Cornelius Vanderbilt an American Entrepreneur

Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on May 27, 1794 at Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York . Vanderbilt grew up in poverty. At the age of 11, Cornelius quit school and started working for his father’s ferry business, in New York Harbor. While working for his father, Cornelius’ interest in boats grew. He learned everything he could about the shipping business.

Cornelius Vanderbilt, three-quarter view.

Cornelius Vanderbilt, three-quarter view. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vanderbilt started his own  ferry business by age 16 with only one ferry boat. During the War of 1812, Vanderbilt was awarded a military contract to deliver supplies to the forts along the Hudson River. As time went on Vanderbilt’s sailing boats and ferries started lagging behind the steamboats so he sold his sailboats and went to work for Thomas Gibbons. While an employee for Gibbons, Vanderbilt learned to manage and operate a large business. By the time Vanderbilt was about 35 years old he started his own steamboat company and in ten years it grew to the size of 100 steamboats. Vanderbilt had a great ability to steal customers away from his competitors. His business philosophy was to have the best service for the lowest price. This was the key to his success. Vanderbilt saw the opportunity of the California gold rush and expanded his business to oceangoing steamboats. His business prospered and he became one of the first American millionaires. In the 1860s Vanderbilt expanded his business once again with the advent of the Iron Horse. Vanderbilt seized the opportunity and started to buy up railroad companies. He applied his business philosophy to the railroad industry and in five years he reportedly made 25 Million dollars. His railroad empire soon expanded to 13 railroad companies and covering the northeast United States. Cornelius Vanderbilt died on January 4, 1877 at the age of 82. The majority of his fortune went to his son William. In 2007 dollars his net worth at the time of his death would have been 143 billion U.S dollars. Vanderbilt succeeded because he offered the best for the lowest price. He also lived during a time when the United States government interference into the business sector was limited to its Constitutional boundaries.

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2 responses to “Cornelius Vanderbilt an American Entrepreneur

  1. Great article looking back at a true titan of industry, nice job!

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