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Cornelius Vanderbilt was an industrialist in railroads and shipping. He had accumulated the largest fortune in the U.S. at the time of his death, in 1877.
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Vanderbilt eventually extended his railroad empire westward, acquiring the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway; the Michigan Southern Railroad; the Canada Southern Railway; and the Michigan Central Railroad. Urged on by his son (and eventual heir to the empire) William Henry Vanderbilt, Cornelius made his way toward Chicago.
Tragedy struck in 1868, when Vanderbilt's wife, Sophia, died. A year later, Vanderbilt married a distant cousin,
Frances Armstrong Crawford. The marriage wasn’t without controversy: She was 34 years his junior.
William Vanderbilt looked over the business during the last years of Cornelius’s life. In 1877, at the age of 83, the tycoon died, leaving the majority of his estate to William, modest sums to each of his other nine surviving children, and an indelible mark on American industry.
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America wasn't discovered, it was built. At the end of the Civil War, America was seen as a failing experiment in democracy; a nation fraying from the inside and at war with itself. Just 50 years later, the United States was the greatest superpower the world had ever seen. This landmark transition was due in no small part to a group of business-savvy, innovative young men: John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and Thomas Edison. These men constructed a bold vision for a modern America and transformed the greatest industries of our time, including oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobiles and finance; they are unequivocally America's first captains of industry.
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