Cornelius Vanderbilt II was the favorite grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, possibly because they both shared the same given name. His parents were William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam. His grandfather left him $5 million which was a fortune because he left only half a million dollars to each one of his children except one. The one exception was William Henry Vanderbilt who received the bulk of the $ 100+ million estate.
When his father, William Henry Vanderbilt died in 1892, Cornelius Vanderbilt II received nearly another $70 million, and the responsibility to manage the New York Central Railroad system. In other words when he was 49 years old he became a multimillionaire, and probably one of the richest men in the United States. Unfortunately he only had seven years to enjoy it as he died in 1892 at the rather young age of 55.
Cornelius Vanderbilt II met his future wife while both were teaching Sunday school at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Her name was Alice Claypoole Gwynne [1845-1934]. She outlived her husband by 35 years. They had several children but not all survived beyond youth or childhood. Their first child, a girl born in 1869 died in 1874 of a childhood illness. Their second child, a son was born in 1870 but died from typhoid fever while attending Yale University in 1892, at age 21.
You would expect that after such setbacks in your personal life you would be easier on your third child, a son named Cornelius Vanderbilt III, born in 1873. But Cornelius Vanderbilt II was a hard-nosed man. When his son announced, in 1896, that he wanted to marry Grace Graham Wilson, the daughter of a New York banker, his father refused to give his permission, reason unknown. When his son decided to marry despite his father’s refusal his father disinherited him.
Three years later when his father died, Cornelius Vanderbilt III, the disinherited son got half a million dollars and his younger brother Alfred Vanderbilt, received the other 70 million. Fortunately, Alfred Vanderbilt felt sorry for his brother Cornelius Vanderbilt III and gave him $ 6 million. As an aside Alfred did not have a long life to enjoy his riches. He died when he was a passenger on the RMS Lusitania which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1915.
The fourth and youngest son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II was Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt [1880-1925]. As the figures show he also did not have a long life. He died from apparent natural causes at the young age of 45.
The couple also had a daughter, Gertrude Vanderbilt [1875-1942]. Gertrude developed a strong interest in art. She later married one of the Whitneys, and she and her husband donated a substantial amount for the establishment of the Whitney Museum of American Arts.
Although Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s life was short he did manage to enjoy himself with his limited fortune. He was active largely in philanthropy. He was active in such organizations as the YMCA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Trinity Church and St. Bartholomew’s Church.
He also was able to enjoy his summer at the “Breakers”, their summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. While there he was active in the Newport Country Club.
As the oldest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt II inherited the responsibility to manage the New York Central Railroad System his father had developed. He was active as a director of the system. In other words during his life the Vanderbilt family was still in charge of the railroad system developed by the Commodore and his son William Henry Vanderbilt.
Following his death the responsibility for the management of the New York Central Railroad system was shifted to Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s younger brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt [1849-1920] who outlived his older brother by 21 years.
There is no firm information on where Cornelius Vanderbilt II was interred. But as is the case with all previous Vanderbilts, the interment was probably at the Vanderbilt mausoleum in the Moravian Cemetery in the community of New Dorp, on Staten Island, New York City.
Information was gathered from wikipedia and from other sources.
At the end of the bio profile of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt is an extensive description how the Vanderbilt in this bio profile fits in with the other prominent Vanderbilts who preceded or followed him. Please refer to it for further understanding of the Vanderbilt family tree.
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