The Amazing Vanderbilt Legacy And How It Endures

The Vanderbilt family is an American family of Dutch origin that was highly influential during the late 19th century and with a legacy that continues today with prominent members in many areas other than business.

The story of the family begins with Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, who at the young age of 16, decided to start his own ferry service transporting passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan. Other captains started calling him “The Commodore” jokingly due to his vitality and enthusiasm and the nickname stuck with him through all his life. Cornelius Vanderbilt expanded into steamboats and then went on to build railroad empire New York Central Railroad, the accomplishment he is mainly known for. By the time of his death in 1877, Cornelius Vanderbilt had seemingly accrued a $100 million fortune.

William Henry “Billy” Vanderbilt was Cornelius oldest son whom business training he carefully oversaw since Billy was 19 years old. Billy Vanderbilt was a vigorous philanthropist and gave extensively to different causes like the YMCA, helped establish the Metropolitan Opera and gave endowments to the University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee.

The family has a long line of successful members, prominent in many different career paths.

Gloria Laura Vanderbilt

She is an American artist, author, actress, heiress and socialite. Sadly her childhood was marked by a fierce legal battle between her mother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who fought over control of her trust fund. The trial was the subject of much attention by the media due to the wealth and notoriety of the involved parties.

Gloria studied art at the Art Students League of New York and acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. She became known for the quality of her oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels. Her artwork became adapted and licensed by Hallmark Cards, which lead her into designing specifically for linens, pottery, and glassware; something that eventually took her into the fashion business. Gloria Laura Vanderbilt became known in connection with a line of perfumes and household items under her name. She was particularly known as an early designer of designer blue jeans.

In 2001, Vanderbilt opened her first art exhibition, “Dream Boxes,” at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester. The show was a success so she launched another exhibition of 35 paintings at the Arts Center in 2007. She is the author of four memoirs and three novels, and is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Elle. Vanderbilt married four times and had two sons in her last marriage; one of them is Anderson Hays Cooper, CNN anchor and renowned journalist.

Anderson Cooper of CNN_patrick dwyer_american financial titans_relatives_legacy
Image courtesy of Craig ONeal at

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Hays Cooper is an American journalist, author, and television personality. He is the main anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°. Cooper is a New Yorker and the younger son of the writer Wyatt Emory Cooper and the artist, designer, writer, and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt; his maternal great-great-great-grandfather was the one and only Cornelius Vanderbilt. Even though he majored in Political Sciences, during college he was an intern at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and decided to leave the agency behind to pursue a career in journalism, without having any background in that area. Cooper says that part of that interest in journalism started after his brother’s suicide when he was 23 years old. Cooper has received many awards like the Bronze Telly, three Emmy Awards, the GLAAD Media Award twice and the Peabody Award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

As freelance writer, Cooper has authored a variety of articles that have appeared in many other outlets, including Details magazine. He also published a memoir, Dispatches from the Edge, detailing his life and work in Sri Lanka, Africa, Iraq and Louisiana.

Timothy Olyphant

Timothy David Olyphant is an American actor known mainly for his roles in movies like Scream 2, Go, A Man Apart and The Girl Next Door. He also starred in Deadwood (2004–2006), the romantic comedy Catch and Release, the action film Hitman, the thriller A Perfect Getaway and the horror film The Crazies. He was a villain in Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and was a recurring guest star in season two of the FX legal thriller Damages (2009). The best-known performance of Olyphant’s career to date has been as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in FX’s modern-day Kentucky western Justified (2010–2015). Olyphant’s paternal fourth great-grandfather was family patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt and his third great-grandfather was William Henry Vanderbilt, the man responsible for doubling the family’s railroad fortune. From 2006 to late 2008, Olyphant was the sports reporter for Joe Escalante’s morning radio show on Los Angeles’ Indie 103.1 while director David Lynch did the part of the show’s weatherman. Olyphant and his wife live in Westwood, Los Angeles and have three children.


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