road except for what he conld make by juggling with 
its stock. 

Drew was naturally destructive, not constructive. So 
he was always a "bear," fond of depreciating values, of 
tearing down, and disappointing the liopeful. While 
Vanderbilt was fighting for his property, as narrated in 
the preceding chapter. Drew was planning a deep game, 
and was selling Erie short. To liis great grief, the stock 
kept going up. Promptly he developed his game. 
Drew, in his official capacity of Treasurer of Erie bor- 
rowed S3,500,000 in cash of Drew in his private capa- 
city as Individual Speculator, giving him as security 
28,000 shaves of capital stock hitherto nnissiied, and three 
million dollars' worth of bonds alleged to be convertible 
into stock. Then Di'ew the Treasurer obligingly con- 
verted the bonds into stock at the request of Drew the 
Speculator, and when the latter had sold as much stock 
at current prices for future delivery as he could induce 
anybody to buy, he threw the 50,000 shares on the mar- 
ket. There was consternation, distress, and terror. 
Stock went down in two days from 8^7 to 850, and 
" Uncle Dan'l " pocketed the difference in millions of 
dollars and presented a new Methodist Church to his 
* In Eraser's Magazine. 


Bishop. Charges of malfeasance hi office were brought 
against him. 

This man, who begged off from liis indebtedness the 
previous year, M^as still treasurer of the Erie and virtu- 
ally at its head. The road was acting as a guerilla, cut- 
ting rates very sharply and without system or reason, 
and Vanderbilt wanted to prevent that. It was owned 
by nobody, was a foot-ball in Wall Street, falling first 
into the hands of one set of speculators and then an- 
other; it made rates and broke rates, not in the interest 
of the public, or of the road, but only of the speculators 
of the hour, who effected heavy combinations Avhen they 
wanted to put the stock up, and drove the corporation 
to the verge of a receivership wlien they wanted to 
force the stock down. Erie had been the barometer of 
the market, but it was the butt and derision of the 

This recklessness seemed to be injurious to everybody, 
and the Commodore made up his mind that the only 
way to bring order out of chaos was to " absorb " the 
road and run it himself. This, he always alleged, was 
his motive, but he may have been somewhat influenced 
by a subsidiary purpose, always attributed to liim, to 
corner Erie and take millions out of the "bears," as he 
had done in the " Harlem pool." 

At any rate he went at it in the old way and obtained 
stock, beginning in the summer of 1867, his brokers buy- 
ing laro;e blocks of the coveted stock, and he electino; 
some of the directors. Early the next year he formed 
an alliance with a knot of speculators who controlled 
the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad, and forced the 
cunning treasurer of Erie to come to terms. At the 


next election Drew was left out of the Directory. That 
night he went and made a personal appeal to Yander- 
bilt not to ruin him ; he shed tears at the picture which 
he conjured up of the beggaiy about " staring him in 
the face," and the Commodore yielded. A New Hamp- 
shire director immediately resigned at his request, and 
the lachrymose millionaire was restoi'ed to his old posi- 
tion, he agreeing to i-epresent Vanderbilt's interests and 
give the market an upward tendency. His presence in 
the Board was more full of perils than the admission 
into the beleagured capital of that ancient animal which 
neither of the schemers had ever heard of — the Trojan 
liorse. He had made a large fortune through his con- 
nection with the road. " Them air Erie shears," liad 
been alternately depressed and advanced by liiin, and 
liad been made to pay tribute to " Uncle Dan'l " when- 
ever they passed through his hands. He had no idea 
of allowing his giant rival to capture the goose that laid 
his golden eggs. Drew was not a strong man. He was 
parsimonious, ambitious, timid, emotional, and possessed 
of a low cunning. By his retention on the Erie Board 
Gould and Fisk came into power. They had little 
monej', but one had brains and the other a cheek of 

The purchase of stock went on. Vanderbilt had a 
majority of it, but he M-anted it all, so that he could 
put his own price on it. Then came rumors of Drew's 
treachery and of an intention to issue more stock. This 
was in obvious and wanton violation of law, and must 
be prevented. Hostilities began in court. Judge Bar- 
nard enjoined the Erie Directors from issuing any more 
stock, and ordered Mr. Drew to return to the treasury 


one-fourth of that already ont. Judge Balcom, of 
Bingliauiton, ordered a stay of these proceedings. A 
New Yoi'k judge forbade any meeting of the Erie Di- 
rectors unless Mr. Vanderbilt's representative was re- 
stored to his seat. Judge Barnard forbade the conver- 
sion of any Erie bonds into stock. 

This was deemed a victory for Yanderbilt, and he 
continued to buy fast and much. The price rose with 
a bound to 50, 60, 70, and 80. When it reached S-i the 
Yanderbilt party had nearly two hundred thousand 
shares in their possession, and the stock was virtually 
cornered. Drew, Gould, Eisk, and their backers and 
allies, had been " bearing " the stock with all their might 
— selling short for future delivery — and when it persist- 
ently rose, it looked as if they were irretrievably ruined. 
But, still in charge of the machinery of the Company, 
they had an audacious trick in reserve which was quite 
beyond the Commodore's experience. As he had a large 
majority of the stock, getting control of the property 
seemed a result not very difficult to attain to a man who 
had wrought so many commercial miracles. He did not 
dream that the plot of Gould and Eisk and Drew ren- 
dered his project impossible of realization. But so it 
proved. He was dealing with no ordinary men. 

One hundred thousand shares of new stock was signed 
in blank and deposited in Drew's safe. On March 10th 
the contracts for the delivery of stock generally culmi- 
nated. The court had enjoined the Secretary from 
issuing any more stock, but early on the morning of the 
eventful day he directed an employe of the road to 
take the books of stock from the office in \Yest Street 
to Pine Street. While on his way the messenger was 


robbed ! Jaines Fisk met him outside the door, wrenched 
the books away from him and ran away with them. 
They were taken in tlie bokl conspirator's carriage to 
liis office in Broad Street, and thrown on tlie market. 
Over ten million dollars' worth of the stuff, manufac- 
tured for the occasion in defiance of law and the Court's 
decree, were sold to all comers. 

Yanderbilt went on buying till he was loaded np with 
the so-called " stock," which had no legal existence, lie 
took it in million-dollar blocks. His allies and brokers 
were John Tobin, Frank "Work, Kufus Hatch, William 
Heath, and Augustus and Richard Schell. " Over-issue 
of Erie ! " was the rumor on the Street. When the 
Commodore wanted more money he sent that bold and 
i-eckless financier, " Dick " Schell, to negotiate with the 

" We can't lend on Erie," they said, " there is an il- 
legal issue of stock, and Erie isn't worth anything." 

" What will you lend on ? " inquired Schell. 

" Central — that's good," they answered. 

Schell inquired, and found out that they all liad Cen- 

" Very well, gentlemen ! " said Scliell, as if by author- 
ity ; "if you don't lend the Commodore half a million 
on Erie at 50, and do it at once, he will put Central at 
50 to-morrow and break half the houses on the Street ! 
You know whether you will be among them." 

Thereupon they made the loan, and the intrepid Com- 
modore went on buying. It was like trying to dip out 
the ocean. The manuj^acturer gayly remarked to confi- 
dential friends, " If this printing-press don't break 
down, I'll be if I don't give the old hog all he 


wants of Erie." The printing-press was strong, and he 
succeeded. It is a wonder that even Yanderbilt, rich as 
he was, was not driven into bankruptcy by these desper- 
ate gainesters. AVhen the exposure was first made his 
best friends supposed he was mined past liope. Not 
quite so bad as that, the sequel proved, but he was be- 
hind six or seven millions of dollars. Tobin, ex-presi- 
dent of the Central, lost $2,500,000. Half of tlie buy- 
ers were absolutely driven to wreck. But the chief vic- 
tim of the conspiracy had some money yet unexpended, 
and a- great deal more pluck. 

Drew, risk, and Gould had the assurance to go to their 
offices next morning, but they soon heard that warrants 
for their arrest were out, and then a strange sight was 
seen : " At ten o'clock on the morning of the eleventh, 
the astonished police saw a throng of panic-stricken 
railroad directors, looking more like a frightened gang 
of thieves disturbed in the division of their plunder, 
than like the wealthy representatives of a great corpora- 
tion, rushing headlong from the doors of the Erie office 
and dashing off in the direction of the Jersey City Feriy. 
In their hands were packages and files of papers, and 
their pockets were crammed with assets and securities. 
One individual bore away with him in a hackney coach 
bales containing $6,000,000 in greenbacks ! * 

"The attempted 'corner' was a failure, and Drew 
was victorious — no doubt existed on that point. The 
question now was, could Yanderbilt sustain himself? 
In spite of all his wealth, must he not go down before 
his cunning opponent ? When night put an end to the 
conflict Erie stood at TS, the shock of battle M'as over, 
* Charles Fraucis Adams in Nortli American Review, 18G9. 


and the astonished brokers drew breath as they waited 
for the events of the morrow. . . . As usual in these 
Wall Street operations, thei-e was a grim humor in tlie 
situation. Had VanderbiJt failed to sustain the market, 
a financial collapse and panic must have ensued which 
would have sent him to the wall. lie had sustained it, 
and had absorbed a hundred thousand shares of Erie. 
. . . Yanderbilt had, however, little leisure to devote 
to the enjoj^ment of the lunnorous side of his position. 
The situation was alarming. His opponents had carried 
with them in their flight seven millions in currency, 
which were withdrawn from circulation. An artificial 
stringency was thus created in Wall Street^ and while 
money rose, stocks fell, and unusual margins were called 
in. Vanderbilt was carrying a fearful load, and the 
least want of confidence, the faintest sign of faltering, 
might well bring on a crash. He already had a hun- 
dred thousand shares of Erie, not one of which he could 
sell. He was liable at any time to be called upon to 
carry as much more as his opponents, skilled by long 
practice in the manufacture of the article, might see fit 
to produce. Opposed to him were men who scrupled 
at nothing, and who knew every in and out of the 
money market. With every look and every gesture anx- 
iously scrutinized, a position more trying than his then 
was can hardly be conceived. It is not known from 
what source he drew the vast sums which enabled him 
to surmount his difficulties Nvith such apparent ease. 
His nerve, however, stood him in at least as good stead 
as his financial resources. Like a great genei'al, in the 
hour of trial he inspired confidence. While fighting for 
life he could ' talk horse' and play whist. The man- 


ner in wliicli he then emerged from his troubles, serene 
and confident, was as extraordinary as the financial re- 
sources he commanded." 

The Commodore now did two things : He at once 
sold out all the genuine stock he held, and he put in im- 
mediate and vigorous action all the enginery of the law 
for the punishment of the conspiratoi'S, whom he called 
by much harsher names, and threatened with the peni- 
tentiary. He procured attachments against their prop- 
erty and warrants for their personal arrest, and the in- 
dignant Barnard sent liis most active oiScers after them. 
They had hastily fled to Jersey City, carrying with 
them 1^7,000,000 of the Commodore's money, and there 
Fisk, Gould, Drew, and others remained all summer, at 
a refuge which became known as " Camp Taylor." 

Xot only did most of them avoid arrest, but they 
Ansited Albany clandestinely, and by the use of the money 
they had got from the Commodore secured the passage 
by the Legislatui'c of an act authorizing the issue of bogus 
bonds! — similar to an act to legalize counterfeit money. 

Courts were appealed to for their protection. Two 
judges became implicated in charges of bribery, one of 
whom was impeached, while the other more prudently 
resigned. Tlic attention of the whole country was 
aroused by the tunnilt of the combat. The Jersey City 
exiles tried in vain to compromise ; but all the fighting 
qualities of the Commodore were np, and he sent them 
word that unless they refunded every cent th-ey had 
stolen he would have them in jail if it took his last dollar. 

At last he triumphed. The banishment to Jei-sey and 
the pressure of public condemnation became a double 
burden, too great to be borne, and Di-ew came in one 


Sunday and surrendered. He agreed to '* do the fair 
thing," and asked for mercy, making an appeal of the 
most pathetic natui'e to the Commodore. As a matter 
of liistoi-ic fact, he went to Washington Place and spent 
half of the night weeping, as usual, over his miserable 
condition.* It succeeded. About the only soft spot tJiat 
the Commodore had in his nature was a sentimental 
willingness to help Mr. Drew out of scrapes. Drew was 
t])ree years his junior, and was dreadfully ignorant and 
illiterate, and Yanderbilt regarded with a certain sort of 
fraternal pride a man who had " made himself,"' and 
from a common laborer had got to be worth $18,000,000. 
So when the unfortunate magnate unlocked the foun- 
tains of sympathy and promised to behave and do just 
what Vanderl)ilt wanted done, if he would " let up,'' 
the overture was received magnanimously. He made 
restitution, and a settlement M'as effected. As a wit- 
ness in court, subsequently. Drew testified, "Yanderbilt 
alius tole me that I acted very foolish in goin' to Jersey 
City ; I tole him I didn't know but Avhat I wus circum- 
stanced in an ockerd light.*" 

Shortly afterward Gould and Fisk followed his ex- 
ample. They surrendered. Yanderbilt was relieved of 
50,000 shares at $70, receiving $2,500,000 in cash and 
$1,250,000 in bonds of the Boston, Hartford and Erie 
at $80. He was to receive a further $1,000,000 out- 
right for the privilege thus secured of calling on him 
for his other 50,000 shares at $70, any time within four 

This bargain was consummated one morning, while 

* Dauiel Drew's constant premonitions of poverty were at last re- 
alized, and when he died he left not a dollar's worth of property. 


they wei'e still shadowed bv tlie police. Jnst before 
daylight, Gould and Fisk crept across the river with 
piles of documents and bonds in their buggy, and 
wended their quiet if not contrite way to Washington 
Place. As a witness in one of these interminable 
Erie suits subsequently, Fisk told the story of this early 
visit in his own droll way. Inferring that the Commo- 
dore would not yet be up, Gould counselled a decent de- 
lay, but Fisk boldly rang the bell, and went straiglit np 
to the Commodore's bedroom. 

" The Commodore was sitting on the side of the bed 
with one shoe off and one shoe on," began this observ- 
ing and facetious witness. " He got up, and I saw him 
putting on the other shoe. I remember that shoe from 
its peculiarity : it had four buckles on it. I had never 
seen shoes M'ith buckles in that manner before, and I 
thought if these sort of men always wear that sort of 
shoe I might want a pair. lie said I must take my 
position as I found it ; that there I was, and he would 
keep his bloodhounds (the lawyers) on our track ; that 
he would be damned if he didn't keep them after us if 
we didn't take the stock off his hands. I told him that 
if I had my way I'd be damned if I M'ould take a share 
of it; that he brought the punishment on himself and 
he deserved it. This mellowed him down. ... I 
told him that he was a robber. He said the suits would 
never be withdrawn till he was settled with. I said 
[after settling with him] that it was an almighty rob- 
bery; that we had sold ourselves to the devil, and that 
Gould felt just the same as I did." 

Tlie issue of bogus bonds and the illegal " compro- 
mise" by which the conspirators escaped punishment 


Iiad cost the Erie road in all about nine millions of dol- 
lars, and to this amount they were afterward compelled 
to make restitution. 

This Erie venture had cost Vanderbilt a million or 
two which the above restitution did not cover, and it 
operated as a warning to him. He declared, in monosj-I- 
labic Saxon, that he would never touch Erie again, and 
" never have anything more to do with them blowers," 
and he never did. The Legislature, at its succeeding 
session, passed an act forbidding the consolidation of 
the Erie and the Central— a rightful and needful pro- 
hibition. Thenceforth there was wholesome compe- 
tition between the two great trunk systems of Kew 
York State. 

Wall Street looked upon the Commodore as badly crip- 
pled before he emerged from this battle-royal, and was 
greatly astonished to see that he always bore himself 
with his usual composure and courage, and seemed to 
have as much money as ever. 



Twenty-five Million Dollars in Five Years — William's Way — Consoli- 
dation Succeeds — Freight Depot on St. John's Park — Dedication 
of the Commodore's Monument, the Bronzes — Watering Stock- — 
What is It, and Whom does it Rob ? 

The financial world was disappointed and astonished. 
The audacious Commodore had not " gone under." On 
the contrary, he had demonstrated his ability to hold 
his own against all comers. After he had passed far 
more than an average life-time in familiarizing himself 
Avitli marine transportation, and had learned that com- 
plicated business to the minutest detail, he had, at three- 
score and ten, changed the whole purpose of his life and 
transferred all of his wealth to railroads, in the man- 
agement of which he had had no experience. Practical 
railroad men predicted that he would lose ashore the 
fortune he had made afloat. 

He had turned their prophecies to derision. He had 
learned his new trade as easily as Mezzofanti learned a 
new language, or Blind Tom a new tune. His hair was 
silvered, and the crow-step twinkle had come to the cor- 
ners of his eyes, but in the first five years of his raili-oad 
ventures and experiments he had made a clear profit of 
not less than twentv-five million dollars. 


With his son AVilliam at his side, now quite estab- 
lished in his confidence and pursuing careful business 
methods that received his cordial approval, the railroads 
he had bought rapidly continued to improve. In two 
years he advanced to the iCentral road 82,000,000 
above the stock he bought. '*' lie burned np its old 
cars, sold its old locomotives, threw out its old ties, 
put on new cars, new locomotives, new ties, new rails, 
and made it what it is to-daj, one of the best-reg- 
ulated and most thoroughly-stocked roads in the State 
of Xew' York." lie believed that the road inust pay if 
well equipped and well conducted. And he backed his 
opinion with his money. ' 

The next fall (1S69) lie went to Albany again, and 
asked for the privilege of consolidating the Hudson 
Kiver and the Xew York Central Railroads. The 
"bears," whose claws had been caught in his Harlem 
scheme, stood oif at a very respectful distance, and did 
not offer their assistance in any waj', and the act was 
passed on Xovember Ist without serious opposition. 

About the next thing he did was to buy outright from 
the city St. John's Park, on Hudson Street, formerly the 
centre of aristocratic residence. He paid 81,000,000 
for it, and he erected there a gigantic freight depot 
for the Hudson River Railroad. In the western pedi- 
ment of this imposing structure he erected Albert De 
Groot's famous bronze has-relief^ an ambitious allegory 
of Industry, emblematical of the Commodoi-e's remark- 
able career. The artist was the son of Captain Freeman 
De Groot, who commanded the Cinderella on Van- 
derbilt's line. The device was erected with jf formal 
celebration, and cost $250,000. 


Tliese iiieniorial bronzes, now buried in the business 
heart of the city below Canal Street, were unveiled on 
November 10, 1869, in the presence of some ten thou- 
sand people. The day M-as observed in Xew York by a 
display of flags on all the public buildings, as well as on 
the shipping in the two rivers. The exercises at the 
unveiling consisted of music by the Seventh Regiment 
Band ; a prayer by Bishop Janes, of the Methodist 
Church ; an address by Oakey Hall, Mayor of the city, 
aTid a poem by William Ross Wallace. Admirals Gordon 
and Stringham, of the Xavy, were present, and out of 
compliment to Commodore Vanderbilt, twenty-five vet- 
eran sailors from the United States receiving ship Ver- 
mont were detailed to haul up the heavy canvas when the 
bronzes were revealed to public view. When this had 
been done, and the Commodore's pennant was run upon 
the flagstaff, it was found that the bronzes consisted of 
a statue of the Commodore, larger than life, standing in 
a central niche, flanked on either side with an immense 
field of bronze devoted to the story of his life, its works 
and achievements. The figure of the Commodore is 
rather stiff, and is dressed in the fur-lined coat he was 
fond of wearing. " As a likeness," says Horace Greeley j- 
in liis paper, at the time, "the statue signally fails to do 
justice to that physiognomy, one of the finest in America, 
which has never yet been rendered M-oi'thily by any 
photograph, bronze, or picture that we have seen." 

The field on the right, or southern side of tlie statue, 
is devoted to the marine period of Commodore Vander- 
bilt's life, while that on the left, or northern side, illus- 
trates his railway life. The Nation, speaking of the 
work, said : " There is about it a curious appropriate- 


ness and fitness to the exploits and fame it is to cele- 

While these bronzes, said to be the largest in the 
world, do not rank high as works of art, they tell in a 
very plain manner the story of the life of Commodore 
Vanderbilt. In the marine section there is the image of 
the boat in which, as a yonngman, he carried passengers 
f I'om the Battery to Staten Island and back. There is also 
one of the vessels of the Pacific Mail line-, and a' correct 
representation of tlie great steamship Yanderbilt, wh''ch 
he gave to the United States G€)vermi:tent du''i!)g flre'^nV-ii 
conflict. Piled in the foregronnd, and around the feet of 
the statue, are various objects, representing, symbolically, 
facts and events iu his career, such as a major and minor 
engine, anchors, cables, pilot-Mdieel, cotton-bale, etc. 

The northern section of the bronzes contains what may 
be called a panoramic view of the Hudson Piver Rail- 
way, with bridges, tunnels, mountains, trains going up 
and down the river, etc., with glimpses of the Hudson 
and its river boats, all witnesses to his enei-gy and busi- 
ness sagacity. Few men have their statues set up during 
their life-time. The Iron Duke and George Peabody 
are modern instances. But the. courage, tenacity, ca- 
pacity for toil and energy^ crowned with success, won for 
Commodore Yanderbilt great respect from his fellow- 
citizens during his life. Said the Tribune at the time: 
'• We fully recoo-nize and pay tribute to his bi'oad fore- 
sight, patient judgment, and resistless energy of will ; and 
in honoring him, we honor the commercial enterprise, 
commercial sagacity, and commercial success which 
make him the 'realized ideal' of -more people than al- 
most anv other living; American." , 


Tens of thousands of the residents of the great 
citj have never seen this unique memorial, for it is 
masked by high business blocks on a street which they 
never traverse. As a monument for the public eye it 
might almost as well be in the depths of the Adii'on- 

The Commodore made William II. Vanderbilt vice- 
president of the consolidated system, and it profited at 
oncB'f'om his Ihcibugh executive management and at- 
tention to details. 

'Tn3 vvritcr' iu J^fd'se7'''s, says: "These roads the Com- 
modore certainly managed with great skill, \llis ad- 
ministrative ability is immense. He has introduced 
vigor and thoroughness into every department, and the 
public are well pleased with the fruits of his labors. 
lie is ambitious of the fame of conducting his roads in 
the best possible manner, and he takes such a pride in 
their appearance and appointments as a hunting gentle- 
man takes in his stud." 

Then he hastened to dilute the capital of all his roads 
enormously, pretty nearly doubling his previous wealth. 
When he was elected president of the Hudson Kiver 
Kailroad its capital was $7,000,000 only ; when he 
became president of the Central it had a capital of 
$28,000,000. Early in 1869, he declared a tremendous 
dividend of new stock to all stockholders. Ko less than 
eighty per cent, was added in a lump to the estimated 
value of Hudson Kiver, and one hundred and seven per 
cent, to the estimated value of Xew York Central. In 
other words, the capital stock of the two roads was in- 
creased from $35,000,000 to $86,000,000, and then to 

),000,000. As they proved to be worth it, it put co- 


lossal profits into the pockets of the president and his 
friends. One night, at niidTiight, lie carried away from 
the office of Horace F. Chirk, his son-indaw, §6,000,000 
in greenbacks as a part of his share of the profits. And 
he luid $20,000,000 more in new stock. 

This was the gigantic stock-watering operation wliich 
called down on the Yanderbilts the denunciation of a 
good many who were not partners in the transaction, 
and which is still regarded by the uninformed and the 
iinthiidcing as " a pure steal." * 

What is stock-watering? It is simply the conclusion 
and declaration of a man that his property is worth 
more to day than it was yesterday. He buys an old, 
broken-down horse, for instance, and pays $20 for it. 
He takes some chances. It may die on his hands, but 
he resolves to save it and make money on it, if possible. 
He gives the animal the best of care, feeds it well, 
grooms it carefully, and in a year it recovers from its 
lameness, acquires a glossy coat, and is sound and w^ell. 
He then puts a new price on his horse, and asks $200 
for it, Noticing that it has spirit and a good form, he 
speeds it on the track and finds, to his surprise, that it 
can go in three minutes. He now says, " If any man 
wants that horse he must pay $1,000 for it." He has 
"watered " his horse. Has he robbed anybody ? Has 

* When the Commodore's portrait first appeared upon the bonds of 
the Central, a holder of some called one day and said ; " Commodore, 
glad to see your face on them bonds. It's worth ten per cent. It 
gives everybody confidence." The Commodore smiled grimly, the 
only recognition he ever made of a compliment. "'Cause,'' ex- 
plained the visitor, "wen we see that fine, noble brow, it reminds 
us that you never'U let anybody else steal anything ! " 


lie not a riglit to charge for it what he pleases, so long 
as nobody is compelled to buy ? * 

So Yanderbilt bought roads— not to sell, but to im- 
prove. They were all crippled when he bought, and 
they were afflicted with every pernicious disease that 
sick railroads ever have. lie administered heroic treat- 
ment : He lopped off every extravagance ; removed 
ornaments from the locomotives ; increased the tracks 
and the carrying capacity ; combined half a dozen short 
railroads and made them into a single long one, and 
rolled half a dozen Presidents and Boards of Directors 
into one ; opened new outlets and new feeders ; made 
every man in his employ do a whole daA-'s work ; and 
thus, roads which had been the toys of gamblers and the 
preserves of bankrupt politicians grew to valuable prop- 
erty in his liands, and showed that they knew their 

They had been treated exactly as the broken-down 
army horses were treated that were turned out upon the 
farms of the State during those same years, lie had 
bought the roads, and he had put value into them, as 
truly as a cabinet-maker puts value into wood when he 
makes it into a chair. Was it not his privilege to put a 
price on his own property ? It was twice as valuable in 
1869 as when he bought it ; was it " robbery " for him 
to charge twice as much for it ? If he had not bought 

* In a careful estimate concerning this matter, Charles Francis 
Adams computed that in 1870 " $50,000 of absolute water " had been 
poured out for each mile of road between New York and Buffalo. In 
other words, that Commodore Vanderbilt's brain, brought to bear on 
this ramshackle tlioroughfare, had added $50,000 a mile to its abso- 
lute value. 



it it would not have been worth $50,000,000 in 1869. 
Was he not fairly entitled to the extra millions, and had 
lie not earned them as truly as a man who wheels sand 
from a sand-bank earns his daily dollar? 

Before he bought the Central, a six per cent, dividend 
had been nominally paid, but much of the tinie this had 
been borrowed. When he had reconstructed the roads 
on a business basis he made them so serviceable that he 
more than doubled their value. Indeed, he increased 
their nominal value from $36,000,000 to $90,000,000, 
and paid annually eight per cent, on that! If he had 
not watered the stock their augmented value M'ould have 
been the same, but instead of paying eight per cent, 
on $90,000,000 he would have paid twenty per cent, 
on the $36,000,000. If he had watered the stock with- 
out being able to pay dividends on it, the watering 
would have made no difference in its value. The prop- 
erty was property he had created, and without him the 
bulk of it would not have existed at all. 



Methods of Work — Location' in Various Years — Keeping Accounts in 
His Head — Punctuality — Close at a Bargain — Whist After Dinner 
—Tells a Story of His Mother— Death of His Wife. 

His success was not more remarkable than the ease 
witli which he superintended his extensive affairs. At 
ten or eleven in tlie morning, having glanced through 
twp or three newspapers, he came out of his house on 
Washington Place, and drove in a light, no-top buggy to 
his office in Bowling Green. There, in an hour or so, 
aided by a single clerk, he transacted the business of the 
day, and after giving some hints to his son, William H., 
returned for his afternoon drive up the Blooniingdale 
Poad. He always despised show and ostentation in every 
form. Ko laclvcy attended hiui : he held tlie reins 
himself. With an estate of forty or fifty millions to 
manage, nearly all actively emplo^'ed in iron-works 
and railroads, he kept scarcely any books, but carried all 
his larger affairs in his head, and managed them without 
the least apparent effort or anxiety. 

He had already occupied a large number and variety of 
offices. Being asked where his first was, he answered, 
with a laugh, " On the head of an upturned flour-barrel 
on the wharf. I kept my steamboat accounts there for 


a year, and took my cold dinner daily on that same 

But as early as 1837 lie had an office in South Street. 
From there he moved the next year to !No. 39 Peck Slip, 
to the little room np the first flight. His agent was D, 
B. Allen, a son-in-law, and his clei'k Lambert Wardell. 
The Commodore was not much of the time in the office. 

lie detested the routine of office work ; declared that 
the ledger was a meaningless humbug, and kept his per- 
sonal reckoning in a little book which he carried in his 
vest-pocket.' 'He hired men whom he thought he could 
trust, and then let them do their part of the business in 
their own way, accounting to him only for net resultsJ 

" How much money is there over to-day ? " he would 
inquire of his agent, and ascertaining, would put it in 
his pocket and carry it away with him. 

From Peck Slip he moved to Xo. 34 Broadway, about 
1842, and was burned out by the great fire three years 
later. Being roofless, and the city being a tumult of 
ruins and rebuilding, he took possession of an old shanty 
on an East-side wharf, and kept his office there all win- 

In the spring of 1846 he found fairly comfortable 
quarters at Xo. 8 Battery Place, and remained till 1855, 
when he transferred his office to Xo. 5 Bowling Green, 
and thence, at last, to JSio. 2 West Fourth, in the rear of 
his house, where he stayed till he left his office for the 
List time. 

At eighty he was still as straight as an Indian, with 
the elasticity of vigorous manhood in his step, and a 
face of remarkable beauty and strength. 

He owed a good deal of his robust health, doubtless, 


to his fondness for driving. Ue possessed, too, the en- 
viable power of leaving his business absolutely in his 
office, and never letting it intrude on hours of recreation. 
Out on the road behind a fast team, or seated at whist 
at the Club-House, he entered gayly into the humors of 
the moment. lie was rigid on one point only : not to 
talk or hear of business out of business hours. 

He was a good stoi-y-teller, and an interesting con- 
verser concerning matters within his knowledge, but he 
could seldom be coaxed or induced to make a speech. 
After-dinner oratory is mainly the result of practice, 
and he never practised. 

lie could express his meaning with force, brevity, and 
clearness, and some of his letters are models of that sort 
of composition. lie never said a word too much. War- 
dell, who was at his side for a whole generation, says : 
" In dictating a letter to a clerk I never saw his equal." 
But pen and ink always had him at a disadvantage. His 
English was even worse than Xapoleon Bonaparte's 
French. He always wrote of the reservoir in which 
steam was generated as the " boylar," and a letter of 
his is still extant in which he asks a friend to " com 
down and sea the widdow." 

He could not endure the office or office work, and never 
spent more than an hour a day there, except for conver- 
sation. He insisted that most letter-wi'iters were idiots 
and used ten times as many words as were necessary. If 
a letter of more than fifteen lines were handed to him 
he would struggle through three oi- four lines and then 
toss it impatiently to a clerk with, "Here, see what this 
(expletive) fool is driving at, and tell me the gist of 
it ! " 


He never kept money by hiin in lai'ge sums, but al- 
most always invested it the very clay it was received, 
and generally had made the arrangements beforehand. 
He made it a point never to lose a dollar in interest 
thi'ongli lack of promptness. 

" On one occasion," says E. H. Carmick, the Commo- 
doi-e's associate in some large transactions, '"he and I 
went to Washington, and lived together at Willard's 
one winter. We wanted to see John M. Clayton, and 
arranged to go and call on him on a certain evening. 
When the night came dense darkness came with it, and 
it rained pitchforks. I said to the Commodore, ' We 
can't go now ; wait, and if it slacks np we will go over.' 
I shortly missed him, and inquiring for him, found that 
lie had gone to Clayton's. When it cleared away, about 
9 o'clock, I took the stage, and went over to Capitol Hill, 
where the distinguished Senator lived. I went in and 
found him, and the Commodore with him, playing whist. 
' I didn't suppose you would come in such a pouring 
rain,' I said. ' Cai'mick,' he said, 'between you and me, 
that's the way I got ahead of some of the other boys. 
I never failed to keep an engagement in my life.' " 

He rarely ever alluded to his fortune, and never boast- 
fully ; but Mr, Carmick says : " We were sitting in the 
liotel vestibule one night in 1S53, with not much to talk 
about, when the Commodore said suddenly, ' Who's the 
second richest man in Xew York, Carmick '{ — next after 
Astor ? ' " 

" I saw what he was thinking of, but I said, ' Stephen 
Whitney, I guess.' 

" ' How much is Wliitney worth ? ' he asked. 

" ' Oh, he must be worth 8T,000,000,' said I. 


"'H — m!' he exclaimed, 'he'll have to be worth a 
good deal more than that to be the second richest man 
in New Yo]-k.' " 

He did not appear to understand the cause of his 
own prosperity, and perhaps he really did not under- 
^stand it. 

1^ Being asked one day what he considered to be the 
secret of success in business, he I'eplied : 

" Secret ? There is no secret about it. All you have 
to do is to attend to your business, and go ahead.", J 

He would doubtless have sympathized with the great 
composer who, being asked to define genius said : 
" Genius ?— industry ! " 

When asked on another occasion to tell the secret of 

his success, he replied : " Never to tell anything I'm go- 
ing to do till I've done i t ! " | 

Like Astor, Stewart, Drew, Dean Richmond, and 
other wealthy men, he was close at a bargain, and 
watched his pennies more carefully than the average of 
his fellows. When he was worth $50,000,000 he econ- 
omized in the snme old way, and in making out certifi- 
cates of stock, would always lump as many shares as 
possible together, in order to save the twenty-five cents 
internal-revenue tax on each certificate. 

His personal habits of daily life, after his seventy-fifth 
year, underwent little change. He still rose very early, 
and took a light breakfast, skimming the morning 
papers at table. These, indeed, were about all that lie 
ever read, excepting "Pilgrim's Progress," which he en- 
joyed conning over and over. 

After breakfast he would go to his ju'ivate office, 
around on Fourth Street, and there stay dispatching busi- 


ness and eliattiiig ^vith friends till 11 o'clock. Then he 
would inspect his liorses in the adjacent stable, and those 
whom he liked were asked to attend the inspection. 
After this ceremony he returned home, to chat with liis 
children or grandchildren and dress for dinner. The 
afternoon furnished him an opportunity to drive np tlie 
island, and his turn-out was one of the finest on the road. 
Supper was served at 6 o'clock. 

He ate sparingly at all times, and of the plainest and 
most wholesome things ; rarely took wine, and generally 
retired at 10 o'clock. 

At both office and house he was easily accessible ; he 
never refused to see any caller, however humble, but he 
had uncommon discernment, and if the visitor lacked 
a sufficient errand he was capable of being sharp, and 
even rude, exclaiming : " Come ! speak quick and be 
off ! " 

He spent at least half of his evenings at home, but he 
was as fond of whist as Talleyrand, and insisted upon 
" the rio-ors of the o;ame " like Mrs. Battle. Therefoi-e 
it was that he was a member of three clubs in which 
whist was considered the great social duty. The party 
at Saratoga, where he spent a portion of every summei-, 
was very exclusive. A stranger was never taken into 
the game, and seldom permitted to watch its progress. 

On account of his early association with sailors, pro- 
fanity was an established habit of his life. If he did 
not swear very wickedly, he swore frequently ; indeed, 
it was found that he often indulged in forbidden forms 
of speech when quite unconscious of it. 

Dr. Deems relates a surprising and amusing instance 
of this. He was dining there one day, and sitting, as he 


usually did, at the Commodore's left, when his host told 
a story of his early life. 

" I had just finished the Caroline, my first steamboat," 
he began, as he carved the beef, " and I was mighty 
proud of her, I tell you ! When the last bit of paint 
was dry, I liired a caterer to spread a banquet in the 
cabin — just a bang-up dinner — nicest lie could get. 
Then I h'isted the flags and Avent over to the island to 
see motlier. I went and got 'er and fetched 'er down to 
the wharf — I remember it, Doctor, as if 'twas only last 
week — and I escorted lier aboard and shosved her the 
gay decks and the engine, and the galley, and finally 
took 'er into the cabin, where the banquet was spread, 
and set 'er down at the head of the table. I never see 
anybody so astonished as she was when I told her it was 
all mine. ' Cornele,' she asked, looking up, ' whei'e the 
d 1 did you git this dinner ? ' " 

" I don't believe a word of it ! " exclaimed the Doctor. 

" AYhat do you mean ? " asked the narrator, flinging 
down his knife and fork. 

"You've got up the 3'arn,'' persisted his guest. "I 
don't believe you had any boat, or any dinner, or that 
your mother was there, or anything al)Out it." 

" You mean to tell me I lie ? " exclaimed the Com- 
modore, flushing to the roots of his white hair. 

" I am not permitted to use such language at 3'our 
table," answered the clergyman ; " I am your guest. 
But- when you tell me that that pious woman, your 
mother, on coming on board your boat, said, ' where the 

d 1 did you get that dinner ? ' I know better, and it 

throws doubt on the whole story." 

" Aw I " exclaimed the raconteur, in disgust ; " I'm 


mad at myself that I don't break off tliat mean, low, 
dirty habit. It's a shame ! I wish you'd always correct 
me when I swear, Doctor.'' 

The Commodore met with his greatest earthly loss in 
the death of his wife, on August IT, 1808. It occurred 
at the residence of Horace F. Clark, her son-in-law, where 
she was visiting. Her husband hurried to her side 
from Saratoga, a few days before her death. She was 
a noble woman, with strong qualities, supreme affection, 
frugality, self-denial. She had borne thirteen children, 
and had reared twelve of them to adult life. For more 
than half-a-century she had been the charm of her hus- 
band's home, the sharer of his anxieties and his labors, 
acquiescent and patient under the sway of his dominant 
will and in the presence of his trying moods. The fact 
that she lived harmoniously with such an obstinate man 
bears strong testimony to her character. She was buried 
in the Commodore's tomb in the Moravian Cemetery at 
Xew Dorp,* in the midst of a crowd of affectionate 

She was of simple tastes and habits, and never learned 
to feel quite at home amid the great and splendid city. 
She clung closely to the acquaintances of her youth, and 
used to tell those incredulous and amazed hearers that 
the happiest days of her life were those spent in hard 
work in the half-way tavern at Xew Brunswick, and 
that she liked the house that her husband had built on 
Staten Island, with all the children romping on the lawn 
or swarming in to teaze her with their innumerable 
wants, far, far better than the prim mansion on Wash- 
ington Place. 

* Among the pall-bearers were A. T. Stewart and Horace Greeley. 



His Grandchildren — Cornelius, Jr., and William K. at Work — The 
Thorn in the Flesh — Horace Greeley- — " Cornele's Wife " — The 
Commodore Marries at Eighty — His Wife's Influence. 

By this time most of the eleven survivors of the 
thirteen children of the Commodore wei'e married, and 
had children of their own to take care of. 

"William II. had made rapid inroads upon his father^s 
confidence, until he was completely trusted to carry out 
all the details of his schemes. He was not allowed to 
share his business secrets : nobody was. Being asked, 
two or three years since, if he could furnish much 
material for a life of his father, he answered, " Ko, 
none ; I knew nothing about him. As to his business 
methods, I never understood them, and if he had 
thought his overcoat did he would have burnt it up ! " 

The man who was now his father's predestined heir 
lived in a handsome house at Fifth Avenue and Fortieth 
Street, with his growing family. His father M'as regard- 
ing anxiously liis two oldest grandsons, Cornelius and 
"William Kissam Yanderbilt, already emerged into man- 
hood. In fact, he had regarded them anxiously and 
incredulously for many years, and did not liesitate to 
express his opinion that those "youngsters" Avould be 
" spoilt." Spoilt by petting and indolence, he meant. 


The Commodore had an idea that most boys were 
doomed to be mined, and that nothing on earth could 
save them except hard and disagreeable work. To pnt 
them at some severe service about as soon as they en- 
tered their teens, and compel them to support themselves 
— that was his panacea for the evils that beset youth. 

" If a boy is good for anything you can stick him 
down anywhere and he'll earn his living and lay up 
something ; if he can't do it he ain't worth saving, and 
you can't save him." That was his inflexible rule. He 
had applied it to both William and " Cornele," his sons, 
and now he urged its application to his grandsons. 

Their father was not loth to adopt the rule, for he 
thought there was something in it, so when the eldest, 
Cornelius, was sixteen years old, a clerkship was obtained 
for him in the Shoe and Leather Bank. He served veiy 
faithfully and soon mastered the work required of him. 

John M. Crane, president of the bank, says : " I do 
not now see much of Mr. Yanderbilt, as our paths lie 
apart, but when he was here he was, I think, the most 
single-minded and conscientious worker I ever saw. 
He was not merely honest — most bank clerks are that 
— but he was intellectually precise, and worried if a cent 
were missing in the accounts. He M-as thoroughly fair- 
minded, too, and always did exactly as he agreed, show- 
ing, in every way, not only a careful bringing up but a 
kindly nature." 

It is related that one of his uncles, going to Europe 
for the Commodoi'e, invited the lad to accompany him, 
and agreed to pay his expenses. It was a rare chance. 
The young clerk applied to the president for leave-of- 
absence. "Yes, you can cro ," was the answer; '• but of 


course yon will lose your salary for the two months." 
Cornelius found that this would be 8100, whereupon ho 
immediately discarded the temptation and remained 
through the summer at his desk. Cornelius was in the 
Shoe and Leather Bank three years, going into the 
Treasurer's office at the Grand Central Depot in 1865, 
when he was twenty-one years old. His next younger 
brother went to school more, but in 18T0 he left the 
Academy at Geneva, Switzerland, returned to New 
Yoi'k, and joined his brother in the office. Both were 
put at the bottom, and compelled to learn the tedious 
routine of the business. 

The Commodore's second son, Cornelius Jeremiah, 
was a thorn in his flesh and a source of constant annoy- 
ance. Since he ran away in his eighteenth year, and 
fled to California as a sailor, and his father retaliated 
by locking him up as a lunatic, the two had been on the 
worst possible terms. Indeed, they scarcely spoke when 
they met, except for mutual reproaches. It is not sur- 
prising that such a rare specimen of vigorous energy, 
thrift, and virility as the father was — a king among men 
— lacked patience for this flaccid, nerveless, shiftless, 
reckless son ; this sickly epileptic and spendthrift. Xo 
two men could be more unlike. To see each other was 
nmtually exasperating. The son was accustomed to ap- 
ply to his father, wlien speaking of him to others, all 
the uncomplimentary epithets in the thesaurus, and the 
old gentleman would complain, " I'd give one hundred 
dollars if he never'd been named Cornelius ! " A hun- 
dred dollars, curiously enough, was usually about the 
highest limit of his offers of imaginary bonuses for the 
unattainable thiuiis which he wanted. 


Cornelius Jeremiah was a tall, angular, tliin, cadaver- 
ous-looking man, with faded eyes, tawny hair, and scrag- 
gly beard, nervous, suspicious, petulent, and almost con- 
tinually in bad health, lie was known, more than once, 
to fall in a lit at a gaming table, recover, and play on. 

For nearly a score of years he lived away from home 
on an allowance, and obtained access to his father only 
throug-h tlie intercession of friends — of tenest of the 
young man's mother. Her heart always warmed to- 
ward him, and frequently she gave him money to pay 
his debts incurred in gambling or other imprudence. 

In these straits, when he could no longer get at home 
the money he needed, he was in the habit of boi-rowing 
it of some of the friends of his father. One of these 
whom he found most useful for his purpose M'as that 
careless and generous philosopher, Horace Greeley, 
who at any time found it more agreeable to give than 
to refuse, and more easy to give at once and get rid of 
the suppliant, than to spend time ascertaining what he 
did with his money. It was difficult for the waywai'd 
■ man to get money from his father in his frequent emer- 
gencies, but Mr. Greeley's pocket was always on tap 
without any unpleasant questions. So the editor of the 
Tribune got into the habit of lending " Cornele " hun- 
dreds and even thousands at a time — sometimes ten 
thousand at a time, Nvhen his own family sorely needed 
the money. 

The Commodore heard of this, and supposing, of 
course, that Mr. Greeley was being deceived and would 
look to him for reimbursement, determined to put a stop 
to the outburst of mistaken liberality. So, climbing the 
crooked little wooden stairs on Spruce Street one day, and 


marching with heavy tread into the sanctum, wliich 
was always open, he greeted the editor abruptly with, 
" Greeley, I hear you are lending Cornele money." 

Mr. Greeley took time to finish the sentence he had 
begun to write, and then drawled out, " Yes ; I have let 
him have some." 

" Well, now, I give you fair warning that you needn't 
look to me. I won't pay it ! " 

" Who the devil asked you ? " rejoined Greeley. " I 
haven't, have I ? " 

Not another word was said on either side, and the 
wrathful Commodoi-e stalked out. 

When Mr. Greeley died, in 1872, the Commodore re- 
lented somewhat — sufficiently to send to each of the edit- 
or's daughters a check for $10,000 ; an amount which was 
found to be much needed. 

It is not known that " Cornele " ever did but one 
thing that pleased his father : that was when he married 
Miss Williams, of Hartford, a lady whom the old gentle- 
man liked. He not only approved the choice, but he 
liked the idea of his son's settling down in marriage. 
He thought that such a step might have the effect of 
straightening out a career that had been very zigzag, 
and his youngest son might at last cease to be, as he 
called him to his face whenever they met, " a disgrace 
to the family." 

But when the young husband ventured to ask for 
money to build a house in Hartford, it was refused. 
" ]^o, Cornele," was the answer ; " you've got to show 
that you can be trusted before I trust you." Then the 
wife was induced to repeat the request. He had some 
little confidence in her judgment and honest}', and he 


frankly told her so, adding, " How much can you get 
along with ? " 

" Ten thousand dollars," was the reply. 

He drew his check for it and handed it to her, advis- 
ing her to make it go as far as she could. 

A few months later she made her appearance again. 
He was not surprised, and doubtless said to himself, 
" Here she is again ; wants S5,000 more." 

" Well, what now ? " he said. 

" Nothing," papa ; only I've brought back $1,500 ; it 
was more than we needed, and I've brought you what's 

The Commodore was thunderstruck. Such a tliino- 
had never before happened to him in the whole course 
of his life. Perhaps it was guileless innocence on her 
part, and perhaps it was far-sighted shrewdness; at any 
rate it worked to a charm. Thenceforth " Cornele's 
wife " could get anytiiing out'of her father-in-law. 

This lady died ten years before her husband, and left 
liini a very helpless creature. He was confined to an 
allowance of $200 a week, and spent most of his time 
complaining of the stinginess of his father for giving 
liim such a niggardly pittance. 

Just after the war a Mrs. Crawford moved to New 
York City from Mobile, Ala., where the fortunes of 
the family had been badly shattered by the conflict. 
With her came her daughter, Frank A., a young woman 
of uncommon intelligence, refinement, and pei-sonal at- 
tractiveness. She was tall, handsome, graceful, and well 
educated, and she supported herself here by teaching 
music. On her father's side she Avas related to ex- 
Yice -president Crawford, and one of her great-grand- 


fathers was Samuel Hand, a brother of Commodore 
Yanderbilt's mother, Pliebe Hand. 

This last relationship was the cause of an acqnaint- 
ance springing np with the Commodore and his children. 
Nothing was thought of it till a year after the death 
of Mrs. Yanderbilt, when the widower and Miss Craw- 
ford encountered each other at Saratoga. It was the old 
story — a walk on the balconies, a drive in the moon- 
light, a jocular exchange, a laughable challenge to mat- 
rimony from the venerable suitor and at Jast a serious 

He entertained a good deal of doubt whether Miss 
Crawford would accept him, and communicated his ap- 
prehensions to one or two confidential fiiends. But she 
did, after thinking of it a proper length of time. Then 
he wrote to her with charming naivete : " You are mak- 
ing a gi'eat sacrifice in marrying me. You have youth, 
beauty, virtue, talent, and all that is lovely in a woman, 
and I have nothing to give you in return ! " 

Miss Crawford said she would marry him if he would 
send for Dr. Charles F. Deems, her Xew York pastor. 
The Commodore telegraphed to him, but he was absent, 
and it was determined not to make a telegraphic seai'ch 
for him. A trip to Niagara was proposed and agreed 
to ; they made a rapid journey, crossed to Canada, and 
in the town of London, half way to Detroit, a young 
Wesleyan minister was summoned and the marriage 
cei'emony was performed. 

Two friends who had accompanied them in their droll 
elopement, Augustus Schell and Superintendent Tilling- 
hast, of the Centi'al, were witnesses of tlie marriage. 
Then they returned to New York. Being spoken to 


A srccESSFUL vp:nture. 121 

about it, tlie lively old bridegroom said, " I didn't want 
to raise a iioise in the United States, so I slipped over 
to Canada and had it done up in a jiffy, and I guess the 
knot was well tied." 

The Commodore never bought a coat-of-arms or even 
searched for one, and he did not boast of his '' blood," 
yet he seems to have had a strong prejudice in favor of 
his own, for the ladies whom he selected for his wives 
were both his cousins. 

The marriage was received with surprise and consider- 
able disfavor by other members of his family. They of 
course thought they knew better than he did about such 
mattei'S, and they remarked to each other and even to 
their friends that it was hardly necessary for him to 
take another spouse. Old saws were quoted to his dis- 

But the graceful intruder possessed both amiability 
and tact, and she brought her whole fund of attractions 
to bear in winning the hearts of her new relations. It did 
not take long for her to make herself beloved, as she 
liad always been respected. To be the young wife of 
the leading millionaire of the country w^as a trying role, 
but she was equal to its exactions, and she brought to 
the old man much happiness and solace during his re- 
maining years. 

Nay, more ; she introduced a new element of Chris- 
tian gentleness into his home, and even modified his 
character and habits. For her he yielded to the claims 
of a wise charity. For her he tried to tone down the 
rough language which he had picked up about the wharfs 
in his youth. For her and with her he began to go to 
church. Di-. Deems has written : " The religious germ 


planted in his youth was to be developed under the 
kindly cultivation of a yonnger nature, strange to his 
long antecedent career. It was the mission of his second 
wife to rescue from its burden of worldliness the intrin- 
sic goodness surviving in liis soul, and to inspire the 
benevolent deeds that crowned his days." 

The Doctor tells of an incident illustrating this change 
in the old man's moods : 

" I went in one day and found him on the sofa in 
tears. ' Why, what's the matter, Commodore ? ' I asked. 
' Oh,' he said, ' I've been a-swearing again, and I'm sorry. 
I'd ought to stop it, my wife such a pious woman and 
you and other religious folks coming to see ns, and it's 
a shame that I don't.' I told him that such a battle was 
about the same as a victory, and that God probably 
looked at the heart rather than the lips." 

After his second marriage he took more pains about 
appearances than ever before. He grew more gentle 
and acquiescent and manageable. He acquired some re- 
spect for conventionalities. He substituted new carpets 
for the old ones which he had hitherto thought good 
enough. He ceased to attend spiritualistic "seances" 
and to communicate with Captain George and Fhebe 
Hand through that precarious avenue. He M'ent no 
more to the Manhattan Club, and even quitted his card 
clubs. After that, his friends of the social quartet liad 
to come to the house if they wanted to play whist with 
him. His children weie all married off, and he had 
more than thirty gi'andchildren, to whom, for the first 
time in his life, be began to play the part of mysterious 
generosity and personate Santa Claus at Christmas. 



Buying New Roads Westward — Building the Grand Central Depot — 
William H.'s Office Habits— Overwork— A Glance at His Mail— 
A Good-Natiired Pessimist — The Complacent Commodore. 

All of Commodore Yanderbilt's railroad interests were 
now prosperous under the joint management of him- 
self and liis son. In November, 1SG9, on the consol- 
idation of the Hudson River and Central, he became 
President and William H. Vice-president of the system 
— one of the largest and most important corporate en- 
terprises in the world. The stock, which i-anged from 
T5 to 120 in 1867, now touched 200, although the amount 
was doubled. 

The Commodore had always been averse to going 
west of Buffalo. " If we take hold of roads running 
all the way to Chicago," he was M-ont to say, " we 
miofht as well g:o to San Francisco and to China." But 
circumstances are stronger than logic, or any one man's 
will, and they now compelled liim to modify his purpose, 
or at any rate his conduct. The same conflict of rival 
interests that made it necessary to drive Corning, Pruyn, 
and Keep out of the Central, and extend his manage- 
ment to Buffalo, now commanded a union with the 
Lake Shore and Michigan Southei-n to enable him to 
hold his own among the trunk lines. 


His son-in-law, Horace F. Clark, had made some large 
operations in Lake Shore as early as 1870, had become 
its President, and had bolstered up its stock in the mar- 
ket because of his relationship to " the Railroad Em- 
peror."^ He died suddenly in 1873, and the Commo- 
dore finding himself obliged to sustain the property, 
concluded that the easiest way to do so was to buy 
it. This, in a few years, made necessary the acquire- 
ment of the Canada Southern and Michigan Central, 
which was accomplished under the immediate adminis- 
tration of his son. These auxiliaries of the New York 
Central were imposed by the purchase of the Great 
"Western by the Grand Trunk, and they gave " the Yan- 
derbilt system" a needed terminus in Chicago. 

During these years, too, the Commodore, now almost 
eighty years old, began and pushed to completion the 
vast enterprise by which the northern railroads obtain 
entrance to New York City. He obtained a charter 
from the Legislature authoi'izing the erection of an im- 
mense Union depot at Fourth Avenue and Forty -second 
Street, and giving him the use of the avenue thence to 
Harlem (previously occupied only by the surface rails 
of the Harlem Railroad) for an elaborate series of un- 
derground or viaduct tracks conducting into the very 
heart of the metropolis the trains of the Central and 
Hudson River, the Harlem, and the Kew Haven and 
Boston lines. The old man's brain was as accessible 
to new ideas as ever, as is evident by his adoption of 
iron trusses springing from the ground for the support 
of the immense roof of the depot, which was one of the 
very latest facts in the development of the use of iron 
in building. 


The legislative enactment " allowed " the cit}' to as- 
sume one-half of the cost of the spacious subterranean 
way, and upon the acceptance of this provision by the 
aldermen, the '* Fourth Avenue Improvement," as it 
was called, was immediately begun. This remarkable 
achievement is too recent and too well known to need 
particular description. It cost $6,500,000 for the su- 
■perbly constructed viaducts, tunnels, and bridges. One 
hundred and fifty trains pass through them daily, and 
the success with which the whole is managed is the 
marvel of eno-ineerino-. 

The completion of a side-cut from the Hudson River 
Railroad, at Spuyten Diiyvel, following the creek of that 
name to Harlem, thus furnishing a continuous branch to 
the Forty-second Street Depot, was the culmination of 
the stupendous project which has its origin in a brain 
covered with the silver of four-score years. The Com- 
modore was now ably seconded by the indefatigable 
labors and constant vigilance of William H., whom he 
had learned to trust implicitly and even advise with, 
but he did not relinquish a jot either of his responsibility 
or his power. 

William H. Yanderbilt had learned a good deal in ten 
years. He was not a brilliant original thinker and bold 
planner, like his father, but he was, unlike his father, 
careful, methodical, and industrious in familiarising him- 
self with routine work. Indeed, this prodigal devotion to 
details was his weakness. He resolved, on entering the 
office of the Yanderbilt roads as their Vice-president, to 
acquaint himself thoroughly with the practical working 
of each department. He would not only mark every 
check, see every bill, revise eveiy contract, and inspect 


every voucher of the finance department, but he would 
make himself master of transportation, construction, and 
equipment ; he w-ould examine every engine, know every 
engineer, keep watch of the coal-bin, find out what a 
new culvert ought to cost, have an eye on the ticket- 
office, stop all the leakages in the repair-shops, supervise 
the purchases of steel-rails and chestnut ties, look into 
the printing-office — in fact, he M'ould find out evevy- 
thing there was to know. He attempted the impossi- 
ble : a tremendous work, for which the eyes of Argus 
and the hands of Briareus would have been too few. 
Is^o one man could do what he laid out for himself. 

For a few years he adhered to his determination. He 
penetrated into every nook and corner of the system. 
He had become suspicious of others in his management 
of the Staten Island farm, and now he did not try to 
keep his suspicion from the knowledge of his employes. 
He investigated every part of the vast business, moving 
swiftly, and making his appearance unexpectedly. The 
immediate result was a steady improvement in the mor- 
ale of the men, and in the effectiveness of the roads. 
Trains were on time. There was no hocus-pocusing of 
contracts. Stealing was reduced to its lowest terms. 

Mr. Vanderbilt did not object to desk-work, but he 
had not that genius for shirking which has saved so 
many lives — the ability to turn over the easy routine 
work to other and cheaper men. If there was a letter 
to write he did not want to dictate it — he wanted to 
write it. He answered with his own hand all the let- 
ters he could. He did his woi'k laboriously, and per- 
formed a vast amount of drudgery which executive of- 
ficers usually assign to clerks. He insisted in reading 


liis own business correspondence, although snrronnded 
by men who liad attested their fidelity to his interests 
by many years of service. He could not be induced to 
employ a phonographer, or permit others to dictate let- 
ters for him. lie tried to take np the whole establish- 
ment and carry it at arms' length. This making him- 
self a slave of minor details which he might have and 
ought to have shifted upon others, constantly tended to 
increase his irritability and to break down his health. 

In conversation he was sometimes abrupt and brusque 
to the vei'ge of rudeness, but he did not possess the power 
of annihilating an impudent applicant with that impei'- 
ious scorn and majestic insolence of which his father 
■was a master. He was a pessimist of a cheerful sort, 
and thought men and women, as a rule, "a pretty bad 
lot ;" generally expressing his opinion of the aggregate 
in a good-humored, chaffing sort of way, which implied 
distrust rather than dislike. Whoever has a chance to 
look into the eleven bulky volumes of bound letters 
which William H. Yanderbilt preserved as racy samples 
of their kind — letters from rascals, proposing shady 
schemes ; from charlatans and cranks, offering " valuable 
assistance ; " from " socialists," threatening to kill him at 
a specified time and place; from women by the hundred, 
inclosing photographs and asking to see him ; fi-om min- 
isters begging for churches, and mendicants of every 
degree begging for themselves — will come to the con- 
clusion that his low opinion of human nature had a most 
reasonable foundation. He thought everybody in the 
world was ready to take advantage of him, and looked 
upon every stranger as either a foe whom he had yet to 
meet or a suppliant whom he must yet refuse. But his 


large fund of buoyancy and bonbommie saved bim from 
falling into a petnlent niisantbropy. 

Botb be and bis fatber bad tbe experience of otber 
ricb men in enconntering flunkies at every turn. Con- 
scions tbat tbeydid not know everytbing by a good deal, 
tbey wanted to obtain an bonest opinion from tbose witli 
wbom tbey came into contact. Mr. Depew says : " I 
bave frequently seen a look of distress on Mr. Vander- 
l)ilt's face Avlien be was talking witli a number of friends, 
because be could see tbat tbey were evidently trj'ing to 
learn tbe bent of bis wisbes, so tbat tbey migbt follow 
bim. Wbat be M'anted was an bonest expression of per- 
sonal opinion, and be found few men independent 
enougb to give bim tbeir real opinions if tbey differed 
from Ills own. He knew tbat bis judgment was not in- 
fallible, and be was anxious to learn tbe real trutb about 
tilings and to obtain tbe candid opinions of otbers in 
regard to tbem. He migbt differ witli a man and con- 
test bis reasoning, but bis own opinion was often modi- 
fied by wbat otbers said." 

Like Ills fatber, he was perfectly democratic in bis in- 
stincts. He was easily accessible to any visitor mIio bad 
a rigbt to bis attention, and all were treated alike 
wbetber worth millions or nothing at all. He wanted 
no preposterous coat-of-arms. He never wore jewelry 
or made any show of his wealth, and always dressed in 
plain black. 

He was anxious above all things to be considered a 
good fellow ; be did not care about being thought a 
great man, and be did not wish people to bumble them- 
selves before him. It was this feeling which made bim 
so popular on tbe road among horsemen, who consiiiered 


themselves quite as good as lie was, and talked with liim 
on terms of perfect equality. This was, indeed, his 
safety valve, as there at least he was able to obtain the 
expression of unprejudiced opinion. 

The father and son, at last united in interest and 
sympathy, now controlled the great northern trunk line 
to Chicago. They had laid four tracks on the Central, 
two exclusively for passengers and two for freight, giv- 
ing the line indefinitely expansive powers. The freight 
trains could be run continuously, like an endless chain, 
and carry grain enough to load two hundred vessels a 
day, while the safety of passenger transfer was brought 
to a maximum. 

Commodore Vanderbiit, now eighty-one years old, 
looked back at his achievements with complacent satis- 
faction. "I have made a million dollars every year of 
my life," he said one dav, " and tlie best of it is that it 
has been worth three times that to the people of the 
United States." It was true. If he had put liis money 
at interest when he was seventy, and sluggishly con- 
tented himself with the income, he would have bene- 
fited the counti-y but little. Instead of that, he aroused 
to a new vouth, began to search for something that 
needed rebuilding and renovating, laid his hand on the 
badly-managed railroads of his native State, prostrated 
by war and crippled by speculators, put together the iso- 
lated fragments, reconstructed' and equipped them anew, 
rescued them from poverty and contempt, reduced their 
passenger and freight rates, and devised and executed 
improvements that placed his system at the head of 
the locomotive traffic of the planet, lie had one contin- 
uous road nine hundred and seventv-cio-ht miles in leno;th. 


with side lines greatly increasing tins total, represent- 
ing an aggregate capital of $150,000,000, of which he 
owned one-half. Old age was on him and death con- 
fronted him, but he did not ]-est. He went on develop- 
ing, strengthening, maturing, finishing, to the last. 

He was, in his eighty-fiist year, a superb specimen 
of physical and intellectual manhood. Whei-ever he 
moved he attracted as much attention as the President 
or General Grant. Tall in stature, stately in beaiing, 
his eye as bright as ever, his step still fi-ee, a slight con- 
sciousness of his extraordinary career expressed in his de- 
meanor, Mith thirty-three grandchildren around his feet, 
and increasing tenderness taking possession of his heart 
and warming his face and his words, he held the fore- 
most place, like some patrician patriarch, among the 
seniors of the commercial world. 



His Opinion of Beggars — Tlie Way He Gave — Careful About Money 
— Meets Dr. Deems — Gives the Church of the Strangers — The 
Tennessee University. 

Commodore Vandeebilt was not natnrally a philan- 
thropist. The school of advei-sity in which he was 
trained — penniless boy, hoatnian, skipper, steamboat 
captain, sliip-owner— was not calcnlated to turn his sym- 
pathies toward the. weak and destitute. A too fierce 
fii>-ht with jS'atnre almost alwavs tends to harden the 
lieart rather than to soften it. It was strong men whom 
he liked and sympathized with, not weak ones ; the self- 
reliant, not the helpless, lie had always worked hard 
and saved ever}' penny that he conld, both as boy and 
man; "Let others do as I have done," he said, "and 
they need not be around here begging." He felt that 
the solicitor of charity was always a lazy or di'unken 
person tr^-ing to live hy plundering the sober and in- 

The conclusion was not quite aecui'ate, but the intui- 
tion was right. There were important exceptions to his 
rule, but he had not time to hunt them up and provide 
for them. It was not understood then, as it clearly is 
now, that the promiscuous alms-giver on the city streets 


does far more evil than good ; that hap-hazard charity 
creates more paupers than it relieves ; * and that it is 
the duty of every citizen to refnse to yield to that 
wounded emotion, heavenly in its origin but pernicious 
in its action, that inclines him to drop a nickel into the 
extended palm as the easiest way of getting rid of a 
suppliant and gratifying liis own untutored moral sense. 
Darwin's felicitous phrase, " the survival of the fittest," 
"though invented had not yet been popularized, but the 
Commodore instinctively felt that the average result of 
charity was to promote the survival of the uniittest, and 
that about the only way to do any permanent good was 
by teaching the indolent to be industrious, the unskillful 
to be expert, the extravagant to be economical, the slug- 
gish to be ambitious — in short, by teaching the weak to 
help themselves. 

He always had an eye to this sort of person among 
his old acquaintances, and did not hesitate to give gen- 
erously where the gift would stimulate the recipient to 
self-reliance. The people of Staten Island know of 
scores of instances in which he quietly attempted thus 
to lend a needed hand. His most persistent applicants 
for money were clergymen, and for them he felt an 
aversion not unmixed with contempt. As a rule he dis- 

* Gerrit Smith gave so liberally and unreservingly that hundreds 
lost their self-respect througli his largess, and some of his neighbors 
were turned into beggars. Herbert Spencer tells of a great bequest 
to an English village, which so demoralized the people that Parlia- 
ment had to intercede and cancel the gift. It is notorious that as the 
poor-rates in England increase pauperism increases ; and that in 
those cities where all the able-bodied jioor are compelled to work for 
the public the number of those who solicit alms is reduced tliree- 


missed tliem abruptly, sometimes rudely, and once, 
when he had been annoyed persistently by a need\' par- 
son, he presented hin* with a free ticket to the AVest 
Indies and never heard of him again. 

One rule the Commodore had that was inflexible. 
He never put his name to a subscription paper for any 
purpose whatever. One day E. H. Caridick, his old 
partner in Nicaragua schemes, met him on Broadway. 
They talked about affairs in Washington for a moment, 
then Carmick said, "Commodore, I have something here 
that you'll be interested in,'' pulling out a suT^scription 
paper. " I want to build an asylum on Staten Island 
for broken-down merchants, where they can always have 
a warm home and plenty to eat. Roberts is going to 
give $10,000. Aspinwall and Astor are in it. We 
want 3'ou to give a lot down on your old place." 

The Commodore heard him through, and then said, 
"No, Carmick ; you ought to be about better business ! 
Don't you know that about half the people's ' broken 
down ' one way or another, and that if you was to roof 
Staten Island right over, it would be filled up before you 
could turn around ? " 

One reason why he gave no more in such i-easonable 
ways as that above mentioned is that the acquisitive 
liabit of a life was so strong on him. Pie did not see 
that it was safe to let his expenditures keep step with his 
increasing wealth. " Something may happen," he kept 
saying; and, in fact, something in the shape of financial 
disaster came very near happening two or three times 
in his life and shipwrecking him. So he kept saving, 
and denying himself what his money would buy ; con- 
stantly cheating himself for the sake of others. Only a 


few years before his death he had some internal trouble 
for which the doctor recommended champagne. " Cham- 
pagne!" exclaimed the liftj-millionaire ; ''champagne! 
I can't afford champagne ! A bottle every morning ! 
Oh, I guess sody water'll do ! " 

Advancing years, inclining him to stay at home more 
and more, atld the presence of a helpful and intelligent 
companion in his second wife, effected something of a 
change in his character. One day he said, " Frank, 
where is that Doctor Deems I've heai'd you talk about ? 
— the one that you wanted to have marry us? " 

" I haven't seen him since we came back to town," 
she answered ; " he used to preach to strangei-s around 
in the University Building." 

" I should think he might call on us," said the Com- 

Somebody told the Doctor. " I have never run after 
rich people," he said. " I have not avoided them, but 
when a man, conspicuous for wealth or position, desires 
to know me, he must seek me. If I am expected I Mill 

He was cordially received, contrary' to the experience 
of most clergymen. They talked freely and frankly. 
The Commodore turned the talk upon the Doctor's 
work and hopes. They met often after that. One even- 
inorthe convei'sation turned on clerical bci^ai'S, the host's 

O OCT' ' 

pet aversion. The Doctor depi-ecated the whole business. 
"Now liei'e I am," he said. " I have been preaching 
for two years within ear-shot of the Commodore. My 
little rooms have been ovei'run. People have said to 
me, ' Why don't you see Mi-. Lenox, or Mr. Stewart, or 
Mr. Astor, or Commodore Yanderbilt, and get some of 

DK. DEEMS. 135 

them to bnild you a Church of the Strangers?' ^STot I. 
The Coinniodore will bear me witness that 1 have never 
solicited a dollar from him for any object on earth." 

" Xo, he never has, Fraidc," he said, turning to his 
wife ; evidently thinking the better of his visitor for the 

" And 1 never shall, as long as there is breath in my 
body," said the visitor. 

The Commodore obviously did not quite like the re- 
mark, but the Doctor went on, " For if he has lived to at- 
tain his present age and has not got sense enough to see 
what I need and grace enough to send it, he will die 
without the sight." The speaker's impressions of the 
Commodore were not favorable. He regarded him as 
an unscrupulous hoarder of money, who merely aimed at 
accumulating an immense fortune, but had little concern 
for the human race. 

Dr. Deems was at this time thinking of purchasing 
the Mercer Street Presbyterian Church edifice, hoping 
to pay for it somehow, and a report of this had got 
to the Commodore's ears. One Monday evening, at the 
close of a call, he asked his visitor to come around soon. 
The reply was that every evening for a week was occu- 
pied, but the next Saturday evening he went. 

The Commodore offered to buy the Mercer Street 
Church for him. The Doctor says that he "fired up in 
a minute," because he supposed the donor had some sin- 
ister motive, either wanting a chaplain he could use, or 
desiring to get hold of the building for business pur- 
poses. His benefactor reassured him. 

" After the discharge of the lightning of my anger," 
says the Doctor, "I felt that a sort of April shower 


was coming. Mj ejos were moistening. It seemed a 
wonderfnl Providence, for you know we always think it 
is a wonderfnl Providence if it runs with our ideas. I 
extended my hand and said, ' Commodore, if you give me 
that church for the Lord Jesus Christ, Pll most thank- 
fully accept it.' 

" ' Ko,' said he ; ' Doctor, I wouldn't give it to you 
that way, because that would be professing to you a re- 
ligious sentiment I don't feel. I want to give you a 
church. That's all about it. It is one friend doins: 
something for another friend. Now, if you take it that 
way, I'll give it to you.' 

" We both rose at the same moment, and I took his 
hand and said, ' Commodore, in whatever spirit you give 
it, I gi'atefully accept it, but I shall receive it in the 
name of the Loixl Jesus Christ.' 

" ' O, well,' he said, 'let's go in the sitting-room and 
see the women ! ' " 

It was some time before the property could be got ; 
and one day the Commodore's clerk, Mr. AVardell, called 
and said, " Doctoi-, here is a package containing $50,000 
in money from Commodore Yanderbilt." The follow- 
ing conversation took place : 

Pauson. " Don't you know what this is for ? " 

Clekk. " No, sir ; 1 don't." 

Parson. " Didn't the Commodore tell you ? " 

Clerk. " No, sir." 

Parson. " Shall I give you a receipt ? " 

Clerk. "No, sir." 

Parson. " Why don't you take a receipt ? " 

Clerk. " The Commodore didn't ask for any." 

The Doctor wanted the church given to trustees, but 



tlie Commodore refused, saying, " No, you hammer away 
at some of them fellows about their sins and they'll turn 
around and bedevil you so that you will have to quit. 
I'm going to give it to you yourself." 

'' And from that day forth," testifies the Doctor, "he 
always treated me as one gentleman treats another who 
has done him a very great favor." 

After the <rift of the Church of the Strangers the in- 
timacj between the Commodore and the Kev, Dr. 
Deems grew. There is a manuscript memorandum in 
M'hich the Commodore's wife kept record of his sayings 
in his last days, in which he expressed his confidence in 
and love for this clergyman, and his delight that his life 
had been spared to see the University started, and his 
hope that he should live to see a wise way to do more. 
The story of how the University came to exist is as 
follows : 

Commodore Yanderbilt and Dr. Deems were chatting- 
together one evening at the residence of the former in 
Washiugton Place, when the conversation turned upon 
education. "I'd give a million dollars to-day. Doctor," 
exclaiuied the Commodore, " if I had j^our education ! " 

"Is that your honest sentiment. Commodore?" 
gravel}' asked the doctor, 

"It is," was the reply. " Folks may say that I don't 
care about education, but it ain't true ; I do. I've been 
among educated people enough to see its importance. 
I've been to England, and seen them lords, and other 
fellows, and knew that I had twice as much brains as 
they had maybe, and yet I had to keep still, and 
couldn't say anything through fear of exposing myself." 

During this last remark, Horace F. Clark, son-in-law 


to the Commodore, slipped into the room unobserved 
by the latter, who happened to be sitting with his back 
to the door. 

" Well ! " he exclaimed, " I am glad to hear you 
admit at last. Commodore, that there is some benefit in 
an education. You've always spoken to me as if you 
thought it nothing." 

The Commodore turned toward him, and, assuming a 
stern look, replied. " I seem to get along better than 
half of your educated men." 

" JS^evertlieless, you have made the admission at last," 
continued Mr. Clark. "Dr. Deems has drawn it out of 
you for the first time, and I am a witness to it." 

With this Mr. Clark prudently withdrew. 

" If these are really your sentiments," Dr. Deems 
went on, " then yon must let me tell you that you ai'e 
one of the greatest hindrances to education that I know 

" Why, how so ? " asked the Commodoi'e with surprise. 

" Why, don't you see, if yon do nothing to promote 
education, to prove to the woi-ld that you believe in it, 
there isn't a boy in all the land who ever heard of you, 
but may say, 'W^hat's the use of an education ? There's 
Commodore Yanderbilt ; he never had any, and never 
wanted any, and yet he became the richest man in 
America.' " 

"Will they say that ? " asked the Commodore with 
evident feeling ; and then he added, " But it isn't true. 
I do care for education, and always have. But what 
shall 1 do ? " 

" Show to the world your true sentiments," replied 
the Doctor. 


" IIow ? " was the response. 

" Well," replied Dr. Deems, " liere you ai'e proposing 
to build a nionunient to Washington to cost a million of 
dollars. Such a monument will not add one iota to 
Washington's fame. A monument on every street- 
corner in America would not do it. Suppose you take 
that money and found a univ^ersity." 

" A university ! " exclaimed the Commodore. 

" Yes, why not ? The Vanderbilt University, per- 
haps." This was the first time the name of the new 
university was ever spoken. The idea was new and valu- 
able — worth considering. After further conversations 
on the subject the Commodoi-e abandoned the plan of 
a magnificent monument to Washington, and finally re- 
quested Dr. Deems to canvass the question of founding a 
Moravian University. Naturally his heart turned toward 
the persecuted Church of his ancestors, and liis first 
thought was to form a great college for its benefit. Di-. 
Deems took up the task and thoughtfully went over the 
whole field of the Moravian Church in America. The 
result was communicated to Commodore Yanderbilt, 
who found no one in that body to whom be could en- 
trust so great a work. But he did not altogether give 
up the idea of founding a universit^^ The subject still 
continued to be occasionally discussed, and gradually 
the harvest grew I'ipe for the reaper. 

Many years before the incidents nan-ated above, when 
Dr. Deems was a clergyman in the South, he had an in- 
timate friend. Rev. Dr. McTyeire, editor of a New Or- 
leans paper. Since Dr. Deems had come to Xew York 
Dr. McTyeii-e had been made a Bishop of the Southern 
Methodist Church. In early life in Mobile he had been 


pastor of Miss Frank Crawford — Mrs. Commodore Van- 
derbilt — and liad married a distant relative of hers. 
Mrs. Yanderbilt liad very great affection for this friend 
of Dr. Deems and knew that Deems had the greatest 
confidence in McTyeire's ability and integrity. Tlie 
Bishop was concerned in founding a university in the 
South. It occurred to Dr. Deems that he was the man 
the Commodore needed, and that it would help to allay 
the animosities between the Xortli and the South en- 
gendered by the Civil "War, if the Commodore would 
put his college in that section. Tliese ideas were 
warmly sliared by Mrs. Vanderbilt. How to bring the 
men together was the question. In the Spring of 1870, 
Di-. Deems had tried to secure an invitation for the 
Bishop from the Commodore, and was aided by Mrs. 
Vanderbilt, but it failed. As the intimacy grew between 
the Commodore and the pastor the time was finally ripe, 
and the invitation secured. The impression made on 
the Commodore by the Bishop was such as Mrs. Yan- 
derbilt and Dr. Deems had anticipated. This was in 
March, 1873. The Bishop one day hurried over to the 
Doctor's study radiant with the news that the Commo- 
dore had offered $500,000 to a university to be founded 
at Nashville. 

He returned home rejoicing and commenced the 
M'ork, and prosecuted it vigoi'ously. Subsequently the 
Commodore gave $100,000 moi-e. Then some influence 
had been bi'ought to bear on him to make him feel that 
the institution would probably be sectarian. The Doc- 
tor showed him how much better it was that a college 
should be under the care of some (church with a great 
denomination to back it, and brought him to that view, 


and sliOM'ed him that a college with the name of Yan- 
dej'bilt would be a shabby thing without at least a million 
of dollars in buildings and endowment. After further 
thought the Connnodore agreed to give the other 
S400,000, which he arranged before his death. He never 
regretted it. One of the last expressions of his life was 
his telling his wife how glad he was that he liad done 
it, and how satisfied he was that he had put it in the 
hands of men he so entirely trusted. 



Taken 111 at Eiglity-two — Great Public Interest — The Vigilant News- 
papers — Reporters Besiege the Invalid — Death After Eight 
Months— A Simple Funeral— The Will. 

The three ricliest men in America at this time were 
Commodore Yanderbilt ; A. T. Stewart, who was nine 
years his junior, and William B. Astor, who was two 
months his senior. Mr. Astor died in November, 1875, 
and Mr. Stewart in A})ril, 1876, and less than a 
month thereaftei", on May 10th, the third and most con- 
spicuous in this triumvirate of wealth was taken ill and 
confined to his room. 

Great was the excitement. Newspapers published 
extras with such bits of fact or rumoi- as they could 
gather. Reporters hiy in wait for the doctor and am- 
bushed the minister, and newsboys yelled under the 
windows of No. 10 Washington Place, •' Commodoi'e 
Vanderbilt dying ! " 

The venerable patient felt exasperated that such lib- 
erties should bo taken with him, and, when a reporter 
called next morning, he crawled out of bed and shouted 
down the stairs, "I am not dying! The slight local 
disorder is now almost entirely gone and the doctor says 
I will be well in a few days. Even if 1 was dying I 


should have vigor enough to knock this abuse down 
your lying throats and give the undertaker a job ! " 

The protest did no good. The papers had columns 
daily about his various ailments, about how much he 
was worth, and how long he would live, and what effect 
his death would have on the stock market, and who would 
get his money. Every week some paper announced that 
lie was dead. All summer he lay in the sweltering heat, 
and lived on. His iron constitution was doing battle 
for him against a conspiracy of a dozen diseases. 

On August 3d he experienced a relapse so i-adical 
and severe that even his physicians concluded that his 
last hours had come. At midnight his life Avas de- 
spaired of, his pulses fluttered feebly, his feet grew cold, 
his heart intermitted its beats, and the family, brother 
and sisters, children and grandchildren, gathered around 
the bed to bid him a long farcM'ell. Then he turned over 
toward the wall and went to sleep. The next morning's 
papei's recorded his death, but he rallied and got up. 

That brigade of enterprising and courteous gentlemen, 
the New York reporters, had a very lively time of it 
during the Centennial summer. Every daily had to 
liave a relay, that one might be perpetually on guard 
at the house. 

As wet autumnal days came on, presaging the cold of 
winter, the score of reporters who had swarmed around 
the front steps, found the position more and more un- 
comfortable. They made better arrangements by hir- 
ing a large front-room across the street, and thus put 
the distinguished invalid in a state of siege. One of 
thenj has told the curious story of that unique vigil : 
how they whiled away the weary hours with chess and 


cards and books; how they tried to establish some regu- 
larity of beer and lunches; how they effected an organi- 
zation to save unnecessary expenditure of effovt, appoint- 
ing a guard to constantlj^ watch the door aci'oss the way 
through the slats of the closed blinds ; how they had a 
picket and a patrol outside, waylaying everybody that 
emerged from the house ; and how impatient they be- 
came for a change of some sort — any sort — in the pa- 
tient's condition. 

There was another relapse and another, and a council 
of physicians was called. Again he rallied, and passed 
the " golden cycle " of Christmas holidays safely, and 
emei-ged upon the Xew Year. On the aftei-noon of 
January 3d he was placed in his rolling-chair and 
wheeled to the sitting-room, seeming to enjoy the ti-ip. 
The sick-chamber was on the southeast corner of the 
second floor, and there he had been for eight months. 

At two o'clock on the morning of the 4th a change for 
the woi'se took place, and the members of the family 
were summoned. William II. Vanderbilt arrived at live 
o'clock, and shortly there were gathered about the bed 
of the dying man his children, grandchildren, and great- 
grandchildren. Four able physicians were in attendance, 
and Rev. Dr. Deems came at nine o'clock. The (.^om- 
raodoi-e comprehended the fact that his last day had 
come, and spoke to all his descendants, calmly bidding 
them good-by. 

Singing was suggested, and he immediately assenting, 
Mrs. Crawford led in his favorite hymns, " Come ye 
Sinners, Poor and Needy," " T^earer, my God, to Thee," 
and " Show pity. Lord." II is face brightened up and 
he feebly joined in the singing. Just before ten o'clock 


lie asked Dr. Deems to pray Mith him ; lie seemed to 
follow the prayer, and at the end ti-ied to repeat the bene- 
diction. He said, " That's a good prayer,'' and grasped 
the Doctor's hand, adding, " I shall never give np trust 
in Jesus : how could I let that go ? " 

At 10.30 A.M. he ceased attempting to speak ; he lifted 
his right hand and closed his own eyelids, became for a 
few moments unconscious, or at any rate unresponsive, 
drew one deep breath and died. He expired peacefully 
and apparently without pain. Exhausted nature slept 
the long sleep. 

Among those present were his wife, and her mother, 
Mrs. Crawford ; Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Yanderbilt and 
their children ; Mrs. Daniel Torrance and husband and 
daughter ; Mrs. J. B. Allen ; Mrs. George A. Osgood and 
husband ; Mrs. JST. B. La Ban ; IVIrs. James M. Cross and 
husband ; Mrs. William Iv. Thorn and husband ; Mrs. 
Meredith Howland and husband ; Mr. C. X. De Forest ; 
Mrs. S. D. Barton ; Mr. E. D. Worcester, Secretai-y of 
the Central Road, and Elliott F. Shephard. 

The Commodore's brother. Captain Jacob Yanderbilt, 
and his sister. Miss Phebe Yanderbilt, were not pres- 
ent, being with another sister, Mrs. Charlotte Egbert, 
who was lying at the point of death at her home in 
Tompkinsville, S. I." 

The Commodore had exhibited tremendous vital force, 
and two of his physicians had died during their attend- 
ance upon him. 

The funeral was held at 10.30 a.m. the next Sunday, 

* This was his oldest sister, after whom his first sloop was named, 
then the wife of Captain De Forest. She died the day after the 



in the Clinrch of the Strangers. In accordance with liis 
express request and direction it was extremely simple, 
and characterized by a lack of display and parade, lie 
had often condemned the fashionable folly which op- 
pressed the poor with expensive funerals, and had al- 
leged that the rich were responsible for it. lie would 
not have his funeral stir np such pernicious ennilation 
and rob the poor of their hard earnings. So he had said, 
" ]S^o flowers at my funeral ; not one ! N^o costly badges 
of mourning ; no crape for showing off ! " The injunc- 
tion was obeyed. 

By his express command the Grand Central Depot 
was not draped in mourning, nor were there any sable 
trappings or somber festoonery on cars or locomotives. 

Among those who attended the funeral were Daniel 
Drew, Thurlow Weed, Samuel Ward, Gordon W. Burn- 
ham, Marshall O. Boberts, ex-Governor Morgan, Beter 
Cooper, Charles O'Conor, and Frank Leslie, all since 
dead, though it was only nine years ago. 

Dr. Deems said at the funeral that the deceased lacked 
only two things : early scholastic culture and intimate re- 
ligious relations during the middle and main part of his 
life. The last he regretted, but Nature, by giving him 
a M''onderful intellect, compensated for the first in part. 

His remains were deposited in the vault of the old 
Moravian cemetery wdiich his ancestors of the "United 
Brethren " had helped lay out at New Dorp, and in 
which most of their bodies lay. lie himself had given 
fifty acres of land to the cemetery. 

Commodore Yanderbilt had never connected himself 
with a church, and was, in his convei'saticm, an invlig- 
ious man ; but he had never thought about dogmatic 


theology mncli, aiul li;ul never ceased to l)clievc M'liut 
liis pious mother had taught when lie was a child. The 
doctrine of a supreme being, a devil, a heaven, a hell, 
an atonement, he regarded as settled facts, as undenia- 
.ble as the multiplication-table. Whenever lie spoke of 
Jesus Christ serious!}' and deliberately he always alluded 
to him as " Our Saviour," and lie reverently called the 
Lible " the Holy Scriptures." 

He had as great a horror of being thought an infidel 
as Daniel Drew had, and often declared that lie 
" wouldn't trust with a dollar " a man who doubted the 
inspiration of the Bible. During his last illness, as he 
lay on the lounge and Doctor Deems was fanning him 
one day, he said, " I don't want any misunderstanding 
about this business. You haven't converted me. I 
didn't need converting. I always believed in the truth 
of these things you preach about. You haven't had any 
more effect on my belief than that fan has ! " 

The public had not doubted what would be tb.e gen- 
eral character of the will. William H. Yanderbilt, be- 
ing the oldest son and the only one fitted by habits and 
training to take care of it, would undoubtedly inhei'it 
the bulk of the property. In this all were agreed. 
AVlien the will was produced in the Surrogate's Court, 
four days afterward, it was found that the general con- 
jecture was correct. ]S«^ot far from $90,000,000 was left 
to William H. Of the bequests to all other persons, 
amounting to $15,000,000, one-half went to the four 
sons of the principal heir, and the oldest son, Cornelius, 
whose progress the decedent had watched and approved, 
got much the largest share.* 

* See Appendix D. 



Industrious and Prudent — Compromises witli Foes — Dealing with. 
Laborers — Contest of the Will — The Quarrel Ended — Generosity 
and Human Nature— Accurate Business Habits. 

William II. Vandeebilt, now fifty-six years old, was 
thorouglil}' equipped for ]iis new role. It involved no 
radical change in his methods or his life. He imme- 
diately took charge of the property, and became presi- 
dent of all the roads, where he had before been vice- 
president, but his relation to affairs was not materially 
modified. His service had never been perfunctory. It 
had been an honest devotion to the intei'ests of his 
father's property. The only difference seen in 1877 was 
that his great vigilance and energy in administration 
were increased ; he merely worked harder where he had 
always before worked hard. He felt the weight of the 
additional responsibility^ and he resolved that his father's 
apprehension that he would lose the property should not 
be realized. What he lacked of his fathers genius and 
brilliant audacity he would make up in greater industry 
and cautiousness. 

The first year was si<!;nalized bv the viirorous warfare 
in west-bound freight-rates between the trunk lines. 
Mr. Vanderbilt favored compromise. This was proba- 


blj the wisest tiling to do, but it showed that he did not 
possess the strenuous temper of his father. The Coniino- 
dore's enei-gies would have been bent, not to making 
compacts with rival systems, but to making conquests of 
them. lie recognized no equals, lie would have so 
extended his own system as to nuike all others confess- 
edly snboi'dinate, reducing them to the rank of local 
roads. Or, if this were found impracticable, on account 
of some other possessing better natural facilities for the 
chief highway across the continent, he would liave boldly 
abandoned his own lines and transferred his capital and 
liis abilities to another as readily as he deserted sails for 
steam, or ships for locomotives. He was far-sighted 
and had a broad horizon, lie knew no rest and wanted 

Kor did the son care for rest, but he wanted peace. 
He was not pugnacious, or happy in the midst of con- 
flict, and about the first thing he did was to put an end 
to the freight-rate chaos that had lasted for years, and 
establish an ari-angement with his rivals that would en- 
able him to avoid the continual battle, the din of M'hich 
was one of the j^leasures of his father's life. 

Truce was hardly declared before the railroad strikes 
and riots began. One of the results of cutting rates 
had been that the companies had been unable to main- 
tain their scale of wages, and the Hudson Kiver and Cen- 
tral had in July made a reduction of ten per cent. There 
were 12,000 men in its employ, and apprehensions be- 
gan to be felt, in view of the febi-ile condition of the 
working-classes, that trouble migiit result from the re- 
duction. An attack on the Grand Central Depot was 
threatened, Mr. Yanderbilt was in Saratoga, and call- 


iiig some directors and officers into conference, a plan 
Avas devised, adopted, and put into execution. He sent 
out hy telegraph a proclamation that the Kew York 
Central and Hudson Iliver Railroad Company would 
give to its employes $100,000 ratably, except to the 
executive, departmental, and clerical forces. At the 
same time he promised a restoration of the ten per cent, 
as soon as the business of the road justified the action. 
Out of the 12,000 men less than 500 gave trouble, and 
the old wages were eventually restored. 

During the early j'ears of his absolute control of the 
property, he did all he could to avoid friction, and re- 
duce the chances of rate-cutting on the part of rival 

But all did not go smoothly. There were angry mut- 
terings about the will. WiUiam H. Vanderbilt had re- 
ceived at least $90,000,000, while to the unfortunate sec- 
ond son, Cornelius J., the testator bequeathed only the 
income derived from $200,000, with the condition that 
he should forfeit even this if he began a contest of the 
will. For years " Cornele " had been virtually banished 
from his father's house, occasional interviews being ob- 
tained only through the intercession of his mother or 
sisters. Even on his death-bed, the Commodore said 
he did not care to see his wayward son. The feeling 
was reciprocal, and the latter took apparent pleasure in 
rehearsing to knots of listenei's the story of his wi'ongs, 
and details of his father's life M-hich M'ere probably the 
oftspring of a sick man's disordered fancy. 

" Why doesn't he give me a chance ? " the exiled 
epileptic would ask in an angry whine. " Everybody 
admits that I know more than Bill docs, even if I don't 


know very much. AMij doesn't father put nic in charge 
of some little branch road somewhere and see what I 
could do ? " 

But the fatlier remained unrelenting, and he had em- 
phasized his distrust in his will. As to the merits of 
the division of property, public opinion was mainly on 
the side of the chief legatee, but many who did not know 
the pensioned son thought that injustice had been done 
him. There were greedy and need}' lawyers to fan the 
controvers}', and the result at last was a contest of tlie 
will. For a yeai* the public was regaled with foreshad- 
owings of the evidence at hand to prove the testator's 
mental incompetency to make a will, and it revealed 
nmch of family matters that was not entirely pleasant, 
and a tremendous inventive faculty on the part of the 
contestant. The public appetite was whetted, and the 
public eye on the qui vive for scandal when, to his 
credit, Mr. Vanderbilt compromised by giving to his 
litigious brother the income on §1,000,000.* 

At least two of the sisters had sympathized with 
" Cornele's " suit, and had given him aid and comfort, 
neither of them liking the legatee, and one of them 
not having been for years on speaking terms with him ; 
but now, in addition to the bequests made to his sis- 
ters, William II. voluntarily added $500,000 to each 
from his own portion. 

Pie drove around one evening, and distributed this 
splendid largess from his carriage, he himself carrying 
the bonds into each house in his arms and delivering 

* A year or two later, on April 3, 1882, Cornelius Jeremiah Yander- 
liilt was shot dead in his room at the Glenham Hotel, and it was sup- 
posed that the shot was lired by his own hand. 


them to each sister in turn. The donation was accom- 
panied by two interesting incidents. In one case the 
husband said, " William, I've made a qnick calculation 
here, and I iind these bonds don't amount to quite 
$500,000. They're $150 short, at the price quoted to- 
day." The donor smiled, and sat down and made out 
his check for the sum to balance. 

In another case, a husband, after counting and receipt- 
ing for the $500,000 followed the generous visitor out 
of the door, and said, " By the way, if you conclude 
to give the other sisters any more, you'll see that we 
fare as well as any of them, won't you ? " The donor 
jumped into his carriage and drove off without replying, 
only saying, with a laugh, to his companions, " Well, 
what do you think o' that ? " 

The money which " Cornele " had borrowed so ]-eck- 
lessly of Horace Greeley had never been repaid, and 
knowing that the too-generous editor's daughters were 
in need of it, Whitelaw Reid, his successor on the 
Trihune, began timely and vigorous negotiations which 
resulted successfully. It was made one of the conditions 
of the compromise of the law-suit that $G0,000 should 
be at once paid to them, and the condition was fultilled. 

Negotiations for the purchase of the Canada Southern 
began before the Commodore died, but remained to be 
completed. Now Mr. Yanderbilt, in consideration of 
paying the debt resulting from a default on its bond-in- 
terest, was given a majority of the stock. A joint com- 
mittee representing the two companies agreed upon a 
basis of reorganization, the old bonds being exchanged 
for new, bearing three per cent, interest for five years 
and five per cent, thereafter, the interest on the new 


issue being guaranteed for twenty years Ly the New 
York Central road. The Michigan Central was pur- 
chased in open market. 

Mr Yanderbilt's financial methods showed that he 
regarded the fortune that had been left him as a trust, 
and he took good care not to dissipate it. He took few 
chances. His father was never more careful about in- 
terest than he. He allowed nothing to go to loose ends. 
He compelled strict accounting, and never gave any man 
with whom he had dealings a dollar that was not his 
due. He was never penurious, but he always made close 

At one time when he "was in Europe, he wrote home, 
" We are being cheated out of our eye-teeth, and have to 
pay at least double prices everywhere, because we are 
supposed to be rich. We have to put up with the over- 
charges, for it is the only way to get through Europe. 
But it makes me mad all the same." 

When in active control of aifairs at the office he fol- 
lowed the unwholesome habit of eating the midday 
lunch at his desk, the waiter bringing it from a neigh- 
boring restaurant. 

He paid his bill for this weekly, and he always 
scrutinized the items with proper cai-e. " Was I hei-e 
last Thursday ? " he asked of a clerk at an adjoining 

" No, Mr. Yanderbilt ; you stayed at home that day." 

" So I thought," he said, and struck that day from 
the bill. 

Another time he would exclaim, sotto voce, " I didn't 
order coffee last Tuesday," and that item would vanish. 

These instances are mentioned as illustratinu; his care- 


fill and accurate business habits, the prime secret of his 
success as a raih-oad operator and owner. 

All these years the growth of the country was unpre- 
cedented. Ev^erj' day brought across the sea new citi- 
zens to cultivate and populate the West, and the incom- 
ing ship was a feeder of his roads, and the quarter-section 
of prairie-land turned up to the sun and planted with 
wheat increased his revenue. 

The vast fortune left him by his father was visibly 
growing, and he soon began at Fifth Avenue and Fifty- 
first Street the construction of a palace commensurate 
with his income, and the establishment of a gallery of 
modern art adequate to grace so spacious and luxurious 
a mansion. 



The Style and Cost — Six Hundred Workmen and Sixty Sculptors — 
Description of the Rooms— The Vestibule — The Picture Gallery 
— Hoping to Live There Ten Years — Leaves in Five. 

The finest and most costly private residence in 
America is the brown-stone house on tlie northwesterly 
coi'ner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-first Street, standing 
on a lot fronting 100 feet on the avenue, and extending 
back 150 feet. The whole block between Fifty-first and 
Fifty-second Streets was secured, and on this Mr. Van- 
derbilt erected this double four-story mansion. 

The southern portion of this was for his own resi- 
dence, while the northern building he gave to his two 
daughters, Mrs. Sloane and Mrs. Shepard. His own 
residence is 115x84 feet, and is built in the style of 
architecture known as the Greek renaissance. About 
three years wei-e consumed in building the mansions, and 
the family moved in late in 1881, Mrs. Yanderbilt giving 
her first reception on the ITth of January, 1882. 

It was Mr. Yanderbilt's first intention to build his 
liouses of light stone, with colored marble pilasters, 
columns and trinnnings, but as much of the material 
would have to be imported, and the carvings would take 
a long time, it might delay the completion of the build- 


ings for a couple of years. On this account, even after 
the foundations were laid, and all the plans completed, 
Mr. Vanderbilt decided at the last moment to use brown- 
stone, the material generally used for Fifth Avenue 
residences. lie said that he was not a young man, and 
that taking the average, he had a life of about ten years 
before him, and that as he wanted to live in the house, 
and did not wish to be ens-a^ed in buildino- all of his 
days, brown-stone should be used, as it would not take 
so long to work as the materials originally proposed. 

Mrs. Yanderbilt was contented with her home at 450 
Fifth Avenue, and never wished for a better. However 
rich and opulent her subsequent surroundings, she has 
still remembered, with never-fading pleasure, the quiet 
home on the Xew Dorp farm, and the real friendships 
formed there. She tried to dissuade her husband from 
entering the uew palace. She once said to a friend, who 
called upon her while the great residence was in the 
course of construction : 

" We don't need a house better than this, and I luite 
to think of leaving it, for we have lived so comfortably 
here ! I have told William that if he wants a finer 
place for his pictures to build a gallery to which he 
could go whenever he felt inclined ; this is too good a 
liouse to leave. I shall never feel at home in the new 

Work was begun in 1879, and was pushed with such 
energy and rapidity that the new houses were completed 
in two years. More than six hundred men were em- 
ployed for a year and a half on the interior decoi'ations, 
and sixty sculptors brought from Europe were kept at 
work the same lentj;th of time. Tlie cost of the whole 


block of houses was over two millions of dollars, two- 
thirds of which should be set down to his own residence. 
The designing, construction, and furnishing of the house 
was left wholly to the artists whom he employed, and he 
never made any contracts with them, they having carte 
Manche to ransack the world and spare no money to get 
what they needed. He took great interest in the work 
during its progress, and all the designs were submitted 
to him, from the first stone to the last piece of decora- 
tion or furniture. He spent many pleasant hours in tlie 
designing-rooms, and often gave the workmen money to 
encourage tliem. 

The drawing-room, the dining-room, and the lower 
hall, are the most costly parts of the residence. The 
house is entered by a spacious vestibule which stretches 
between the two mansions. The ceiling of this is of 
bronze and stained glass, filled in with a mosaic made 
by Fecchina, of Venice, from plans drawn in New York. 
The walls are of a light-colored African marble sur- 
mounted by a frieze of figures in mosaic. There are 
fixed marble seats in this room, the floor of which is of 
marble and mosaic. The bronze doors at the entrance 
are Barbedienne reductions of those by Ghiberti in the 
Baptistry at Florence. These M-ere given to Mr. Yan- 
derbilt by his son-in-law, Mr. Elliot F. Shepard, who 
bought them at tlie San Donato sale for $20,000. They 
were formerly the doors of the palace of the Prince of 
San Donato, A large malachite vase stands in this ves- 
tibule. It was bought for Mr. Yanderbilt, at the same 
sale, by Governor J. Schuyler Crosb}-, then United States 
Consul at Florence. It was given to the first Prince 
Demidoff, of San Donato, by the Emperor of Russia. 


Passing from this large outer vestibule, one enters the 
private vestibule of tlie Vanderbilt residence, which is 
finished with a high wainscoating of marble, and has 
three bronze doors — the one on the right opening into 
a small dressing-room, the left into Mr. Vanderbilt's 
private reception-room, and the third door into the 
main hall of the house. The great middle hall or court 
extends the full lieight of the house, and is surrounded 
by galleries, tier above tier, leading to the different pri- 
vate living-rooms. It is lighted by nine large stained 
glass windows, and is surrounded by a wainscoting 
twelve feet high, in carved English oak. Eight square 
pillars of dark red African marble, with bronze capitals, 
support the galleries. Facing the entrance is a large 
and beautiful mantel-piece of red marble and bronze, 
over an open fire-place. It reaches to the first gallery, 
and has on each side a life-size female figure in bronze 
in high relief. The chimney-piece is of massive sculpt- 
ured marble, and the effect is very fine. Carved oak 
seats are placed on both sides of the door on the eastern 
side of the hall, passing into the drawing-room. The 
main staircase leads from the north of this hall, and is 
lighted by stained glass windows by La Farge, noticeable 
for the artist's management of greens and blues. 

The drawing-room, which is 25 x 31 feet, has a ceiling 
painted by Gallaud, of Paris. The wood-work is a mass 
of sculpture, gilded and glazed with warm tints. The 
walls are hung with a pale red velvet, embroidered with 
foliage, flowers, and butterflies, and enriched with cut 
crystal and precious stones. The lights are arranged in 
eight vases of stained and jewelled glass disposed at the 
corners, at the angles of the large east window, and 


at tlie sides of the door. Sonieof these \'a.scs, uplield hy 
ieiiiale tigures in solid silver, stand on pedestals of onyx 
with l)ronze trimmings, while the lights in the corners are 
backed by mirrors, to add to their brilliancy, and rest (jn 
black velvet bases. The carpet was woven in Enro})e 
from special designs. 

At the north of the drawing-room there is a door 
opening into the library, a room 26 x IT feet. The wood- 
work of this room, composed of mahogany and rose- 
wood, is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and brass in an 
antique Greek pattern. The book-cases, mantels, and 
doors are treated in the same manner. A large table in 
the same style stands in the center of the room, and all 
tlie furniture corresponds. The ceiling is set with panels 
containing small square mirrors. 

In Mr. Vanderbilt's private reception-room the walls 
ai'e fitted with a high wainscoting of mahogain', the 
space above being covered with stamped leather. The 
ceiling is of massive mahogany. 

South of the drawitig-room there is a Japanese parlor. 
In this room the ceiling is of bamboo, picked out witli 
red, green, and yellow lacquer-work. The rafters are 
exposed. A low-toned tapestry, with panels of Japanese 
uncut velvet in curious designs, cover the walls and fur- 
niture. A low cabinet of Japanese pattern extends 
around the room, containing innumerable shelves, cup- 
boards, and closets. At various points tliere are bronze 
panels, picked out in gold and silver. There is a large 
open fireplace in this room. The dimensions of this 
room are the same as those of the library, 17 x 26 feet. 

To the west is the handsome dining-room, in Italian 
Renaissance, 28 x 37 feet. It contains an arranicement 


of glass-faced cases, supported by rich consoles, that rest 
upon a beautiful wainscot of English oak, of a deep 
golden hue, delicately carved. These cases ai-e filled 
with silver, porcelain, and glass. The elliptical arched 
ceiling is divided into small oblong panels, carved in 
relief, representing fruit and foliage decorated in various 
tints of gold. The spaces at each end of the room, be- 
tween the wainscot and ceiling, and the lai'ge center 
panel of the ceiling, are filled Avith paintings by Lumin- 
als, of Paris, representing hunting-scenes, etc. The fur- 
niture is of English oak, with brass ornaments, and cov- 
ered with stamped leather. 

The great picture-gallery is to the west of the main 
hall, and occupies the entire rear of the building. The 
dimensions are 32 x 48 feet. The ceiling is thirty-five 
feet high, and is chiefly formed of a sky-light in opales- 
cent and tinted glass, leaded in quaint designs. A mon- 
umental mantelpiece of red African marble, Avith cone 
of glass mosaic-work, occupies the western wall. The 
woodwork of the room is black oak, with San Domingo 
mahogany for the caryatides and pilasters. The floor is 
inlaid M'ith the same mahogany, and bordered with a 
mosaic of Sienna and black marble in the Pompeiian 
style. The walls above the wainscoting are covered 
with a dark-red tapestry, to set off the pictures. Over 
the doors on the north, east, and south sides are balconies 
connecting with the second story of the liouse. The gal- 
lery has a separate entrance from Fifty-first Street, and 
the vestibule is entirely — floor, walls and ceiling — of 
marble mosaic-work made in Venice. North of the gal- 
lery is the aquarelle room. This is finished in Circas- 
sian walnut, Moorish style, touched hei'e and there with 


hi-iglit colors. The conservatory opens into the gallery 
from the west. 

After ascending the staircase, witli its bronze banis- 
ters, to the first landing, the room in the northeast 
corner of the honse is the family parlor. It is finished 
in ebony, inlaid with ivory. The walls are covered with 
a dark-blue silk brocade, and the ceiling is divided in 
small panels, with paintings of children at play. 

The next room on Fifth Avenue is Mrs. Vanderbilt's 
bedroom, furnished by Alard, of Paris. The walls are 
of white marble, hung with silk, and the ceiling is cov- 
ered with the painting, '• Awakening of Aurora,'' by 
Lefebvre. The frieze is of rosewood and mahogany. 
The room is twenty-six feet square. 

Mr. Yanderbilt's ix)om, adjoining, is the one in which 
he died. A large Turkish rug covers the polished oak 
fioor, in the center of the room, and richly embroidered 
hangings of golden-brown are draped from the windows 
and doors of the apartment. The furniture is of polished 
ebony, artistically inlaid with satin-wood, and from the 
canopy of the bed hang heavy silken curtains. Carefully 
selected paintings fi'om the brushes of master hands 
grace the paneled walls at iiitei-vals. 

Adjoining the bedroom is a dressing-room. This is 
wainscoted eight feet high in glass opalescent tiles of 
blue, gold, and silver tints, and gilded on the backs. 
Tiie bath-tubs and basins are of mahogany and silver, 
and are concealed by sliding plate-glass mirrors. A 
well appointed dressing-table and a luxurious barber's 
chair, comprise the furniture of this room. 

The large room on Fifty-first Street is a library, fitted 
up in mahogany and stamped leather. The bedroom 


intended for Miss Lelia, now Mrs. Webb, is fitted witli 
rosewood, inlaid with inother-of-pearl. The mirrors 
are painted with an imitation of lacework through which 
peep children's heads. 

Mr. Vanderbilthad expressed the hope that he would 
be able to live in his palace ten years, but when five 
years had barely elapsed he was bui'ied from its spa- 
cious vestibule. 



Modern French Art — Best Collection in the World — A Good Invest- 
ment — Mr. Vanderbilt's Tastes and Fancies — His Visits to Ar- 
tists—Abuse of Hospitality. 

One of the most enduring monuments of William H. 
Vanderbilt is the collection of art treasures which he 
made. The value of these pictures is estimated at a mill- 
ion and a half of dollars, and it is known to be the most 
complete collection of works in the world representing 
the best modern artists of France. The canvases number 
a little over two hundred, and many are the best ex- 
amples of the masters who painted them. They were 
not purchased as a commercial speculation, although the 
money is well invested, since they constantly increase in 
value with age, and especially after the death of the ar- 
tists, for Mr. Vanderbilt included a provision in his will 
which should forever continue the gallery and the house 
in the possession of some male descendant of his bearing 
the name of Vanderbilt. 

j\Ir. Vanderbilt had learned to enjoy and appreciate 
works of art long before lie was able to purchase the 
best. Even when he went to Eui'ope with his father in 
the memorable North Star excursion, he brought 
back with him for his farm-house on Staten Island a 


couple of small but good Italian paintings. Later in 
life, after lie had become associated with the Commo- 
dore in business, and was living on Fifth Avenue, he 
was fond of going down to the Tenth Street Studio 
Building, in ]^ew York, and purchasing works by such 
well-known American artists as Samuel Coleman, James 
Hart, J. F. Cropsey, J. Brown, Tait, Beard and Guy. 
He was especially fond of Mr. Guy, and finally gave him 
an order for a large picture representing the interior of 
his residence at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fortieth 
Street, with himself surrounded by his family. At 
the request of Mr. Guy be allowed this picture to be ex- 
hibited at the JSTational Academy. There it was seen 
by a horde of irresponsible newspaper critics, who per- 
mitted themselves to write many things which were per- 
sonal to Mr. Vanderbilt and his family, and which 
proved very annoying. Some critics foiget to be judi- 
cial regarding the work under review, when they happen 
to know the artist or author. After this experience Mr. 
Vanderbilt said he would never loan another picture for 
public view, and he never did. 

Mr. Vanderbilt did not continue to make a collection 
of American pictures after he had come into possession 
of his fortune, since he was able to buy the best and 
most costly in the world. He decided, at the outset, to 
procure nothing that was not important. Many of his 
line pictures were painted to order. He visited Paris 
frequently, became acquainted with the artists, and took 
a personal interest in them. When he gave a commis- 
sion, it was not unusual for him to offer a higher price 
than was proposed, telling the artists at the same time 
that he wanted them to do the best thev could. He 


often made the artists presents in addition to the stipu- 
lated price. In 18TS he had four pictures painted to 
order by Meissonier, Geroine, Detaille, and Rosa Bon- 
lieur. These are, in the order of tlie artists named 
above, ''An Artist and his Wife," 18 x 15 inches ; " Re- 
ception of the Prince of Conde by Louis XIA^." ; 
" Tlie Arrest of an Ambulance, Eastern Part of France, 
January, 1871," 46x32 inches; and "A Flock of 

In 1879 the following pictures were painted to order 
for him, " Down by the River," by Alma-Tadenia, of Lon- 
don, a work 32x68 inches; "The Portrait," by Louis 
Leloir; "A Fete During the Carnival," by Madrazo ; 
" Ready for the Hunt," by Rosa Bonheur, and " Ready 
for the Fancy Ball," a water-color by Alfred Stevejis. 
In 1880 Meissonier's poi-trait of Mr. Vanderbilt was 
added to the collection ; Antoine Seitz, of Munich, added 
" Homeless," and Detaille and Vibert contributed two 
water-colors. In 1881 new pictures were painted to 
order by Professor Ivnaus, of the Berlin Academy, and 
Defregger, of Munich. In 1882 Jules Lefevre, of Paris, 
painted his great picture, " Attiring the Bride," a can- 
vas 69 X 9-1 inches. 

Mr. Vanderbilt, like most other men of decided 
character, liked to do things in his own way. He was 
not niggardly in his dealings with artists, acting toward 
them with the same generosity and lavishness he always 
showed in the building and furnishing of his house. 
But he had an independent judgment of his own, and, 
regardless of the reputation of the artist, he would not 
buy a work which he did not like and comprehend. If 
his attention was called to a certain picture, he was apt 


to reply, " It may be very fine, but until I can appre- 
ciate its beauty I shall not buy it." For many years Mr. 
Vanderbilt would not buy a Corot, since he did not see 
the beauty of his work, but in the end he purchased two 
small examples, because, he said, he was tired of being 
told that he must have a Corot ! lie liked pictures 
which told a story, with either strong or cheerful sub- 
jects, such as appeal to the imagination of the ordinary 
individual, and of these the bulk of his gallery is com- 
posed. In this he seems to have had the spirit of the 
Greek artists of two thousand years ago, the chief char- 
acteristic of whose work was simplicity. According to 
Professor Waldstein, of Cambridge, England, "Their 
works were meant to be gazed upon, and not to be the 
subject of learned commentaries ; they were intelligible 
to the people, appealed to their senses, their feelings, 
without the need of a verbal explanation." 

He had no affectation regarding the fine arts, or any- 
thing else, but was frank and simple in his manners and 
conversation. He would not purchase a picture of a 
nude subject, and he had a natural delicacy which made 
him dislike anything bordering on the doubtful or pru- 
rient, hence there are no such pictures in his gallery. 
He was fond of brilliant historical pictures, and obtained 
many of them. Mr. Vanderbilt may have intended, as 
lias been asserted in some quarters, to use his collection 
for the public good, and especially for the benefit of 
American artists, but since no such arrangement is con- 
templated by his will it would be profitless to discuss 
Avliat he might have done. Soon after taking posses- 
sion of his house in 1882, he gave several large recep- 
tions to his gentlemen friends, who were invited to 


inspect the picture-gallery. And on a few occasions he 
opened his gallery to those who iuid been invited by 

An anecdote is related of Mr. Tanderbilt, while in 
Paris, which shows that he Avas always guided by com- 
mon-sense. A Frencli nobleman wrote to him that he 
had many articles of re/iu which he wished to sell, such 
as Louis XA^I. f urnitui'e, Sevres china, Marie Antoinette 
tables, etc. Mr. Vanderbilt went to the house and saw 
the nobleman and his articles of verta. "When he re- 
turned, he said, 

'• There are those who are supposed to know all about 
tliese things and their intrinsic value, and of the associa- 
tions connected with them. AVell, I do not know all 
that, and I am too old to learn. If I should buy these 
things and take them to Xew York and tell my friends 
this belonged to Louis XYL or to Mme. Pompadour, 
and should relate all the other things which make them 
valuable, I should be taking them from a field where 
they are appreciated to a place where they would not 
be. Perhaps I should know less about them than any 
one else. It would be mere affectation for me to buy 
such things." 

During his visits to Paris Mr. Yanderbilt became 
acquainted with many of the foremost French artists, 
among others Meissonier, whom he liked well, and of 
whom he purchased altogether seven pictures, at a total 
cost of $188,000. The artist, in turn, appeared to like his 
great pati-on, and the two got on well together. One day 
in 18S0 Mr. Yanderbilt requested Meissonier to paint 
his portrait. " I do not often paint portraits," was the 
reply, " but I will paint one for you." 


While sitting for this, Mr. Yanderbilt asked the artist 
which picture he considered to be the finest he had ever 
painted. " The Information — General Desaix and the 
Captnred Feasant," was the reply. 

" Where is it ? " asked Mr. Vanderbilt. 

" I have not seen it since 1867, when I painted it," 
said the artist sadly. " It is in Dresden, and belongs to 
the collection of Mr. Meyer, It is lost to Fi-ance," he 
added, as if he felt sore that such a fine work should 
be owned by a German. 

Immediately, without letting the artist into the se- 
cret, Mr. Yanderbilt requested his agent to ascertain 
from the owner the pi-ice for which he would sell the 

" Fifty thousand dollars," came in repl3\ 

" Get it," was the answer, and he drew a check upon 
his banker for the full amount. Mr. Meyer objected to 
the check, and wanted the cash, so the next day Mr. 
Vanderbilt went to the bank and drew the money, and 
in a few days the picture was delivered in Paris. Then 
he prepared a surprise for the artist. He had the pict- 
ure placed on an easel in a room adjoining Meissonier's 
studio, and at the close of one of his sittings for the 
porti'ait, said, 

" Meissonier, I want your judgment on a picture I 
have just purchased." 

" Certainly, with pleasure," was the reply. " Where 
is it ? " 

" In the next room," said Mr. Vanderbilt. 

So they went into the room', and Mr. Vanderbilt's 
attendant uncovered the picture, and behold ! it was 
Meissonier's masterpiece. The effect was electric. The 


artist threw up liis arms, uttered exclamations of delight, 
got down on his knees before the canvas, sent for his 
wife, and danced abont as only a mad French artist can. 
Mr. Vanderbilt heartily enjoyed the little comedy, and 
in due time had the picture sent to Xew York. 

For Meissonier's picture, " The Arrival at the Cha- 
teau," Mr. Vanderbilt paid 8-10,000. He made very 
liberal offers to Mr. Delahaute, of Paris, for Meissonier''s 
" 1814,'' representing Xapoleon with his marshals, all on 
horseback, at the liead of his army, plodding on through 
a deep snow, but that gentleman declined to part with his 

Mr. Vanderbilt bought his own pictures, as every- 
thing else. Two or three middlemen, known as " deal- 
ers," tried to enhance their reputation and increase 
their business by allowing it to be understood that they 
were doing his buying for liim ; but this was a mistake. 
He knew what he was about, and employed them as sel- 
dom as possible. In their stead, he called to his sym- 
pathetic assistance several friendly connoisseurs in art, 
who helped him gratuitously and impartially. He be- 
gan to buy pictures quite early in life, before he could 
well afford to do so, which shows that he had a natural 
love for art, as he had for horses. A little picture 
which Mrs. Vanderbilt prizes more than any of the rest 
is a souvenir which her husband gave her moi"e than 
thirty years ago, and which cost in the neighborhood of 
ninety dollars. One day, when the pictures were being 
rearranged in his new house, he pointed out this one to 
his son George, who remarked : "I suppose, father, you 
would not take $800 for that now." " Xo, nor 88,000, 
or even 880,000," he replied. 


He had learned to ]ove it, and it had given him and 
his wife an innnense anionnt of enjoyment wlien they 
lived in the seclusion and retirement of the Kew Dorp 
farm. It was this same life on a farm which enabled 
him to have some sort of judgment regarding at least 
two of the valuable pictures he bought ; and even when 
in Paris, at the Palais Royal, or in the studios of the 
most famous artists, he did not hesitate, if occasion de- 
manded, to acknowledge with frankness and simplicity 
liis former humble life. He once made a visit to Bouch- 
eron, a famous French picture-dealer, to see a work by 
Troyon, which was for sale. The subject is a yoke of 
oxen turning to leave the field after being taken from 
the plow. While connoisseurs spoke highly of the woi'k 
they were inclined to take exceptions to the action of 
the cattle, thinking it forced and unnatural. 

" Well,'' said Mr. Yanderbilt, " 1 don't know as much 
about the quality of the picture as I do about the truth 
of the action of the cattle. I have seen them act like 
that thousands of times." So, too, when he bought the 
"Sower,"' by that celebrated artist, J. F. Millet, the 
thing that pleased him the most was the fidelity to nat- 
ure of the attitude and action of the man in the field, 
flinging broadcast the seed. 

Once, while in France, Mr. Yanderbilt Avent out to 
Fontainebleau, to visit Posa Ponheur. He arrived 
eai'ly in the morning, and took breakfast with her. The 
artist and the American millionaire seemed at once to 
feel in sympathy, although their conversation was car- 
ried on through an interpreter, for he could not speak 
French, and she was unable to converse in English. 
He gave her a connnission for two pictures, when she 


replied that lie could only have one in a year, and the 
other in two or three years, perhaps. 

"Tell her," said he, "I must have them. I'm get- 
ting to be an old man, and want to enjoy them." 

With a woman's ready wit she laughed at him for 
calling himself old, for she had discovered that they 
wei'e both of the same age ? The result was that Eosa 
Bonheur painted both pictures within the year, 

Mr. Vanderbilt always sought for the best pictures 
money could buy. Once, when visiting the collection 
of M. Barbedienne, in Paris, Mdio did the bronze- work 
for his house, he saw the large and beautiful " Autumn 
Sunset," by Dupre, which he persuaded the owner to 
part with, although he had made his will, which left all 
his pictures to the Louvre. M. Barbedienne sold the 
woi"k to Mr. Yanderbilt, and is said to have regretted it 
ever since. 

Upon another occasion, in ISSO, he visited in London a 
collection, and there saw the original picture of Gerome's 
" Sword Dance." He purchased it at once, and sold a 
less impoi-tant picture with the same subject, by the 
same artist, which he owned. The collection finished, 
and the gallery filled, he took great pride in the fact 
that it contained so many fine examples. 

" If I were to begin to buy to-day," he frequently re- 
marked, " I could not within a few years gather such a 
collection if I were to spend all my fortune." He was 
once asked by a famous sculptor of New York which of 
his pictures he liked the best. 

" I enjoy them all," was the reply. 

The only private collections in America which can at 
all rank with the Yanderbilt, are the Stewart and Bel- 


mont in Xew York, and the Walter in Baltimore. There 
are no liner private collections of modern works in Eu- 
rope. Those of-Defoer Bey and M. Secretan in Paris, 
and of Baron Schroecier and Sir Richard Wallace, iu 
London, are the most valuable in Europe. 

Some of the more important works in this unrivaled 
collection are as follows : " Arrival at the Chateau," 
" Information," and the " Ordinance," by Meissonier ; 
" Champigny," and the " Ambulance Corps," by De- 
taille; "The Sower," "Water Carrier," and other ex- 
amples of Millet ; " Fountain of Indolence," by Turner ; 
" After the Chase," by Sir Edwin Landseer ; " Oda- 
lisque," by Sir Frederick Leighton ; " Bourget," by 
De Neuville ; " The Two Families," by Munkacsy ; 
" The Sword Dance," by Gerome ; " A Study from 
Kature," and " Gorges d' Apremont," by Rousseau ; 
" Rainbow," by Jules Breton ; " Picture Gallery," 
" Sculpture Gallery," " The Entrance of the Theatre," 
and "Down by the River," by Alma-Tadema ; "Fete 
During the Carnival," and " Masqueraders," by Madra- 
zo; "Arab Fantasia at Tangiers," by Fortuny ; "The 
Village Fete," by Professor Knaus ; "Midday," by 
Jules Dupi-e ; " The Bride of Lammermoor," by Millais; 
"Arab Plucking a Thorn from his Foot," by Bonnat ; 
" The King's Favorite," by Zamacois ; " A Dream of 
the Arabian Nights," and " Christening," by Yillegas ; 
" Blindman's Buff," the " Bathers," and an oriental scene, 
by Diaz ; three cattle pieces by Troyon ; a line river 
view by Daubigny ; " The Good Sister," by Bouguer- 
eau ; " Forbidden Books," by Vibert ; "Game of Chess," 
by Leloir ; a cattle piece by Van Marcke ; " A Hunting 
Scene," and other works, by Rosa Bonheur ; line pict- 


ures by such artists as Clays, Ziem, Fromentin, Edouard 
Frere, Schreyer, llamoii, Williams ; a fine example of 
Thomas Faed ; a figure piece by Boldini ; Leopold Mnl- 
ler's " Oriental Market Place," two lovely fan designs 
in water-colors, by Jaequemart ; a sepia by Rosa Bon- 
lieur ; " Twilight in Scotland," by Gustave Dorc ; " The 
Young Mother," by Bcranger ; " The Reaper's Return 
Home," by Becker; "Paying the Rent," by Erskine 
Kicol ; " Rubens in His Studio," b\' Sir John Gilbert ; 
" The Monai'ch Oak," by Linnell ; '* Returning from the 
Fair," by Bochmann ; the "Hungarian Volunteers," by 
Pottenkoffen, and a picture by Gerome called " Recep- 
tion of the Prince of Condo by Louis XIY." A descrip- 
tion of it was given by the artist to Mr. Yanderbilt. 
" The reception takes place," says the artist, " on the 
grand staircase at Versailles. This staircase no longer 
exists. It was destroyed under Louis XV., but there 
remains an engraving of it, very well executed, whicli 
has enabled me to reconstruct it w4th truth. In the 
year 1074 Conde had returned to court, where lie was 
received with triumph. The King came forward to 
meet him on the grand staircase, which was not his usual 
habit. The Prince was going up slowly, on account of 
the gout, which made him almost helpless. As soon as 
he saw the monarch, 'Sire,- said he, 'I beg your Maj- 
esty's pardon, to make you wait so long.' 'My cousin,' 
answered the King, ' do not hurry. When one is loaded 
with laurels as you are it is difficult to walk quickly.' 
By the side of Louis XIV. stands his son, the Duke of 
Burgundy, M'hom they called the Great Dauphin, at that 
time thirteen years old. Behind him is his perceptor, 
Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux." 


For two winters Mr, Yanderbilt endeavored to sliai-e 
liis treasures with the public of New York, lie opened 
liis gallei'j to the inspection of lovers of art during cer- 
tain days of each w^eek, and was very generous in re- 
sponding to requests for cards ; but some of the more 
vulgar and intrusive of his visitors insisted on helping 
themselves to flowers from the conservatory, and in- 
specting the private rooms of the mansion on other 
floors, and this annoyance became at last so pronounced 
that cards were granted only on satisfactory identifica- 
tion. During the last year access to the gallery was 
very difficult. 



Captain "Jake" — His Wealth and Habits — His Children — The Sis- 
ters of William H. — His Widow and Children — Their Homes and , 

Captain Jacob Vandeebilt more nearly resembled tlie 
Commodore than any of bis other brothers or sisters. 
Like him, he was a sea-captain, and for j'ears commanded 
some of the largest and best-known steamboats on the 
Sound. He was Captain of the ill-fated Atlantic, 
which was lost on Fisher's Island some forty years ago, 
and had he not been detained in Stonington by a matter 
of business would have had charge of her on the night 
on which she was wrecked. Having amassed a comfort- 
able fortune, he virtuallj^ retired as a captain about 1857, 
and then turned his attention to the affairs of the Staten 
Island Railroad and Ferry Companj^ in which his 
brother had been more or less interested, and which he, 
representing his brother, with some other prominent 
gentlemen, purchased of George Law. Building a hand- 
some house on Grimes' Hill, Staten Island, he has re- 
sided there ever since, and has been President of the 
Staten Island Railroad Company almost uninterruptedly 
from 1863, when AVilliam H. retired, until Mr. Erastus 
Wiman obtained control of the corporation in 1883. 


Captain Vandei-bilt is now about seventy-seven years of 
age, is spare and of medium height, with gray whiskers, 
and keen, piercing eyes, having all the featui-es of liis 
brother. During the " flush " years of the war he 
made considerable money in Wall Sti-eet, but has never 
speculated on any large scale, and has been content to 
live modestly and quietly in his Staten Island home. 
He is probabl}' worth about seven hundred thousand dol- 

His absorbing and almost sole amusement is driving, 
and he has owned some famous trotters in his day, one 
pair, a gift from the Commodore, standing at the head 
of the 2.20 class for several years. There was nothing 
the old Commodore loved better than to pass his brother 
the Captain, on the road, and the rivalry between the 
two was very great. Many Staten Islanders reinember 
vividly the days on tlie old race-track at New Dorp, 
when the Commodore and the Captain would speed their 
fleet steeds around the course, and the excitement that 
these brushes occasioned. 

The Captain himself tells a story of how one day 
while he was flying behind his fleet steeds along a nar- 
row Staten Island road he heard the sound of wheels 
and the regular hoof-beats of a pair of trotters behind 
him. Faster and faster did his horses go, but nearer 
and nearer did his pursuer approacii. At length there 
appeai'ed in the near distance a bridge with only room 
enough for one team to pass at a time. With true horse- 
man instinct, not looking round, he felt that he had now 
the advantage of his opponent ; but success was not to 
be, for just as he entered upon the bridge two horses 
and a driver dashed past him, taking off both wheels of 


liis buggy, and the familiar form of the Commodore 
was discerned guiding the reckless steeds. As he dashed 
aliead, he turned slightly and remarked, " You mustn't 
try to beat your brother, Jake," 

Captain Yanderbilt married a Miss Banta,an estimable 
woman, who died some six years ago. lie was exceedingly 
happy in his domestic relations. His children have all 
received a thorough education, his two daughters being 
accomplished musicians. The eldest. Miss Ellen Yander- 
bilt, married Captain Sparrow Purdy, from whom she was 
divorced in about three years, and who afterward died 
in Egypt in the service of the Khedive, after having 
proved himself a gallant officer. She married for her 
second husband a Mr. Herman Csesar, who also died 
about four 3'ears ago, leaving her a widow with three 
children. She now resides at Xew Brighton, Stateu 
Island, and is very much esteemed and liked by her 
cousin's family. 

His second daughter, Miss Clara Yanderbilt, married 
Mr. James McXamee, of the firm of AYork, Davies & 
McXamee, which has figured so largely in the Grant 
& AYard case. With her husband, who is an able 
lawyer and a leading politician on Staten Island, she re- 
sides in a handsome house on the summit of Grimes' 
Hill, about half a mile from that of her father. Jacob 
H. Yanderbilt, Jr., the Captain's youngest child, is now 
about thirty-two years old and a widower, his wife, 
Annie Hazard, having died three years ago, leaving two 
children. Mr. Yanderbilt and his children reside with 
the Captain. 

Miss Phebe Yanderbilt, the last-surviving sister of 

the Commodore, died a vear a^o as^ed seventv-five. 

8* ' 


Slie never married, and her sweetness of character 
and disposition made her greatly heloved by all who 
knew her. She was the favorite sister of both Comino- 
doi-e and Captain Yanderbilt, and was widely known in 
her later years as " Annt Phebe." She was well pro- 
vided for in the Commodore's will, and W. H. Vander- 
bilt also left her a legacy in his, which in consequence 
of her death reverts to the estate. Miss Yanderbilt 
lived for many years on Staten Island, but for the ten 
yeai's preceding her death she made lier home in New 
York witli her niece, Mrs. Head. The other sisters 
of the Commodore were Mrs. Barton and Mrs. De For- 
est, both of whom left large families of children, Avho 
have all been remembered in the famous will. 

The sisters of Mr, AVilliam IT. Yanderbilt who are 
still living are, Mrs. Torrance, Mrs. W. Tv. Thorn, Mrs. 
D. B. Allen, Mrs. LaBau, now Mrs. Berger, and Mrs. 
Osgood. Mrs. Cross, Mrs. Lafitte, who first married Mr. 
Smith Barker, and Mrs. Robert Isivens, who first mar- 
ried Mr. Horace Clark, are dead. The daughters of the 
Commodore were all women of fine physique and re- 
niai'kable strength and force of charactei". Mrs. Allen, 
who has a leading social position in Xew York, is an ex- 
ceedingly handsome M-oman, Avith fine form and features 
and beautiful gray hair. Her expression strongly resem- 
bles that of the Commodore. Mrs. Torrance is also a 
striking and attractive woman. Two of her sons are 
prominent in Parisian society, and one married Miss An- 
thony, who was soon divorced from him, and married Mr. 
Frederick Yanderbilt, her cousin. Her daughter mar- 
ried Mr. Meredith. Howland, a member of the old New 
York family of that name. Mrs. AY. K. Thorn is very 


well known in Afurrav Hill society. Her eldest (laughter 
married first Mr. King, and on his death, Mr. Daniel 
Parrish. Mrs. Parrish's daughter, Miss King, -was re- 
cently married to Mr. Alexander Baring, son of a mem- 
ber of the celebrated banking firm of Baring Brothers. 
Mrs. Thorn's second daughter. Miss Lena Thorn, was for 
some years a great belle in New York society, and re- 
cently married Mr. Gustave Kissell. 

Mr. Vanderbilt's third sister, Mrs. Osgood, is widow 
of the millionaire yachtsman George Osgood, wdio was 
the owner of the famous yacht Fleet wing. Mrs. La- 
Bau, Mr. Vanderbilt's fourth sister, who at the death 
of her first husband married a Mr. Berger, has three 
daughters, and is now living abroad. She is well remem- 
bered from her contest of her father's will. Mrs. La- 
fitte left a daugliter who died unmarried. Her second 
husband is also dead. The death abroad of Mr. Robert 
iS'iven, who was the second Imsband of Mrs. Horace 
Clark, the fifth daughter of the Commodore, was 
announced a few weeks ago. Mrs. Clark had a daughter 
by her fii'st husband who married Mr. Clarence Collins, 
from whom she was soon divorced. She afterward 
married an Englishman, and is now living in England. 
An invalid sister died unmarried on Staten Island a few 
years since. 

These five sisters of Mr. AYilliam H. Vanderbilt are 
all of them wealthy in their own right, while some of 
them married exceedingly rich men. Mrs. Allen, Mrs. 
Torrance, Mrs. Thorn, and Mrs. Osgood are probaijly 
the richest, Mrs. Osgood having been left a foi'tnne by her 
late husband of some two or three millions. 

But it is with the immediate family of Mr. Yander- 


bilt himself that tins volume has most to do. So fre- 
quently are their names mentioned in the public press, 
so prominent have they become by reason of the great 
wealth that is now theirs, and so greatly will their lives, 
their personality, and their daily doings continue to be 
of public interest, that some description of their personal 
appearance and cliaracteristics may serve to dispel many 
confused ideas regarding them. 

Mrs. William H. Yanderbilt is rather slight of figure 
and of medium height, has dark hair, hardly as yet 
tinged with gray, dark hazel eyes, and a very sweet and 
refined expression. Exceedingly simple in her mode of 
life she rises early, devotes several hours to her household 
duties, and afterward visits some of her grandchildren 
or has them brought to see lier. She generally drives in 
the Park in the afternoon, accompanied by one of her 
daughters, and after a quiet family dinner and evening 
chat with her friends retires at an early hour. She is 
regular in her attendance at church, and faithful to 
charitable duties. Her name does not appear promi- 
nently in the list of the leading charities, although she 
contributes largely to them in a quiet manner, and gen- 
erally requests that her name should not be mentioned 
with these contributions. Comparatively few persons 
know her intimately, although her circle of formal ac- 
quaintances is necessarily a large one. She is exceed- 
ingly constant to her friends, and has especial affection 
for those of her early married life. She has never cared 
for society : devoted to her children and to her home it 
has been only on account of her daughter, Mrs. Seward 
AVebb, that she has entertained at all during the past 
five years. Since she has had so handsome a home in 

"avoid adventurers." 181 

New York, Mrs. Vanderbilt has never cared to assuine 
the cliarge of a country-house in summer, and with her 
husband has spent the warm months at Sharon Springs 
and Saratoga, returning to the city early in the au- 

Mrs. Yanderbilt has three brothers residing in Brook- 
lyn. They are Benjamin P. Ivissam, who lives at 73 
First Place ; Samuel II. Ivissam, of 240 Carroll Street, 
senior partner of the banking house of Kissam, Whitney 
& Co., 11 Broad Street, Xew York, and Peter R. Kissam, 
of 76 First Place, who is a banker at 19 New Street, 
New York. They are the children of the Eev. Samuel 
Kissam, who died in Brooklyn in 1869. He was a 
minister of the Dutch Peformed Church, and occasion- 
ally preached in Brooklyn, but had no charge. Before 
going to reside in Brooklyn he lived at Cedar Hill, near 
Albany, of which place he was a native, and where he 
preached for about twenty-live years. 

" Our money doesn't make us any better than any- 
body else," is a maxim on which Mr. and Mrs. William 
II. Yanderbilt always insisted. So they did not try to 
dictate to their children in regard to their marriages, 
except to insist that the spouses should be honest and 
decent. They sedulously avoided those preposterous 
misalliances which are often made in our wealthy fami- 
lies. They kept foreign noblemen at arms-length. 
"Avoid all pretenders and people who put on airs," Mr. 
Yanderbilt used to say to his children. " Avoid ad- 
venturers and humbugs of e\ery sort. Don't be fooled 
by appearances. We have money enough for ourselves 
and for the husbands and wives you will marry, but we 
haven't respectability enough, for no family has any 


to lend." So all the children seem to have married 

The New York World &a.y&: "The most interesting 
feature of the democratic side of Mr. Vanderbilt's char- 
acter, however, is illustrated in the marriage of his 
children. His sons all have honest American Mdves ; 
his daughters all have plain, unpretending American 
husbands. There has been no attempt on either side to 
connect titles with the family name by means of a 
wedding-ring. Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt have not fol- 
lowed the example of the American aristocracy of wealth, 
and put their daughters up at auction to be bid for by 
seedy and needy European titles. Their boys and girls 
have fallen in love and been married like the boys and 
girls of any honest American mechanic. For this both 
father and mother are entitled to credit." 

Cornelius Vanderbilt, the eldest son, the present head 
of the house, to whom his father left a fortune of $G2,- 
000,000, is now forty years* of age. lie is of medium 
height, M'ell-built, with an open, frank countenance, 
framed by dark whiskers, and has a clear, rosy complex- 
ion. Ilis hair is brown and he has the steely gray eyes 
of the Commodore. He received a very thorough edu- 
cation from tutors and at private schools, and his habits 
of life have alwa^'S been most correct. He is greatly 
interested in charitable matters, and is much liked both 
in business and society. He married about twelve years 
ago Miss Alice Gwinn, of Cincinnati, and they have four 
children, three sons and a daughter, of whom the eldest 
son is named Cornelius, and was left a special bequest of 
$2,000,000 by his grandfather. Mr. Vanderbilt resides 
in a beautiful house on the northwest corner of Fifth 


Avemie and Fifty-seventh Street, the interior decorations 
and furnishings of whicli surpass in some ways even those 
of his father's palace further down the avenue. Mrs. 
Cornelius Yanderhilt is very petite, with a rather pretty 
face, not exactly handsome, whose chief charm is a most 
gracious and winning smile. She is thoroughly domestic 
in her tastes, and while not averse to society does not 
care mucli for it. Her manners ^re simple and unaf- 
fected, and she possesses much quiet dignity, and is an 
affectionate, devoted, and loyal wife. Some of her cos- 
tames show remarkable taste and have been greatly ad- 
mired. j\Ii'. Yanderbilt's summer home for some sea- 
sons past has been at Xewport, and his recent purchase 
thereof Mr. Pierre Lorillard's magnificent countrj' -seat, 
'' The Breakers,'' will probably insure the permanent 
location of himself and family there during the warm 

William Kissam Vanderbilt, the second son of the 
late millionaire, is about thirty-six years of age, stoutly- 
built and inclined to corpulency. His face is an open, 
full one, framed in English whiskers, and his complexion 
is ruddy and high-colored. He is what would be called 
a handsome man, and his figure was, until the last f^v 
years, a decidedly athletic one. He is fond of horses, 
although not so much as his fatlier, or the late Commo- 
dore. He may often be seen driving a fleet pair of 
roadsters on the macadamized avenues that surround his 
country-place at Islip, and he indulges in yachting at 
times. As a man he is less popular with his fellows 
and associates than any of his brothers. He is of a 
somewhat morose disposition, but his wife thoroughly 
understands him, and he is greatly dependent upon her 


strong character and will-power. In 1875 lie was mar- 
ried to Miss Alva Smith, a daughter of Mr. Smith, a 
wealthy merchant of Savannah, and later of Xew York 
City. Somewhat grave and reserved in temperament, 
and consequently not particularly fond of society, Mr. 
Vanderbilt has been induced to go out more or less by 
his wife, who is an accomplished woman of the world, 
and devoted to gayet_f. Mr. and Mrs, Yanderbilt reside 
in winter in a white marble house, built in the style of 
an old French chateau, at the northwest corner of Fifth 
Avenue and Fifty-second Street, while in the summer 
they occupy a beautiful country-house near Islip, L. I. 
They have three children, w^ho are all still quite young. 
Mrs. Vanderbilt, with her sisters. Miss Amide, Miss 
Jennie (now Mrs. Fernando Yznaga), and Miss Mimi 
Smith, are all well known in New Y'ork society. Mrs. 
Vanderbilt is tall and slight, and is neither a blonde 
nor a brunette, while her hair, although she is a young 
woman, is tinged with gray. Her conversational pow- 
ers are rather remarkable. She is quick at repartee, 
witty, and somewhat sarcastic, and this has made her 
much admired and to some extent feared in society. 
Iler intimacy with Lady Mandeville, formerly Miss 
Consuela Yznaga, has been of long standing. 

Mr. Frederick W. Vanderbilt, the third son, now 
about twenty-seven years of age, is of medium height, 
lias a somewhat spare figure, with slightly reddish hair 
and small mustache, and rather sallow complexion. lie 
is passionately devoted to yachting, and finds his chief 
pleasure in outdoor sports, caring little or nothing for 
society. His fine steam yacht, Vidette, is one of the 
fleetest and most elegant in every appointment in the 


flotilla of the American Yacht Cluh. He is considered 
by his associates a thoroughly good fellow, entirely de- 
void of any snobbishness or nonsense. His business 
habits are good, and he is looked upon as an able and 
safe financier. His office is in the Grand Central Depot, 
and he has cliarge of the interests of the Kickel Plate 
Road. Very popular among his employes, he is gen- 
erally known as Mr. Fred. 

His marriage was something of a romance. In the 
early part of this chapter mention has been made among 
the sisters of William II. Yanderbilt of Mrs. Torrance, 
and it was stated that one of her sons married a Miss 
Anthony, of Rhode Island, a relative of the late Senator 
Anthony. She lived with him but six months, and then 
obtained a divorce on the grounds of desertion. Mr. 
Frederick Vanderbilt immediately became an ardent 
suitor for her hand, and a year afterward married her, 
greatly against the wishes of his father and mother, who 
were not reconciled to the match for some time. The 
young couple lived for months after their marriage in an 
apartment house at Park Aveiuie and Fortieth Street, 
but on the completion of the Yanderbilt palaces, Mr. 
Vanderbilt, Sr,, who had meanwliile become not only rec- 
onciled but devoted to his daughter-in-law, presented 
the young couple with his old house at Fifth Avenue 
and Fortieth Street. Mrs. Vanderbilt is herself fond of 
society, and last winter entertained considerably, giving 
several handsome receptions ; but her husband's aversion 
to the gay world keeps her at home a great deal. 

The youngest and only unmarried son is George W., 
now about twenty-three years of age. Pie is undersized, 
of rather frail physique, and somewhat thin and pale, but 


he is not in as delicate health as his appearance would 
indicate. The student and litteratenr of the family, he 
spends much of his time with his books, and delights in 
delving among must}' tomes in old second-hand book- 
stores. Pie has a large and complete library of his own 
on the second floor of the Fifth Avenue palace, and by 
his father's death becomes virtually the manager and 
head of this house. He takes great pride and delight 
in the art gallery, and is thoroughly acquainted with the 
history of the paintings and the distinguishing character- 
istics of the artists. Devoted to music, he is an al- 
most nightly attendant at the opera. The child of his 
father's mature age, he was always his favorite and con- 
stant companion, entering into all his plans, and sharing 
all his hopes and fears. It is understood that his father 
had very ambitious views for him in a litei-ary way, as 
some writings of his evinced much promise. Shortly 
before his father's death he was given almost all the 
Staten Island family propert}-, and Staten Islanders 
look to him M'ith hope as a future and liberal patron. 
George Vanderbilt is by no means an avaricious man, 
and does much good in an unostentatious Nvay. The 
$1,000,000 that the old Connnodore left him was 
doubled by his father and presented to him on his 
twenty-first birthday. The portrait we present was 
taken five years ago, but he has an aversion for the 
photographer, and declines to have any more taken. 

The daughters of Mr. Vanderbilt are Mrs. Elliott F, 
Shepard, formerly Miss Margaret Vanderbilt ; Mrs. 
William D. Sloane, formerly Miss Emily Vanderbilt ; 
Mrs. II. McKay Twombly, formerly Miss Florence 
Vanderbilt, and Mrs. Dr. Seward Webb, formerly Miss 


Eliza Yanderbilt. Mrs. Sliepard is the eldest of the 
daughters, and was in Europe with her husband and 
children at the time of her father's death. She is tall 
and dark, and while not handsome has a very agreeable 
face. Her family consists of three daughters and one 
son, of whom the eldest is now about fifteen years of 
age. These children have been admirably educated, and 
liave been brought up in princely style, having tutors 
and governesses by the dozen. While in Europe they 
travelled with as much ceremony and privacy as would a 
royal family, and never dined at the table d'hote in any 
hotel. Mrs. Shepard is a thorough Yanderbilt in her 
domestic tastes, and rarely goes into society, except to 
dinners, where her husband's professional position makes 
attendance necessary. 

Tlie second daughter, Miss Emily Yanderbilt, to 
M'hom Mr. Yanderbilt left the upper one of the two 
Fifth x\ venue palaces, married about fourteen years ago 
Mr. William D. Sloane, one of the members of the large 
carpet firm. She has a family of .several young children, 
to whom she is greatly devoted. In appearance she is 
tall and frail-lookino- with lio-ht hair, auburn in tingle. 
Mrs. Sloane's chief diversion is the opera. As this 
book goes into type Mr. and Mrs. Sloane offer to build 
and endow a Maternity Hospital in connection with the 
College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the offer is ac- 
cepted. It will be located between Xinth and Tenth 
Avenues, on Sixtieth Street, and will cost with the en- 
dowment about a quarter of a million dollars. 

The third daughter, Miss Florence Yanderbilt, now 
Mrs. Hamilton McKay Twombly, was married in 1879. 
She is a brunette of medium height, and by many con- 


sidered tlie handsomest of the women of the family. Her 
marriage was a good one, and met with Mr. Yanderbilt's 
warmest approvah Indeed Mr. Twombly was from the 
beginning his favorite son-in-law\ He leaned upon him, 
and relied greatly upon his business judgment and abil- 
ity. Mr. and Mrs. Twombly occupy a house built for 
the latter by lier father at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-fourth 
Street, and its interior decorations and furnishings are 
surpassed only by those in the houses of her brother 
Cornelius and lier father. 

Miss Eliza, or " Lelia" Yanderbilt, as she is familiarly 
known, has been married three years to Dr. Seward 
Webb, a son of the late General James Watson Webb. 
The courtship was a long and romantic one. Mr. Yan- 
derbilt never looked with favor upon it, and it was only 
after the most determined persistence on the part of the 
young people that he consented to it. After their mar- 
riage, following his usual custom, Mr. Yanderbilt aided 
Dr. Webb in every way, and finally persuaded him to 
abandon liis precarious profession and become president 
of the Wagner Sleeping-car Company. The marri- 
age thus far has been a happy one. It is a pi-oof of 
old prejudice, however, that Mr. Yanderbilt's will pro- 
vided that Mrs. Webb should not obtain control of 
the $10,000,000 left her until she Avas thirty years of 
age. Dr. and Mrs. Webb occupy the house on Fifth 
Avenue next to Mrs. Twombly's. In appearance Mrs. 
Webb is shoi-t and dark, and has a decidedly inter- 
esting and pretty face. She went a good deal into 
society before her marriage, but since that time has led 
rather a quiet life. 

These are the children of the two-hundred-milliou- 

THE millionaire's CHILDREN'. 189 

millionaire, and such are their individual appearances and 
characteristics. As has doubtless been noticed, they are 
all, botli sons and daughters, strongly domestic in their 
tastes. This is all the more strange as they are possessed 
of vast wealth which would so easily enable them to 
shine as society leaders. But perhaps they have found 
out, what many even younger than they are knoM^, that 
there is not on earth a more hollow and profitless and 
tiresome relation in which intelligent human beings can 
mingle than that which is called modern society. They 
are all well-informed, and abreast of the best thought 
and aspiration of the age. The excellent education and 
bringing-up that they have received is well attested by 
the fact that there is not one among them who seems to 
have done anything " oif color," a rare concurrence of 
merit in so large a family in these lively days. They 
are affectionate and devoted to their mother and to each 
other, and constitute in every respect an exemplary 



What is Good Society ? — Our Plutocracy — Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt's 
Great Ball — Preparations — The Guests — The Costumes — The 

There lias always been some sort of aristocracy on 
earth, and never, save in the case of Arthur's mythical 
Round-Table, has it been composed of the most worthy 
people of a community. An ideal aristocracy should 
be a classifying of the noblest, most self-denying, and 
most helpful men, and the most generous and refined 
women, and they would be so modest as to be quite un- 
conscious of their pre-eminence. The aristocracy of the 
old world is mostly composed of families who have at- 
tained their prominence, either recently or remotely, by 
successful pillage; and their coats-of-arnisai"e mei'ely the 
pictures of the castles, banners, and weapons by the skill- 
ful use of which they won their wealth and rank. 

American aristocracy has a different basis. Civiliza- 
tion had taken such deep root when the country was 
founded that brio-andao-e had become unfashionable. 
Even the most gallant pirates were considered disreputa- 
ble ; and Robert Kidd, instead of being given a dukedom, 
as he would liave been in England three centuries ear- 
lier, perished miserably and in disgrace. So in this 


country arisloci'acy lias, bv a tacit nndcrstaiiding, come 
to be founded on money rather tlian on war. Yet it is 
not the making of money, as one would suppose, that is 
considered honorable and meritorious, but the possession 
of money which somebody else made. 

It is chiefly the inheritors of wealth, not tiie accumula- 
tors, who are the artiflcial social leaders. When Corne- 
lius Yanderbilt was born, John Jacob Astor was a 
baker's errand-boy on the corner of Pearl and Frank- 
fort Streets, and he spent most of his time as an itiner- 
ant vender of bread and doughnuts, peddling the baking 
from door to door in a basket, Peter Lorillard had not 
yet built his little snuff-factory on the Bronx, A patii- 
cian, in this country, is any man of good manners and 
out of jail, whose plebeian father made money enough 
for him to live on. 

jSTew York society has become of late years so essen- 
tially a plutocracy, or aristocracy of wealth, that very 
naturally the Yanderbilts, with their enormous posses- 
sions, have come to be looked upon by the world at large 
as leaders of the Metropolitan society world. That they 
could have become so by the least effort on their part 
several years ago admits of not the slightest doubt, and 
that they are not so to-day M'ill be generally received 
with a feeling of incredulity. Yet such is the case. 
With the single exception of Mrs, AYilliam K. Yander- 
bilt, who was a leading society belle befoi'e she married, 
the Yanderbilt women have during the last five years 
been rarely mentioned in connection with the winters' 
leading entertainments, and their names are not found 
as often in the public prints as patronesses of this or 
that ball, I'out or party, as those of Mrs. Astor, Mrs. 


Ijelmont, Mrs. Iselin, Mrs. Scliuvler, and a score of 
others. This is due to the reasons given in the pre- 
ceding chapters. All the daughters of the house as 
well as the sons, and daughters- and sons-in-law, with the 
one exception of Mrs. William K. Yanderbilt, are such 
lovers of home that the gay world has little or no attrac- 
tion for them. 

By the curious custom and tradition by which the 
society world decides that the children of the millionaire 
of 1850 are much further advanced in the social scale 
than the children of the millionaire of 1880, the Astors, 
Belmonts, and other leading families have assumed to 
take precedence of the Yanderbilts. They can do so no 
longer, even according to their own flimsy law of supe- 
riority, as the death of the millionaire father admits his 
children into the ranks of the social leaders of the 
metropolis. Thoroughly qualified and thoroughly com- 
petent to assume this position they are in every way. 
Well educated, with polished manners, and all the refine- 
ment that wealth, luxury, and beautiful and artistic sur- 
roundings can give, their homes palaces, their business 
sway powerful and extensive, they bid fair to place them- 
selves at the head of our untitled social nobility. 

Tlie Yanderbilts obtained their first secure foothold 
in Xew York's leading society by the great fancy-di"ess 
ball given by Mrs. William K. Yanderbilt in her beauti- 
ful house at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street on the 
evening of March 26, 1883, which was an event never be- 
fore equaled in the social annals of the metropolis, and 
one that interested the whole country. It is impossible 
to give here more than a brief outline of this truly mar- 
velous entertainment, which surpassed in splendoi-, iii 




beaut}', in brilliancy, and in Inxnrioiis and lavish expense 
any scene before witnessed in the new world. 

For weeks beforehand the costnmers, milliners, and 
dressmakers, not only of Kew Yoi'k, but of all the larger 
eastern cities, were engaged in preparing the richest 
and most varied of garments for this wonderful enter- 
tainment. Histories, novels, and illustrated books of all 
periods were ransacked by the expectant guests to ob- 
tain either suggestions or models npon which their own 
costumes could be patterned. All else was forgotten in 
society during the forty days of Lenten penitence which 
preceded the event, and the most impi'obable and fantas- 
tic tales and rumors of the forthcoming splendor wei-e 
constantly circulated in the community. Even the daily 
press became affected by the prevailing excitement 
which the ball occasioned in the atmosphere, and as- 
signed their ablest and most skilled reporters for two 
weeks beforehand to the preparation of lists of the cos- 
tumes of the guests and more or less accurate foreshad- 
owings of the event. In fact they devoted more atten- 
tion to it, than they have ever done before or since to 
any purelj' social affair. 

Although Mrs. AV". II. Yanderbilt had already given 
a ball in her own palace which was largely and fashion- 
ably attended, and althougli the names of two or three 
of her daughters and daughters-in-law had already figured 
as patronesses of the distinctive society balls of the met- 
ropolis, two or three of the leaders of Xew York society, 
notably Mrs. William Astor, had never called upon any 
of the ladies of the Yanderbilt family. It Avas Lady 
Mandeville, who with her family had been making Mrs. 
W. K. Yanderbilt a visit of a year, who first suggested 


tlie entertainment to her hostess, and it is largely due to 
her society experience, cleverness, and tact that the ball 
was in every M-ay tlie grandest ever given on this con- 
tinent, and one which fully established the Vanderbilt 
family as social leaders. According to the genei-ally ac- 
cepted story in society, soon after the first announce- 
ment of the ball Miss Carrie Astor, the only unmarried 
daughter of Mrs. William Astor, organized a fancy-dress 
quadrille to be danced at the ball by sevei-al young ladies 
and gentlemen. Mrs. Vanderbilt heard of this, and 
stated in the hearing of some friends that she regretted 
that she could not invite Miss Astor to her ball, as her 
mother had never called upon her. This reached Mrs. 
Aster's ears, and soon afterward she called upon Mrs. 
Vanderbilt and they wei'e invited. Thus did the ball 
break the last barriers down. 

The brilliant scene was well framed in one of the most 
beautiful of New York houses — the reproduction of one 
of those fascinating chateaux of the French renais- 
sance which are the pride of Touraine. Seen, as it was 
on the night of this entertainment, under a blaze of light, 
and kindled into splendor everywhere by masses of 
flowers and a moving throng of varied and magnilicent 
costumes, it was the most fltting fi'ame-work an artist 
could have asked for a succession of pictui-es so hetero- 
2;eneous, so incone-rnous in detail, vet in their ireneral 
effect so dazzling and so attractive. The guests, on arriv- 
ing, found themselves in a grand hall about Go feet long, 
16 feet in height, and 20 feet in width. Under their 
feet was a floor of polished and luminous marble, and 
above them a ceiling richly paneled in oak, while over 
a high wainiscoting of richly carved Caen stone hung 


antique Italian tapestries. Over this liall, to the riglit, 
rose a grand stairway of the finest Caen stone, carved 
Avith superb delicacy and vigor, to the height of fifty 

By eleven o'clock the members of the six organized 
quadrilles assembled in the gymnasium, on the third floor, 
a beautiful apartment, 50 feet in length by 35 feet in 
width. These quadrilles, six in number, comprised in 
all nearly a hundred ladies and gentlemen, and, having 
formed in the gymnasium in order, they mov^ed in a 
glittering processional pageant down the grand stairway 
and through the hall into a room in the front of the 
house fitted and furnished in the style of Francis I., 
25 feet in width by -iO in length, whose Avhole wains- 
cotino; of carved F]-ench walnut M'as brouirht from a 
chateau in France, and whose ceiling was painted by 
Paul Baudry. Thence the pi'ocession swept on into 
the spacious dining-hall, which was converted for a night 
into a ball-room, and the dancing began. 

The first cpuidrille was the " hobby horse," led by 
Mr. J. Y. Parker and Mrs. S. S. Howland, a daughter 
of Mr. August Belmont. The horses took two months 
in construction. They were of life-size, covered M'ith 
genuine hides, and were light enough to be easily and 
comfortably attached to the waists of the wearers. The 
costumes for the men were red hunting-coats, white 
satin vests, yellow satin knee-breeches, and white satin 
stockings. The ladies wore red hunting-coats and white 
satin skirts, elegantly enibroidered. The other quad- 
rilles danced were the " Mother Goose," led by Mr. 
Oliver Xorthcote and Mrs. Lawrence Perkins, in which 
the famous characters of Mother Goose were person- 


ated; the "Opera Bouffe," the " Star," the "Dresden 
China," and the " Go-as-you-please." In the " Star " 
quadrille, which was organized by Mrs. William Astor, 
the ladies were arrayed as twin stars, in yellow, blue, 
and white. The " Dresden China " quadrille, in which 
the dancers personated those dainty porcelain figures of 
the famous pottery, was perhaps the most notable of the 
evening, and even the photographs in costume of those 
who appeared in it are cherished as household treasures 
to-day. The dancers all wore ivory-white satin costumes, 
every appnrtenance of which was pure M'hite ; their hair 
was powdered and dressed high. The gentlemen wore 
the old German court costnme of white satin knee- 
breeches and powdered wigs, while the two crossed 
swords, the mark of the Dresden factory, were embroid- 
ered on all the costumes. 

Among the hundreds of striking and unique costumes 
only a very few can possibly be noted. Mrs.W. K. N^ander- 
bilt herself personated a A^enetian princess, as painted by 
Cabanel. The underskirt of her dress was of white and 
yellow brocade, shading from the deepest orange to the 
lightest canary, M'hile the figures of flowers and leaves 
were ontlined in gold and white and iridescent beads ; 
her white satin train was embroidered magnificently in 
gold, and lined with Roman red. The waist was of blue 
satin covered with gold embroidery, and on her head was 
a Venetian cap covered with magnificent jewels, among 
them a peacock in many-colored gems. 

Lady Mandeville, who received the guests with Mrs. 
Vanderbilt, wore a costume copied from a picture by 
Vandyke of the Princess Marie-Claire Decroy. 

Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt appeared as the Dnke De 


Gnise ; Mr. Conielins Yaiiderbilt as Louis XVI. Mrs. 
Cornelius Yanderbilt went as the Electric Light, in white 
satin trimmed with diamonds, and with a snperb dia- 
mond head-dress. Miss Amide Smith, Mrs. ^'anderbilt's 
sister, came as a peacock, in a dazzling costume of pea- 
cock-blue satin, and Mrs. Seward Webb, Mr. Vander- 
bilt's sister, as a hornet, with a brilliant Avaist of yellow 
satin with a brown velvet skirt and brown gauze wings. 
Other notable costumes were those worn by Miss AVork, 
as Joan of Arc; by Miss Edith Fish, as Marie Antoinette ; 
by Miss Turnure, as an Egyptian Princess, and by Mrs. 
Bradley Martin, as Marie Stuart. The Due du Morny 
wore a court dress ; Madam Christine Xilsson a mourn- 
ing costume of the time of Henry HI. ; Mrs. Pierre 
Lorillard appeared as a Phoenix, and Mr. Hurlburt as a 
Spanish knight. 

It was a royal entertainment, which had never before 
been equaled in the social annals of America, and which 
it is probable will not be surpassed for many years to 
come. It was the wonder not only of the year but of 
the decade, and the Yanderbilt ball will be remembered 
when other events much greater in their significance 
and in their bearing ou the time have been quite for- 



Love for Horses— Fondness for Fast Teams— Excellent Amateur 
Driver— Perils of the Road— Maud S.— Summer Recreation — 
The Derby— His Stables — Resigns the Reins. 

William II. Vanderbilt really loved his horses. He 
not only admired their performances, as his father did, 
and liked them because they enabled him to go ahead 
of other people's horses, but he felt and showed a warm 
interest in other qualities besides their fleetness — in 
their beauty, docility, and affectionate disposition. Un- 
like his father, he was fond of petting and handling his 
horses, and while on Staten Island he usually insisted on 
taking care of the horses himself. 

His penchant for fast horses increased after he moved 
to New York. It was not until about 1865 that he rode 
behind a really fast horse, although at that time he 
owned a fair pair of his own which could make a mile 
in three minutes. At that time there was a private 
driving-club near Macomb's Dam Bridge, on the upper 
end of Manhattan Island, frequented by such men as 
Commodore Vanderbilt, Ilobert Bonner, and Colonel 
John Harper. Mr. Bonner was the owner of the mare 
Peerless, and noticing that Mr. Yanderbilt seemed in- 
terested in her, he invited him to drive round the 


track. He was astonished at lier speed, and fiom 
that day manifested a growing desire to possess good 

Before his father's death he made no pretence of 
being one of tlie leaders on the road, but was content to 
ride behind horses of considerable speed. The highest 
price ever paid by the Cominodoi-e for a horse was 
$10,000, for Mountain Boy. A year before he died he 
bought a fast horse named Small Hopes, and this fine 
animal he left to his son and heir. 

After the death of the Commodore, Mr. AVilliam 11. 
Yanderbilt took his father's place on the road. He 
bought Lady Mac, to match with Small Hopes, and 
astonished the trotting public by driving the team to a 
top road-wagon a mile over the Fleetwood Park course 
in 2.23^. This was about the beginning of the craze 
for fast teams. 

Other men pnrchased fast teams to compete with Mr. 
Vanderbilt, and the excitement on the bonlevards and 
avenues above Central Park, and on the Fleetwood 
track was unprecedented. Among the most notable of 
these was Edward and Dick Swiveller, driven by Mr. 
Frank Work, the most persistent and formidable rival 
Mr. Yanderbilt had on the road ; Blondine and Mill 
Boy, Maxey Cobb and Xeta Medium. Mr, Yanderbilt 
soon discovered that his team. Small Hopes and Lady 
Mac, would not be able to maintain his prestige on the 
road, and he secui-ed another team composed of the bay 
mare, Aldine, and the chestnut mare, Early Hose. This 
was in 1SS2. The team was driven in Hartford, Ct., 
a mile in 2.1 6A-. Shortly after this Mr. Work's famous 
team beat the record, and great was the excitement 


among tlie road men. Mr. Yanderbilt now determined 
to be his rival for the team record. 

Maud S. had made her appearance in Kentucky, and 
was developing great speed. "VVlien the mare was but 
fonr years old Mr. Yanderbilt offered to give §20,000 
for her if she would show a mile in public in 2.20. The 
trial was made in October of that year at Lexington, 
where she made a record of 2.17|^. Mr. Yanderbilt 
then gave $21,000, the extra thousand going to lier 

On June 14, 1883, over the Fleetwood track, Mr. 
Yanderbilt took his fastest wagon-ride, behind Aldine 
and Maud S., a mile in 2.15i^. The road-wagon, with 
Mr. Yanderbilt, weighed nearly four hundred pounds. 
This performance has not been equaled by any team. Xo 
professional driver even ever drove a team as fast as that. 
Tie seemed, in driving, to have a special control of his 
horses. When his friends were congratulating him upon 
the result, lie quietly replied : " It is pretty good for 
an amateur." lie wanted his horses to be fast, was al- 
ways anxious to see what they could do and he treated 
them well. Of late years he paid less and less personal 
attention to the stabling aiid feeding of his horses. 

Having beaten the record of his rival, Mr. Work, 
Mr. Yanderbilt appeared to be satisfied, and the feeling 
between the two gentlemen subsided, xiniong the other 
horses with excellent records M'hich he owned, were 
Leander and Lysander; Bay Dick and Charles Dickens. 

Fast driving has its perils, especially in the crowded 
thoroughfares of a great metropolis, and Mr. Yander- 
bilt experienced his share. On Kovember 7, 1878, 
while he was speeding along Jerome Avenue at 


tlie rate of a mile in 2.-i0 his team knocked down and 
fatally injured a man named Ililey, In giving an ac- 
count of the accident afterward Mr. Vanderbilt said : 

" On pleasant afternoons from hfty to a hundred 
gentlemen congregate on Judge Smith's stoop to witness 
the driving of fast horses on what is known as the speed- 
ing-gronnd of Jerome Avenue. I wasdriving along on the 
afternoon of November 7th, when, after coming around 
a turn in the road, I saw a man about sixty feet ahead 
of me and about twenty -five feet from the gutter. I at 
once shouted to him, being scared at seeing him so near 
in front of me. lie hesitated and seemed confused. 
Although I tried my best to pull up my team, it was too 
late, and my right horse struck him. I could not turn 
my horse out any further than 1 did, for I cracked my 
wagon in turning as it was. When I stopped my team 
and looked back I never had such a sensation pass over 
me before. Such an accident never before occurred to 
me. I liad him taken to Judge Smith's hotel, and tried 
to have the man given all the attention possible." 

On October 17, 1883, Mr. Yanderbilt met with a 
severe accident on tlie track at Fleetwood Park. He was 
driving Maud S., and came in collision with a sulky. 
lie was thrown violently to the ground, and for a while 
remained senseless. He suffered a severe shock, but no 
serious injury. His first question on recovering con- 
sciousness was to ask whether the mare was hurt. 

In the spring he was at Fleetwood Park nearly every 
day, taking a deep interest in tbe trials made there by 
horses belonging to his friends, or else speeding his 
favorite team. The pull of the reins seemed to inspire 
him, and he appeared his best when sitting behind 


Maud S., or his trotting team, Aldine and Early Rose, a 
brisk breeze blowino; liis lont;: Eno-lish whiskers back 
of his head, a flush on Iiis good-humored Dutch face, 
and a cheery tone in his voice. 

He always took his horses with him to Saratoga and 
Sharon Springs, where he usually spent the summer 
season ; and every afternoon he went to the Lake, and 
there met the men wnth whom he loved to associate. 
This daily drive seemed to be his greatest delight, and 
if the w^eather prevented he did not hesitate to express 
his disappointment to his friends. Like all classes 
of the English people he loved the excitement which 
driving on the road affords. He went to Fleetwood be- 
cause he liked the track. He M'as fond of the excite- 
ment of a pleasant brush, and the fresh air did him 

He had a good deal of respect for his horses, and, as 
is well-known, would never use them for money -making 
pui'poses on the track. Lideed, he thought so much of 
his famous Maud S. that when he had decided to sell 
her, she was oifered to Mr. Bonner for §40,000, although 
other men stood ready to pay $100,000. Mr. Vander- 
bilt said at the time, " H I sell her to the syndicate 
the public will think I still own her, while if I sell her 
to Robert Bonner it will be known that there is no col- 
lusion between us. Then, she will never be trotted for 
money, and will be sure of good care." Thereafter he 
frequently spoke of Maud S. with affection and enthu- 

He did not give up the practice of driving daily with 
his own hands until his health was impaired, and then 
he would go out with a man in his employ, who was 


careful and trnstworthy. To nse the words of Mr. 
Bonner : " For one who had such varied interests to 
look after, and naturally could give but limited time to 
his horses, he was an excellent judge of an animal and 
frequently surprised his friends by his intelligent criti- 
cisms of well-known track performers that he liad seen. 
In a word, Mr. Yandei'bilt loved liorses, and could drive 
them well.'" 

When at Saratoga, in 187-1, Mr. Yanderbilt made the 
acquaintance of a clerk at Congress Hall, Matthew 
Riley, since a broker on the street. Kiley always liked 
a good horse, and knew something about horse-flesh, so 
the two used to " talk horse," and in the end a feeling 
of congeniality sprung up, which ripened into a friend- 
ship that lasted as long as Mr. Yanderbilt lived. Every 
afternoon, when the clerk could get away fi'om the 
hotel, Mr. Yanderbilt would come around with his 
horses and take him out for a drive. Says ^Nlr. Riley: 
"The minute Mr. Yanderbilt got his hands on the rib- 
bons he left all care behind him, just as Mand S. shows 
her heels to a common horse. He was full of jollity, 
and thongli he did not often tell stories himself, he 
would pull up his flyers as we jogged along and listen 
with a relish to a good story from one of the boys, and 
when it was good he had a hearty laugh for it. He had 
a wonderful faculty for controlling horses better than any 
non-professional I ever saw, and he was, in my opinion, 
the best double-team driver in America, amateur or pro- 
fessional. In 1883 we met every day on the road, and 
used to jog out to Fleetwood and then race back down 
Seventh Avenue with the boys. He was driving at that 
time, among other horses, Leander, his favorite, and he 


tried to match him but conld not. Leander is a fine 
fellow, and out of fifty-four races he has won thirty- 
four first prizes. He is fourteen years old now, 1885, 
and hasn't a blemish on him." 

Until a few years ago Mr. Yanderbilt was very fond 
of witnessing a well-contested trot, and generally on the 
first day of the Buffalo Grand Circuit meeting, in Au- 
gust, he W'ould take a party of friends from Saratoga by 
special train, witness the trotting, and return at once to 
the Springs. On these occasions he royally entertained 
his guests. 

In 1877 he visited England to witness the Derby, and 
said that the sight of three hundred thousand people 
looking at a horse-race was worth in itself a trip across 
the ocean. When in Europe during the trotting season 
he sent many cablegrams to his agents in this country, 
asking about his horses. When St. Julien and Maud S. 
trotted in Rochester, he had the details of the race re- 
ported to him by cable, a dispatch being sent after eveiy 

Up to about a year before his death, Mr. \^anderbilt 
usually attended the trials of fast trotters, and could be 
seen on the steps of the New York Driving Club house, 
watching with interest all that was going on. He was 
fond of Dan Mace, the trainer, and would spend much 
time in his company talking about horses. The last 
year of his life he did not go out much, on account of 
poor health, and when he did it was simply for a drive 
to Macomb's Dam Bridge, and home early. 

He Iniilt magnificent stables on Fifty-second Street, 
near Madison Avenue, at a cost for the building alone 
of some $60,000. Its walls, floors, ceilings and stalls, 


of whicli tliere are sixteen, are all finished in polished 
cheriT, ash, and black walnut. At the north end of the 
stable is a large box stall, 18 x 12, built for Maud S., 
but now occupied by Aldine. The carriage house is 
light and airy, with a high ceiling. Arranged in rows 
-here stand a Victoria, a square coach, a landau, a d'Or- 
say, a Brougham, and a small Victoria, two cutters, a 
family sleigh, five light road wagons, and a tilbury. 
The harness room is 12 x 12, and contains a large num- 
ber of harnesses arranged in glass cases with oak frames. 
The entire area, 100 x 75 feet, is given up to the pur- 
poses of the stable, which includes a carriage-room, 
40 X 57, and a riding-ring, 38 x 51. In this last the 
horses were exercised when not in use out of doors. 
This room is covered by an iron and glass dome ; be- 
neath this is a marble floor, and around the outside edge 
is a track of tanbark. The stable is lighted by gas, the 
jets shaded with porcelain globes, decorated with horses' 
heads. About the walls are hung pictures of English 
racing scenes. 

Almost all the exercise that Mr. Vanderbilt took was 
behind his horses, and it is probable that they actually 
prolonged his life for years. 



His Method of Giving — The Tennessee University— The College of 
Physicians and Surgeons — The Grants — Minor Gifts — The Obe- 
lisk — Public Ingratitude. 

William II. Yanderbilt had no ambition to be re- 
garded as a philantliropist. He had held his own 
against a scheming world, to his father's astonishment, 
and he had in seven years doubled his fathei-'s bequest, 
to the Avorld's astonishment. With that he was measur- 
ably content. 

He recognized the fact that he had obligations, and 
he met them without hesitation when they presented 
themselves before him in unquestionable shape. Old 
friends who were needy ; old associates of his father 
who had been unfortunate ; employes of the Central, 
suddenly disabled or afflicted — these he helped without 
stint, and what he gave was given encumbered with no 
tedious restrictions. He shunned subscription papers 
instinctively, like his father, but if a case of suft'ei-ing 
Avas laid before him by an3'body whom he knew to be 
trustworthy he did not hesitate. 

Tlie Commodore, like those other illiterate men — Cor- 
nell, Yassar, and Johns Hopkins — had borne fervent 
testimony in favor of learning, by founding auhiversity, 


aiid the son was not slow in addinii; to the million dol- 
lars the father had given. Ua added $200,000 to the 
endowment, and gave $100,000 for the Theological 
School. The hall built with this latter gift was dedi- 
cated on May 8, ISSl, the birthday of its patron. Only 
two weeks before his death, he gave his check for 
$10,000 toward the formation of a library for the Uni- 

Mr. Yanderbilt was pleased with approval, and far 
more sensitive to pnblic opinion than his father was ; 
but he was shy of any conspicuous lienors, and always 
gave when he could, as above, to institutions ah'eady 
founded and christened, so that his name might not be 
coupled with the donation. In this spirit he made hislai'g- 
est gift. In 1S64: he cast about to see where lie could 
most wisely bestow lialf a million dollars where it would 
minister to the sick and suffering. It would build and 
magnificently endow a new hospital, to be forever known 
as the Vanderbilt Hospital, and to stand as a defence and 
answer tlie slanders of Socialists. But no ; he did not 
want a monument — he merely wanted to give the money 
M'here it would do the most good. So he gave it to an ad- 
mirable institution already founded — the College of Ph}'- 
sicians and Sui'geons. It was a superb endowment. And 
a year aftei-\vai-d, his daughter, Mrs. Sloane, added to 
the gift a quarter of a million from her own resources. 

The letters which he wrote to General and Mrs. Grant 
after their financial disaster, generously offering to can- 
cel their obligation of $150,000 to him, and pressing 
his offer with delicate insistance, won for him many 
grateful expressions from all parts of the country.* The 
* For these letters, see Appendix D. 


incident extorted a sort of patronizing tolerance and 
churlish admiration even from those millions who were 
in the habit of denouncing every word he spoke and 
disparaging everj^ generous deed ho attempted. 

Among AVilliam IT. Yanderbilt's minor gifts may be 
mentioned, $100,000 distributed among the employes of 
the ]!New York Central Kailroad ; $50,000 toward pay- 
ing the debt incurred by the Church of St. Bartholomew 
when it moved to its present situation on Madison 
Avenue, and $10,000 to the Deems Fund for the educa- 
tion of poor young men at the University of jS'orth 
Carolina. ITe has also contributed to the University of 
Yii'ginia, and made almost innumerable private dona- 
tions, of which the public has no knowledge. 

He was plain, simple, and unostentious in his manner 
of giving, and did not care to have his charities bruited 
in the public prints. When Dr. Deems explained to 
him the plan he had devised in relation to helping poor 
young men who wished to get an education, he said, 
" I like the scheme, and will give you $10,000 for j-our 

Within two years afterward over fifty students had 
been helped through the university by the aid of this 
gift. It is known that he was very kind to his father's 
old friends, and he gave pensions to many superannuated 
employes. The last check he signed, three hours be- 
fore his death, was for the benefit of a charity in a dis- 
tant city. 

When the Suez Canal was opened, in ISOO, there was 
a large gathering of notable people from all parts of the 
civilized world. Among the representatives from 
America was Mr. W. H. Hurlburt, then editor of the 


New York World. He met the Khedive of Eijypt, 
Ismail, and this fanctionary was the first to make the 
suirgestion iookino; to the reiuov^al of the obelisk at Alex- 
andiia to America, lie offered to present the monolith 
to the United States, as he had given its prostrate com- 
panion to England. Mr. Ilurlburt became deeply in- 
terested in the project, and cast about for ways and 
means for its accomplishment. 

It was ten years later, in June, 1879, that the atten- 
tion of Commander Henry II. Gorringe was called to the 
subject. He became interested in the matter, made a 
careful development of original plans, and an estimate 
of the cost of executing them, which resulted in an offer 
to undertake the work. A couple of months later he 
received the following letter : 

New York, August 4, 1879. 
LiEiTENANT-CosrMANDER H. H. GoRRisGE, United states Navy. 

De-^r Sir : I have learned that you have or can procure the 
facilities to remove to the city of New York the obelisk now 
standing at Alexandria, in Egypt, known as " Cleopatra's 

As I desire that this obelisk may be secured for the city of 
New York, I make you the following proposition : If you will 
take down and remove said obelisk from its jjresent position to 
this city, and place it on such site as may be selected with my 
approval by the Commissioners of Parks, and furnish and con- 
struct at your own expense on said site a foundation of mason- 
work and granite base of such form and dimensions as said 
commissioners and myself may approve, I will, on the comple- 
tion of the whole work, pay to you 375,000. 

It is understood, however, that there is to be no liability on 
my part until the obelisk shall be so received and placed in posi- 
tion in the city of New York, and the same to be in as good 
condition as it now is. It is understood further that this agree- 


ment binds also my executors and adiijinistrators ; you to accept 
this proposition in writing on the receipt thereof, and agree to 
execute the same, and complete the work fully in every respect 
within one year from the date hereof. 

Very truly yours, 

W. H. Vanderbilt. 

To this proposition Commander Gorringe replied : 

New York, August 6, 1879. 
Mk. William H. Vandekbilt. 

Dear Sir : I hereby acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 
August 4, 1879, relating to the removal of the obelisk from 
Alexandria, Egypt, to New York, and its erection on a site to be 
selected with your approval, and I accept the proposition and 
the conditions named therein. 

Very truly yours, 

Hexry H. Goerixge, 
Lieutenant- Commander, V.S.N. 

Commander Gorringe had much difficulty in getting 
a vessel adapted to the novel transportation, and when 
he reached Egypt he found that no one, not even the 
Khedive, believed that the great obelisk would be or 
could be taken to America. At last the moiniment was 
turned over to a horizontal position ; an iron steamer 
was obtained ; its bow was removed, and the vast mono- 
lith was introduced to the hull endwise. On June 25, 
1880, the sliip Dessong was ailoat with her unprece- 
dented cargo, and amid the cordial acclamations of 
the Egyptian populace she started for America. A 
fortnight later, in mid-ocean, the after crank-shaft broke, 
and she had to lie still a week, JS'eptune conducting 
liimself in a most kindly manner during that period. 
The Dessong anchored off Staten Island on July 20th, 


and in tlie afternoon of*T;he same day she was moored 
in the Hudson River, off Twenty-third Street. 

It took one hundred and twelve days to move the 
obelisk overland from the foot of West Ninety-sixth 
Street, to the pedestal erected for it in Central Park, a 
distance of two miles. The corner-stone, of polished 
syenite, was laid with masonic ceremonies, and ou Jan- 
uary 22, 1881, the colossal stone was re-erected at noon, 
in the presence of ten thousand people. On the first claw 
of the fourth crab, beneath the obelisk, is the inscription : 

The cost of removing from Alexandria and placing on this 
sijot this obelisk, pedestal, and base, was borne by William H. 

Mr. Yanderbilt paid $103,Y32 for the entire removal 
and re-erection. The obelisk is of fine syenite of the 
Assouan quarries. It was formerly the companion of 
the obelisk now standing on the Thames Embankment. 
The pair were originally erected by Thothmes III., b.c. 
1591-1565, before the famous Temple of the Sun at 
Heliopolis. While at Alexandria, this obelisk was usu- 
ally the first and last of Egyptian monuments to be 
visited by travelers. Owing to the gradual sinking of the 
land of that part of Egypt the sea came to within eighty 
feet of its base. It was already inclining toward the 
water, and in a few years must have fallen and been 

Commander Gorringe lived to write a history of his 
achievement, dedicated 

To William H. Vanderbilt, in recognition of the enlightened 
munificence to which New York is indebted for the possession 


of one of the most interesting monuments of the Old World, 
and of the most ancient record of man now known to exist on 
the American Continent. 

In the preface of this work, Mr. W. II. Hurlbnrt 
saj's : " But no man knows as well as I do the discour- 
agements and difficulties through which success was won, 
and it appears to me to be mj duty, therefore, to bear 
witness here, once for all, to the absolute simplicity of 
purpose and single-minded public spirit to which Kew 
York is indebted for the possession of the great obelisk 
of Alexandria. No arguments wei-e needed to commend 
the project to Mr. Vanderbilt, whose liberality made it 

Mr. Vanderbilt's wealth was so extraordinary that his 
relation to society was peculiar. His charities were never 
received with a hearty good grace. When he gave 
$300,000 to the University, the act was coarsely greeted 
with " That's nothing for him ! " When, with royal 
courtesy, he offered to foi'give General Grant a great 
debt of honor, thei-e were ingrates who said " Well, he 
stole the money, as every millionaire does, and it would 
be only just if he were to give up ten times as much." 
When he donated half a million to the surgeons' college, 
and another half million to other equally needed insti- 
tutions, they expressed their gratitude in " Huh ! It 
isn't a quarter of what he ought to give ! " 



Original Design Rejected — Too Grand — Moravian Thrift — The Site 
Secured — The Plan Adopted — A Romanesque Tomb — Granite, 
Limestone, and Bronze — The Interior — Allegorical Sculptures. 

When^ Mr. Vanderbilt determined to build a tomb for 
his last resting-place, and for the members of his im- 
mediate family, he consulted the architect of the Yan- 
derbilt houses, Mr. Richard M. Hunt, and desired him 
to prepare the plans. Mr. Hunt, being acquainted with 
many of the most magnificent mausoleums in Europe, 
drew elaborate designs for a grand and pretentious 
chapel above-ground, very ornate, since he understood 
that the cost would not be considered. 

When tliese were submitted to Mr. Yanderbilt, he 
said : " Xo, Mr. Hunt ; this will not answer at all. You 
entirely misunderstood me. AYe are plain, quiet, unos- 
tentatious people, and we don't want to be buried in 
anything so showy as that would be. The cost of it is 
a secondary matter, and does not concern me. I want it 
roomy and solid and rich. I don't object to appropriate 
carvings, or even statuary, but it mustn't have any unne- 
cessary fancy-work on it." 

The architect beoran asrain, and toned down his origi- 


nal intention to something far less ornamental, and the 
mausoleum now being finished on the lower end of 
Staten Island is the outcome. It is undoubtedly the 
finest and most costly private tomb in America, and will 
rank high hy the side of tlie royal tombs of Enrope. 
The structure stands near the bi'ow of a hill just back or 
west of the old Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp. Mr. 
Vanderbilt originally intended to place it in the ceme- 
tery, where so many of his ancestors are buried, but the 
trustees asked more for the requisite plot of ground than 
he thought it was worth. As Commodore Yanderbilt 
had given the fifty acres of land constituting the ceme- 
tery, they were unable to come to an agreement, and 
the result was that fourteen acres of land were pur- 
chased just outside of, but adjoining, the cemetery. A 
much more suitable site was thus procured, and the 
fine structure is placed where it can be seen to advan- 
tage, and not upon level ground, with commonplace 
surroundings. The tomb has a front some forty feet in 
height, by sixty in breadth, and is placed against a bank 
of nearly the same height, so that the sides, rear, and 
most of the roof are not seen, being covered with earth 
and green turf. The sides are also efi^ectually masked 
by retaining walls curving outward, each nearly a quar- 
ter-circle, and heavily buttressed. The result is, there- 
fore, that as the visitor approaches he sees merely a 
gabled front, rich in carved work, forty feet higli, 
made of Quincy granite, divided laterally into a center 
projected some six feet from the front walls of the 

Standing upon the steps in front of the central door- 
way, an extensive and lovely view is obtained. The lit- 


tie hamlet of New Dor]), with its quaint and scattered 
farm-liouses, including the village post-office and the 
blacksmith's shop, lies at the foot of the knoll ; bej'ond 
are the extensive tlatlands which gently slope to the 
south shore of the island, which merges into the blue 
waters of the lower Bay of New York and the silver 
gray of the broad Atlantic. At the right can be seen 
a sapphire strip of land known as Sandy Hook, with a 
stretch of the Jersey coast beyond, while at the left 
there is a full view of Coney Island, with the highlands 
of Long Island stretching toward Greenwood and the 
city of Brooklyn. 

Every steamship and sailing craft which enters Xew 
York Harbor must pass in sight of this mausoleum. It 
will be the first prominent object seen on Staten Island 
by those who come fiom Europe to America. The 
farm where Mr. William H. Vanderbilt spent some 
twenty odd years of his life lies spread out below the 
tomb like a map. It is fitting that his last resting- 
place should dominate the landscape he knew and loved 
so well. 

The style of architecture followed in the tomb is 
Romanesque. Each of the three divisions of the fagade 
has a door-way, in which is hung a double bronze door. 
The upper part of the door is grated, to admit light to 
the vestibule. The chief feature of the front is tlie 
great central door-way, an arch of some seven feet in 
diameter inside and twenty outside. It is splayed in- 
ward, together with its supporting piers, in a curve of 
nearly a quarter of a circle, to the depth of five feet. 
The tympanum of the arch is filled with sculpture cut 
in the solid granite, representing the emblems which 


signify the writers of the four gospels, with a figure of 
Christ in the center. A richly-wrought string-course 
traversing the entire front is continued across the open- 
ins: as a transom, and the whole Held of the wall of the 
central front is decorated in diaper. Another string- 
course divides this from the gable above, which is dec- 
orated with a mock arcade the height of the openings, 
conforming to the line of the roof, after the manner of 
the facade of the famous Cathedral of Pisa. 

In front of the main door is a semicircular platform, 
eighteen feet in diameter, on a level with tlie floor of 
the vestibule, and gained by an ascent of six Steps. The 
vestibule is eleven by fifty-one feet in area, and opens 
through a single door-way at the center into the tomb 
proper. Each side of this door-way are large tablets of 
polished Quincy granite, and two of the same size at 
either end of the vestibule. There is a deep arched 
recess opposite each side-door, opening into the vesti- 
bule, which contains a huge vase of polished granite 
standing upon a pedestal. These can be used for hold- 
ing flowers. Either side of the main door, in the front 
wall of the vestibule, there are small doors, at the foot 
of bronze staircases, which lead to the ventilating cham- 
bers above the catacombs. 

In the tympanum over the great door-way opening 
into the tomb proper is a bas-relief showing a figure 
of Christ, with angels and scroll-work, and the words, in 
English text, " I am the door." This is seen from tlie 
vestibule, as the tomb is entered. Inside the tomb 
another bas-relief over the same door-way sliows Christ 
in the act of pronouncing a blessing, with the words 
" Pax Vobiscum " on a scroll. 


The great room of the tomb proper is sixty by forty- 
five feet, and fully forty feet high from the floor to the 
top of the arches. It resembles a church built of solid 
stone and richly carved, only that the side-walls are 
filled with open catacombs. This room is composed of 
two bays nearly square, and a semicircular apse, or chan- 
cel, covered with a half-dome. The apse is raised above 
tlie main floor of the tomb, and contains an altar of 
stone, to be used in religious services for the burial of 
the dead. The bays are covered with vaulted ceilings 
resting upon arches turned between the bounding piers, 
and terminating in open rings, protected by open lan- 
terns visible from without, and through which alone, 
with the glass nine inches thick, light is admitted to 
the interior. 

The great interior is an unobstructed space, and occu- 
pies the breadth only of the central part of the front. 
The sides of the room contain the cells or catacombs, for 
coffins. Beneath each of the large arches which support 
the vaulted ceiling on each side are two subordinate 
arches springing from a central column. There are 
eight compartments thus formed, each containing nine 
cells, or seventy-two in all. A ventilating pipe runs 
from each cell to the air-chambers above. The cells 
are about 2 feet 7 inches in width by 2 feet 2 inches in 
height, and 8 feet deep. The heads of the arches above 
the cells are filled with semicircular bas-reliefs, about 
8 feet by 4, illustrating scriptural subjects. Beginning 
with the first, at the right of the apse, they are as fol- 
lows : " The Creation of Man ;" " The Fafl of Man ; " 
'' Giving the Law to Moses ; " " David Praising the 
Lord ; " '' Solomon sitting in Judgment ; " " The Virgin 


and the Christ Child ; " " The Crucifixion," and " The 
Ascension." Rich bronze gratings, costing $60,000, and 
requiring twenty tons of standard bronze, protect the 
cells from intrusion. These gratings, or gates, are very 
artistic and elaborate in design. They were made in 
America by artisans brought from Paris. Each piece 
liad to be cast separately, after which all were put to- 
gether. Kew moulds were made for every piece for 
each of the screens, or gates. The effect of so much 
bi'onze work is wonderfully rich, and gives the interior 
of the tomb a strange appearance. The color harmonizes 
with the deep-toned and gloomy surroundings. This 
bronze work renders both the tomb and the cells within 
burglar proof. The whole interior of the tomb is made 
of light-colored Indiana limestone, the floor consisting 
of large slabs of it. The structure was over a year in 
building, and is supposed to have cost not less than 



Sensitive to Public Opinion— Relinquishes His "Monopoly" — Fifty 
Millions in Government Bonds — Resigns His Presidencies — Let- 
ter to Associates— " The Pvablic be Damned ! " — Succeeded by 
His Sons — Working Westward — Acquiring the Nickel Plate- 
Letter on Freight Discriminations — Ou Labor — To Grover Cleve- 

As year followed year, Mr. Vanderbilt withdrew more 
and more of his attention from the roads, leaned more 
and more upon his sons, and took longer and more fre- 
quent vacations. Sometimes he went to Europe just for 
the ocean voyage, returning upon the same vessel which 
carried him out. 

He was widely condenmed as " a dangerous monopo- 
list " by all agrarians, and by others who were moved 
by similar feelings without, perhaps, proceeding to the 
extreme conclusions ; and the illustrated papers con- 
stantly put forth vile caricatures of him representing 
him as a colossal dragon on wheels, rushing across the 
land M'ith bloody claws, yawning jaws, and breath of 
flame. He was vehemently denounced as the enemy 
of the people, the oppressor of the poor, the robber of 
the industrious. 

It was partly to silence this senseless clamor that he 
resolved to sell $35,000,000 worth of his Central stock. 


How to do it without breaking the market and causing 
a depreciation of all securities was the serious question. 
Negotiations were carried on for weeks with great 
secrecy. A journey was made to Europe in the interest 
of the scheme. In the last week in November, 1879, 
the bargain was closed. 

To a syndicate representing chiefly the Wabash sys- 
tem, but also a number of foreign capitalists, he sold 
250,000 shares of Central stock. He was known to hold 
at the time at least 400,000 shares, which, as the market 
then stood, represented a wealth of $52,000,000. The 
stock had not been seen on the London Board for nearly 
fifteen j-ears, and it was felt that it was desirable that it 
should be there. Besides, there was danger of a rupture 
in the traffic agreement between the Central and Wabash 
systems, the latter system having been extended a short 
time before, and through freight being a prize for which 
an active competition among the trunk lines was to be 
expected. The purchasing syndicate was composed of 
J. S. Morgan & Co., of London, Drexel, Moi-gan vfe Co., 
August Belmont & Co., L. Van Hoffmann & Co., 
Morton, Bliss & Co., Winslow, Lanier & Co., Edwin 
D. Morgan, Cyrus W. Field, Jay Gould, Russell Sage, 
and others. This syndicate took the 250,000 shares at 
120, wliich was 10 below the ruling price in the market. 
It was agreed that the syndicate should have a corre- 
sponding i-epresentation in the director}' of the Central, 
and that Yanderbilt should not place any of its stock on 
the market for a year. 

The news of the consummation of the sale reached 
Wall Street early on November 26th, and the effect was 
promptly visible in the advance of the Vanderbilt and Wa- 


bash stocks. Xew Yoik C'entral and Hudson River rose 
from 129| to 134f , and AVabasli common from 39 to 
434, preferred from 63 to 68. The rest of the list being 
affected by sympathy, Erie closed at 3Sf, that being 
the liighest price of the day. Tlie advance was due to 
a general conviction that the arrangement was one of 
the highest value to the two systems, inasmuch as it 
was a guaranty of at least temporary harmony in traffic 
relations between them. Mr. Vanderbilt admitted that 
one of the considerations that entered into the sale was 
that it would i-elieve him and his road of the embar- 
rassment growing out of the public distrust of great 
power in a single man. 

Tlie 835,000,000 which he received for the stock he 
at once reinvested in government bonds, and within a 
year it was reported from Washington that he was re- 
ceiving interest on bonds amounting to 853,000,000. 

Chauncey M. Depevv, speaking of tliis colossal trans- 
action, said : " Mr. Vanderbilt, because of assaults made 
upon liim in the Legislature and in the newspapers, 
came to the conclusion that it was a mistake for one in- 
dividual to own a controlling interest in a great corpora- 
tion like tlie iS^ew York Central, and also a mistake to 
have so many eggs in one basket, and he thought it 
Avould be better for himself, and better for the company, 
if the ownership were distributed as widely as possi- 
ble. . . . These syndicates afterward sold it, and the 
stock became one of the most widely-distributed of the 
dividend-paying American securities. There are now 
about fourteen thousand stockholders. At the time he 
sold there were about tliree thousand." 

Mr. Vanderbilt had done all he could to prevent the 


completion of that " piratical " road, the Nickel Plate, 
cutting rates desperately^ to that end, but to his discomfi- 
ture it pressed on mile after mile, and he felt compelled, 
early in 1883, since he could not break it, to buy it. 
His second son carried on the negotiations with a good 
deal of ability, and on the reorganization of the com- 
pany was elected its president. 

On May 3, 1883, Mr. Yanderbilt finally resigned the 
presidencies of the various roads of which for six years 
he had been. the he^d. His health had been gradually 
failing, and he felt that he owed all his care to its recu- 
peration. The retirement had been anticipated for some 
time, but it caused considerable surprise. In surrender- 
ing his position, Mr. Yanderbilt said : 

" Gentlemen : The companies of which I have had 
the honor to be president for many years past are now 
about to elect new officers for the ensuing year. The 
meetings of all of them have been called at this office at 
this time to thank you as the directors and officers, and 
also the shareholders of the several companies, for the 
confidence they have always reposed in me as their pres- 
ident. It is my belief that these corporations are all 
in sound condition, and that all the prominent positions 
in them are filled by gentlemen who understand their 
duties, and who will discharge them to the satisfaction 
of the stockholders. This fact has had gi'eat infiuence 
with me in determining the course of action which I 
have, after due delibei'ation, decided upon. 

" In my judgment the time has arrived when I owe 
it as a duty to myself, to the corporations, and to those 
around me upon whom the chief management will de- 
volve, to retire from the presidency. In declining the 

"the public be damped." 223 

honor of a re-election from you I do not mean to sever 
my relations or abate the interest I have heretofore 
taken in these coi-porations. It is my purpose and aim 
that these several corporations shall remain upon such a 
basis for their harmonious working with each other, and 
for the efficient management of each, as will secure for 
the system both permanency and pi-osperity. Under 
the reorganization each of them will elect a chairman of 
the Board, who, in connection with the Executive and 
Finance Committees, will have immediate and constant 
supervision of all the affairs of the companies and bring 
to the support of the officers the active assistance of tlie 
directors. The plan of organization now adopted and 
inaugurated will remove the business of the companies 
from the contingencies of accident to any individual, 
and insure a continuance of the policy which has here- 
tofore met the approval of the stockholders." 

The various Boards passed complimentary resolutions 
in response. 

Mr. Yanderbilt, accompanied by his son George and 
his Uncle Jacob, immediately sailed for Europe, which 
he had visited many times since that first celebrated voy- 
age on the Xoi'th Star. James H. Rutter was elected 
president of the Central, and retained the position until 
liis death, his successor being Chauncey M. Depew. The 
system laid out by Mr. Yanderbilt, which is based on 
the English system of railway management, has since 
been maintained. 

A thousand sarcastic changes have been rung, and a 
thousand indignant editorials written, and hundreds of 
satirical cartoons printed, concerning the notorious say- 
ing attributed to him, " The public be d d ! " His 


utterance of it was at first denied by those desiring to 
defend him, but Saninel Barton, his favorite nephew, 
was one of tlie party at the time, and he confirmed the 
report of the exclamation liaving been made. But the 
vicious story of the reporter was virtually false, notwith- 
standing, for he omitted all the context and the surround- 
ing circumstances which explained the malediction. 

The thing under consideration was the fast Chicago 
mail-train, which Mi'. Vanderbilt was about to take off. 

" Why are you going to stop this fast mail-train ? " 
asked the reporter, whom Mr. Vanderbilt had received 
on his special car with every evidence of cordiality. 

" Because it doesn't pay," was the answer. " I can't 
run a train as far as this permanently at a loss." 

" But the public find it very convenient and useful. 
You ought to accommodate them." 

" The public ? " rejoined Mr. Vanderbilt ; " how do you 
know they find it useful ? How do you know, or how 
can I know, that they want it ? If they want it, why 
don't they patronize it and make it pay? That's thej 
only test I have of whether a thing is wanted — does it 
pay ? If it doesn't pay, I suppose it isn't wanted." 

" Mr. Vanderbilt," persisted the reporter, determined 
to get a column interview somehow, " are jou working 
for the public or for jouv stockholders ? " 

"The public be d d!" broke out the irritated 

man — " I am working for my stockholders ! If the pub- 
lic want the train, why don't they support it ? " 

That is the way it happened. Mr. Vanderbilt often 
spoke freely to reporters— sometimes too freely. He 
did not seem to realize the weight which people placed 
on anything that fell from his lips. 


Great were his indignation and disgust when he found 
that his casual words in defence of the stockholders 
whose agent he was had been tortured into a brutal 
speech— a malevolent imprecation aimed ac the whole 
American people, to whom he owed his fortune. Noth- 
ing, he alleged, was further from his thoughts. 

Steadily, during these years, Mr. Vanderbilt's two 
eldest sons, Cornelius and William Kissam, had grown 
from being assistants to being associates and practical 
allies. Tlie\' had neither found nor sought to find places 
that were sinecures in the great establishment. Corne- 
lius had, on his grandfathers death, become First Vice- 
president and chief of the Finance Department, and his 
younger brother had become Second Vice-president 
and head of Transportation. The duties of these posi- 
tions were exacting, but the young men who occupied 
them had been trained to work, and they had been 
taught by both father and grandfather that constant 
work was their only salvation. 

After his resignation of the presidency, William IJ. 
Vanderbilt had, on the advice of his physicians, with- 
drawn almost entirely from office- work, and even from 
active superintendence. He had resigned his director- 
ship and sold his stock in the AVestern Union Telegraph 
Company, and in the Union Pacific. His latest opera- 
tions were purchases and dealings in Chicago and North- 
Avestern, Omaha, and Philadelphia and Reading, and a 
few other minor transactions. During a year or two, 
a project which had gi-adually assumed tremendous 
physical proportions, known as the West Shore Railroad, 
had been a very pronounced thorn in Mr. Vanderbilt's 
flesh, by reason of its continuous opposition to the great 


system of wliich his father was the founder. It was 
pushed to completion bj- its reckless and desperate pro- 
jectors, and soon went into the inevitable bankruptcy. 
Mr. Vanderbilt did not hesitate vehemently and frankly 
to denounce the promoters as a gang of thieves and 
blackmailers, who had stolen the money of dnped stock- 
holders in order to obtain the chance of stealing his ; 
but the rival ly M'as too immediate and disastrous, and 
something must be done. Mr. Depew undertook nego- 
tiation at the solicitation of Mr. Vanderbilt, which re- 
sulted within the week in an absolute transfer of the 
West Shore to the Xew York Central on terms calcu- 
hUed to discourage those who build competing roads for 
the sole purpose of selling out. 

At all times Mr. Vanderbilt entertained positive views 
as to discriminations and rate-cutting, and he did not 
Jiesitate to express them. 

On Febrnary 28, 1878, the New York Chamber of 
Commerce held a meeting to hear the Railroad Trans- 
portation Committee report on " Freight Discrimina- 
tions and the Effect upon the Commerce of the City." 
At this meeting the following letter from Mr. William 
H. Vanderbilt was read. 

President's Office, 

New Yokk Central and Hitdson Eiver R.R. Co., 

Grand Central Depot, 

New York, February 21, 1878. 
Dear Sm, — Yon ask me to give you my views upon the 
peculiar diificulties and disadvantages attending the receipt 
and shipment of merchandise at this port. Cities, like rail- 
ways, must offer equal facilities with their comjietitors for busi- 
ness. Within the past ten years Philadelphia and Baltimore 


have made rapid progress in competing for foreign and home 
trade. They have granted to their railroads the most liberal 
privileges in tlie iise of streets, docks, and water-fronts, and 
have furnished them every assistance for the erection of ware- 
houses and elevators, and the establishment of steamer and 
other lines. As a natural sequence, the imports and exports at 
those cities are constantly inci'easing, and will continue to in- 
crease, at the exj^ense of New York, until New York shall see its 
danger and fully offer the same facilities for commerce. The 
New Y'ork merchant is subjected to a terminal charge of from 
seventy cents to one dollar per ton, a burden from which his 
Philadelphia and Baltimore rivals are free. It is clearly to the 
interest of the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Pennsylvania Rail- 
way, carrying goods upon a pro rata of the Baltimore or Phila- 
delphia mileage, to take them to those ports, rather than to 
New York, and deliver them to the consignee, without this 
terminal charge ; and, from this cause, leaving out their other 
and local influences, it is to their interest to divert trade from 
this port ; for here comes always this exceptional tax, in the 
shape of a terminal charge, affecting every ton of freight de- 
livered in the city, and amounting to about ten dollars a car in 
excess of the same freight delivered in either Philadelphia or 

The land under water around this city has been granted to it 
by the State for the puii^ose of improving, increasing, and ex- 
tending the commercial facilities of the metropolis. This prop- 
erty is a trust, to be used, not to secure a temporary income, 
but to be so administered as to enlarge and cheajDen the busi- 
ness of this ijort. But the city, relying upon its natural and 
other advantages, has always appropriated, improved, and rented 
this gift, as if it was held only for the immediate revenue which 
could be collected, without regard to the effect of such a policy 
upon our future prosperity. Public sentiment has heretofore 
sustained this view, but the time has come when both the city 
government and the merchants must see that any revenue de- 
rived from this source is insignificant compared with the damage 
inflicted. While steamships at other and rival ports laud at 


comparatively free wliarfs, the rental of a dock owned by our 
city is about equal to seven per cent, per annum upon the cost 
of a first-ciass ocean steamer, and at the same time our railways 
are prohibited from reaching these docks, though the distance 
is only a few feet, the expense trifling, and the connection 
would to that extent put us on an equality with rival cities. 
"When the railroad desires to use city property for the building 
of depots, and the increase of facilities, it pays at the same rate 
as to a private individual. When it wishes to erect piers over 
the land under water, and applies for a permit, the city expects 
a large yearly rental for this ground, covered by fifteen or thirty 
feet of water, and that the pier built by the comiaany at great 
expense shall revert to the city, after a few years, as its abso- 
lute property. 

Every burden of this description is paid directly by the rail- 
road, but necessarily reimposed upon its traffic. The proj^erty 
of the city, otherwise useless, is improved at the cost of the 
company, and the improvement increases our terminal facili- 
ties, adds to our commercial advantages, and cheapens the ex- 
l^ense of doing business at this port ; but the terms imposed 
neutralize most of the benefit. In all these matters the true in- 
terests of the city, the railroads, and the merchants are identi- 
cal. We have the same competitions, and we must live on 
profits so small that volume of business becomes a necessity. 
It is short-sighted policy which jH-omjits an increased terminal 
expense at New York, making it to the interest of any road to 
carry its traffic elsewhere. The natural advantages of this city, 
and its large control of the channels of trade, ought to be so 
supplemented by its liberality and wisdom as to induce all lines 
to seek New York. 

I appeal to the merchants to arouse the municipal authorities 
on this questioi>, and to encourage and sustain every elfort look- 
ing to relief and improvement. Trade once lost is hard to gain. 
The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad is ready at all 
times to bear the burdens and make the expenditures necessary 
to compete with roads in other seaboard cities. With thor- 
ough harmony of action, as there is of interest between the 


municipal goverament, the merchants, and the railroads, the 
financial and commercial sui^remacy of Nesv York can be main- 

Very truly yours, 

W. H. Vaxderbilt. 

Ch.\eles S. Smith, Esq., 
Chairman of Committee of Chamber of Commerce. 

In October, 1884, at the commencement of the rail- 
road war, cutting rates to the West, Mr. William 11. 
Yanderbilt said : 

" I can tell von one thing : our old road will not be 
behind any of its rivals, whether they are young or old. 
The rates to the West may be any figure that the other 
lines may choose to make them . . . The fact is 
that there has got to be a further liquidation. Some 
companies among the trunk lines have confessed that 
they were not making much money, but others have 
not . . . Everybody has lost money in the last year 
or two, and it is fortunate that the losses have fallen on 
the richest men. 1 feel the depreciation, and perhaps 
in proportion to my wealth, but on some of the rich 
men it is telling pretty hard. It is ridiculous to suppose 
that politics will change the process of liquidation. The 
success of one candidate or the other will not add a cent 
to what I already have. But I decline to discuss pol- 
itics ; I take an interest in it, but I have not given any- 
thing to either side. 

" One of the troubles in this country just now is the 
relation of wages to the cost of production. A skilled 
workman in almost every branch of business gets every 
day money enough to buy a barrel of flour. I don't refer 
to ordinary laborers, but to men skilled at their trades. 


The man who makes the article receives as rancli wages, 
in many instances, as tlie article is worth when it is 
finished. This is not exactly fair, in my opinion, and 
must be adjusted. Until wages have a truer relation to 
production there can be no real prosperity in tlie couu- 

The following letter, written by Mr. Vanderbilt just 
afterward, explains itself. 

The Honorable Geoveb Cle-'vTeland : 

My Dear Sir — I congratulate you and tlie people of the 
wliole country upon your election to the Presidency of the 
United States. You owe your election, in my opinion, to the 
fact that the people believed you to be an honest man, and not 
to any particular efforts made by any faction of either the 
Democratic or Republican parties. 

Independent men who care more for good government than 
for parties or individuals have made you their choice, because 
they were convinced that your administration would not be for 
the benefit of any political organization or favored i^ersous, but 
for the interest of the whole people. This is just the result 
which is most desired. We have reached a time when party 
amounts to little ; the country is above all, and wants an honest 
government by honest men. The belief that we will find it 
iu you has led to your election. 

Yours very truly, 

W. H. Vanderbilt. 

New York, November 7, 1884. 

Mr. Vanderbilt voted generally the Kepublican ticket, 
but in late years the Democratic. His sons are all Re- 
publicans, excepting AVilliam Kissam, who is an enthu- 
siastic Democrat, approving, usually, of both the meas- 
ures and methods of his party. 



Worry and Anxiety — His Declining Health— Morning of the Last 
Day — At Ward's Studio — Conference with Mr. Garrett — Paralysis 
and Quick Death — Effect on the Public Mind— Simple and Inex- 
pensive Funeral — The Vault at New Dorp — Home Again. 

Mk. Vanderbilt "svas a mucli more comfortable aiul 
happy man upon his Staten Island farm than in his 
Fifth Avenue palace. Like numy farmei's, he knew 
that the story of Antseus, the giant son of Keptune, 
said to have been strongest when he touched the earth, 
was not a fable, but the poetical expression of a rugged 

After he left the farm and came to the city to live he 
complained of a feeling of suffocation, and every pleas- 
ant Simday for years saw him behind a brisk team driv- 
ing to the ferry to seek the free air of his former home. 
These visits became less and less f i-equent with the flight 
of years, until sometimes months would pass and find 
him chained to the city. It told upon his health — the 
confinement and care of his great and growing property. 

William II. Yanderbilt never learned his father's 
knack of turning off business rapidly and easily. What- 
ever he had to do he generally did in the hardest way. 
He could not acquire the habit of shifting his burden. 

Of course, this injured his general health. Ilis ap- 


petite failed him. lie was anxious about himself, and 
wanted the doctors to see him often. His anxiety was 
increased by an attack of paralysis which the doctors 
called "insignificant" while living in the house at the 
corner of Fortieth Street, but the effects of it soon 
passed away, and he pretty nearly i-ecavered his confi- 
dence that he might possibly enjoy a long life. "If I 
can only pass my sixty-fourth birthday !" he would ex- 
claim ; " that seems to be a dangerous period in our 
family." So the result proved it to be. 

His death on December 8th was sudden and dra- 
matic. He had no note of warning. He died in- 
stantly, as he had often wished to die, not sympathizing 
with the prayer of the litany. The day had been with- 
out excitement. He rose at the early hour of seven, as 
was his custom, and breakfasted at eight and a half with 
his family. He showed little appetite for food, but this 
was not unusual, as lie had been suffering from indiges- 
tion for years. After the morning meal the " boys " 
dropped in to see him, as they were wont to do — Corne- 
lius, William K., and Frederick AV. — and consulted with 
him about the management of the properties that the 
family controlled, and in the direction of which they 
were active. About half-past nine this conference was 
held, and Mr. Rossiter, the treasurer of the Centi-al 
road, and the custodian of many of Mr. Yanderbilt's 
business confidences, was also present. At eleven o'clock, 
some matter being under consideration that required 
the pi-esence of Mr. Depew, he was sent foi-, but he re- 
turned word that he would be unable to answer the call 
before one o'clock, and an appointment was made for 
that hour. 


Considerable business liad been ti-ansacted by this 
time, and Mr. Vanderbilt, remembering that he liad an 
appointment, left the house and walked briskly to the 
studio of J. Q. A. Ward. He gave the sculptor about 
an hour's sitting for the bronze bust of him which had 
been ordei-ed by the trustees of the College of Physicians 
and Surgeons; that notable beneticiary of his bounty. 

Returning to the house, he had luncheon at 12.30, 
sitting at table with his wife, his youngest son, George, 
and his daughter, Mrs. Twombly. It was afterward 
remarked that he was in a cheerful mood and chatted in 
a jocund manner with the family. At one o'clock Mr. 
Depew arrived, but finding that Mr. Robert Garrett, 
president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, 
had just called to have a talk with Mr, Vanderbilt, 
he waived his own engagement till later in the day, 
and insisted on Mr, Garrett taking his place. The ar- 
rangement was accepted, and Mr. Garrett began to talk 
over the project of bringing the new trunk line into the 
city via Staten Island and Mr. A^anderbilt's old home. 

The two men were seated in the study, a capacious 
room on the north side of the house. A brisk fire was 
burning on the hearth. The greater millionaire sat in 
liis favorite easy-chair, one with a deep seat, low back, and 
soft arms ; at his left, his table scattered with papers ; 
behind him, his desk. Tlie smaller millionaire sat on a 
sofa just opposite, under the front window, and here and 
thus for an hour they confei-red. Mr. Garrett unfolded 
his plans for establishing terminal facilities ; Mr. Van- 
derbilt leaned eagerly forward and listened, and made 

Xo one who heard their quiet conversation could have 


inferred that Mr. Vanderbilt was talking to the son of 
his old antagonist in transportation, with whom he had 
had more than one desperate rate-cutting battle. Mr, 
Yanderbilt was speaking, when suddenly his visitor 
perceived an indistinctness of utterance. Leaning for- 
ward to catch his meaning, he saw the muscles about 
the mouth twitch slightly. Then they were violently 
convulsed, and a spasm shot through the frame. In an- 
other instant the stricken man plunged forward, witli- 
out a cry, headlong to the floor. Mr. Garrett caught 
him before lie struck, but before he could lay him on 
the rug and put a pillow under his head he had ceased 
to breathe, and in a moment the pulse was still. The 
family were summoned ; doctors were sent for ; restoi'a- 
tives were tried ; in vain — the man was dead. 

When Dr. McLean, the famih- physician, arrived, he 
found that apoplexy had done its work — a blood-vessel 
burst in the head, a clot of blood upon the brain, and 
that was the end. Mrs. Yanderbilt fainted M'hen she 
heard the news from the physician. 

It was generally agreed that Mr. Yanderbilt had been 
subjected to no peculiar annoyance or fatigue during the 
day — no special nervous pressure. Mr. Ward said : 
" Mr. Yanderbilt was somewhat out of breath when he 
came in, though he had not been exerting himself more 
than to (j:et out of his carriao;e and walk into the house 
here. At each of the former sittings he was in excellent 
spirits, and while I woi-ked on the clay model he talked 
about horses and various artistic subjects, especially 
paintings. lie never seemed to tire of relating his 
amusing and unusual experiences in buying the works of 
art now in his residence. To day, however, Mr. Yau- 


derbilt was rather silent, and after a few minutes seemed 
to grow drowsy. I asked liim whether he was feeling 
well, and he said that his head felt a little queer, but 
that he supposed it was the result of sitting up rather 
late last night, and M-ould therefore soon wear away. 
After about half an hour he grew very restless. 

"He took a short nap in his chair, then roused him- 
self and asked how I was frettino- alono-. To interest 

or?* o 

him, I brought out a picture of Maud S. and asked his 
opinion of it. lie thought it not very good, and said he 
had a much better one. From this we began discussing 
horses and fast records, and the possibilities of the 
future. Mr. Vanderbilt was now much more wide 
awake, but as he was not feeling his best, I suggested 
that he cut the sitting short, and I could do very well 
with what I had. He lingered a few moments to dis- 
cuss the clay, and I asked him if that was his first 
bust. He laughingly asked if I hadn't heard about the 
one at the Eden Musee, and went out." 

The news of the death spread with mai'velous i-apidity. 
By dusk everybody in town knew it. By dark it had 
been telegraphed to the ends of the continent. The sons 
and dauo'hters hurried home. Cards and messao-es of 
condolence poured into the saddened house by the hun- 
dred. Telegrams came from remote cities. Scores of 
friends stopped at the house to inquire and to leave mes- 
sages. There was no attempt to intrude on the suddenly- 
afflicted household. 

Curiosity and interest caused crowds to gather in front, 
and to prevent too great a throng an officer was detailed 
to patrol the walks. He had no trouble in preventing 
collections of people, but men and women paced up 


and down, watched the bright vestibule and darkened 
windows, talked in bated breath of the sad affair, and 
wondered what he had done with his fortune. 

All night that ghostlj policeman walked his short 
beat in the somber shadows. Scores of people came 
and whispered together under the gas-lamp, noiselessly 
made inquiries of the sentry, gazed up at the drawn cur- 
tains, watched the callers — some of them closely-veiled 
ladies — coming and going on foot and in carriages, and 
listened to the newsboy's dissonant cry, not five rods 
away, "Extry ! Extry ! Death of William H. Vander- 
bilt ! " 

Within three blocks a meeting of magnates was held 
for the purpose of preventing a fall in prices, and it was 
agreed by the syndicate to buy three hundred thousand 
shares, if necessary, to sustain the market. It was said 
that $12,000,000 was pledged for the use of the pool. 
The solitary patrol marched to and fro. The hoarse 
announcement of the newspaper came up the street, 
and now and then a messenger boy darted out of the 
darkness and back again, and vanished on his way. 

The funeral was very simple — as simple as his father's 
— as simple as the last rites over the body of a man of 
such plain tastes should have been. Xo needed expense 
was spared, but nothing was wasted. Friends were re- 
quested not to send flowers. The body was not em- 
balmed. The coffin was exceedingly plain, of cedar witli 
elliptic ends, draped in black English l)roadcloth, and 
lined with white satin. 

On the morning of the 11th the family assembled 
around the remains of the dead for a farewell and a 
brief prayer. Then the undertaker closed the casket, the 


pall bearers removed it to the nndecorated liearse, and 
the cortege moved through the crowd to St. Bartholo- 
mew's Church, where the most simple public ceremonies 
were held by Bishop Potter. U]X)n the casket was a 
bank of fresh violets, a bunch of palms, and a wreath 
of myrtle, and a cross of white roses was at the foot. 
The regular burial service of the church was read, and 
there was no eulogy of the deceased. The following 
gentlemen served as pall-bearers : Chauncev M. Depew, 
Samuel F. Burger, J. Pierpont Morgan, C. C. Clarke, 
Charles A. Rapallo, John P. Brady, William Turnbull, 
William L. Scott, William Bliss, D. O. Mills, George 
J. Magee, Stephen D. Caldwell. 

From the crowded church down crowded streets again 
moved the procession to the foot of Forty-second Street, 
where the ferry-boat Southfield was in waiting — the 
same boat that had taken the remains of Commodore 
Vanderbilt to the same destination. Again the boat 
was crowded with mourners ; again the pilot rang his 
bell, and they moved out into the stream, carrying the 
remains of the dead millionaire from the city where he 
had lived and labored and doubled the enormous for- 
tune that had been left him, to the lovely island where 
he had spent so many years, and which now was to be 
his final resting-place on earth. 

The body was placed in the public vault of the little 
Moravian cemetery at Kew Dorp, and a simple service 
was said by the local clergyman. Everything was quiet 
and unpretentious. A stranger passing by and looking 
over the low wall would never have imagined that the 
simple rites that were taking place Mere over the re- 
mains of the richest man in the world, nor have dreamed 


of the immense wealtli represented by the sorrowing 

When the family and friends returned to the city, a 
watch of armed men was set over the vault, and they 
paused in their solemn pacing to and fro in the cold 
night, turned a bull's-eye lantern on the faces of curious 
strollers, and answered their questions. For several 
months this armed guard will be on duty night and day 
protecting the body of the dead from tlie hyena rapacity 
of the living, until the completion of the mausoleum on 
the adjoining hill which Mr. Yanderbilt began some 
months since as the final home of the Commodore and 
his descendants. 



Two Hundred Million Dollars given Away — The great Burden Dis- 
tributed — Widow, Children, and Relatives well provided For — 
The " Residue " of a Hundred Millions — Charities — The Testa- 
tor's Purposes and Dreams. 

How the great property had been divided by the will 
was the question that now excited unusual interest. The 
bequest of $200,000,000 was unprecedented in the his- 
tory of the world, and for three days the public dis- 
cussed all the possibilities with eagerness, and the news- 
papers of all the land published every fact and rumor 
that could tend to the solution of the mystery. 

It was well known that the Commodore had been an 
advocate of primogeniture — the special advancement of 
the eldest son — not l)ecause he cherished the old feudal 
superstition that the eldest- born liad superior rights, 
but because he believed that, if equally capable, such a 
single heir would be more likely to keep a vast inherit- 
ance intact, and thus the better to maintain the power 
of the family. It was obvious that the Commodore had 
carried this conviction into effect in devising the bulk of 
his estate to William II., giving to his other children 
only enough to insure their comfort ; and it was further 
known that he had discriminated in his will in favor of 
his young namesake, the eldest son of his eldest son, and 
had indicated him as the future head of the house. 


This son, Cornelius, was understood to liave weathered 
the financial storm of 1883 more safely than his 
brothers, and to have retained and augmented his in- 
heritance in a way that indicated shrewdness and thrift. 
This was quoted in support of the assumption that he 
"would now inherit one-half, perhaps three fourths, of the 
tremendous wealth which his father and grandfather 
had accumulated. Moreover, it was alleged, bv those 
who thought themselves in a position to know, that at 
least one will had been signed and attested within five 
3'ears which executed the Commodore's wish to have 
the estate entailed in a direct line. And it was not 
known that this will had been destroyed and super- 
seded. AVhen the leo-al will was brouo-ht from the Safe 
Deposit Vaults and read — the last of nine wills that had 
been made in six years — great was the public astonish- 
ment. It overthrew primogeniture, by dividing half of 
the property equally between the two eldest sons. 

The family were not surprised. They knew that the 
testator had honestly experimented with primogeniture 
and had been himself a victim of it. His doctor alleged 
that he had died of overwork. Originally equipped 
with a superb constitution, fine physique, and extraordi- 
nary muscular power, his health and strength had de- 
clined from the day that he took charge of his father's 
business. Ills appetite had failed him. Dyspepsia had 
assailed liim. His sleep was broken. Pleasure had lost 
its zest. In eight years he had lived twenty. Constant 
worry had laid the foundation of arterial changes that 
resulted in a rupture of a large vessel in his brain and 
sudden death. 

He felt a premonition of his doom, and he said to his 


family : " The care of $200,000,000 is too great a load 
for any brain or back to bear. It is enough to kill a 
man. I have no son whom I am willing to afflict with 
the terrible burden. There is no pleasnre to be got out 
of it as an offset — no good of any kind. I have no real 
gratification or enjoyments of any sort more than my 
neighbor on the next block who is wortii only half a 
million. So when 1 Lay down this lieavy responsibility, 
I want my sons to divide it, and share the wony whicli 
it will cost to keep it." 

On the day succeeding his funeral, Satnrday. the 12th, 
the will was carried to the Probate Coui-t by Channcey 
M. Depew and the four sons of deceased. It covered 
nineteen pages of foolscap, type-written, and contained 
about six thonsand words. A petition for probate was 
signed by the four sons and verified by their oath, set- 
ting forth that the will was signed September 25, 1S85, 
in presence of the i-eqnired witnesses ; that it bore no 
codicil ; that the names of the heirs-at-law and next of 
kin were, in the order of age, Marie Louise Yanderbilt, 
the widow, living at No. 640 Fifth Avenue ; Cornelius 
Yanderbilt, a son, living at Xo. 1 West Fifty-seventh 
Street ; Margaret Louise Shepard, a daughter, living at 
No. 2 West Fifty-second Street; William Kissani Yan- 
derbilt, a son, living at iSo. 660 Fifth Avenue ; Emily 
Thorn Sloane, a daughter, living at ISo. 642 Fifth 
Avenue; Florence Adele Twombly, a daughter, living 
at No. 684 Fifth Avenue ; Frederick W. Yanderbilt, a 
son, living at No. 459 Fifth Avenue ; Eliza O. Webb, a 
daughter, living at No. 680 Fifth Avenue ; and George 
W. Yanderbilt, a son, living at No. 640 Fifth Avenue. 

Provision is first made for the widow. To her de- 


cedent gives for use during life the house in which lie 
resided at the time of his death, the pictures and other 
works of art, the horses, carriages, and stables, and he 
leaves to lier an annual allowance of $200,000, and the 
privilege of disposing of $500,000 absolutely, bj will, to 
any one whom she may desire thus to benefit. 

To each of his four daugliters he leaves the houses in 
which they are now living, near his own residence ; but 
he adds a condition which shows that he shares his 
father's incredulity as to the business ability of women, 
directing that the portion intended for his j^onngest 
daughter shall not be delivered to her till she attain the 
age of thirty, and if she die cliildless before that time 
her portion shall revert to the estate. 

The testator sets apart $40,000,000 of certain specified 
securities, and directs that it be divided into eight equal 
parts and distributed to his children, giving to each one 
five million dollars absolutely. 

He then sets apart another $40,000,000 of railroad 
aud otlier securities as a trust fund. This is to be di- 
vided into eight equal parts, held by trustees, and each 
child is to receive the interest on $5,000,000 during life, 
in addition to the $5,000,000 absolutely given. This 
makes an annual income of about $500,000 for each. 
The principal goes to the children of the eight, as each 
of them may direct by will. If any son die without 
leaving children, his portion of the trust fund is to be 
divided among surviving brothers or their children. 
The same direction applies to the daughters' shares. 

After the death of the widow, the works of art (ex- 
cepting the marble bust of Connnodore Yanderbilt, 
which is given to Cornelius), the family residence. 


stables, etc., in wliicli she has a life estate, are be- 
queathed to her youngest son, George Vanderbilt, or to 
liis children if he be dead. If he die without issue, 
William 11. Vanderbilt, the eldest son of Cornelius, will 
I'eceive this property, and $2,000,000 besides. The tes- 
tator further gives $1,000,000 to this favorite grandson, 
absolutely, on attaining the age of thirty years. If he 
be not living at the time when such bequests Avould fall 
to him, then they shall go instead to the next son of 
Cornelius, who bears the same name as his father. 
" My object being," the testator says, recurring to the 
spirit of the Commodore, " that my present residence 
and my collection of works of art be retained and main- 
tained by a male descendant bearing the name of Van- 

Mr. Vanderbilt also gives $2,000,000 to his eldest son 
Cornelius in addition to all other bequests ; §30,000 to 
William V. Kissam, a nephew ; to his brother, Jacob II. 
Vanderbilt, the dividends during life on 1,000 shares of 
Kew York Central ; an annuity of $2,000 to his Annt 
Phebe and each of twelve other relatives, and of $1,200 
to othei-s ; and to his secretary, E. V. W. Ilossiter, $10,- 

He gives $200,000 to the Vanderbilt University, of 
Tennessee, which his father founded. To the follow- 
ing, $100,000 each is bequeathed. To the Domestic and 
Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church ; St. Luke's Hospital ; the Young Men's Chris- 
tian Association of Js^ew York ; the Protestant Episco- 
pal Mission Society of ]^ew l^ork ; the Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, and the Moravian Church at Xew 
Dorp. The following get $50,000 each : The General 


Theological Seminary ; the Xew Yoi-k Bible and Com- 
mon Prayer Book Society ; the Home for Inciirables ; 
the Protestant Episcopal Church Missionary Society for 
Seamen in the City and Port of New York ; the New 
York Christian Home for Intemperate Men. and the 
American Museum of Natural History. 

Thus about half the property is disposed of. The 
vast remainder is divided and given in two equal shares 
to the two eldest sons, Cornelius Yanderbilt and William 
K. Yanderbilt, giving them about §50,000,000 apiece in 
addition to their present large fortunes. It is estimated 
that Cornelius Yanderbilt cannot have less than $80,- 
000,000 — nearly as much as his father received from the 

The widow and the four sons are made executrix and 
executors, and each son is made one of the trustees for 
all the trust funds except those for his own benefit. If 
they qualify they shall serve without compensation. 

The New York Sun, alluding to this will, said : 

" Never was such a last testament known of mortal. Kings 
Lave died with full treasuries, Emperors have fled their realms 
with bursting coffers, great financiers have i^layed with mil- 
lions, bankers have reaped and sowed and reaped again, great 
houses with vast acres have grown and grown and still exist ; 
but never before was such a spectacle presented of a jilain, or- 
dinary man dispensing, of his own free will, in bulk and mag- 
nitude that the mind wholly fails to apprehend, tangible mil- 
lions upon millions of palpable money. It is simjily grotesque. 

" The numerical significance of a million is incomprehensi- 
ble ; it can only be measured relatively and by illustration, and 
when it comes to dealing with himdreds of millions, the under- 
standing is overwhelmed and helpless. Mr. Yanderbilt gave 
them right and left, as if they were ripe apples." 


For a week after the pii1)lication of tlie will, its pro- 
visions were a leading topic of popular discussion through- 
out the country. It was taken up and picked to pieces, 
approved and criticised, with as much s})irit as would 
have been manifested if the parties to the dispute had 
all been legatees. One thought the property should 
have been equally divided among the children ; another 
that Cornelius should have had almost all of it, to carry 
out the Commodore's dream ; another that it should 
have been distributed among the whole population of 
the countr}', " and it would have given $4: to every man, 
woman, and child in the United States ; " another that 
it should have been directed more to objects of public 
benevolence. In this last, many concurred. 

To those who knew him best, it seemed a wonder 
that the testator was not so wholly embittered as to 
refuse to make any provisions in his will for public 
charities. He had been harried and abused by the 
press, whenever he had tried to do any generous action. 
Every announcement that he had made a donation to 
science or medicine, to art or music, was met by the 
churlish connnent, " It's nothing for him ! " and " Why 
didn't he give ten times as nmch ? " Instead of gi-ati- 
tude, lie got sneers ; instead of decent treatment, in- 
sults. The demand of the loudest-talking, if not the 
most influential, of the press of the city, seemed to be 
that he could atone for the heinous crime of being rich, 
only by giving away all of his property at once to any- 
body who chose to ask for it. So it is a marvel that he 
did not become wholly hardened and cynical, and refuse 
to consider any schemes for the special benefit of the 


On the contrarj', his mind was busy with such pur- 
poses, trying constantly to give permanent foi-ni to the 
liberal thought. " The great trouble of our time," he 
was in the habit of saying, " is that there are too many 
people idle. There are few skilled mechanics among 
them ; most of the tramps and loafers are those who 
are unskilled, w^ho have not been trained to do aiiy 
difficult thing, and do it well. "What is especially 
needed, is to have all boys and girls of all classes of 
societj' taught some sort of difficult trade — given special 
training, so that they can fall back on work whenever 
necessary." To this end he considei-ed the expediency 
of establishing some great tool-house, where poor chil- 
dren might be taught trades ; but he gave it up because 
he came to think that such training should be conferred 
b^' a modification of the public school system. 

But inquiry shows that Mr. Vanderbilt wished and 
meant to associate his name with some great gift to the 
city of New Yoi-k which should be at once unique and 
pre-eminent ; and this generous ambition at last, two or 
three }ears before his death, took the form of a public 
Museum, like the British Museum, to be, like that, of 
incalculable value as an educator of youth. lie decided 
to build such a museum of magnificent dimensions on 
the block opposite to his house on Fifth Avenue, and to 
endow it with ^5,000,000. This would be a far greater 
endowment than that possessed by any other museum 
in the woild, and it might be expected in a few years to 
excel all others in the extent and value of its collections. 

The delay in realizing this superb vision, and finally 
its failure through death, resulted from the impossibility 
of obtaining the land. It belongs to the citv, but is 


rented to the llomaii Catholics for an orphan asylum, 
for 990 yeai's, at the lental of $1 a year. Tiie asyluni 
people would not relinquish the advantages of their fine 
bai'gain, and the city was helpless ; so, after persisting 
for two years, Mr. Yanderbilt suspended the plan till he 
could find another acceptable site, and New York lost 
one of the most valuable monuments of industry and art 
that it was within the power of man to rear. 



Temperate Habits — Abstemious — Domestic — Tribute of the Directors 
— Opinions of Jay Gould and Russell Sage — Letter to Matthew 
Riley — A Much Abused Man— Fond of Opera — The Student 
Waiters — The Undelivered Apple-Jack. 

The general habits and personal character of Mr. 
Vanderbilt will not be doubtful to those who have 
attentively read the preceding pages. 

He used no tobacco in any form. He was abstemious 
at table. Few men ate less, he taking no meat some- 
times for days together. He never partook of rich foods 
or hot breads. He was fond of shell-fish and of the 
cereals in a coarse form, with milk. He retained simple 
tastes, and seldom drank wine or liquor of any sort. He 
was not in anj- sense a high liver. 

He weighed about one hundred and eighty pounds, 
and often complained that he did not get enough physi- 
cal exercise. His chief recreation was the opera, of 
wdiicli he was fond. His physician, Dr. McLane, said : 
"I did not think he needed medicine when I first diag- 
nosed his case in 1870, and I have never thought so since ; 
therefore, I prescribed as little as possible. My theory 
was that he needed rest and relaxation. I believed he 
liad too much to think of, and that under the weight of 
such important cares as his great interests involved liis 


health had been affected in such a way that only com- 
plete rest and freedom from worry would restore it. I 
saw him on Sunday, and congratulated him on his ap- 
pearance, lie seemed to be *in excellent health, and in 
iine spirits over the successful transfer of the AVest Shore 
property and the solution of that puzzling and annoying 
problem. The suddenness of his death shocked me. 
Those who saw him shaking with laughter over the 
' Queen of Sheba ' at the Metropolitan Opera House last 
Wednesday night will agree with me that his appear- 
ance indicated quite a lease of life on earth." 

In his liome life Mr. Yanderbilt set an example 
worthy of ennilation by many men of less affairs. He 
was exceedingly domestic, and devoted to his home and 
family. It was a very pressing matter of business in- 
deed which got him out of his home at night. He used 
to stay at home and play whist every evening after din- 
ner. He was passionately fond of a good rubber, and 
played with considerable skill. 

Unlike the iron Commodore, he always felt that his 
children had rights. He was kindly, conciliatory, and 
indulgent in liis relations with them, and in the midst 
of the greatest affairs always found time to look after 
their welfare and enjoyment, to bend to their humors 
and fancies, and to make their hours happy. Instead 
of fearing him, they loved him. As a host he was always 
cordial to friends and acquaintances, affable to strangers, 
and approachable and accessible to all. He did not 
bi'ing his shop to the fireside. 

Pie was a fair story-teller, and while not a picturesque 

or poetical talker, he was fluent and vigorous of speech, 

and capable of conveying a vivid impression of his ex- 


periences. He was fond of recalling the amusing inci- 
dents of his travels in Europe before any of the family 
spoke French or German, and when favorably launched 
upon the after-dinner tide he could agreeably entertain 
a table-full. 

Perhaps there is no better way of conveying an ade- 
quate idea of Mr. Vanderbilt's character as it was under- 
stood by those who worked with him and saw much of 
him than by copying here the following expression of 
their regard uttered by the directors of eleven railroad 
companies assembled together on the day after his death. 
Cynics can, if they choose, make some grains of allow- 
ance on the ground that this estimate was uttered by his 
associates and beneficiaries — but, in the main, the words 
are no doubt true : 

" His sudden death in the very midst of the activities 
whose influence reached over the entire continent has 
startled the whole country, and in the hush of strife and 
passions the press and public give tender sympathy to 
the bereaved family and pay just and deserved tribute 
to his memory. But to us, who were his associates and 
friends, endeared to him by the strongest ties and years 
of intimacy, the event is an appalling calamity, full of 
sorrow and the profoundest sense of personal loss, while 
officially we feel that his sagacity, his strong common 
sense, his thorough knowledge of the business, his will- 
ingness to lend of his vast resources in times of peril, and 
his counsel and assistance, were of invaluable and incal- 
culable service in conducting and sustaining these great 

" He came into the possession of the largest estate ever 
devised to a single individual, and has administered the 


great trust with modesty, without arrogance, and with 
generosity, lie never used his riches as a means of op- 
pression, or to destroy or injure the enterprises or busi- 
ness of others, but it constantly flowed into the enlai-ge- 
ment of old, and the construction and development of 
new works, public in theii- character, which opened new 
avenues of local and national wealth, and gave oppor- 
tunity and employment directly and indirectly to mill- 
ions of people. In keeping together and strengthening, 
during a period of unparalleled connnercial depression 
and disintegration, the combination of railways known 
as the Yanderbilt system, which he inherited from his 
father, greatly extended, and transmitted to trained and 
worthy successors, he performed a work of the highest 
beneficence to the investors and producers of the whole 

" None of his accumulations were derived from his 
injustice to others, from conspiracies against associates, 
from ci'ushing out the w^eak, but the humblest stock- 
holder shared in equal proportion in whatever benefited 
the common property, 

" But it is not alone for his sense, judgment, and jus- 
tice in the vast business with which he was connected 
that he will be remembered. His many and unostenta- 
tious charities are known only to the beneficiaries, but 
the Yanderbilt University, the Egyptian Obelisk in the 
Central Park, and the Medical College in New York will 
remain among the endui-ing monuments of his public 
spirit. AVhen he had gathered in his galleries the lar- 
gest and best collection of modern art in the woi'ld it was 
his greatest gratification to invite the public to enjo}', 
in equal measure with himself, those priceless treasures. 


" To the employes of liis railroads lie was exacting 
in discipline and the performance of duty. He was 
merciless to negligence or bad habits in a vocation where 
millions of lives were dependent upon alertness and fidel- 
ity. But within these limits he was a just and gener- 
ous employer and superior officer. He knew how to 
reward faithfulness and remember good conduct, and 
always held the respect and allegiance of the vast bodies 
of men who called him chief. The successful adminis- 
tration of the railways under his management and the 
affairs of his life was largely due to his rare knowledge 
of men and his ability to recognize the qualities needed 
in the control of great trusts. 

" With all the temptations which surronnd nnlimited 
wealth, his home life was simple, and no happier domes- 
tic circle could any where be found. The loved compan- 
ion with whom he began his active life in the lirst dawn 
of his manhood was his help, comfort, and happiness 
through all his career, and his childi'en have one and all 
honored their father and their mother and taken the 
places which they worthily fill in their several spheres 
of activity and nsefulness. 

" In performing this last and saddest of duties, we 
who were his associates, advisers, and friends remember 
not the millionaire, but the man. His frankness, his 
unaffected simplicity, his deference to the opinions of 
others, his consideration for the feelings of all, his ten- 
derness in suffering and affliction, and, his whole-hearted 
manliness, were to us precious privileges in his life, and 
are loving recollections in his death." 

Arrangements had been made by lieavy holders of 
stocks to buy freely if the market showed a decline on 


Wednesda}'. Early in the morning there was an excited 
crowd in the vicinity of AVall and jS^ew Streets, and wlien 
the corridoj's and galleries were opened at 9.30 there 
was a wild scramble of those eager to obtain entrance. 
The scene has not been paralleled since the panic of '73, 
and in fifteen minntes every available foot of room was 
occupied. In the melee hats were knocked off, clothing 
torn, and a few persons slightly injured. On the floor 
the throng was thickest about the Yanderbilt proper- 
ties, and when the first roll of the gong was heard, an- 
nouncing the liour for business, the Lake Shore corner 
resembled a bear-pit, being filled with a jostling, yelling 
crowd of frantic men. The first recorded quotation was 
at 85, as against 88, the closing figure of Tuesday after- 
noon, for stock sold half an hour after Mr. Yanderbilt was 
dead ; but the collusion of the large operators was in- 
stantly apparent, for purchases were rapid, and the stock 
rallied and rose to 86, then to 87. The behavior of 
JS^ew York Central and the other Yanderbilt stocks was 
about the same. At first, for an hour, they went off, but 
the strong hand of Gould, Sage, and Field was felt, and 
they all rapidly recovered their ground. And when the 
great gong rang again at 3 o'clock brokers looked at 
eadi other with a sigh of relief, and said : " It wasn't 
much of a shower after all."' 

Jay Gould said, shortly before the close of business : 
" This rapid recovery demonstrates to me very clearly 
the wonderful growth of this country. Its richest man 
is dead, but in spite of the calamity the stock market is 
likely to close higher than j^esterday, when his death 
was not anticipated. A few years ago the result might 
have been very different." 


Russell Sage, one of the shrewdest men in America, 
and liimself the possessor of a fortune of not less than 
$50,000,000, said: " Mr. Vanderbilt was a very remark- 
able man, of far more original force and financial ability 
than any one imagined when he succeeded to his father's 
millions. I don't know that any one ever thought of 
comparing him to the Commodore, whose genius in 
finance was really beyond comparison. He was to 
finance what Shakespeare was to poetry and Michael 
Angelo to art. But William H. was certainl}^ an able 
successor. He doubled the colossal fortune that was 
left him, and that proves an executive skill that only 
one man in a million possesses. 1 have had more or 
less to do with him, and the three qualities I observed 
as most striking in his character were his readiness, his 
reliability, and his courage. That is to say, he always 
met an emergency with a plan ; he always kept his 
word to the very letter, and he possessed such a fund of 
decision and persistence that, having undertaken to do 
a thing, and having made np his mind how it was to be 
done, he went right ahead and put it through on the 
lines he had laid down. I think that his rare success in 
manipulating his great fortune was due to these quali- 

The relations of Matthew Riley, the broker, to the 
dead millionaire throw some interesting side-lights upon 
his character. Mr. Riley is a lover of horses, and he 
and Mr. Vanderbilt were for years warm friends. In 
1876 Mr. Riley went to Philadelphia and became man- 
ager of the Exposition Hotel. Of this he says: 

" I was quite successful with the house, and every- 
thing going smoothly, when one day I got one of his 


regular monthly letters that always brought sunshine 
and encoui'ageinent to nie. It stated that Dan Mace 
had that day driven his team, Hutledge and Dickens, a 
mile in 2.2U. I sat right down and wrote him, offei'ing 
congratulations on the team, asking him if he was com- 
ing to Philadelphia that summer, and ui'ging liim to be 
my guest if he did come; also telling him of a fast horse 
1 had seen that M'ould please him. The letter brought 
this reply from Mr. Yanderbilt, written fi'om 452 Fifth 
Aveime, the house the Commodore had given him. It 
was not dated, but you will see from the contents that 
it was the summer of '76." 

The letter referred to was as follows : 

M. ErLET. 

Dear Sir : Your very kind note of yesterday i.s just re- 
ceived, and I assure you I am veiy much pleased to hear that 
you are so prosperous in yoiu- business. Let me give you a word 
of good advice. These are hard times, and but very few are 
prosperous. Don't let this opportunity slip. Give up your 
horse and all other unnecessary expenses, and put away for a 
rainy day every dollar that you can save from your business. 
This summer is your harvest. You know what it is to struggle 
against adversity. Now is the time to save something ahead. 
Don't neglect it, and you will always thank me for pressing it 
upon you. Your account of the horse — he must be a good one. 
If he was here I would try him a week or two, and if he suited 
me would buy him at a fair price. My team, Kutledge and 
Dickens, are fine, but I want a third horse to come in with 
them. Father's health is such that I can make no plans for this 
summer. I am afraid he will not get out again, but we must 
hope for the best. He is of so much vitality and game that he 
may outlive the disease. I am really glad you are doing well. 
Now, take my advice and lay up a good nest-egg. Do away 
with luxuries that are really of no use until you get in position 
where the enjoyment of them can be indulged in from your in- 


terest money rather than from the principal. Don't laugh at 
this. You know I would like to see vou do well and prosper. 
Now while you are young and in health is the time to provide 
for old age. Yours very truly, W. H. Vandeebilt. 

A jDOstscript follows on the first page, showing how 
sincerely the writer had his friend's interest at heart : 

Don't think I have preached to you a sermon. I have said so 
much because I want you to improve the present opportunity. 

" Another tiling Mr. Vanderbilt did for nie," con- 
tinned Mr. Riley, "that was almost as good as that. 
One day about two years ago I was driving Kitty S. and 
met Mr. Vanderbilt behind Little Fred. We had a 
friendly brush down the road, and I beat him. About 
ten days later we were jogging together after a spin. 
I had heard that he was angry because I liad beaten 
him that day, and told him so. Said he : ' My dear 
Riley, if you pay attention to the words of every envi- 
ous sucker you'll have a hard row to hoe in this world ! ' 
After a minute's silence he said : ' I don't know any 
better way to kill off these bilious fellows than to make 
you a present. What horse is there in my stable that 
you want ? ' 

"I thought him joking, and said: 'Are you in ear- 
nest ? ' 

" ' Yes,' he answered, ' I am.' 
" I said : ' Leander is the best horse you own.' 
" ' Well,' said he, ' Leander is your horse.' 
" That was two years ago, and ever since I've used 
Leander. Mr. Vanderbilt was very fond of him, and I 
value the gift not so much for its worth as for the 


Mr. Yanderbilt was the most thoroughly and cordially 
abused man in this country — probably in any country. 
His great wealth and the investments he made brought 
him into contact with the public and subjected him to a 
good deal of honest criticism. lie was also the object 
of malicious denunciation by many wlio, only under- 
standing that he was immensely rich, and unable to 
"understand how his riches could possibly benefit any- 
body but liimself, looked upon him as a buccaneer or 
higliwa}' man, who had aggrandized himself at their ex- 
pense. These men hated him because they were cov- 
etous of his possessions. In every mail that came to his 
desk were denunciations of his opulence. His daily mail 
was a museum. He was promised fortunes by futui-e 
millionaires on the condition that he would merely 
help them to start. These were the commonplace let- 
ters. Then came the grotesque ones. From the im- 
pecunious person who claimed relationship. From the 
ambitious dynamiter who was about to put in motion a 
mysterious machine for the annihilation of the whole 
Vanderbilt family. From the energetic Socialist who 
demanded money and threatened assassination in case of 
refusal to pay. Skulls and cross-bones, daggers and 
black coffins, were common features of decoration, and 
occasionally a suspicious-looking package was opened 
with care and found to bo a badly-constructed " infer- 
nal machine." On three occasions Mr. Vanderbilfs mail 
assumed a really dangerous aspect. 

In April, 1SS2, such a dastardly contrivance was sent 
to him, but it was intercepted befoi'c it reached him, 
through the premature explosion of a similar one ad- 
dressed to another distinguished magnate, Cyrus W. 


Field. The niacliine was a clumsy device, and it was 
contained in a box lined with a German Socialistic news- 

Tims, Mr. Vanderbilt was made at times to feel that 
the reputation of being the richest man on the globe 
conld not be worn with impunity. But the menaces 
did not much alarm or agitate him, and he never went 
out of his M'ay on account of them. "What's the use 
of dodging?" he would say to his secretary, laughing; 
"I am a good-sized target, and if the ci-anks are l)ound 
to kill me, they can do it. But they can't scai'C me to 
death, anyhow." He believed that he would die when 
liis time came and not before, and, beyond taking ordi- 
nary care against ti-eachery, he did not bother himself 
about those whom his prosperity made natural enemies. 

Mr. Vanderbilt was a church-member, liaving con- 
nected himself with the Episcopal Church, which for 
many years he attended on Staten Island. But he was 
Avarmly interested in secular enterprises of a public nat- 
ure. If not an enthusiastic lover of classical music, he 
enjoyed modern operas keenly, and felt all the responsi- 
bilities of his position as a patron of the lyric drama. 
He was always a liberal subscril)er, and on the occasion 
of Henry E. Abbej^'s benefit, at the close of an opera 
season that is unique in the musical history of the world, 
he sent to that enterprising and spirited manager his 
check for $5,000. 

He was fond of the drama in general, and kept him- 
self surprisingly M'ell posted on theatrical news, so that 
in conversation with one of the profession he well knew 
what he was talking al)out. Mr. Vanderbilt Avas the 
first supporter that Mr. Dion Boucicault found for his 


tlieatrical insurance scheme that he so vigorously agi- 

Mr. Jay Gould gave the following estimate of his 
dead compeer : — " I have for many years considered Mr. 
Vanderbilt as a man of unusual ability in the manage- 
ment of large financial interests. AY hen his father died 
and he came into possession of his lai-ge fortune, Mr. 
Vanderbilt was not long in demonstrating his ability to 
manage the property which had been intrusted to his 
care. He made no move upon the checker-board of 
finance until he felt satistied that the move was a safe 
one to make. He would not run a great risk unless he 
were absolutely compelled to by force of circumstances, 
which I assure you was not veiy often. His judgment 
upon values was always sound. Few men have made so 
few mistakes in the handling of moneyed interests as 
Mr. Vanderbilt. He was not a bold venturer or operator. 
He seemed to be satisfied with a small, or, at least, a fair, 
return from his investments, so long as they were sound." 

Isaac P. Chambers, controller of the iS^ew York Cen- 
tral Railroad, said : " I acted as the private secretary of 
Mr. Vanderbilt in connection with the auditor's duties 
from 1865 to 1883. During all those eighteen years I 
was never further away than in the next room to his, 
and I never saw a man of more amiable disposition. 
He was not understood by tbe public. He thought of 
their interest in every respect, and in considering any 
new movement or change in policy, would say : ' AVe 
must look out for the public first, for you know that we 
are their servants.' He was a very generous man, and 
was constantly overrun with applications for assistance, 
and one would be surprised at the chai'acter of many of 


tlie applicants. Doctors of divinity, lawj^ers, and even 
judges who had become entangled in speculations would 
ask him to help them out of their troubles. I remem- 
ber one letter he wrote in reply to a request for advice 
in December, 1878, in w^hich he stated substantially 
this : That he never speculated in stocks and never rec- 
ommended any one else to do so, for he had seen too 
many people ruined by ventures of that kind ; that 
stocks in Wall Street did not sell on the merits of the 
properties, but were subject to the whims and caprices 
of a few men ; that he wrote this much in the liope 
of influencing one man to be satisfied with an honest 
livelihood obtained in a legitimate business, for thou- 
sands of people had lost the savings of a lifetime in 
one day of speculation ; that the writer had asked for 
his advice and there it was." 

Mr. Depew said, alluding to his dead friend : " A 
peculiarity of the man was his fearlessness. He was 
constantly in receipt of letters informing him that at a 
certain hour and place he was to be shot, stabbed, or 
otherwise killed, and under what ciicumstances. It 
would have been an easy matter to do this, for he 
always drove over the same roads, went the same way to 
the office, at the same hour, and back again at fixed hours 
and over fixed routes. He used to hand me these lettei-s. 
Many of them were from cranks, others from that class 
of adventurers who make a living by preying on the 
feai's of their fellow-men ; some of them contained 
threats, others appai'ent disclosui'es. Some I thought 
were real : but he would never allow me to investigate 
them further. On the conti-ary, when infoi-med that he 
would meet death at a particular hour and place, he 


never failed to i^o tliere on time. lie said that lie 
wanted to enjoy life, and that if he were to be wateheil 
and protected it would become a burden to him. If 
death had to come, it would come Avliatever he 
might do, and he would ao riirht alono-. He was in 
this a philosopher, and so when he was abased in public 
or in the press. lie held this idea: that in consequence 
of his wealth and the character of his investments, that 
gave him constant public prominence, he was necessarily 
subjected to constant criticism that to a certain degree 
was justified. He got used to abuse, and while he was 
not much affected by it, I know that he was mightily 
pleased when the newspapers said anything complimen- 
tary of him." 

Mr. Yanderbilt spent some months of the summer of 
1883 driving with his family among the White Moun- 
tains. At the Glen House students from Bates and 
Bowdoin Colleges were employed as waiters, and he at 
once began to inquire of them about their college life 
and experiences. He ascertained that the students were 
in most instances the sons of parents who were not 
burdened with an abundance of wealth, and were there- 
fore depending in a large measure upon their own efforts 
in securing money with which to meet the expenses of 
their college course, and some helped to support their 
parents besides. Mr. Yanderbilt thought this very 
plucky and creditable, and on going away he left 
$3,000 with Charles Milliken, the landlord, for the 
promisiug and ambitious young students in black jack- 
ets and white aprons. Each of them returned to school 
$100 richer through his thoughtful generosity. This is 
only one instance of scores of similar ones. 


Only a week before he died, when he visited the farm 
for tlie last time, to inform the resident farmer of the 
change in ownership, he said, sitting in liis carriage : 
" Well, I am no longer master here. I have given it ail 
to George. He will look after the place hereafter. I 
cannot be bothered with it any more. After all, I have 
enjoyed more peace of mind and quietness liere than I 
ever have in the big city yonder." And then he rode 
back to Kew Dorp, and entered the old Moravian 
Cemetery, and drove through it, and up the hill, to the 
magnificent family mausoleum in course of construe-- 
tion. He was anxious to know if the workmen would 
be able to get it enclosed before M'inter came with its 
frosts and snows. 

And thence he drove down to the ferry, where he met 
and saluted his old neighbor, Tyson Butler, who had 
"given him a lift" a quarter of a century before. In 
that early time before the war, when Yanderbilt was a 
farmer at Kew Dorp, he sent his crops to the city mar- 
ket on schooners, and brought back manure, which was 
hauled up the sandy beach by oxen. 

Once Yanderbilt's cart got stuck in the sand and his 
oxen could not di-aw it out. His farming neighbor, 
Tyson Butler, going by with a yoke of oxen, sung out : 
" Vanderbilt, your oxen are no good. 1^11 bet you a half- 
gallon of applejack that mine can haul that load up the 

" Agreed ; I'll take that bet," was the reply. 

The oxen were hitched on, and they hauled the load 
out without great difficulty. 

" The applejack is yours ! " said Vanderbilt. But he 
forgot to deliver it. 


So on this pleasant day in December, 1SS5, returning 
from tlie cemetery, this same Mr. Yanderbilt, become 
the richest man in the world, stood on the ferry-dock at 
Clifton chatting right and left with all he knew — and 
he seemed to know everybody. Mr. Butler drove his 
oxen by, hauling the great blocks of Quincy granite for 
the Yanderbilt mausoleum at New Dorp, and seeing his 
former neighbor, he shouted : " I haven't got that apple- 
jack yet, Yanderbilt; I'm getting thirsty." 

" And you've remembered it twenty-five years ! " ex- 
claimed Mr. Yanderbilt. "Well, Butler, you shall have 

The next week the rich man was dead and laid to 
temporary rest in the cemetery vault, and the old team- 
ster went on hauling stones for his monument. 



The New Residences — Cornelius and William K. Vanderbilt — Their 
Public Trusts and Private Character — A Notable Present — Law- 
abiding and Self-restraining — Comparison of the Central with 
other Roads — Reduction of Passenger and Freight Charges, 

After the death of tlie Coniinoclore, William II. Yan- 
clerbilt and his two eldest sons planned and bnilt three 
mansions on Fifth Avenue north of tlie siinmiit of 
Murray Hill. The first has been sufficiently described. 
The two others, rivaling it in elegance and luxurious- 
ness, were located, one at the corner of Fifty-second 
Street and the other at the corner of Fifty-seventh 
Street. The pictures of these houses given elsewhere 
in this volume convey some idea of their spaciousness 
and sumptuousness. 

Cornelius Yanderbilt went into the Treasui-er's office 
when he was twentj^-one years of age, and had been there 
thirteen years when his grandfather died and liis func- 
tions were enlarged. lie was one of the most method- 
ical and industrious of men — the first to get to his desk 
and the last to leave it. He had a res-ular and thorough 
office training, and knew how to work to advantage. 

William Kissam Avas more like his grandfather, find- 
ing routine labor irksome, quick and dashing in action, 
readj^ to take risks. He was irascible, like the Commo- 
dore, too, and intolerant of opposition or correction. But 
he made himself master, of the whole transportation de- 

w. K. vanderbii^t's residence. 


partnient ; was quick at calculations ; was familiar with 
freight rates and agreements and the margin of pi'ofit, 
and possessed good judgment on railroad combinations. 

When the father retired from the presidency the two 
sons were made alternately chairmen of the Boards of 
Directors of the different roads : Cornelius held that 
position in the Hudson Kiver and Xew York Central 
and Michigan Central, and William K. was chairman 
in the Lake Shore and President of the Xickel Plate. 

AVith the next son, Frederick W., his father adopted 
a different course, lie took naturally to study, and grad- 
uated at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, and 
thence was received into the office, doing general railroad 
work under his father's direction, lie was first assigned 
to one department and then to another till he became 
somewhat acquainted with the whole complicated ma- 
chine, lie is a director in the different lines. 

Besides being chairman of the Boards of Control of 
the Xew York Central and Michigan Central, and hold- 
ing important positions in several other roads, Corne- 
lius Vanderbilt has different trusts to distract his atten- 
tion, lie is an officer in the Young Men's Christian 
Association, a trustee in the Episcopal Seminary, an 
active member of St. Bartholomew's Church, the treas- 
urer of the Episcopal Board of Foreign Missions, a 
trustee of St. Luke's Hospital, and a ti'ustee of St. John's 
Guild, besides being intimately associated with numer- 
ous charitable institutions. 

In the spring of 1881 Mr. Yanderbilt gave to the 

Metropolitan Museum six hundred and thirty-three 

drawings, where they are arranged, as far as possible, by 

schools, in chronological order. These are pen-and- 



ink, sepia, and red-clialk drawings, illustrating the spirit 
and subject of bygone ages foreign to our own. To the 
uneducated in art, thej are little more than curiosities. 
Among these are works by Raphael, Del Sarto, Cellini, 
Rossetti, Baroccios, Salvator Rosa, Tintoretto, Rubens, 
and many othei's. Less than a liundred years ago this 
collection was begun by Count Maggiori, of Eologna, 
and it has since received many additions from other 
famous collections, includni'g that of James Jackson 
Jarvis, our Consul at Florence, from whom Mr. Yander- 
bilt purchased it in 1880. The schools represented are 
the Roman, Florentine, Sienese, Parma, Man tuan, Peru- 
gian, Bolognese, ISTeapolitan, Venetian, Dutch, and Flem- 
ish, including drawings by Albrecht Durer, and by 
Murillo and Yelasquez of the Spanish school. These are 
of great value to American art students. 

The Yanderbilts have not abused their trust. They 
have been obedient to law, and have acquiesced in the 
conventionalities adopted and observed by their neigh- 
bors. They have been friends of social order, and they 
have never yielded to the temptation which enormous 
wealth confers to make war upon the institutions about 
them ; to indulge in those coarse vices which are too 
often assumed to be the privilege of the rich and pow- 
erful. They have not preyed upon the poor, for they 
were all nurtured in the school of self-restraint. 

At the celebration by the Commodore of his golden 
wedding a hundred and forty of his descendants and 
near relatives assembled at the house, and .on that sig- 
nificant and joyful occasion he presented to his wife a 
beautiful little golden steamboat, with musical works 
instead of an engine — emblematic at once of his busi- 


ness career and the liarmoiiy of his home. If he ever 
boasted of anything that was his, in the presence of 
strangers, it was of liis mother, his wife, or liis long la- 
mented soldier-son. AVillianill. Yanderbilt was equally 
fond of the home life, and his sons are more domestic 
than most of their neighbors. 

The opulence they possess is not the result of the 
manipulation of stock. It was not acquired by I'obbing 
the frugal and industrious. It was earned by building- 
roads where they were needed and as they were needed ; 
by rolling twenty-six fragmentary lines into one and 
giving them a single competent and respectable head. 

For taxes these roads pay 8151 an hour the year round, 
aorerreofating' about three times wdiat it costs to maintain 
the canal as a free competitor. The company pays $1 
to the State to every $2.70 paid to stockholders. 

This system of roads within New York State supports 
200,000 people directly and indirectly from the wages 
paid for service. At the same time it responds to the 
public need for transit and traffic at a cost less than any 
other railroad in the world. This is illustrated by the 
statement which follows : 

Passengek Bates. 

Cents I Cents 

per mile. per mile. 

NewYork Central Railroad. 2 | Illinois railroads 4 

Connecticut railroads 4^ j Minnesota " 5 

Colorado " 10 



... 5 



.... 3^ 



.... 3h 

English " 4^ 

Other European railroads 5| 

Freight Rates. 

Cents per ton i Cunts per ton 

each mile. \ each mile. 

Connecticut railroads .... 6^ ; Pennsylvania raih-oads. ... 5 

Maine " 4^ ; Ohio ' " Gf 

Massachusetts " 5 j New York Central Rail- 

' road i^u" of one cent 


The following table shows the increase of tonnage and 
the reduction of freight charges during thirteen years : 

Y Number of Cents per ton 

tons moved. per mile. 

1869 3,190,840 2j 

1870 4,122,000 2 

1871 4,532,056 2| 

1872 4,393,905 2 

1873 5,522,524 If 

1874 6,114,678 1^ 

1875 6,001,984 li 

1876 0,803,680 1 

1877 6,357,356 1 

1878 8,175,535 1 

1879 , 9,441,213 Of 

1880 10,533,038 Of 

1881 11,591,376 Of 

1882 11,330,392 Of 

1883 10,892,440 Of 

1884 10,212,418 Of 

1885..... 10,802,957 Of 

In 1869 the cost of carrying freight was more than 
two hundred per cent, greater than it now is. "When 
the Erie Canal was the sole dependence for the trans- 
poi'tation of gi-ain the cost of carrying wheat from Buf- 
falo to New York City Avas thirty cents a bushel : now 
it is two and a half cents a bushel ! 

Freight can now be brought from Buffalo cheaper 
than it cost to bring it from Poughkeepsie w4ien Com- 
modore Yanderbilt laid his hand on the track along the 
Hudson ; a bushel of wheat can now be moved from tlie 
fields of far Dakota to the poor consumer on the sea- 
board for less than it cost to bring it from the Genesee 
Yalley when AVilliam H. Yanderbilt came from his 
Staten Island farm and began to study the problem of 



Commercial Philanthropy — Promiscuous Charity — Do the Vander- 
bilts Possess their Monej' V— Tlie Envious and Malevolent — Can 
a Man "Earn a Million Dollars?" — Brain and Brawn — The 
Genealogy of Civilization — Reproductive Wealth. 

^3oME of the thinkers, or, at any rate, the talkers, of 
these days, assume in their discussion of economics that 
such men as the A^anderbilts are to be ranked with the 
despoilers instead of the benefactors of the race. The 
number of such is few, but tlieir opinions may be con- 

AVilliam II. Yanderbilt was not a professional philan- 
thropist. Though a man of kindly feelings and benev- 
olent practices, he was a rigid utilitarian, and, like his 
father, served others mainly through what seemed mere 
service of himself. Avarice moved him, but the net re- 
sult was the general good. He Avas probably the best 
example that this centurj' has afforded of the great ben- 
efits which conspicuous capitalists always confer upon 
the community in the studied acquisition and the half- 
involuntary distribution of their wealth. 

It was once thought that a man's personal virtues 
were to be gauged by the amount of his promiscuous 
charities, and that it was clearly the duty of every man 
who was i"ich to give to every man who was penniless ; 
but we have learned in recent days that charity can 


wisely be dispensed only tlirongh intelligent organiza- 
tion, and that street alms-giving is a mischievous evil, 
multiplying supplicants instead of diminishing their 
number. Even organic charity is merely a negative 
good, stirring the sympathetic impulses of the race to 
support those who through profligacy or misfortune con- 
tinue to impoverish the world. He who builds a factory 
confers ten times more good than he who builds an 
almshouse ; and he who launches a steamship or equips 
a railroad does far more for the comfort and happiness 
of mankind than he who endows an asylum. The 
dominant benefactors of the world are those unerring 
pilots of finance — those untitled princes of industry — 
who ceaselessly strive to aggrandize themselves and so 
most richly benefit others ; who renew with vitality the 
commercial arteries of the world's life, and who hoard 
up great aggregations of capital and keep it busy in the 
em^jloyment of multitudes of workers. These consider- 
ations are to be taken heed of when men are being classi- 
fied in the bi'oad valhalla of the dead. 

Moreover, it is a serious mistake to suppose that a 
man as rich as the Yanderbilts can ever get what is 
called "the worth of his money." Mr. William II. 
Yanderbilt was of an equable and buoyant temper, but 
he sometimes spoke bitterly of this limitation. Tiefer- 
ring to a neighbor, he M'ould say: "He isn't worth a 
hundredth part as much as I am, but he has more of the 
real pleasures of life than I have. His house is as com- 
fortable as mine, even if it didn't cost so much ; his 
team is about as good as mine ; his opera-box is next to 
mine ; his health is better than mine, and he will prob- 
ably outlive me. And he can trust his friends." 


It is one of the curious compensations of nature that a 
man cannot employ for his own comfort and benefit 
more than a small snm of money, and that all that he 
acquires and invests above that sum nnist go to the 
benefit and comfort of others. Mr. YandeVbilt was 
pi-obabl}' worth five hundred tons of solid gold when he 
died — more than would have accumulated if his male 
ancestors in a direct line had had salaries of ^30,000 a 
year since the coming of Adam and had saved it all — so 
much money that he could not have counted it in ten 
years at the rate of a dollar a second if he had counted 
night and day, Sundays and all. He never handled his 
money. Tie never saw it. He was never in its ])i'es- 
ence. In fact, he never had it. It was in the hands of 
strangers, and was nsed by them for their own benefit, 
they paying him five or six million dollars a year for 
the privilege. But even of this five or six millions he 
never saw a tithe. Kinety -nine cents out of every dollar 
lie " owned " wei-e in the hands and coffers of others, 
employed mainly for their exclusive advantage. 

In ministering to his own real and imaginary wants, 
he could not use moi"e than a small fraction of his in- 
come. He constantly overworked, and violated many of 
the laws of health, in order to get and keep his fortune ; 
and for wages, he received, as Stephen Girard grimly put 
it, only his " board and clothes," unless we count among 
liis imponderable assets the reputation of being an ava- 
ricious and dangerous man. The laborer who wheels 
gravel on a railroad and who can eat three solid meals 
every day and sleep soundly every night gets higher 
wages than a dyspeptic king. 

To enjoy his wealth relatively, Mr. Vanderbilt ought 


to have been able to eat and drink a thonsand times as 
effectively, and sleep a thousand times as refreshingly, 
and appreciate the beauties of nature and the marvels 
of art a thousand times as innch as a poor man. 

But, as a matter of fact, this " magnate " dressed no 
better than his clerk, and ate less than his coachman. 
lie drank chiefly milk. He could sleep in only one 
room, like others. He had little taste for books, and 
not time enough to read the newspapers. Envy and 
ignorance had raised np an army of enemies about him. 
The public press stormed at him like a harridan and 
covered the dead walls with infamous caricatures, rep- 
resenting him as a vampire, a dragon, a Gorgon, a 
Silenns, a Moloch, a malevolent llurlothrnmbo. He 
was a victim of insomnia and indigestion. The jockey, 
Anxiety, rode him with whip and spur. He was in con- 
stant peril of apoplexy. He could not take needful ex- 
ercise by walking in the Park for fear of being accosted 
by tramps or insulted by socialistic philosophers. Every 
week his life was threatened by anonymous letters. He 
kept a magnificent servants' boarding-house on Fifth 
Avenue, where he made his home, and superbly equipped 
a stable, whose advantages inured chiefly to the bene- 
fit of his employes. He organized the finest picture- 
gallery in America for the enjoyment of lovers of art, 
but was compelled to limit his hospitality by the fact 
that some of the guests rifled the conservatory of its 
choicest flowers, scratched the Meissoniers with the ends 
of their parasols, invaded the private apartments of the 
mansion, and carried away poitable things as souvenii'S 
of the visit. An enormons fortune is a heavy burden to 
bear. To be very rich invites attacks, cares, responsibil- 


ities, intrusions and annoyances for wliicli tlicro is no 
adequate oflFset. 

A man like Connnodore Yanderbiit, indeed, lias the 
large satisfaction of feeling that lie has given the human 
race a magnificent endowment in adding to the wealth 
of the world. He was not a juggler, who managed by 
a cunning trick to transfer to himself the wealth of 
others ; he created property that did not before have an 
existence. When he stepped from the deck upon land, 
the best railroads in the United States had been para- 
lyzed and driven to bankruptcy by bhmderei-s and plun- 
derers. They w^ere largely in the hands of men who 
cared nothing for them except as they could be made 
serviceable in the reckless games of Wall Street. 
"Whether they could meet the demands of traffic was 
regarded by these desperate gamblers as of no conse- 
quence. Thieves had pillaged the Erie road till its stock 
was sold for three cents on a dollar. Michigan Southern 
was at 5, and Erie at 6. 

The Commodore introduced a new policy. Instead of 
taking money out of the roads, he pnt millions into them. 
Instead of breaking them down he built them up. In- 
stead of robbing them, he renovated them and raised 
them from the grave. lie equipped them anew, trust- 
ing that the public Avould respond and give him his 
money back. He dragged together worthless fragments 
and made them one ; he consolidated parallel roads that 
were apart and belonged together ; he cut down every 
possible expense, and subjected them to the economic 
supervision of one despotic will. lie fearlessly staked 
all upon the venture, and npon the belief that the war 

for the Union would end in the defeat of Secession. 


In both he was right. The South was beaten. The 
public I'esponded. The stock mounted to par and be- 
yond. His roads had all tliey could do, and he made 
millions a year from the investment of liis marvelous 
brain. And he made these millions as legitimateh- as 
an artisan fashions a liat from m'ooI, or a chair from 
wood. He received better pay than the artisan, not 
only because he risked his money where the mechanic 
risks nothing, but because he invested his consummate 

One of the commonest and most pernicious errors is 
the assumption that the liuman hand is the chief factor 
in the creation of wealth, and from this error spiings 
nnich of the noisy remonstrance of our time. It is not 
the hand, but the brain, that is the real creator. It was 
Michael Angelo that built St. Peter's, not the forgotten 
workmen who, executing the will of the great master, 
borne to them through a dozen skilled architects and 
master- artisans, hewed the stone to lines that had been 
accurately drawn for them. The unit of service under- 
lying all is the faithful workman ; but a brigade of work- 
men cannot do as nmch effective good as is done by one 
strong and intelligent capitalist, whose money employs 
and whose sagacity directs and I'enders fruitful the sterile 
hand. The chief productiveness of the world is due 
mainlj' to the skill that plans, the audacity that risks, 
and the prescience that sees through the heart of the 
future. So to those captains of industry who succeed in 
their financial ventures should go that premium called 
profit which society offers to superior foresight. 

It used to be thought by all that as Avealth accumulated 
men decayed ; that the love of money was the root of all 


evil ; that avarice M'as a vice ; that the M-orld M'onld 
be better off if the division of property could bo more 
nearly equal ; that great I'iches were a curse to society ; 
that the millionaire capitalist was a sort of bandit-king 
who plundered the people by methods which were some- 
times legal but always highly immoral, and under whose 
tyrannical exactions industry was paralyzed and laboring 
men were impoverished. 

But it is now known that the desire to own property 
is the chief difference between the savage and the en- 
lightened man ; that aggregations of money in the 
hands of individuals are an inestimable blessing to So- 
ciety, for without them there could be no public improve- 
ments or private enterprises, no railroads or steamships, 
or telegraphs ; no cities, no leisure class, no schools, col- 
leges, literature, art — in short, no civilization. The one 
man to whom the connnunity owes most is the capita- 
list, not the man who gives, but the man Mdio saves and 
invests, so that his property reproduces and multiplies 
itself instead of being consumed. 

It is now known that civilization is the result of labor 
put in motion by wealth ; that wealth springs from self- 
denial ; that self-denial springs from avarice ; and that 
avarice is the child of an aspiring discontent. 

It used to be thought that consolidation was a menace 
to the people, and that great " Monopolies," as they 
were called, ought to be forbidden by law. It is now 
known that such consolidation is a public benefit ; that 
the man who owns a thousand houses rents them 
cheaper than he who owns but one or two ; that the 
greatest oil company in the world furnishes oil cheaper 
than it was ever furnished before, or could be by any 


other means of distribution ; that the Western Union 
Telegraph Company sends dispatches far cheaper than 
they were sent by any of the score of companies from 
which it sprung, and cheaper than they are sent by any of 
the telegraphs in the w^orld which are owned and operated 
by governments ; that A. T. Stewart greatly reduced the 
proHts and losses of merchandising and the cost of goods 
to the consumer, and that, therefore, while he crushed 
out small dealers, his career was a tremendous public 
benefit ; that the Kew York Central Hailroad, the net 
result of the combination of many roads, carries pas- 
sengers at lower fares than any other road in the world 
— lower even thau is required by law — and transports 
freight so cheaply that it has driven fi'om successful 
competition a canal that was built by the State and is 
free to all ! The government has reduced the price of 
postage only oue-half iu a quarter of a century, and de- 
livers letters at a loss of millions of dollars a year ; but 
frieght from Chicago to Kew York costs less than a 
quarter what it did then, and desperate competition 
keeps the rate at the lowest possible point. 

It is to the obvious advantage of society that repro- 
ductive wealth shall be concentrated in few liands ; for 
the larger its aggregations the smaller the toll which it 
will exact from society for the privilege of its use. And 
before Socialists can rationally demand an abolition of 
the competitive system and a reconstruction of the in- 
dustrial methods of society, they must exhibit one rail- 
road somewhere in the world which is owned by a state 
and managed as Masely and thriftily as ai'e the roads 
which are allied to the name of Yauderbilt. 



The little, snug, and quaint Vanderbilt homestead, where 
the father and mother of " Commodore " Vanderbilt raised 
their family and spent the greater portion of their lives, and 
whence they were finally buried, still stands in the village 
of Edgewatei', a half mile or so from the village which 
has been known, during the past quarter of a century, 
as "Xompkinsville," " Vanderbilt's Landing," and "Quar- 
antine." At the present time the whole shore of Staten 
Island, from New Brighton to Clifton, is one continuous 
street, well-built up, with only here and there a landmark, 
or old building, to remind one of the days long since gone 
by. The Vanderbilt cottage stands on the old "Shore 
Road," which once ran close to the water's edge, at the 
corner of Beach Street. There is now a considerable ex- 
tent of made land between the shore road and the water, 
Avhich puts the old homestead further inland. But the 
view of New York Bay, and the highlands of Long Island 
in the northeast, is still unobstructed. Originally the 
building was very small, one story high, with a peaked 
roof, the front part of which projects from the house far 
enough to form a roof for the piazza. Of the massive 
chimney at one end, the lower portion still forms a part of 
the end wall of the house. There was one room at the 
rear. The windows are high, with small panes of glass. In 
later years the house has been enlarged, abovit one-half, by 
the addition of a parlor and sleeping-rooms on the western 
end, so that now it is a double cottage, containing nine or 


ten rooms, with a chimney at each end, and a front door in 
the middle, with two front windows on either side of it. 

The house stands back some ten or fifteen rods from the 
street, on a gentle elevation, in the midst of a good sized 
plot of ground, inclosed with a rough picket fence. There 
is a well in the garden in front of the laouse, which, doubt- 
less, in olden times, possessed a well-sweep. Around it are 
old cherry-trees, pear-trees, and a cluster of Normandy 
poplars. The cottage is now painted white, with gxeen 
outside blinds. Entering, we find the rooms low between 
joints, but very comfortable and cosey in appearance. It is 
over a hundred years old, yet the mud ceiling of the sitting- 
room at the left of the hall, is without a crack, and in as 
perfect a condition to-day, as when it was put on. This 
room contains a large open fireplace, with a mantel-piece 
in the Colonial, or George Washington style. Beyond the 
sitting-room there is a smaller apartment, now used as a 
dining-room, with a fii-ejjlace in one corner, a snug ar- 
rangement, suggestive of many a comfortable after-dinner 
chat. In the rear of this room is the little addition, or 
kitchen. In the front hall hangs a quaint lithograph, made 
in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1838, of one of the Commodore's 
steamboats, the Augusta, a long, narrow, side-wheel craft, 
with men in rows, stove-pipe hats, and " Newmarket" coats, 
standing on the uniu closed upper deck. A huge smoke- 
stack rises from the forward pai't of the boat, which, judg- 
ing from its appearance, lacked all the comforts of modern 
steam vessels. 


The name of Coraeliiis Yanderbilt first appears in the 
New York dh*ectory for 1815-lG, as follows : " Cornelius 
Vauderbilt, mariner, 93 Broad St." 

In 1816, he Uved at 13 Stone Street ; in 1817, he did 
business at 17 Stone Street ; in 1818, at 5G Boaver Street ; 
in 1819, at 18 Stone Sti-eet, and all this time he is rated a 
"mariner." In 1820 he is called a " steamboat master," 
and seems to have headquarters of some sort at 58 Stone 
Street, In 1822, his name disappears from the Directory 
during several years of his New Brunswick residence ; it re- 
appears in 1827, when he is again classified as a " marinei*," 
and has an office at 457 Washington Street. 

In 1833-31-35, the directory describes Cornelius Vander- 
bilt as a " mariner," living at 131 Madison Street. The 
next year he moved to 173 East Broadway. 

This was a little over half a century ago. The post-of- 
fice was then in the basement of the Exchange, fronting on 
Exchange Place and Hanover Street. There were two 
mails a day to Brooklyn, and mails were made up for as fai' 
west as the "frontier counties of Ohio," and the "Terri- 
tory of Michigan." About one dozen letter-carriers were 
employed by the post-office. William H. Aspinwall then 
lived at 3 College Place, opposite Cit}- Hall Park ; John 
Jacob Astor did business at 8 Yesey Street, and lived in 
Hoboken ; William B. Astor lived at 376 Broadway ; Jacob 
Lorillard lived at 144 Hudson Street, and Peter Lorillard 
Jr., at 521 Broadway. Peter Cooper had a glue factory out 
in the country at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Twent}'- 
eighth Street. Alexander T. Stewart kept a dry-goods store 
at 257 Broadway, and lived at 5 Warren Street. Prosper 
M. Wetmore lived at 79 Franklin Street. William E. 
Dodge lived on Fifth Street, near Second Avenue, and 
" Delmouico & Brother " were known as confectioners, and 
kept a " Restaurant Fran9ais"at 23 and 25 William Street. 
Fifth Avenue then extended as far north as Eighth Street, 
and cross streets, as high as Twenty-eighth Street, had been 
graded on the eastern side of the city. 


On May 20, 1853, Commodore Vanderbilt, with his 
his family, started for a tour of the coast of Europe in the 
steam-yacht North Star. The sole object of the excursion 
was to gratify his family, and take a complete holiday for 
himself, he having known no rest from labor during more 
than forty years. Captain Asa Eldridge, who had been 
engaged in the India, Liverpool, and CaHfornia trade, was 
made sailing-master. Mr. John Keefe, a well-known caterer 
in New York, was the purser. Several of the hands who 
shipped for the cruise were young men of the best families 
in the country. The party on board consisted of IVIr. and 
Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. James Cross, Miss Kate 
Vanderbilt, Master George W. Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. 
W. H. Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. D. B. Ahen, IVIi-. and Mrs. 
George Osgood, Mr. and Mrs. W. K. Thorn, Miss Louisa 
Thorn, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Torrance, Mr. and Mrs. H. F. 
Clark, Mr. and Mrs. N. B. La Bau, Dr. and Mrs. Jared 
Linsly, Eev. Dr. and Mrs. J. O. Choules, of Newport, K. I., 
and Mrs. Asa Eldridge. As the North Star passed by 
Staten Island, opposite to the residence of Commodore Van- 
derbilt's mother, rockets were let off and complimentary 
guns fired. The night was a beautiful one, with the moon 
shining in a cloudless sky. 

Soon after leaving Sandy Hook, Commodore Vanderbilt 
requested the clergyman on board to conduct family worship 
throughout the voyage. It was arranged that prayers should 
be attended every evening at nine o'clock, and that grace 
should be said at all meals on board ship. On Sundays a 
sermon was preached at eleven o'clock. 

A little incident occurred, just before the ship left New 
York, which is worth noting. An hour before the time for 
sailing the firemen struck for higher wages. Mr. Vander- 


bilt refused to be coerced by tlie seeminpf necessity of the 
case : he would not hsten for a moment to demands so 
urged, and in one hour selected such firemen as could be 
collected, and started ! The ship ran as high as three 
hundretl and thirty-seven miles in one day, and the trip 
across was made in a little over ten days. 

The first port made was Southampton, and after a look 
at Winchester and its cathedral, the party went to London. 
The first place visited was the Thames Tunnel. After that 
the sights of the town were seen, with excursions to Wind- 
sor Castle, Bristol, Clifton, Bath and other places. One of 
the first i:)ersons to call on Mr. Yanderbilt, in. London, was 
George Peabody. He otiered the nse of his boxes that 
evening for the opera at Covent Garden, and the jDarty 
went. The Queen and Prince Albert were also present, 
and "Les Hnguenots " was sung by Grisi, Mario, Castel- 
lan, Formes and Belletti. Among the entertainments at- 
tended by the Vanderbilts was a dinner given by Mr. Pea- 
body at Richmond, to meet Senator Douglas ; a levee by the 
American Minister, ]\Ir. Ingersoll ; a soiree at the Mansion 
House, by the Lord Mayor, Mr. Carlyle being of the party. 
While in London a deputation from Southampton waited 
on Mr. Vanderbilt, proffering a public entertainment. The 
invitation was accepted. Meanwhile Mr. Vanderbilt and 
the gentlemen of the party went to Ascot to attend the 
races. AVhile in London Mr. D. B. Allen made a hasty run 
to Leipsic, where his sou, Mr. William V. Allen, was being 
educated. The two joined the party. 

On June 13tli a public banquet was given to Mr. 
Vanderbilt and his party by the Mayor and merchants of 
Southampton. Dinner was served at 3 p.m. in the Royal 
Victoria Assembly Rooms. The Mayor led Mrs. Vanderbilt 
to the dining-room, while the Commodore took out the 
Lady Mayoress. Two hundred people sat down to dinner, 
surrounded by music, flowers, flags, and much j)opular 
enthusiasm. Many sj^eeches were made, and the Mayor, in 
jDroposing the toast to Mr. Vanderbilt said, among other 
things, that "he owed his position entirely to his own in- 
dustry, perseverance, and extensive knowledge of mankind. 
He had ever been an enemy to all monopoly, and that was 
the foundation of his gz-eat success. And then, look at his 


famil}' ! He was not like many of our anchorites, con- 
tented with amassing a large sum of money, but he had 
brought up a large and interesting family." Commodore 
Vanderbilt, in replying said : 

" Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to see you. It af- 
fords me sincere pleasure to make your acquaintance. It 
shows that we are all one people, and I liojDe that, b}' the 
power of steam, our common countries will be so bound to- 
gether that no earthly power can separate us. Since we 
landed in your beautiful town, we have made a hasty race 
over part of her Majesty's dominions ; and, were I able to 
express the gratification we have experienced in passing 
through the country and j'our town, and the interest we 
feel in all your citizens that we have had the happiness to 
meet, I am fearful you would construe it into an attempt 
to make a speech. But I must refer that task to my friend 
Mr. Clark, who will address you much better than I can 
possibly do." 

]Mi-. Clark and Mr. La Bau made speeches, and Mr. Wil- 
liam H. Vanderbilt offered his thanks for the reception 
they had given to the toast, and kej^t the room in good 
humor b}^ expressing a hope that, as the bump of cautious- 
ness had always distinguished his father, they would allow 
the son to exhibit it also, by saying nothing more, especi- 
ally as this was his maiden speech. He proposed the health 
of " The Ladies of England." 

The next day after the banquet. Commodore Vanderbilt 
entertained some five hundred of the people of Southamp- 
ton on his yacht, and gave them an excursion around the 
Isle of Wight. Refreshments were furnished to the whole 
party, and there was music and dancing on deck. 

After leaving Southampton the Vanderbilt party visited 
Copenhagen and Peterhoff'. At the later place the Grand 
Duke Constantine, second son of the Emperor, and High 
Admiral of the Russian navy, visited Mr, Vanderbilt in 
the royal yacht, and sent round one of the Emperor's car- 
riages, with the royal livery, to take him and Mrs. Vander- 
bilt round the place. The city of St. Petersburg was 
visited, and the party received much attention. 

After revisiting Copenhagen, a stay of nineteen days was 
made in Paris. While there several gentlemen and noble- 


men called on IVIr. Vanderbilt, urging him to identif}^ him- 
self with a new steamship line which the Government jn'O- 
posed to open with North, South, and Central America. 
Mr. Vanderbilt gave no encouragement to these overtures. 
His aims and objects were strictly private, and personal 
enjoyment and the happiness of his circle was all he at- 

While the North Star was at Ha^Te she was visited by 
thousands of persons, the Muaister of "War among others. 
The only accident which occurred during the trij^ was the 
loss of a young man in the Bay of Biscay, Robert Ogden 
Flint, one of the crew, who got knocked overboard by the 
mainsheet, as he stood at the extreme edge of the stern. 
He was unable to swim and went down at once. Other 
places visited by the Vanderbilt party were Gibraltar, 
Malaga, Leghorn, and Florence. At the latter city 'Mr. 
Vanderbilt sat to Mr. Powers for his bust, and, at the re- 
quest of her sons-in-law, ]Mi-s. Vanderbilt had her portrait 
painted by Mr. Hart. The journey was continued, inclu- 
ding Pisa, Ischia, Naples, Malta, Pera, Constantinople, Tan- 
giers, Madeira, and then home, the number of miles ac- 
complished being 15,024. Fiftj'-eight days were occupied 
in sailing, and the coal consumed amounted to 2,200 tons. 
The party reached home on Sei^tember 2;), 1853. 

The London Daily Keics, for June 4, 1853, had "A Word 
about Mr. Vanderbilt's Yacht," saying, among other things : 

" An American merchant has just arrived in London on a 
pleasure trip. He has come by train from Southampton, 
and left his private j'acht behind him in dock at that port. 
This yacht is a monster steamer. Her saloon is described 
as larger and more magnificent than that of any ocean 
steamer afloat, aud is said to surpass in splendor the 
Queen's yacht. Listening to the details of the grandeur 
of this new floating palace, it seems natural to think upon 
the riches of her owner, and to associate him with the Cosmo 
de Medicis, the Andrea Fuggers, Jaques Coeurs, the Kich- 
ard Whittingtons, of the past, but this is wrong. Mr. Van- 
derbilt is a sign of the times. The mediaeval mei'chaiits 
just named stood out in bold relief from the great society 
of their day. Mr. Vanderbilt is a legitimate product of his 
country — the Medicis, Fuggers, aud others were excep- 


tional cases in theirs. The}^ were fortunate monopolists 
who, by means of capital and crushing privileges, sucked 
up the wealth of the community. They were not a healthy 
growth, but a kind of enormous wen on the body-politic. 
It took Florence nearly fifteen centuries to produce one 
Cosmo, and she never brought forth another. America 
was not known four centuries ago, yet she turns out her 
Vanderbilts, small and large, every year. America, which 
Avas only discovered by a countryman of Cosmo running 
against it by mistake on his way to the Indies, is the great 
arena in which the individual energies of man, rmcramped 
by oppressive social iustitutions or absurd social traditions, 
have full play, and arrive at gigantic development. It is 
the tendenc}' of American institutions to foster the general 
welfare, and to j^ermit the unchecked powers of the highl}'- 
gifted to occupy a place in the general frame-work of so- 
ciety which they can obtain nowhere else. 

" The great feature to be noticed in America is that all its 
citizens have full permission to run the race in Avhich Mr. 
Vanderbilt has gained such immense prizes. In other coun- 
tries, on the contrary, they are trammeled by a thousand 
restrictions. Look at Liverpool. Look at Manchester. 
Are not men of colossal fortunes to be found there ? Is 
there anj'thing in the air or the institutions of these towns 
to prevent men becoming possessors of incomes that are 
reckoned by tens of thousands ? Possil)ly not : but there 
is something in the air or the institutions of the country 
of which these towns are a fraction that pi-events these men 
living as becomes the creators of stupendous fortunes by 
their own industry. Your men of wealth here — your mak- 
ers of millions for themselves, and tens of millions for the 
country — too often spend their time, their intellect, their 
labor, in order that they may be able to take rank among 
a class of men Avho occupy their present position in virtue 
of what was done for them by some broad-shouldered ad- 
ventui'er, who. fortunately for them, lived eight hundred 
years ago in Normandy. Those who ought to be the Van- 
derbilts of England would shrink from emj^loying their 
wealth in the magnificent manner adopted by their Ameri- 
can friend. They would dread the eft'ect of making any 
unusual display, which would surely subject them to the 


reproach of being millionaires and parvenus. Hore is the 
great difterence between the two countries. In England a 
man is apt to be ashamed of having matle his own fortune, 
unless he has done so in one of the few roads which the 
aristocracy condescend to travel by — the Bar, the Church, 
or the Army, and, if he is vulgar enough not to be ashamed 
of himself, his wife and childi-en make amends, by sedu- 
lously avoiding everything which can put other people in 
mind of their origin. We wish to point out, as we have 
pointed out before, the essential weakness, the vicious con- 
dition of English society. In precisely the same manner 
(although in an infinitely greater degree) as the English 
army is damaged by the cold shade of aristocrac}', so are 
English society and the English nation vitiated by the 
aristocratic prejudices that run through it.- Between the 
cobbler who patches a shoe and the merchant who imjDorts 
the leather to make it, there are some three or four grades, 
the members of each of which would scorn to associate 
with those of the grade below. It is time that the million- 
aire should cease to be ashamed of having made his own 
fortune. It is time that the middle classes should take the 
place which is their own in the world which they have 
made. The w'ork has been taken out of the hands of the 
mighty in war, and given to those who are strong in coun- 
cil — to the lords of the elements, to the tamers of the great 
forces of nature. These must take their position. They 
must assert it, and scorn to put up with the faded distinc- 
tions that formed the glory of the ruling classes centuries 
back. The middle classes of England are the creators of 
its wealth and the source of its powers. Let them take 
example from America, and not shrink from acting as if 
they knew this." 



I, Cornelius Vanderbilt, of the City of New York, do make 
and publish my last will and testament as follow : 

Fird. — I direct my executors, immediately after my de- 
cease, to pay to mjr beloved wife, Frank A. Vanderbilt, the sum 
of $500,000, in bonds of the United States of America, of the 
five per cent, loan, under the Act of Congress approved 
March 3, 1864, commonly known as ten-forty bonds, at par, 
in performance of the ante-nu^Dtial contract made by and 
between me, and the said Frank A., bearing date the 20th 
day of August, 1869, whereby I agreed that, if she should 
survive me as my widow, my executor or administrator 
should immediately after my death pay to her $500,000 in 
the first mortgage bonds of the New York and Hudson 
River Railroad Comj^any at par, and she agreed to waive 
and release all dower in my estate, except such sum of 
$500,000 of bonds. This direction or bequest is on con- 
dition that my said wife do accept the same as performance 
of my part of said ante-nuptial contract and in lieu of dower 
in any and all real estate which I may have been seized at 
any time during my marriage with her and of all claims 
upon or share in the personal estate of which I may die 
possessed, excejDt as hereinafter ex^Dressly bequeathed to 
her. I also give, devise, and bequeath to my said wife, 
Frank A, the house and lot. No. 10 Washington Place, in 
the City of New York, with the appurtenances and also the 
stables therein contained for and during her natural life. I 
also give and bequeath to her, absolutely, all the furniture, 
pictures, and other household articles, "which may be in or 
appurtenant to said house at the time of my decease, in- 
cluding* books, musical instruments, plate and all other 

APPE^fDIX D. 287 

chattels of that kind, but exceptinpf the portraits of my 
raotlicr and my deceased wife, which two portraits I give 
to m}^ grandson, ConieHus Vanderljilt, Jr., son of my son, 
William H., in fee. I also give and bequeath to my said 
wife, two carriages, and one j^air of carriage horses, and the 
harness appurtenant thereto, to be selected by her from 
those I may own at the time of my decease. 

Second. — I give and becpieath unto my five daughters — 
Pliebe Jane, wife of James M. Cross ; Emily, wife of Will- 
iam K. Thorn ; Marie Louise, widow of Horace F. Clark, 
deceased ; Sophia, wife of Daniel Torrance ; and Mary 
Alicia, widow of N. Bergasse Le Bau, deceased ; for their 
own use, $1,250,000 of the registered bonds of the Lake 
Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad Company, of $5,000 
each, dated December 1, 1875, payable December 1, 1903, 
being part of an issue of not exceeding $25,000,000 secured 
by a mortgage on the railroad of said company to the Union 
Trust Company of New York, dated the 1st of May, in the 
year of 1872, making together $1,250,000 of bonds, which 
I direct to be divided by my executors among my five 
daughters before named, in equal shares, as soon as can 
conveniently be done after my decease. 

Third. — I give and bequeath unto the trustees hereinafter 
appointed $1,100,000 of the ten-forty bonds of the United 
States of America, of the five per cent, loan described in the 
first clause of this will, in trust for the uses and purposes here- 
inafter set forth, viz. : In trust to set apart and hold $100,000 
of said bonds, and to receive the interest thereon as it ac- 
crues, and pay the same over to my daughter Mrs. Ethelinda 
Allen, wife of Daniel B. Allen, for and during her natural 
life, for her separate use, and upon her separate receipt, it 
being my will that she shall not have power to anticipate 
such income, not to transfer or dispose of her right to re- 
ceive the same or any part thereof. And upon the decease 
of my said daughtei", Ethelinda I give and bequeath the 
last-mentioned $400,000 of bonds unto her children who 
may survive her, and the lawful issue of any of her children 
who may have died before her, such issue to take the share 
or shares which their parent or parents would have taken if 
living, and in default of her leaving any lawful issue, her 
surviving, I give and bequeath the last mentioned bonds, 


after her decease, to my residuary legatee, hereinafter 

[The will also directed that the sum of $300,000 be set 
ajDart, as in the manner of Mrs. Allen, for Mrs, Eliza Os- 
good, wife of George A. Osgood, the bonds u^Don her de- 
cease to go unto the " residuary legatee." The sum of 
!^500,000 was also set apart for the use of Mi's. Catharine 
Lafitte, Avife of Gustave Lafitte, the sum to be divided 
among her children after her decease. Should she leave 
no children, "said bonds shall go to her next of kin as if 
she had died intestate owning said bonds." The will also 
set apart $200,000, the interest thereof to be applied " to 
the maintenance and support of my son, Cornelius J. Van- 
derbilt, during his natural life." "And I authorize," said 
the will, " said trustees, in their discretion, instead of 
themselves making the application of said interest money to 
his support, to pay over from time to time, to my said son, 
for his support, such portions as they may deem advisable, 
or the whole of the interest of said bonds. But no part of 
such interest is to be paid to any assignee of my said son, 
or to any creditor who may seek by legal proceedings to 
obtain the same ; and in case my said son should make any 
transfer or assignment of his beneficial interest in said 
bonds or the interest thereof or encumber the same, or at- 
tempt so to do, the said interest of said bonds shall there- 
upon cease to be applicable to his use, and shall thenceforth, 
during the residue of his natural life, belong to my residu- 
ary legatee. Upon the decease of my said son, Cornelius 
J., I give and bequeath the last mentioned $200,000 of 
bonds to my residuary legatee." 

Fourth. — I give and bequeath unto my sister, Phebe Van- 
derbilt, $1,200 per annum during her natural life. To my 
niece, Phebe Ann Blake, $300 per annum during her natural 
life ; and Rebecca Little and her davighter Cornelia, during 
their joint lives, and to the survival of them, during her 
natural life, the sum of $200 per annum. And I direct 
that the annuities in this fourth clause provided for, do 
commence from the time of m}' decease, and the first ])a3'- 
ment thereof be made in six months thereafter, and the said 
annuities be paid half-yearly thereafter. 

Fiflh. — I give and bequeath unto my brother, Jacob H. 


Vanderbilt, 150,000 of tlie first mortgage bonds of the 
Stateii Island lliiihvay Company, dated the first day of 
April, 1878, and payable the 1st day of April, 1893, with 
interest at seven 2)er cent, per annum, payable semi-annu- 
ally ; to my niece, Annie Iloot, daughter of my sister Ellen, 
?«20,000 of like bonds of the Staten Island liaihvay Com- 
l")any ; to my nephew, Cornelius Y. De Forest, two regis- 
tered bonds, of $5,000 each, of the Lake Shore and Michi- 
gan Southern Railway Company, of the issue described in 
the second clause of this will ; to my niece, Phebe Ann 
Dustan, 6^5,000 of the consolidated seven per cent, mort- 
gage bonds of the New York and Harlem Railway Company 
of the issue described in the second clause of this will ; to 
Mrs. Sophia "NYhite, daughter of Andrew Hinslie, §5,000 of 
like bonds ; to Charlotte Haskell, daughter of my sister 
Charlotte, $>5,000 of such bonds ; to each of the three 
daughters of my niece, Mrs. Phebe Ann Dustan, 85,000 of 
such bonds ; to Charles Simonson, son of my nephew Charles 
M. Simonson, deceased, $10,000 of like bonds ; to my family 
physician, Dr. Jared Linsly, '810,000 of like bonds ; to Cap- 
tain James Braisted, formally in my employ, 84,000 of such 
bonds ; and to Lambert AYardell, an old and faithful clerk, 
820,000 of such bonds, provided he is in my service at the 
time of my decease. I further give and bequeath unto my 
grandson, William K. Thorn, Jr., son of my daughter Emily, 
825,000 of registered bonds of the Lake Shore and Michi- 
gan Southern Railway Company, of 85,000 each, of the issue 
hereinbefore mentioned ; to Samuel Patten Hand, son of 
Obediah Hand, a brother of my mother, one of such regis- 
tered bonds of said company of 85,000 ; to the Rev. Dr. 
Charles F. Deems, pastor of the Church of the Strangers, 
in the City of New York, > 20,000 of such registered bonds 
of said company of 85,000 each ; to ]\Irs. Maria Lecher, 
wife of General Gordon Granger, 810,000 of such registered 
bonds of said company of 85,000 each ; and to the wife of 
my nephew, Samuel Barton, 825,000 of first mortgage bonds 
of the Staten Island Railway Company of the issue in this 
clause of my vdll before desciibed." 

[The sixth clause of the will provides for the purchase of 
bonds to make the above legacies good, in case he should 
not have those described on hand at the time of his death.] 


[The seventh clause of the will relates to the payment of 
taxes in respect to the bequests.] 

Eighth. — All the rest, residue, and remainder of the prop- 
erty and estate, real and personal, of every^ description, and 
wheresoever situated, of which I may be seized or possessed, 
and to which I may be entitled at the time of my decease, 
I give, devise, and bequeath unto my son, William H. Yan- 
derbilt, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, to 
his and their own use forever. 

Ninth. — I constitute and appoint my son, William H. 
Vanderbilt, and my grandson, Cornelius, son of the said Will- 
iam H., and also, when he shall become of age, my gTandson 
William, and the sou of the said William H., and also my 
before-named nephew, Samuel Barton, executors of this, 
my will, and trustees of the several trust estates hereinbe- 
fore created. And should any of the said trvistees refuse 
or be unable to act as such, or resign their trusteeshi}), the 
said trusts, together with the estates and powers hereinbe- 
fore granted to the trustees, shall rest in those of the said 
ti'ustees who shall act. And should any of the said trus- 
tees die, the said trust estates, trusts and powers shall 
rest in the siu'vivors and the suiwivor of them. But it is 
my will that no commissions or compensation shall be 
charged to my estate, or to any of the said trust estates, 
or to any of the persons for whose benefit the said 
trusts are created, b}" said executors or trustees, for their 
services as such executors or trustees ; it being my inten- 
tion that they shall serve as such executors and trustees 
without any compensation whatever, and they are severally 
appointed on that condition. And should either of theii^ 
refuse to qualify and act, or to continue to serve as such 
executor and trustee Avithout compensation, his ajipoint- 
ment herein contained shall be void and of no effect. And 
should my nephew, Samuel Bariou, refuse to act as such 
executor and trustee without compensation, the bequest to 
his Avife hereinbefore contained shall become void, and the 
bonds bequeathed to her shall revert to my residuary es- 

Tenth — It is my Avill that in case any direction or provision 
of this my will should be held illegal or void, or fail to 
take effect for any reason, no other part of this my will 


shall 1)0 thoreb}' invalidated, impaired or affected, but this 
my will shall be continued and take effect in the same man- 
ner as if the invalid direction or permission had not been 
contained therein. And should any of the legacies herein 
lapse, the same shall go to my residuaiy legatee before 

Lastly. — I hereby revoke all Avills and codicils by me at 
any time heretofore made. 

In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal to this 
my last will, written on twenty-four pages of paper, at the 
city of New York, the 9th day of January, in the year 1875. 

C. Vanderbilt. 

Signed, sealed, published and declared by Cornelius Van- 
derbilt, the testator, as and for his last will and testament, 
in the presence of us, wdio, at his request, and in his pres- 
ence, and in the presence of each othei', have hereunto 
subscribed our names as witnesses. 

Francis P. Freeman, 
140 West Forty-third St., New York. 

Sidney A. Corey, 
122 East Thirty-seventh St., New York. 

Joseph Harker, 
Everett House, New York, 

Charles A. Rapallo, 
17 West Thirty-first St., New York, 


I, Cornelius Vanderbilt, do make a codicil to my last will 
and testament, which bears date the 9tli day of January, 
1875, and is hereto annexed, as follows, viz. : 

First. — I give and bequeath unto m}^ grandson, Cornelius 
Vanderbilt, Jr., son of William H. Vanderbilt, all the shares 
of capital stock of the New York and Harlem Railroad Com- 
pany which now stand in the name of my said grandson 
on the books of said company, and of which I hold the 
cei'tificates in my possession, being 22,396 shares ; also all 
the shares of the capital stock of the New York Central and 
Hudson River Railroad company now standing in the name 
of my said grandson on the books of the last-named com- 


pany, and of which I hold the certificates in any j)ossession, 
being 31,650 shares." 

[In the second clause of the codicil, he gave to his grand- 
son, William K. Vauderbilt, 20,000 shares of New York 
Central and Hudson River Railroad Company.] 

[In the third clause he gave to Frederick W. Vanderbilt 
the same number of shares in the same company. In the 
fourth clause he gave the same amount to George Vander- 
bilt. In the fifth clause he gave 2,000 shares of the capital 
stock of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad 
Compaiiy to his wife, in addition to the bequests to her in 
his will. The codicil was dated June 30, 1875.] 


The following letter was written, explanatory of the large 
charity : 

New York, October 17, 1884. 
Dr. John C Dalton, 
President of the College of Physicians 
and Surgeons. 

My Dear Sir : I have been for some time examining tlie 
question of the facilities for medical education whicli New 
York possesses. The doctors have claimed that with proper 
encouragement, this city might become one of tlie most im- 
portant centres of medical instruction in the world. 

The health, comfort, and lives of the whole community are 
so dependent upon skilled physicians, that no jarofession re- 
quires more care in the preparation of its j^ractitioners. Medi- 
cine needs a permanent home where the largest opportunities 
can be aftbrded for both theory and practice. In making up 
my mind to give substantial aid to the effort to create in New 
York City one of the first medical schools in the world, I have 
been somewhat embarrassed as to the manner in which the ob- 
ject could be most quickly and efl'ectively reached. It seems 
wiser and more practical to enlarge an existing institution, which 
already has great facilities, experience, and reputation, than to 
form a new one. I have, therefore, selected the College of 
Physicians and Surgeons, because it is the oldest medical school 
in the State, and of equal rank with any in the United States. 

I have decided to give to the College .^500, 000, of which I 
have expended §200, 000 in the j^urchase of twenty-nine lots, situ- 
ated at Tenth Avenue and Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth Streets, the 
deed of which please find herewith ; and in selecting this loca- 
tion, I have consulted with your treasurer, Dr. McLean. The 
other .^300,000 please find inclosed my check for. The latter 
sum is to form a building-fund for the erection thereon from 
time to time of suitable buildings for the college. 

Very truly yours, 

W. H. Ya>;derbilt. 

Letters of thanks were sent to Mr. Vanderbilt, by Dr. 
Dalton, by the Faculty of the College, by the Trustees, the 
Alumni Association, and the students. 


The New York papers on the morning of January 12, 
1885, published tlie letters which passed between Will- 
iam H. Vanderbilt and General and Mrs. U. S. Grant. 
They are thoroughly characteristic of the writers, and call 
for no cominent. The correspondence began with the fol- 
lowing letter : 

640 Fifth Avenxie, January 10, 1885. 
Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. 

Dear Madam : So many misrepresentations have appeared 
in regard to tlie loan made by me to General Grant, and reflect- 
ing unjustly upon him and myself, that it seems proper to 
briefly recite the facts. 

On Sunday, May 4th last, General Grant called at my resi- 
dence and asked me to loan him i5150,000 for one day. I gave 
him my check without question, not because the transaction 
was business-like, but simjjly because the request came from 
General Grant. The misfortune which overwhelmed him in 
the next twenty-four hours aroused the sympathy and regret of 
the whole country. You and he sent me, within a few days of 
the time, the deeds of your joint properties to cover this obliga- 
tion, antl urged my acceptance on the ground that this was the 
only debt of honor which the General had personally incurred, 
and these deeds I returned. 

During my absence in Europe the General delivered to my 
attorney mortgages upon all his own real estate, household 
effects, and the swords, medals, and works of art which were 
the memorials of his victories, and the presents from govern- 
ments all over the world. These securities were, in his judg- 
ment, worth the ^150,000. At his solicitation the necessary 
steps were taken by judgment, etc., to reduce these properties 
to possession, and the articles mentioned have been this day 
bought in by me, and the amount bid applied to the reduction 
of the debt. Now that I am at liberty to treat these things as 
my own, the disposition of the whole matter most in accord 


Avith my feelings is this : I jiresent to yon, as your separate es- 
tate, the debt and jndpfnicut I hohl against General Grant, also 
the mortgages njion his real estate, and all the household fnr- 
niture and ornaments, conpled only with the condition that the 
swords, commissions, medals, gifts from the United States, 
States, citie?, and foreign governments, and all articles of his- 
torical vahie and interest shall, at the General's death, or, if 
yon desire it sooner, be presented to the Government at Wash- 
ington, where they will remain as perpetual memorials of his 
fame and of the history of his time. 

I inclose herewith assignments to you of the mortgages 
and judgments, a bill of sale of the jiersonal proiierty, and a 
deed of trust in which the articles of historical interest are 
enumerated. A copy of this trust-deed will, with your ap- 
proval, be forwarded to the President of the United States for 
deposit in the proper department. 

Trusting that this action will meet with your acceptance 
and approval, and with kind regards to your husband, 
I am, yours respectfully, 

"VT. H. Vanberbilt. 

Xew York Crrv, January 10, 1885. 

Dear Sir : Mrs. Grant wishes me to answer your letter of this 
evening to say that while she appreciates your great generosity 
in transfeiTing to her the mortgage given to secure my debt of 
§150,000, she cannot accept it in whole. Siie accepts with 
pleasure the trust which ai>plies to articles enumerated in your 
letter to go to the Government of the United States, at my 
death or sooner, at her option. In this matter you have an- 
ticipated the disposition which I had contemplated making of 
the articles. They will be delivered to the Government as soon 
as arrangements can be made for their reception. 

Papers relating to all other j^roperty will be returned, with 
the request that you have it sold and the proceeds a^iplied to 
the liquidation of the debt wliich I so justly owe you. You 
have stated in your letter, with the minutest accuracy, the history 
of the transaction whicli brought me in your debt. I have only 
to add that I regard your giving me your check for the amount 
without inquiry as an act of marked and unusual friendship. 
The loan was to me personally. I got the money, as I believed, 
to carry the Marine National Bank over a day, being assured 
that the bank was solvent, but owing to unusual calls needed 
assistance until it could call in its loans. I was assured by 
Fertliuand Ward that the firm of Grant & Ward had over 
§660,000 to their credit, at that time in the Marine Bank, be- 
sides 81,300,000 of unpledged securities in their own vaults. 


I cannot conclude withoiit assuring you that Mrs. Grant's 
inability to avail herself of your great kindness in no way lessens 
either her sense of obligation or my own. 

Yours truly, 

tl. S. Grant. 
W. H. Vandekbilt, Esq. 

640 Fifth A-^-entje, January 11, 1885. 
General U. S. Grant. 

Mx Dear Sir : On my return home last night I foitnd your 
letter in answer to mine to Mrs. Grant. I aj^iireciate fully the 
sentiments which actuate both Mrs. Grant and yourself in de- 
clining the part of my lirojDosition relating to the real estate. I 
greatly regret that she feels it her duty to make this decision, 
as I earnestly hoped that the spirit in which the offer was made 
would overcome any scruples in accepting it. But I must in- 
sist that I shall not be defeated iu a puri^ose to which I have 
given so much thought, and which I have so much at heart. I 
will, therefore, as fast as the money is received from the sales 
of the real estate, deposit it in the Union Trust Company. 
With the money thus realized I will at once create with that 
company a trust, with proper jMovisious for the income to be 
paid to Mrs. Grant during her life, and giving the power to her 
to make such disposition of the princijial by will as she may 
elect. Very truly yoiirs, 

W. H. Vanderbilt. 

New York City, January 11, 1885. 
Dear Sir : Y'our letter of this date is received. Mrs. Grant 
and I regret that you cannot accept our proposition to retain 
the property which was mortgaged in good faith to secure a 
debt of honor. But your generous determination compels us 
to no longer resist. Yours truly, 

U. S. Grant. 
W. H. Vanderbilt. 

New York, Sunday, January 11. 
Mr. W. H. Vanderbilt : 

Upon reading your letter of this afternoon General Grant and 
myself felt that it would be ungracious to refuse your princely 
and generous offer. Hence his note to you. But upon reflec- 
tion, I find that I cannot, I will not, accept your munificence 
in auv form. 


I heg that yon will pardon this apparent vacillation, and con- 
sider this answer detinite and final. 

With great regard and a sense of obligation that will always 
remain. I am, yours veiy gratefully, 

Julia D. Grant. 

To Mk. W. H. Vandeebilt. 

This action was not taken without serious consideration 
by both parties, and Messrs. Chauucey M. Depew and 
Wliitehiw Keid were consulted by the principals several 
times between the incurring of the obligation and the writ- 
ing of these letters. 

The final declination of Mrs. Grant's was afterward mod- 
ified so far as to accept for the Government the trophies 
and souvenirs turned over to Mr. Vanderbilt, and these 
were sent to Washington ; the rest of the mortgaged prop- 
erty was sold and went toward the liquidation of the debt. 
The loan having been effected by an exchange of checks, 
and General Grant's check proving not to be good, it was 
felt by the family that to pay the debt was the only honor- 
able thing to do. 



Following is the full text of Mr. Vanderbilt's will, with 
the exception of the formal descrijjtiou of the real estate 
embraced in his late residence and the stables belonging 
thereto, and in the houses which the testator bequeaths to 
his four 'daughters : 

I, William H. Vanderbilt, of the City of New York, do 
make and publish my last will and testament as follows, 
viz. : 

First. — I devise unto my beloved wife, Maria Louisa, for 
and during her natural life, the dwelling-house in which I 
now reside and the lot on which it stands. ... I also 
give and devise to my said wife, for and during her natural 
life, the three lots of laud on the northeasterly corner of 
Madison Avenue and Fifty-second Street, in the city of New 
York, . . . together with the stables and improvements 
thereon erected. I also give and bequeath to her, for and 
during her natural life, all the paintings, pictures, statuary 
and w'orks of art which I may own at the time of my de- 
cease, except the portrait and the marble bust of my father, 
which I have bequeathed to inj son Cornelius. I also give 
and bequeath to her, for and during her natural life, all the 
furniture of every descrijjtion — including plate, silver, 
library, ornaments, musical instruments and other articles 
of household vise — which may at the time of m}' decease be 
in or appurtenant to my present residence, corner Fifth 
Avenue and Fifty-first Street, and also all the horses, carri- 
ages, vehicles, harness, stable furniture and implements 
which I may have on hand at the time of my decease and 
usually kept in my said stables, on Madison Avenue and 


Fiftj'-second Street ; and I empower my wife during her 
life to exchange or dispose of any of my said household 
furniture and other chattels, except pictures, statuary, and 
■works of art, and of any of said horses, carriages, and stable 
furniture to such extent as she shall deem necessary from 
time to time, to renew or replace the same. 

I also give and bequeath to my said wife an annuity of 
$200,000 per annum daring her natural life, to be computed 
from the date of my decease, and jjaid to her in equal quar- 
ter-yearly payments thereafter. And I direct that a sum 
sufficient to produce such annuity be set aj^art and at all 
times safely invested by my executors for that purpose 
during the life of my wife ; and I empower her to dispose 
by will of $500,000 of the jDrincipal of the sum so directed 
to be set apart in any manner she may desire and which 
shall be legal. 

All taxes, assessments, and charges which may be imj)osed 
on the real estate devised to my wife for life shall be pay- 
able b}^ her during the same period. And I declare that 
the foregoing devises and bequests to her are to be in lieu 
of dower. 

Second. — I devise uuto my daughter, Margaret Louisa, 
wife of Elliott F. Shepard, Esq., her heirs and assigns for- 
ever, the house in which she now resides and the lot on 
which it stands ... at Fifty-second Street and Fifth 
Avenue, southwest corner, together with all my rights iu 
Fifth Avenue and Fifty-second Street in front of said 
premises, excepting, however, out of the lot of land hereby 
devised and described an irregular strip of laud, part of the 
rear thei'eof, which strip extends from the southerly line of 
Fifty-second Street to a line parallel therewith, and distant 
44 feet southerly therefrom, and is 7 feet and 11 inches wide 
at Fifty-second Street, narrowing by jogs and curves to 4 feet 
4 j inches in the rear, as now inclosed by the iron fence 
which separates said strip from the residue of the lot iu 
this clause described. 

Third. — I devise to my daughter Emily Thorn, wife of 
William Sloane, her heirs and assigns, the middle one of 
the three houses erected by me on the westerly side of Fifth 
Avenue, between Fifty-tirst and Fifty-second Streets, and the 
lot on which it stands, which lot is bounded and described 


as follows : Easterly in front by Fifth Avenue, westerly in 
the rear by a line parallel with Fifth Avenvie and distant 
149 feet and 114- inches westerh' from the westerly line 
thereof, northerly by the lot of land herein before devised 
to my daughter Margaret Louisa and by said strip expected 
therefrom, and southerly by the lot of land hereinbefore 
devised to my wife for life, containing 53 feet 5 inches in 
width in front on Fifth Avenue and 39 feet and 7 inches in 
width in the rear, and embracing all the land lying between 
the lots described in the first and second clauses of this 
will. I also devise to my said daughter Emily, her heirs 
and assigns, for the purpose of being kept open as a rear 
entrance to the premises devised to her, the before described 
irregular strij) of land excepted from the rear part of the 
lot in the second clause of this will described and extend- 
ing to Fifty-second Street. 

Fourth. — I devise lauto my daughter Florence Adele, wife 
of Hamilton McK. Twombly, her heirs and assigns forever, 
the lot of land on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 
Fifty-fourth Street, in said city, and part of the lot in the 
rear thereof fronting on Fifty-fourth Street, ... to- 
gether with the dwelling-house erected on said premises, 
and all my right, title, and interest in and to the street and 
avenue bounding said premises. 

Flfth.~l de^dseunto my daughter Eliza O., wife of Will- 
iam S. Webb, her heirs and assigns forever, the lot of land 
on the westerly side of Fifth Avenue, next adjoining on the 
south the corner lot described in the next preceding fourth 
clause of this will, and also the remaining part of said rear 
lot fronting on Fift^'-fourth Street, said premises beginning 
at a point on the westerly side of Fifth Avenue, distant 48 
feet 3^ inches southerly from the southerly line of Fifty- 
fourth Street. The strip of land on the westerly side of 
said lot fronting on Fifty-fourth Street is given to my said 
daughter Eliza O., for the purpose of aifording her a rear 
entrance from Fifty-fourth Street to her house, and the 
easterly line of said entrance may be shaj^ed in such man- 
ner as shall be or have been devised by the architect in 
charge of the erection of said two houses, biit keeping as 
nearly as possible within the dimensions herein before jare- 


SixtJi. — Should the dwelling-houses now being erected 
for my daughters — Florence Adele and Eliza O. — upon the 
two lots of land devised to them not be tinislied at the 
time of my decease I direct that they be completed as soou 
as practicable thereafter at the expense of my estate. 

Serenfh. — I give and bequeath to the trustees herein- 
after appointed $25,000,000 of bonds of the United States 
of America bearing interest at the rate of four per cent, per 
annum, the principal falling due iu the year 1907 ; $5,000,000 
of second mortgage bonds of the Lake Shore and Michigan 
Southern Railway Company, due in the year 1903, bear- 
ing interest at the rate of seven per cent, per annum ; 
$800,000 of the first mortgage bonds of the last named 
company, due in the year 1900, bearing interest at the rate 
of seven per cent, per annum ; $2,000,000 of the sinking 
fund bonds of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Com- 
pany, due in the year 1929, bearing interest at the rate of 
six per cent, per annum ; $2,000,000 of the sinking fund 
bonds of the last named company, due iu the year 1929, 
bearing interest at the rate of five per cent, per annum ; 
$200,000 of the general consolidated sinking fund bonds 
of the last named company, due iu the year 1915, bearing 
interest at the rate of seven per cent. ]3er annum ; $-4,- 
000,000 of the mortgage bonds of the New York Central 
Railroad Compau}', due iu the year 1903, bearing intei-est 
at the rate of seven per cent, i^ev annum, and $1,000,000 of 
the mortgage bonds of the New Yoi'k and Harlem Railroad 
Company, due in the year 1900, bearing interest at the rate 
of seven percent, per annum, making in the aggregate $10,- 
000,000 (forty million dollars) of the above-named securities 
at par in trust, to divide the same into eight (8) equal par- 
cels of five (5) million dollars each, and each of said parcels 
to contain an equal amount of each of the above specified 
kinds of bonds ; to set apart and hold one of said parcels 
in trust for each of my four sons, Cornelius, William K., 
Frederick W. and George W. Vanderbilt, and one of said 
parcels in trust for each of my f(3ur daughters hereinbefore 
named, and to collect and receive the income of each of 
said eight trust-funds, and pay the same over as it accrues 
and is collected to the beneficiary for whom it is set apart 
during the natural life of such beneficiary, and I direct that 


no payment be made in anticipation of such income, and 
that no part of the principal of either of said trust fimds 
be paid over or ahenated or transferred during the hfetime 
of the child entitled to the income thereof, and upon the 
death of each of my said children I direct that the principal 
of the fund so set apart and held in trust for him or her be 
paid to his or her lawful issue in such shares or proportions 
as he or she may b}' last will have directed or appointed, 
and in default of such testamentary direction I direct that 
such fund be divided among his or her lawful issue in the 
proportions in Avliich they would be by law entitled thereto 
had my child, so dying, died possessed thereof his or her 
absolute ownership. 

In case either of my sous should leave no lawful issue 
him surviving I direct that the fund so held in trust for him 
be divided among his brothers him surviving, and the issue 
of any of his brothers who may have died before him, such 
issue to take the share which the brother so d^'ing Avould 
have taken if living. And should either of my said daugh- 
ters leave no lawful issue her surviving I direct that the 
fund so held in trust for her be divided among her sisters 
living at the time of her death, or should any of her sisters 
have died before her leaving issue, such issue shall take the 
share which such deceased sister would have taken if living. 

Eiglith. — I authorize thetriistees of the said several trust- 
funds to receive and reinvest the proceeds of the bonds so 
given to them in trust as they mature, and also in their dis- 
cretion to change from time to time the investments of 
said trust funds, but I direct that they do at all times keep 
the said principal of the said several trust-funds securely in- 
vested during the continuance of said trusts respectively in 
bonds of the United States of America or of the State or 
City of New York, or in mortgage bonds of the New York 
Central and Hudson River Railroad Company, the New 
York and Havlem Railroad Company, the Lake Shore and 
Michigan Southern Railway Company, or the Chicago and 
Northwestern Railway Company, or bonds guaranteed by it 
or someone or more of said sjiecitied securities. They may 
change such investments from time to time and may also 
invest on bond and mortgage on inieni'umbered real estate 
iu the State of New York, and they may apply to the rein- 


vestments of the principal of said trust-funds, or cither of 
them, any of the securities of the classes above specitied 
which I may have on hand at the time of my decease at 
tlieir market vahie at the time of such apphcation. 

And I direct that all securities in which such trust-funds 
shall from time to time be invested be taken and held by 
said trustees in their names as trustees for the parties re- 
spectively for whose benefit the funds are separately set 
apart and held, so that each of said eight trust-funds shall 
be kept separate and distinct from the others, and the ac- 
counts thereof shall be separately kept. 

Should I not have on hand at the date of my decease a 
sufficient amount of each of the descriptions of bonds here- 
inbefore specified to make up the amounts in the seventh 
clause bequeathed in trust, I direct that the deficienc}' be 
supplied with bonds of the New York and Harlem Railroad 
Company at pxr or any other bonds I may leave. 

Ninth. — I give and bequeath unto my four sons and my 
four daughters hereinbefore named, to be equallv divided 
between them, $10,000,000 of bonds of the United States 
of America bearing interest at the rate of four per cent, per 
annum, the principal falling due in 1907 ; §920,000 of the 
bontls of the New York Central Railroad Company, paj'a- 
ble in the year 1903, and bearing interest at the rate of 
seven per cent, per annum ; 180,000 of the mortgage bonds 
of the New York and Harlem Railroad Company', payable 
in the year 1900, and bearing interest at the rate of seven 
per cent, per annum ; $1,000, 000 of the bonds of the Detroit 
and Ba}" City Riilroad Company, payable in the year 1931, 
and beai'ing interest at the rate of livejDer cent, per annum ; 
83,000,000 of the second mortgage bonds of the Lake Shore 
and Michigan Southern Railroad Company, payable in the 
year 1903, and bearing interest at the rate of seven per cent, 
per annum ; 83,000,000 of the mortgage bonds of the Pine 
Creek Railroad Company, payable in the year 1932, and 
bearing interest at the rate of six per cent, per annum ; 
§2,000,000 of the mortgage bonds of the Pittsburg, McKees- 
port and Youghiogheny Railroad Company, payable in the 
year 1932, and bearing interest at the rate of seven per 
cent, per annum ; $2,000,000 of the guaranteed stock of 
the last named company, bearing interest at the rate of six 


per cent, per annum ; $2,000,000 of the debenture bonds 
of the Chicago and Northwestern Eailwaj' Compan}-, paya- 
ble in the year 1933, and bearing interest at the rate of five 
per cent, per annum ; $2,000,000 of the bonds of the Dakota 
Central Railroad Company, payable in the year 1907, bear- 
ing interest at the rate of six per cent, per annum, and guar- 
anteed by the Chicago and Northwestern Eailwaj' Company ; 
40,000 shares of the capital stock of the New York Central 
and Hudson River Railroad Company, 30,000 shares of the 
capital preferred stock of the Chicago and Northwestern 
Riilway Company, 50,000 shares of the capital stock of the 
Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company, and 
20,000 shares of the capital stock of the Michigan Central 
Railroad Company, making in the aggregate $40,000,000 of 
securities at par, to be divided among my before-named 
eight children in such manner that an equal amount, as 
nearly as may be, of each kind of security shall be allotted 
to each child. 

Should I not have on hand at the time of my decease a 
sufficient amount of bonds and stocks of all the descrip- 
tions above named, after providing the trust-funds created 
in the seventh clause of this will, to make up the amounts 
in this ninth clause bequeathed, I direct that the deficiency 
be made up with cash to the amount of the bonds or stock 
which may be deficient at par. 

Tenth. — I having transferred on the books of the Chicago 
and Northwestern Railway Company to each of my three 
daughters, Margaret Louisa, Emil}' Thorn and Florence 
Adele, 4,000 shares of the preferred stock of said company, 
but I holding the certificates of said shares with powers to 
transfer the same executed b}^ my said daughters respec- 
tively, I hereby declare that the foregoing bequests to ray 
said daughters are to be in place of said shares, and that 
said shares are to be part of my I'esiduary estate. 

Eleventh. — I direct that the bonds and the stocks in the 
ninth clause of this will bequeathed to my daughter Eliza 
O. be not delivered to her or placed under her control until 
she attains the age of thirty years, but that they be set 
apart and held for her by my executors in the meantime ; 
that the interest accruing thereon be collected by them and 
paid over to her as it is received until said bonds and stocks 


are delivered to her ; but it is my will that if my said 
daughter Eliza O. should die before attaining the age of 
thirty years, leaving children her surviving, the said bonds 
and stocks shall be divided among such children in such 
proportion as she may by will direct, or if she should leave 
no will, then in equal shares. Should she leave but one 
child, that child is to take the whole. And in case she 
should die before attaining the age of thirty years and 
should leave no child her surviving, the property be- 
queathed to her in said ninth clause shall revert to my es- 

Twelfth. — I direct that the interest and dividends on the 
several bonds and stocks bequeathed in the seventh and 
ninth clauses of this will be apportioned up to the date of 
my decease, and that so much thereof as shall have accrued 
after that date shall belong to the legatees. 

Tliirteenth. — I bequeath unto my son, Cornelius Vander- 
bilt, the sum of $2,000,000 in addition to all other bequests 
to him in this will contained. 

Fourteenth. — Upon the decease of my wife I devise to my 
son, Geoi-ge W. Vanderbilt, for and during his natural life, 
the hereinbefore described lot of land and house on the 
northwesterly corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-first Street, 
where I now reside, and the lots and stables on Madison 
Avenue and Fifty-second Street, being the same properties 
in the first clause of this my will devised to my wife for 
life. I also bequeath to my said son, George W., for and 
during his natural life, all my pictures, statuary, and works 
of art, except the portrait and marble bust of my father, 
which I bequeath to my son Cornelius. I also bequeath to 
my son George W. all the furniture, carriages, and other 
chattels mentioned in the first clause of this my will for 
and dui'iug his natural life ; and after the decease of my wife 
and of my son George W., if he shall leave any son or sons 
him sui'viving, I give, devise, and bequeath absokitely and 
in fee the said house and lot on Fifth Avenue and Fifts'-first 
Street, and said lots and stables on Madison Avenue and 
Fifty-second Street, and all the pictures, statuary, furniture, 
and all the property of every description which is in the 
first clause of this my will devised and bequeathed to my 
wife for life, unto such one of the sons of said George W. 


as he shall by his last will direct and appoint to take the 
same. And in default of such testamentary direction, then 
the eldest son of said George "W. who shall survive him. 

And in case the said George W. shall leave no son him 
surviving, then on his decease and after the death of my 
wife', I give, devise, and bequeath all and singular the said 
real and personal property so given to George W. for hfe, 
unto my grandson William H. Vanderbilt, son of my son 
Cornelius, his heirs and assigns forever, and in the event 
last mentioned I also give and bequeath to my said grand- 
son, Wilham H., $2,000,000. But, without regard to the 
event of my son George W. dying as aforesaid, I bequeath 
to my said grandson, William H., $1,000,000, to be paid on 
his attaining the age of thirty years : in the meantime the 
income thereof shall be applied to his use by my executors 
during his minority, and thereafter shall be paid to him at 
such times and in such amounts as his father, if living, shaU 
approve, until he becomes entitled to the princijaal. And 
in case the said William H. becomes entitled to the said 
legacy of $2,000,000, tlie $1,000,000 last given shall be 
deemed part thereof. 

In case my son George W. shall die without leaving any 
son him surviving, if said William H. is not then living, the 
real and personal estate so given to. said George W. for life 
shall after his death and that of my wife go, and I devise 
and bequeath the same, to my grandson Cornelius, in fee, 
and in that event I give to my last-named grandson 
$1,000,000, my object being that my present residence and 
my collection of works of art be retained and maintained by 
a male descendant bearing the name of Vanderbilt. 

Fifteentli. — I direct that no deductions shall be made from 
any of the legacies to my children by reason of any sums 
which I have heretofore given, or advanced to, or for ac- 
count of either of them. 

Sixteenth. — I give and bequeath to William Vanderbilt 
Kissam, son of Peter R Ivissam, of the City of Brooklyn, 
and nephew of my wife, the sum of $30,000, to be paid to 
him when he attains the age of twenty-five yeai's, provided 
his father and my son Cornelius, or the survivor of them, 
shall in their or his discretion approve in writing of such 
pivyment at that time ; otherwise at such later period as 


they or the survivor of them shall approve, and I direct that 
interest on said legacy be paid to said William Y. Kissani 
from the time of my decease until he shall receive the prin- 

Seventeenth. — I give and bequeath unto my uncle, Jacob H. 
Yanderbilt, the dividends which shall accrue during liis life 
on 1,000 shares of the capital stock of the New York Cen- 
tral and Hudson River Kailroad Connmny, now standing in 
his name on the books of said company but owned by me, 
I holding the certificates with power. I also give to each 
of the children of my said uncle — viz., Mrs. Ellen Caesar, 
Jacob H. Yanderbilt, Jr., and Mrs. James McNamee — the 
sum of S2,000 per annum to each during their respective 
natural lives. 

Eighteenth. — I give and bequeath to Mrs. Annie Reid, 
wife of J. E. Reid ; to jNIi-s. EunuaDe Forest, wife of Frank 
A. Howland and daughter of the late Daniel C. Yan Duzer, 
of Stateu Island ; to my aunt, Miss Phcebe Yanderbilt ; to 
Sophia White, daughter of Andrew Ainslie ; to Jeremiah 
Simonson ; to Anna Root, wife of George M. Root ; to Miss 
Emma Simonson, daughterof Cornelius Simonson, deceased, 
and to Miss Charlotte Dustan, an annuity of $2,000 per an- 
num to each. To Mrs. Edith Dustan, wife of Charles Dus- 
taU; who resides at Demopolis, in the State of Alabama, 
an annuity of $2,500 per annum ; to Mrs. Georgiana Hitch- 
cock , Mrs. Emily Y. Snedeker, wife of Livingston Snedeker, 
and to ]Mi's. Catharine McGregor, of the City of New York, 
an annuity of §1,200 per annum to each ; all the said an- 
nuities to be computed from the day of my decease, and to 
be paid quarterly' thereafter to the several annuitants dur- 
ing their respective natural lives. 

Nineteenth. — -I give and bequeath to Mr. E. Y. W. Rossiter 
the sum of $10,000, and to Lambert Wardell the sum of 

Twentieth. — I give and bequeath to the Board of Tnist 
of the Yanderbilt University, of Nashville, Tenn., incorpo- 
rated under the laws of the State of Tennessee, 8200,000 of 
the second mortgage bonds of the Lake Shore and jMichi- 
gan Southern Railway Company, to be applied to the uses 
and purposes of said University. 

Twentif-Jir^t. — I give and bequeath to the following named 


societies and incorporated bodies, organized under the laws 
of the State of New York, the sums hereinafter specified, 
viz : 

To the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the 
Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of 
America, $100,000 for domestic pui'poses. 

To St. Luke's Hospital, incorporated in the year 1850, 

To the Young Men's Christian Association of the City of 
New York, $100,000. 

To the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant 
Episcopal Church in the City of New York, $50,000. 

To the New York Bible and Common Prayer-Book So- 
ciet}^, whereof the Bishop is president, $50,000. 

To the Home for Licurables, incorporated in 1845, 

To the Protestant Episcopal Church Missionary Society 
for Seamen in the City and Port of New York, $50,000. 

To the New York Christian Home for Intemperate Men, 

To the New York Protestant Episcopal Mission Society 
of the City of New York, $100,000. 

To the Metropolitan Museum of Art, incorporated April 
13, 1870, $100,000. 

To the American Museum of Natural History in the City 
of New York, $50,000. 

To the Moravian Church in New Dorp Lane, Staten Isl- 
and, organized under the name of the " United Breth- 
ren's Church," $100,000. 

Twenty -second. — All the rest, residue and remainder of all 
the property and estate, real, personal, and mixed, of every 
description and wheresoever situated, of which I may be 
seized or possessed, or to which I may be entitled at the 
time of my decease, I give, devise, and bequeath unto my 
two sons, Cornelius Vanderbilt and William K. Vauderbilt, 
in equal shares, and to their heirs and assigns to their use 

Tireutij-ihird. — I constitute and appoint my wife, Maria 
Louisa, and my sons, Cornelius, William K., Frederick W., 
and George W., and the survivors and survivor of them, 
executrix and executox's of this my will, and trustees of the 


several trust-funds hereinbefore mentioned and created ; 
provided, however — and tliis appointment is subject to this 
exception — that neither of my said sons shall be trustee 
of the fund hereinbefore directed to be set apart and held 
in trust for him or for his benefit ; but as to such fund, in 
the case of each of my said sons, the trust shall rest in and 
be executed by the others of the trustees hereinbefore 
named and the survivors or survivor of them. And pro- 
vided further, and the said appointments of executrix, ex- 
ecutors and trustees are subject to the further condition 
that no commissions or compensation shall be charged by 
or allowed to either of them for their services as executrix, 
executor or trustee, and if either of them shall decline to 
serve on that condition his or her api:)ointment as such ex- 
ecutrix, executor or trustee shall cease and terminate. 

And for the purpose of guarding against the contingency 
of any unsuitable person being appointed trustee of any or 
either of the trust-funds hereinbefore created, I direct as to 
each of said trust-funds that, in case of the death, disability, 
or resignation of any of the trustees hereinbefore appointed, 
the trust shall rest in and be executed by the others of those 
whom I have named, and iipon the death of the last sur- 
vivor of the acting trustees during the continuance of the 
trust the trust shall cease, and the entire trust-fund shall be 
paid to the beneficiary entitled to the income. 

Twenty-fourth. — Should any or either of the provisions 
or directions of this will fail, or be held ineffectual or in- 
valid for any reason, it is my will that no other portion or 
provision of this will be invalidated, impaired, or aifected 
thereby, but that this will be construed as if such invalid 
provision or direction had not been herein contained. 

Lastly. — I hereby revoke all former wills and codicils by 
me at any time made. 

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal 
at the City of New York, the twenty-fifth day of September, 
in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-four. 


Signed, sealed, published, and declared by William H. 
Yanderbilt, the testator, as and for his last will and testament, 
in the presence of us, who at his request and in his pres- 


ence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto sub- 
scribed our names as witnesses. 

The words " or bonds guaranteed by it " interlined on 
the twenty-first page. 

Charles A. Eapallo, 
17 West Thirty-first Street, New York. 

Samuel F. Bakgek, 
17 West Thirty-thii-d Street, New York City. 
C. C. Clarke, Sing Sing, N. Y. 
I. P. Chambers, 
26 East Forty-ninth Street, New York City, 


14 i"V?;s»«»»<'"> 

,1 A._60m-10,'65 



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