Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) – Entrepreneur
Cornelius Vanderbilt was the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and one of the richest Americans in history. Following his first wife’s death in 1868, Vanderbilt went to Canada to marry a cousin from Mobile, Alabama, named Frank Armstrong Crawford. It was Crawford’s cousin’s husband, Holland McTyeire who convinced Vanderbilt to endow what would become Vanderbilt University, named in his honor. Vanderbilt gave $1 million, the largest charitable gift in American history to that date. He also bought a church for $50,000 for his second wife’s congregation, the Church of the Strangers. He also donated to churches around New York, including a gift to the Moravian Church on Staten Island of 8 ½ acres for a cemetery in which he was later buried. At the time of his death his fortune was estimated at $100 million. In his Will, Vanderbilt left 95% of his $100 million to his son William and to William’s four sons. Vanderbilt stated that he believed William Henry was the only heir capable of maintaining the business empire. The remainder of his children and wife each received money as stipulated in his Will, except for his younger surviving son, Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt, whom he regarded as a wastrel. Vanderbilt left Cornelius the income from a trust fund. Vanderbilt had lived in relative modesty considering his nearly unlimited means, splurging only on race horses, leaving his descendants to build the Vanderbilt houses that characterize America’s Gilded Age.
We honor Cornelius Vanderbilt because his philanthropic work makes him a Legacy Champ. If you want to be a Legacy Champ in your own special way, then contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free initial consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.