WILLIAM HENRY VANDERBILT Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Name: William Henry Vanderbilt                                                         
Born: May 8, 1821 New Brunswick, New Jersey                                             
Died: December 8, 1885                                                                 
William Henry Vanderbilt (May 8, 1821 - December 8, 1885) was a businessman and         
a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.                             
William Vanderbilt was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He inherited nearly $100     
million from his father, one of the wealthiest men in the world, railroad mogul         
and family patriarch "The Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt and had increased it         
to almost $194 million at his death less than nine years later. At the time, he         
declared himself the richest man in the world, which was the truth, as no living       
person, even the world's richest royalty, even approached him in wealth at his         
time of death. In 1841 he married Maria Louisa Kissam (1821-1896), the daughter         
of a Presbyterian minister.                                                             
Vanderbilt said in an interview with the Chicago Daily News on October 9, 1882 "The     
railroads are not run for the benefit of the "dear public"--that cry is all             
nonsense--they are built by men who invest their money and expect to get a fair         
percentage on the same." He was also known for a comment he made in 1883 when           
being harangued by a reporter about the discontinuance of a fast mail train             
popular with the public: "The public be damned!...I don't take any stock in this       
silly nonsense about working for anybody but our own..." he snapped                     
exasperatedly. His mean, intimidating father Cornelius constantly berated and           
criticized him, thinking Billy (as he was called), a "blockhead" and a "blatherskite", 
two of the Commodore's favorite insults that he loved to hurl at his eldest son.       
Billy longed to show his father that he was not, in fact, a blatherskite, but he       
never dared stand up to the fearsome Commodore, always cringing under his father's     
rudeness. His father carefully oversaw his business training, at age 18 starting       
him out as a clerk in a New York banking house. After joining the executive of         
the Staten Island railway, he was made its president in 1862 then three years           
later he was appointed vice-president of the Hudson River railway. Billy showed         
a knack for business, being a valuable part of the family railroad empire,             
gaining him the long awaited respect and friendship that he felt he deserved           
from his father. In 1869, he was made vice-president of the New York Central and       
Hudson River Railroad Company, becoming its president in 1877. As well, he took         
over from his father as president of New York Central Railroad, the Lake Shore         
and Michigan Southern Railway, the Canada Southern Railway, and the Michigan           
Central Railroad at the time of the Commodore's death.