William Kissam Vanderbilt was a son of William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam. He was also a grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. His older brother was Cornelius Vanderbilt II.
When his older brother Cornelius Vanderbilt II died in 1899, William Kissam became responsible for the management of the New York Central Railroad system, the transportation system developed by his grandfather and father. He would be in charge for the next 21 years until his death in 1920. As other professional managers had taken over the management of the system his involvement became minimal after 1903.
When his father died in 1892, William Kissam Vanderbilt inherited $55 million. His older brother Cornelius Vanderbilt II had received $70 million from his father’s estate. But with it went the responsibility to manage the railroad system.
William Kissam Vanderbilt’s first wife was Alva Erskine Smith [1853-1933]. They married on April 20, 1875. They had three children consisting of Consuelo Vanderbilt, born in 1877, William Kissam Vanderbilt II, born in 1878, and Harold Sterling Vanderbilt, born in 1884. The couple divorced in 1895, an event unusual in their circles.
William Kissam Vanderbilt remarried in 1903 to Anne Harriman Sands Rutherford . They remained married until his death in 1920. Anne had four children from two previous marriages, but no children from her marriage with William Kissam Vanderbilt.
William Kissam Vanderbilt was a co-owner of the yacht “Defender” which won the 1895 America’s Cup. His son Harold Sterling Vanderbilt would later take over his father’s interest in America’s Cup racing
There are no reports of other contributions to society except for being involved in sporting events and building mansions. But then when one has enormous wealth that can be expected.
He was one of the founders of The Jockey Club, was president and part owner of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn and the owner of a racing stable. After his divorce from his first wife he moved to France. There he built a chateau and established the Hara du Quesnay horse racing stable and breeding farm near Deauville in Lower Normandy. Vanderbilt’s horses raced at a number of important races in France and were often in the winner’s circle.
William Kissam Vanderbilt passed away while in France on July 22, 1920. His remains were returned home and buried in the Vanderbilt mausoleum of the Moravian cemetery in the community of New Dorp, Staten Island, New York. He had lived to age 70, a ripe old age for Vanderbilts. Many of his predecessors had lived much shorter lives.
The material for this bio profile was garnered from several web sites, especially from Wikipedia. Other sources for the Vanderbilt family were also consulted.
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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