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Cornelius Vanderbilt: Pionirski američki industrijalac

Cornelius Vanderbilt: Pionirski američki industrijalac



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Cornelius Vanderbilt rođen je u Port Richmondu, Staten Island, New York, sin trajekta i poljoprivrednika. Tokom 1830 -ih, Vanderbiltova linija postala je dominantno prisustvo parobroda na rijeci Hudson, uglavnom zbog niskih cijena i udobnog smještaja. Najveći deo njegovog bogatstva od 100 miliona dolara ostavljeno je njegovom sinu Vilijamu.


Neshvaćeni razbojnički barun: O Korneliju Vanderbiltu

11. novembra 2009

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DOUG CHAYKA

Cornelius Vanderbilt umro je u januaru 1877. Šest mjeseci kasnije, najveći društveni ustanak u devetnaestom stoljeću paralizirao je operacije Vanderbiltove centralne željeznice u New Yorku (do tada je nadzirao njegov sin William), zajedno s ostale tri magistralne pruge koje povezuju istočnu obalu. do Chicaga i pokazuje dalje zapadno. Veliki štrajk željeznica, kako je postalo poznato, preokret je izvanrednog nasilja izazvanog zapanjujućim činom dosluha i bešćutnosti: smanjenje plaća za 10 posto najavljeno prošle godine, usred najveće depresije u stoljeću, i prihvaćeno koncertom uz četiri magistralne linije. Oružani sukobi između državnih milicija i bijesnih željezničara i njihovih legija simpatizera izbili su u gradovima i mjestima širom zemlje. Opći štrajk paralizirao je St. Louis. Jednog dana u Pittsburghu, gomile su spalile trideset i devet željezničkih zgrada i 1.300 vagona i motora, kao i veliki lift za žito naoružan topovima Gatling, Nacionalna garda je te noći ubila dvadeset, a sljedećeg dana više. Thomas Scott, koji je vodio željeznicu u Pennsylvaniji, zaključio je kako ništa osim ludila strasti na koje se igraju dizajnerski i nestašni vođe ne može objasniti uništenje ogromne količine željezničke opreme. Ništa osim toga okolnosti željezničkih radnika#8211 koji su za male plate riskirali smrt ili osakaćenje u industrijskim nesrećama#i njihove porodice.

Tri nedelje haosa završile su širokim aplauzom snaga reda i zakona. Oružarnice su podignute u velikim gradovima kako bi ugušile tjeskobe srednjih klasa, koje su od zapaljivih dana Pariške komune živjele u hroničnom strahu od krvavog klasnog sukoba koji je izbio u Americi. U ovoj napetoj klimi, mnogi su počeli da se štuju novim gospodarima industrije. Nekoliko godina nakon njegove smrti, Vanderbilta je lavizirao njegov prvi biograf: bez “the Commodore ” –a trezvenja po kojem je Vanderbilt u to vrijeme bio nadaleko poznat ”d “d nije bilo željeznica ili parobroda ili telegrafa, nema gradova, nema slobodnog časa, nema škola, nema fakulteta, književnosti, umjetnosti ukratko nema civilizacije. ” Milioni su podijeljeni u ovom idolopoklonstvu.

Manjina je bila bijesna i istjerala je titane finansija i industrije kao "pljačkaške barone"#8221 i gore. E.L. Godkin, osnivač Nacija, pokrenuli su bujicu nagovještaja u novoj plutokratiji: “kralstvo na ulici ” poput Vanderbilta pokazalo je “umanjivu i nepopravljivu sebičnost ” jednako zastrašujuću kao i njihova “odvažnost, guranje, beskrupuloznost i drsko zanemarivanje drugih i#8217 prava. ” Henry Adams, pišući o debaklu Credit Mobilier -a nakon Građanskog rata, u kojem su željeznički operateri sa vladinim dužnosnicima pokušali opljačkati javnu blagajnu, zaključio je da je "moralni zakon istekao", poput Ustava. ” Ovo manje sanguinističko gledište postalo je sve popularnije u dvadesetom stoljeću, posebno za vrijeme i nakon Velike depresije, katastrofe koju su milioni Amerikanaca okrivili za drugu generaciju pljačkaških baruna. ” Istorijske nauke odražavale su tu procjenu. Biografije Mellona, ​​Carnegieja i Rockefellera često su bile prožete moralnom osudom, upozoravajući da su "industrijske priče"#prijetnja demokraciji i da su parazitizam, aristokratska pretenzija i tiranija uvijek vukli na tragu koncentriranog bogatstva, bilo akumuliranog dinamički ili bezličnije od bezlične korporacije. Ova stipendija i kulturno uvjerenje čiji je izraz bio, oslanjali su se na duboko ukorijenjeni senzibilitet - dijelom vjerski, dijelom egalitarni i demokratski - koji se protezao do Williama Jenningsa Bryana, Andrewa Jacksona i Toma Painea.

Cenzura velikog biznisa se nastavila tokom 1960 -ih i kasnije, ali je postepeno zamračena kulturnim i intelektualnim vraćanjem tajkune pozlaćenog doba. Tokom protekle dvije decenije, revizionističke biografije i kolektivni portreti Mellona, ​​Carnegieja, Rockefellera, Harrimana, J.P. Morgana i drugih efikasno su obnovili ugled pljačkaškog barona. Čak je i željeznički tajkun i špekulant Jay Gould, poznat svojim suvremenicima kao "Mefistofeles sa Wall Streeta", spašen iz kulturnog čistilišta. Količnik negativnog moralnog i političkog prosuđivanja u ovim je studijama opao ili potpuno nestao. Naglasak sada pada na komercijalni sjaj ovih ljudi, njihovu nepopustljivu volju za uspjehom, njihovu pionirsku ulogu u jačanju industrijskih i financijskih resursa zemlje i njihovo ovladavanje sve složenijim tehnološkim, financijskim i organizacijskim inovacijama koje su definirale moderno ekonomija.

Zajedno bi se moglo reći da ova književnost čini novi žanr: neshvaćenog pljačkaškog baruna. Žanr ne zanemaruje teške okolnosti i gadne taktike koje su mogle omogućiti razbojničkom barunu da dominira: konkurentska svirepost bez ograničenja, ležeran stav o pridržavanju slova zakona, vlasništvo koje ga je udaljilo od nevolja onih sa manje sreće, nemilosrdna vožnja do bankrotiranih konkurenata, podređivanje izabranih zvaničnika. No, umjesto da kritizira ove osobine i taktike, žanr ih naturalizira. Ako su ti ljudi radili stvari koje bi nam se danas mogle činiti beskrupuloznima, učinili su i njihovi savremenici, svi članovi društva motivirani jednoumnim individualizmom karakterističnim za snažnu ekonomiju slobodnog tržišta. Gledano izdaleka, ono što nas uvjerava da vidimo kroz ispitivanje ovih života je inkubacija modernog svijeta industrijskog i financijskog kapitalizma i njegove neizbježne evolucijske mehanike, ne uvijek lijepe, ali na kraju dana blagoslov koji je podario zemlja sa bogatstvom i moći. Ova sunčana slika odražava današnje vlasničko društvo, sa odvažnošću na slobodnom tržištu i poštovanjem prema privrednicima općenito, posebno onima koji su predani "mršavoj" i "podloj" konkurenciji i izgradnji finansijskog carstva. Može se reći da je žanr neshvaćenog razbojničkog baruna sam po sebi izraz pomaka u cajtgajstu, baš kao što je i ta ranija literatura moralne osude dijelila univerzalniji skup rezervi prema vladavini velikog biznisa.

Mnogobrojna od ovih biografija provlači se podvodna struja. Čini se da ih proganja prvi val biografija razbojničkih baruna i osjećaju potrebu da iskorijene svoju tešku primjesu osuđujuće kritike. Često to čine prihvatajući stanovište olimpijske nezainteresovanosti. S izvesnom hladnom snishodljivošću odbacuju duh antikapitalizma kao kratkovidan ili doktrinarni i fatalno u dodiru sa neumoljivom logikom ekonomskog razvoja. Oni impliciraju da su raniji kritičari, svi od Henryja Adamsa, Henryja Georgea i Henryja Demarest Lloyda u devetnaestom stoljeću, do Charlesa Bearda i drugih povjesničara progresivne ere, nastavljajući dalje u djelima Matthewa Josephsona, Ferdinanda Lundberga i historičara Nove ljevice. 󈨀s – bili su zatočenici velike iluzije: da postoje moguće alternative kapitalizmu, izbor mogućnosti koje se kreću od zadružnog komonvelta do socijalizma. Povjesničari neshvaćenog razbojničkog baruna doista su oslobođeni te iluzije, njihova sloboda nosi sa sobom uvjerenje da unatoč svim njegovim očiglednim nedostacima sistem slobodnog tržišta prevladava jer funkcionira, a funkcionira jer je u skladu s nekom dubljom ekonomskom istinom kao zakonita kao hemijska reakcija.

Šta god da je njihovo Weltanschauung, mnoge od ovih studija su prvorazredne istorije, i Prvi tajkun, nova biografija Corneliusa Vanderbilta od T.J. Stiles nije izuzetak. Vanderbilt's#8217s uzdižu se od male trajektne kompanije na Staten Islandu do dominantne figure u nacionalnom pomorskom (parobrod) i kopnenom (željezničkom) transportnom sistemu fascinantna je priča, a Stiles to dobro priča. Njegovo pisanje je živo i šareno. On je pedantan i iscrpan istraživač s instinktom za ispričanu anegdotu. Oslanjajući se na zapažanja lokalnih trgovaca, posetilaca iz inostranstva i aper & ccedilus Hermana Melvillea, Stiles vješto dočarava užurbani grad New Yorka s početka devetnaestog stoljeća: smradovi njegovih pristaništa zastoj jedrenjaka i parobroda koji se gomilaju u njegovoj luci, pomama komercijalnih vožnji i dilanja po zmijskim ulicama Donjeg Manhattana, koja je ubrzo uspostavila grad kao sjedište nacionalne pomorske privredne privrede. Vanderbilt se obogatio u ovoj trgovačkoj džungli, a Stiles sjajno odražava prikaz kako je oblikovala njegov lik – učvršćujući njegovu armaturu, izoštravajući njegovu lukavštinu. I premda je Prvi tajkun često bio nespretni i nevoljni pisac koji nije ostavio za sobom veliki papirnati trag, Stiles ima neke uvjerljive uvide u unutrašnji život Vanderbilta.

Stilesov izvještaj o kalifornijskoj zlatnoj groznici 1849. prepun je živopisnih opisa tragača, prevaranata, kockara i dogovarača, te bilježi meteorski nastanak San Francisca, s njegovim nesputanim noćnim životom i izvanrednom kulturnom raznolikošću koja je privukla bogatstvo- tragaoci iz celog sveta. Otkriće zlata u Sutter's#8217s Mill -u dalo je priliku Vanderbiltu da svoj posao sa parobrodom na Atlantskoj obali pretvori u prekooceansko, prevozeći putnike na zapad do zlatnih polja i, što je još važnije, noseći zlato na istok do banaka u New Yorku. Zlatna groznica također je zaplela Commodore u beskrajne intrige za izgradnju kopnene rute (željeznica/kanal/parobrod) preko Nikaragve koja povezuje dva okeana, kako bi se ubrzali i smanjili troškovi tranzita do i od zlatne obale. Stiles je posebno dobar, iako pomalo dugovječan, u opisivanju opasnih, ali tragikomičnih igrača uključenih u ove mahinacije, među kojima su južnjački filibusteri, slobodni vojni avanturisti i politički samopromotori koji su namjeravali srušiti lokalne vlade Centralne Amerike i pripojiti mjesta poput Nikaragva na jugu, hraneći Dixiejev nezasitni apetit za novim teritorijama robova.

Stilesovi talenti nikako nisu ograničeni na njegove opisne moći. Njegova analiza političke ekonomije sjevernog antebeluma često je uvjerljiva. Vanderbilta naziva "čuvarom mora",#8221 čudesnom metaforom koja prenosi izrazito trgovački karakter američke ekonomije u desetljećima prije Građanskog rata. To je bila ekonomija koja je počivala na trgovini, a ne na proizvodnji, a Commodore je njome ovladao jer je uspio kontrolirati veći dio njenog motoriziranog transporta: prvo obalnu, pa prekooceansku trgovinu parobrodima, a kasnije i kopnenu trgovinu željeznicama na parni pogon. Vanderbilt se obogatio i stekao moć u ovoj ranijoj, komercijalnoj fazi američkog razvoja, a ne tokom kasnije industrijalizacije koja je njegove kolege razbojnike učinila tako bogatim i slavnim.

Kada je Vanderbilt 1817. postao operater parobroda, trgovačku ekonomiju kontrolirao je elitni krug anglo-holandskih bankara i trgovaca koji su dominirali od predrevolucionarne ere. Njegovi članovi uživali su privilegiran položaj, posebno pravo na ekskluzivne korporativne povelje koje su izdavale državne i lokalne vlade za obavljanje različitih poslova: parnih linija, okretnica, željeznica, kanala i drugih aspekata infrastrukture od vitalnog značaja za trgovačko društvo. Demokratija po kojoj je Jacksonian era toliko poznata bila je obilježena željom da se ova, izolovana, trgovačka ekonomija koju podržava država otvori svakom čovjeku. Antebellum America proključao je od preduzetničke energije. Dobavljači su lutali zemljom željni da iskoriste poplavu poslovnih mogućnosti koja je pratila teritorijalno širenje zemlje. Ambiciozni ljudi na tržištu su osudili etablirane, posebno one koji uživaju naklonost vlade, kao monopoliste i aristokrate. Tražili su istinski slobodnu tržišnu ekonomiju, univerzalne zakone o osnivanju i prestanak monopola koje je odobrila država. Bio je to rat protiv jednog oblika kapitalizma u ime drugog.

Stiles navodi uvjerljiv slučaj da je Vanderbilt bio važna figura u borbi za odbacivanje starijeg, patricijskog oblika kapitalizma. Iako je bio apolitičan, ni vig ni demokrata, a politikom se bavio samo onda kada je to odgovaralo njegovim neposrednim poslovnim ciljevima, Vanderbilt je na mnogo načina bio savršen džeksonijanac. Uvijek iznova je osporavao franšize koje je odobrila država i koje su vodili politički povezani velikani u New Yorku i Novoj Engleskoj. Uspostavio je suparničke linije parobroda, koristeći svoje detaljno znanje o izgradnji brodova i morskim hirovima kako bi uveo franšize u stečaj. Potopio je druge na sudu. I jedva da je bio stidljiv što se tiče primjene demokratske retorike kako bi se diskreditovali njegovi neprijatelji sa najvećim ladicama, a prikrili su njegovi predatorski ciljevi.

Patricijska stara garda smatrala se nezainteresiranom elitom opremljenom uzgojem, znanjem i neovisnošću da djeluje u javnom interesu, ali u stvari, kako je tržišno društvo proširilo svoj doseg, stara garda se ponašala kao obični poslovni ljudi, nestrpljivi da zadrže svoje posebne komercijalne prednosti. Kao što Stiles dosljedno primjećuje, stare patricijske porodice iz New Yorka nastavile su ovo konkurentnije, egalitarno doba, noseći sa sobom svoje bogatstvo i predrasude. Njihov elitizam stopio se s vjerom vigovaca u poduzetničku, ali uređenu ekonomiju. ”

Vanderbilt je, s druge strane, mogao propovijedati demokratske vrline slobodnog tržišta, ali bio je savršeno spreman nametnuti svoju monopolističku kontrolu kad mu se ukazala prilika, ili prihvatiti otkupni novac od svojih konkurenata kako bi mogli nastaviti s radom njihovih monopola. Stiles naziva Vanderbilta “sebičnim revolucionarom ” i “milijunarskim radikalom ” jer je shvatio da laissez-faire ideologija može obavljati dvostruku dužnost kao odbranu i napad na bogatstvo. U kolovozu 1834. Vanderbilt je objavio komad demokratske demagogije usmjeren na svoje patricijske rivale u New York Evening Post, list posvećen radikalnoj džeksonovskoj antimonopolskoj politici. Njegova molba je napisana u ime jednog od njegovih parobrodarskih preduzeća, istaknutog naziva People's#8217s Line, koja se proteže između New Yorka i Albanyja: “Ovim sugrađanima ovaj aristokratski monopol, siguran kako misle da su bogati i moćni, bezobzirno napadnut pojedinac čiji je stalni pokušaj izbjegavanje sukoba s njima#sada se postavlja pitanje hoće li javnost podržati udružene kompanije u činu nadmoćnog ugnjetavanja ili će patronizirati i ohrabriti onoga koji je odlučan da se odupre agresiji i nepravdi … . North River je veliki narodni autoput i ne pripada isključivo monopolistima. ”

Sav ovaj glas je iskorišten na lovačkim rifovima tog doba, promoterima zemlje koji štuju mamune, urbanistima i otkupljivačima kanala i željeznica. To je neodoljiv spoj vrhunskog demokratskog egalitarizma i beskompromisne pohlepe koju je satirao Charles Dickens u Martin Chuzzlewit. Teško je reći je li Vanderbilt zaista vjerovao da je ratnik protiv monopola ili je jednostavno unajmio retoriku za nekoliko centimetara. Ono što je jasno je da se zalagao za kapitalizam osuđujući ga. Najvažnije, Stiles primjećuje dublju ironiju tog doba: da će korporacija, koja je nastala kao stvorenje države, podređena barem teoretski njenim pravilima i propisima, umjesto toga postati u sljedećim desetljećima slijediti gospodara države, oslobođen javnih ograničenja ili bilo koje obaveze da služi javnom interesu, zahvaljujući antimonopolskom društvenom i političkom preokretu koji su inspirisali ljudi poput Corneliusa Vanderbilta i Andrewa Jacksona.

Uza sve njegove vrline, Prvi tajkun posvećuje oskudnu pažnju načinu na koji je ova šira kulturna atmosfera njegovala Napoleonove mitove koji su zahvatili poslovne ljude poput Vanderbilta. Skromno društveno porijeklo Commodore -a i uspon na moćne visine imitirali su Napoleonova, čovjeka niotkuda koji je postao car. To je jedna verzija američkog sna i obećanje neograničenih mogućnosti i beskrajnog samo-izuma. To je razlog toliko cijenjenog Vanderbilta. Velika bogatstva i kako su stvorena, klasično slavlje američkih heroja koje su sami napravili, objavljeno 1871. godine, opisalo je Vanderbiltov ’s “ um kristala, srce nepokolebljivog, čelične ruke i volju željeza. ” Na udaljeniji i nepristrasniji način , Stiles podržava ovaj romantični portret Komodora. Svjestan da ga mnogi mrze i zamjeraju mu, a posebno njegovi poraženi poslovni rivali, Stiles se ipak provlači po Vanderbiltovoj reputaciji velikog čovjeka, grubo obrađenog ekonomskog genija, iskonskog tajkuna i arhitekte modernog svijeta.

Potvrda čini samu kičmu Prvi tajkun. Naslovi knjige iz tri dijela – “Kapetan, ” “Commodore ” i “Kralj ” – prenose sliku trijumfalnog ratnika. Naslovi, zapravo, ponavljaju nazive po kojima je Vanderbilt postao nadaleko poznat, ali nakon što su usvojeni kao organiziranje tema za biografiju, razvijaju vlastiti život. Stiles nikada ozbiljno ne dovodi u pitanje ekstravagantni jezik koji su suvremenici koristili za opisivanje Vanderbilta, poput enkomija koji su izdali direktori njegovog željezničkog carstva nakon smrti Komodora. “sjaj ” njegovih “ čudesnih ličnih trijumfa ” im je posudio “primjer romantike …. Počevši od skromnog položaja,#8230 ustao je zbog svoje genijalnosti, neukrotive energije i jasne prognoze …. Bila mu je trajna čast što je njegova jedinstvena politika bila zaštita, razvoj i poboljšanje interesa s kojima je bio povezan, umjesto da traži sebičnu i nečasnu zaradu. Proza Stilesa nije bez grandioznog procvata. Njegove slike i metafore postaju prezrele dok opisuje Vanderbilta koji baca "sjenu na milione ljudi" i uzdiže se poput planinskog vrha iznad oblaka. ” Kroz cijeli raspon koristi rječnik Napoleonovog graditelja carstva, dramaturgiju borbe i junaštva hrabrosti. On se divi Commodoreovom#8217s “ironom nervu ” tokom Panike 1873., kako je bio pod “potpunom komandom dok su se drugi skoro slomili u strahu, ” i govori o tome kako je Vanderbilt ostao sam među titanskim željeznicama. 8220neopterećen i neprekinut. ”

Ovakav pristup povećava ulog, pritiskajući Stilesa da zaradi više, da napuši pješaka, dajući mu veličinu koju ne garantuje. Jedan od rezultata je da se knjiga zaglavila na pola puta dok Stiles pregovara o jednom poslovnom poslu za drugim u otupljujućim nastojanjima da demonstrira Vanderbiltovu superiornu oštroumnost. Hiljade i hiljade riječi uloženo je u opisivanje zamršenosti Commodore -ovog poduhvata u Nikaragvi, zahtijevajući herojske napore čitalaca da prate šta se dešava. U isto vrijeme, Stiles nastoji povezati Vanderbiltove domaće komercijalne mahinacije sa stvarima od većeg nacionalnog uvoza i sukobom u segmentu oko ropstva, raspadom vigovske stranke, ali ovi izmišljeni pokušaji da se njegovom svakodnevnom životu daje veća povijesna težina gotovo uvijek padati ravno.

Pozlata imidža Prvog tajkuna ima gore posljedice. Vanderbilt je sasvim svjesno izgradio porodičnu dinastiju, jednu uglavnom zasnovanu na svom željezničkom vlasništvu. Stiles to zna, ali odlučan da naslika sliku Vanderbilta kao arhitekta modernosti, a posebno moderne korporacije, na kraju povezuje dinastički kapitalizam s njegovim korporativnim nasljednikom. Vanderbiltov centar u New Yorku u početku nije provodio racionalizirano, birokratsko upravljanje koje je već instalirano na drugim glavnim prugama, pa čak i nakon što je Commodore preuzeo zapovjedništvo, praktikovao je onu vrstu lične i porodične kontrole kojoj je ’d bio naklonjen cijeli svoj život. Ako se ipak upuštao u veliku reorganizaciju puta duž korporativnih linija, pretvarajući ga u složenu, bezličnu hijerarhiju koju vodi kadar menadžerskih i tehničkih stručnjaka, Stiles pruža čitatelju vrlo malo dokaza o tome. Osim toga, moderna korporacija se ponaša sasvim drugačije, kako na tržištu tako i na političkoj sceni, u odnosu na svog dinastičkog prethodnika. Evo kako zvuči dinastija: “Zakon, kako ga ja gledam, ide mi presporo kad imam lijek u svojim rukama …. Neka druge strane idu na zakon ako žele, ali bogami, mislim da znam kakav je zakon, dosta mi je toga. ” Vanderbiltove riječi nisu riječi bezličnog korporativnog odijela osjetljivog na njegovu kompaniju &# 8217s složenu interakciju s vladinim birokratima i sudovima, nekome čija je lojalnost i rad u bilo kojoj određenoj korporaciji uvjetna i teško informirana patrijarhalnim ambicijama porodične loze. Dinastički kapitalizam počiva na identitetu interesa i pogleda između njegovih vlasnika i menadžera, budući da su oni manje -više isti ljudi koje moderna korporacija razdvaja. Stiles djeluje namjerno slijep za razliku, pa namjerava dokazati da Vanderbilt nadmašuje povijesni ugled.

To je zato što je za Stilesa povezivanje Vanderbilta sa modernošću aksiomatski dobra stvar. On se divi tajkunskim, vizionarskim pothvatima koji ulaze u novi svijet korporativnih dionica i obveznica i drugim oblicima hipotetiranih vrijednosti papira podložnim nepredvidivim fluktuacijama na tržištu. Ne može se poreći da je uspon finansijskog kapitalizma revolucionarna transformacija, radikalni raskid s tradicionalnim ekonomskim izgledom čija je mjera vrijednosti ostala vezana za opipljive manifestacije stvarne, fizičke imovine, zlatne valute i slično. Novi način rada omogućio je mobilizaciju likvidnih kapitalnih resursa i njihovo ulaganje u sve vrste produktivnih preduzeća. Vanderbilt je postao glavni igrač u ovoj misterioznoj paralelnoj ekonomiji. Suočio se protiv suparničkih špekulanata za kontrolu nad raznim željeznicama, od kojih je najpoznatija Erie, poznata nadaleko i nadaleko kao "grimizna žena sa Wall Streeta"#8221 zbog načina na koji su je opljačkali i premjestili manipulatori dionicama poput Daniel Drew, Jay Gould i Commodore. Za Stilesa je to kraj priče: Vanderbilt kao pionir modernih financija.

No, ti su financijski mehanizmi također iznjedrili papirnatu ekonomiju fiktivne vrijednosti koja bi mogla grubo precijeniti ili podcijeniti stvarnu vrijednost materijalne imovine koju su trebali predstavljati, stvarajući uvjete za periodične procvate, hapšenja i paniku. Stiles odbacuje rezerve Vanderbiltovih savremenika prema ovom čudnom novom svijetu kao staromodnom, parohijalnom i kratkovidnom. On uzima zdravo za gotovo da je pojam stvarne vrijednosti zabluda, da je tržište jedini i krajnji arbitar onoga što vrijedi. To je moderan pogled. Ali te starinske, neprosvijetljene tjeskobe oko "fiktivne vrijednosti"#8221 ne zvuče tako retrogradno u svjetlu našeg nedavnog finansijskog sloma i njegovog utjecaja na stvarnu ekonomiju, niti su to činili u doba Commodore-a za vrijeme panike i depresije 1837, 1857 i 1873 (najrazornija od svih).

Brahmani na istočnoj obali poput Henryja i Charlesa Francis Adamsa, Olivera Wendell Holmesa i E.L. Godkin su bili među mnogim kritičarima Vanderbilta i uzdizanja džinovske korporacije. Oni, zajedno s legijama manje poznatih protivnika Komodora u novonastalom radničkom pokretu, te među uznemirenim i ljutim poljoprivrednicima i srednjim biznismenima, potječu stigmu razbojničkog barona koja je zasjenila Vanderbilta i njegove kolege tajkune sve do dvadesetog stoljeća. Čak i New York Times priznao postojanje moderne aristokracije kapitala ” i opisao novu vrstu korporativnih kapitalista kao “ tirane modernog društva. ” Stiles tretira ovaj jezik kao nekoherentan, ali ne objašnjavajući zašto. Svakako, postoji duboka povijesna razlika između aristokrata i kapitalista. No, politički značaj analogije koju je napravio Times a drugi su bili dovoljno jasni.

Stiles misli da su Adamses, Godkin i drugi patricijski kritičari Prvog tajkuna bili cinici. Uostalom, gnušali su se sindikata, žalili su se na to što emigrante miješaju anglo-protestantsku Ameriku, plašili su se i žalili se na masovnu demokratsku politiku, smatrali su populiste sjenom sjemena i bili su zaprepašteni vulgarnošću novog tajkuna, koliko i njihovom pretjeranom moć. Stiles kaže da ovi neugodni pogledi diskredituju brahminsku kritiku osušenih barona i pohlepu, korupciju i eksploataciju. Ali optužba je jeftina i odražava i neku vrstu intelektualnog snobizma. Uostalom, Brahmini i#8217 kritike odjeknuli su u optužnicama protiv pljačkaških barona koje su podigli vitezovi laburista, radničke partije i zelenaške političke stranke i antimonopolske lige, muškarci i žene neokaljani reakcionarnim stavovima svojih nadređenih u društvu. Ali ovi anonimni ili manje poznati politički akteri se ne pojavljuju Prvi tajkun. Za Stilesa su nevidljivi koliko i za Godkina.

Cornelius Vanderbilt je volio pamtiti sebe. Jedan trajni spomenik i vitalni dio centralizacije željeznica koji je značajno poboljšao ekonomsku efikasnost centrale New Yorka bio je originalni Grand Central Terminal, završen 1871. godine. Stiles gomila čitaocu brdo statistika o izvanrednom obimu i raznolikost materijala korištenih za izgradnju stanice. Impresivno je. Ali postoji još jedan skup brojeva koje Stiles ne pokazuje zanimanjem za sastavljanje ili analizu. Tokom ove formativne faze industrijalizacije, 35.000 radnika je poginulo svake godine u industrijskim nesrećama. Godine 1910. jedna četvrtina svih radnika u industriji željeza i čelika povrijeđena je jednom godišnje, dijelom zbog toga što rukovodstvo nije postavilo sigurnosne uređaje ili skratilo radno vrijeme. Između 1890. i 1917. godine, 158.000 mehaničara i radnika ubijeno je u popravkama željeznica i okruglim kućama. Samo u periodu 1888-89, od 704.000 zaposlenih u željeznici, 20.000 je povrijeđeno, a skoro 2.000 ubijeno. Na centralnom Illinoisu između 1874. i 1884. godine jedan od dvadesetak vlakovara umro je ili postao invalid među kočničarima, željezničarima koji su radili najopasniji posao, omjer je bio jedan prema sedam (a među skretničarima taj je broj bio gotovo jednako alarmantan). Part of the reason for this horrendous record of disfigurement and death was management’s relentless drive to increase the workload: brakemen, for example, were required to brake four or five cars rather than the two or three that had been the custom earlier. Yet the air brake, invented by George Westinghouse, had been available since 1869. It was expensive to install, however, and the railroad tycoons did nothing until its installation was required by federal legislation in 1893. The accident rate then declined promptly and precipitously by 60 percent.

Stiles insists that Vanderbilt deserves to be treated as a pioneer of modern industrial capitalism. If that’s so, and certainly there’s a case to be made, then what is more fundamental than understanding his relationship to wage labor, upon which the whole system rests? Thousands of workers, not Vanderbilt alone, made the road what it was. Did they end up dead and disabled in numbers comparable to, less than or more than their co-workers on other lines? Was the Commodore particularly solicitous about their welfare? Did he install the air brake? Ako ne, zašto ne? Did he share the bellicose view of people like Tom Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad or was he, given his lowly social origins, more sympathetic, conciliatory perhaps? What was it like to work for one of the Commodore’s great enterprises? The First Tycoon has little to say about any of this, and its silence helps sustain the romance of the misunderstood robber baron.

Not that everyone was silent. Stiles cites an open letter of 1869 from Mark Twain to Vanderbilt in which Twain indicts the tycoon’s rapaciousness and greed. But what really bothers Twain (and Stiles emphasizes this) is the idolatry that Vanderbilt’s fortune inspired among ordinary people: “You seem to be the idol of only a crawling swarm of small souls, who love to glorify your most flagrant unworthiness in print or praise your vast possessions worshippingly or sing of your unimportant private habits and sayings and doings, as if your millions gave them dignity.” Anyone living during the last quarter century must be acutely aware that the inclination to genuflect before great wealth has once again become a national pastime. It began back in the days of the First Tycoon. It is another, perhaps less savory contribution of the Commodore’s, or at least of his fellow robber barons. But while Stiles is eager to interrogate critics of that idolatry–Twain’s views are fairly presented but then derogated as the work of a “cynic”–he stays mum about the origins, meaning and consequences of the cult itself. Such silence is inherent in the genre of the misunderstood robber baron. It takes for granted what Twain and others worried about indeed, it asks us to follow its example and prostrate ourselves before the captains, commodores and kings of great wealth.


25 Resources for High School Students

“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”

– President Calvin Coolidge, 1925

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here , here , here , and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on:

Celebrating American Free-Market Capitalism.

“The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well,” wrote the American industrialist and founder of the Standard Oil Company, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It is vitally important for the financial well-being of our country, as well as the productive happiness of our children, for them to learn about, emulate, and appreciate the great business geniuses that have made the United States the largest and most successful economy in the world over the last two centuries. From the Colonial Era to the Age of Globalization, strivers, risk-takers, entrepreneurs, immigrants, and business tycoons alike have all helped make America the envy of the world. As it was for previous generations (prior to the last 30 years), we need to restore to K-12 schooling – especially in high schools – a thoughtful study and recognition of how the “Captains of Industry” have propelled the country’s historic economic progress. To support this effort, we’re offering a variety of resources to help parents, teachers, and high school students:


Business Scandal

Overrated For a hundred years the armor-plate scandal of the 1890s has been offered up as a definitive example of corporate greed. In fact it’s a better example of government incompetence.

Battleships were becoming the measure of naval might at the end of the nineteenth century. As the United States began to emerge as a Great Power and started to build a significant navy, it needed a domestic source of armor plate. But the steelmakers, notably Andrew Carnegie, were reluctant to build the necessary mills. Armorplate mills couldn’t be used for other types of steel, and there was only one possible customer: the Navy. Worse, Navy bureaucrats, ignorant of the difficult realities of steel production, established specifications that were impossible to meet.

Through appeals to his patriotism, Carnegie was prevailed upon, against his better business judgment, to build a mill. But when the mill evaded the specifications, simply in order to produce good armor plate, disgruntled labor leaders informed the Navy. Without taking evidence from the company, or even informing it of the investigation, the board of inquiry fined Carnegie 15 percent of the value of the contract in question. Carnegie had no option but to pay. And, stuck with an armor-plate mill that had no other customer, he was forced to continue dealing with the Navy.

It was a scandal all right, but not one of business ethics.

Underrated By the mid-1860s, thanks to the Civil War, Wall Street had grown to be the second-largest financial market in the world. But it was utterly unregulated. The federal government had no responsibility at the time for such matters, and New York’s state and city governments were a cesspool of political corruption in which nearly every legislator and judge was for sale to the highest bidder. Moreover, there was no stock exchange large enough to enforce what rules there were. For a few years it was pure capitalism, red in tooth and claw.

In 1867 Cornelius Vanderbilt, hoping to bring a measure of order and economic rationality to New York railroading, decided to buy control of the notoriously corrupt Erie Railroad, the Scarlet Woman of Wall Street. As Vanderbilt bought more and more Erie stock in the market, however, Daniel Drew, Jim Fisk, and Jay Gould, who controlled the line, printed more and more stock to sell him. When Vanderbilt found out what was going on, he had arrest warrants issued, and Drew, Fisk, and Gould fled to New Jersey with six million dollars—in cash—of the Commodore’s money.

An orgy of bribery of elected officials ensued, as both sides tried to get the legislature and the courts to do their bidding. Finally, Vanderbilt settled for getting his money back and left the Erie to its unhappy fate. (It would go bankrupt a total of four times before finally disappearing in the 1970s.)

But while the public was vastly entertained by the Erie Wars — which commanded more press coverage than the impeachment proceedings against Andrew Johnson—New York’s business and legal communities were horrified. They saw New York’s position as the country’s leading business center threatened, and they pushed through reforms. The New York Stock Exchange soon merged with its largest rival and became powerful enough to institute and enforce such rules as open registries of stock issues and advance notice of new issues, while lawyers formed the New York Bar Association to reform the judiciary and enforce a code of ethics on lawyers.

As a result, Wall Street, if hardly a good place for fools, became a dependable capital market, able to fuel the vast expansion of American industry that by the end of the century had given the country the world’s largest economy. The Erie Wars were the first great American business scandal, and they gave us what every subsequent business scandal has given us: genuine reform.


Money brought "nothing but anxiety" for Billy Vanderbilt

When his father passed in 1877, his eldest son William "Billy" Vanderbilt inherited the bulk of his estate, including the 87-percent stake in New York Central, according to Forbes. While Billy was able to prove his business sense to his father, it would be a mistake to assume that the two men had similar characters. As told by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, the father and son duo couldn't have been more different. Where the Commodore was abrasive and money-hungry, Billy was more inclined to compromise and saw money as a source of anxiety.

Ownership of New York Central came with publicity and conflicts that Billy hated. By 1879, he was ready to sell some of his shares so that he would no longer be considered the sole owner. With the $35 million he made from the sale, he invested in government bonds, a comparatively safe move uncharacteristic of a tycoon.

While Billy wasn't as ambitious as his father, he bio obsessed with preserving his wealth and would nitpick over expenses. It is perhaps with smart budgeting and a strong business acumen that Billy was able to double his inheritance to nearly $200 million, making him the richest man in the world by 1883. For him, though, the money was a terrible burden. When he died in 1885, rather than entrusting the fortune to the most business-savvy descendant, he divided it between his two eldest sons so they could share the "heavy responsibility."


1. George Peabody has been named the father of modern philanthropy as well as the ultimate rags-to-riches success story

Massachusetts&rsquo own George Peabody is widely-cited as the father of modern philanthropy. That is, he has been credited with inspiring countless wealthy individuals to give some &ndash or indeed, all &ndash of their fortunes away to worthy causes. Peabody is also regularly cited as the ultimate American success story. Indeed, his is the ultimate rags-to-riches story, and he was able to die a happy, honorable man.

Peabody was born into poverty in the small town of South Parish in 1795. He left school at 11 and then went to work as an apprentice in the local general store. Here, he learned skills and habits that would stay with him for the rest of his life: hard work, diligence, and the importance of being responsible, honest and honorable. Staying in retail, he went on to manage a store in Georgetown and then, at the age of 20, he had risen to become a partner in a wholesale dry goods business.

For around 20 years, Peabody worked in Baltimore, establishing himself as a leading international merchant and financier. His work regularly took him to Europe and then, in 1837, he made the decision to make a life in London. It was in the British capital that he went into banking, setting up the house of George Peabody and Company. In later years, he would take on a certain J.P. Morgan as a partner.

It was only as he neared retirement that Peabody realized he didn&rsquot want to die rich. So, he started giving away millions of dollars. Through gifts and legacies, he helped fund a number of educational projects, both in Britain and the United States. Then, when his nephew went to Yale, he decided to establish the Peabody Museum of Natural History at the prestigious university. This was soon followed by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard.

When Peabody died in November of 1869, he was granted the honor of being interred in Westminster Abbey for a short while (a right usually reserved for kings and queens). His body was finally brought back to his hometown &ndash which had been renamed Peabody in honor of its most famous, and most generous son.


You Can Visit All of These Incredible Vanderbilt Family Homes

Gloria Vanderbilt's family is one of the most storied&mdashand wealthiest&mdashin America.

When style icon and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt died at age 95, the outpouring of grief included innumerable homages to the woman herself&mdashincluding a moving tribute by her son, CNN's Anderson Cooper&mdashand also to her storied family. The Vanderbilts were one of the wealthiest families in American history, and Gloria's status as great-great-granddaughter to Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the 19th-century industrialist and railroad magnate (there's a reason why New York's famous Grand Central Terminal is located on Vanderbilt Avenue!) earned her a life of incredible privilege. Many of the Vanderbilt family's sumptuous homes are not just still standing but open to the public. Here are a few of the most famous, all worth a visit for their great beauty, and their deep history.

This imposing Beaux Arts&ndashstyle mansion, the estate of Frederick W. Vanderbilt from 1895 to 1938, is a true example of a Gilded Age country house. It has been designated a National Historic Site and sits on 200 acres preserved by the National Park Service.

An opulent bedroom inside the Vanderbilt Mansion, which is located in Hyde Park, New York, an idyllic Hudson Valley area that is also famous for its connection to the Roosevelts. Hyde Park is also the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential library, home, and burial place.

The grandest of Newport's famous "cottages," The Breakers was the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, built in 1893 in the Italian Renaissance style. In addition to the usual house tour, check out "Beneath the Breakers," which explores the underground tunnels, boiler room, and basement to give a fascinating view of how emerging technologies like electricity changed daily life during the Gilded Age.

The 70-room mansion, now a National Historic Landmark, is the most popular tourist attraction in the state of Rhode Island with approximately 300,000 visitors per year. It was named for the waves that continuously crash onto the cliffs below and is visible on the city's famous Cliff Walk.

Another Vanderbilt "cottage" in Newport, Marble House was the summer home of Cornelius's brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt, who gifted it to his wife, Alva, for her 39th birthday in 1892.

Now also a National Historic Landmark, Marble House was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Alva, a grand socialite, fancied it a "temple of the arts."

The fairy-tale-like Biltmore House was the summer home of another of Cornelius's brothers, George Vanderbilt, and his wife, Edith. George began building it in 1889 after visiting the area with his mother and falling in love with the Blue Ridge Mountain landscape, visible in the distance.

The 250-room French Renaissance chateau includes a 90-foot-long Tapestry Gallery. It also boasts 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces, not to mention impressive gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The property also houses luxury lodgings, a winery, and more.

Overlooking Northport Bay and the Long Island Sound, this Gold Coast mansion was the estate of William K. Vanderbilt II until his death in 1944. The Spanish Revival home, dubbed Eagle's Nest, is said to have been built by the New York City architecture firm of Warren & Wetmore&mdashthe same firm that designed and built Grand Central Terminal for William's great-grandfather Cornelius.

Truly a pool with a view. Tours of the mansion are available, and the property also features an extensive science museum&mdashWilliam was a natural-history enthusiast&mdashas well as a planetarium and observatory.

The Vanderbilt family built much more than just homes for themselves! New York City's iconic Grand Central Terminal (pictured) is a direct result of the original family scion's railroad-tycoon brilliance. The Commodore also dabbled in philanthropy, turning a small college in Tennessee into the venerable Vanderbilt University in 1873 with a $1 million endowment. And the world-renowned Whitney Museum of American Art was founded by sculptor and patron of the arts Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney&mdashnone other than Gloria's aunt.


Cornelius Vanderbilt: Pioneer American Industrialist - History

Objective: Students will be able to define robber baron and captain of industry and evaluate which title best suits the industrialists of the Gilded Age.

1.) Search the web to find out what is meant by the terms "robber barons" and "captains of industry" during the Gilded Age. Write down definitions for both terms based on your research on the worksheet provided below.

2.) Go to the following website to read about two industrialists who were considered robber barons. Read "The Robber Barons" and then click "move to next article" to read the "Panic of 1873." Once you have read these, answer question 1 on the worksheet.

3.) Chose one of the industrialist below to research. Fill out the Robber Baron or Captain of Industry worksheet based on your research.

    It shall be the rule for the workman to be Partner with Capital, the man of affairs giving his business experience, the working man in the mill his mechanical skill, to the company, both owners of the shares and so far equally interested in the success of their joint efforts.
    —Andrew Carnegie

I have been insane on the subject of moneymaking all my life.
—Cornelius Vanderbilt


Cornelius Vanderbilt Biography: "The Commodore"

Even today, more than 140 years since his passing, Cornelius Vanderbilt's name continues to evoke power, prestige, and fame.  He remains the most revered railroad executive of all time although his direct involvement did not begin until age 70! 

For most of his life, this self-taught Staten Islander, with almost no formal education, made millions in the marine/ferry trade. 

Table Of Contents

Vanderbilt was born decades prior to the steam engine's widespread use.  However, following its development, he was quick to harness its advantages in amassing a fortune which eventually earned him the title of Commodore.  

He was a celebrity and legend in his own time, becoming one of the richest individuals in America thanks to his relentless competitiveness.  

Vanderbilt fervently believed in laissez-faire economics, using it to great advantage in crushing his rivals.  After a lifetime on the sea, he shifted all focus to railroads in 1863. 

While Vanderbilt could be rightfully argued as a profiteer with little interest in the public good he was nevertheless fair in business dealings. By the time of his death in 1877 he had laid the foundation for what would become the modern New York Central System. 

An A-B set of New York Central F3's have a westbound manifest as the train passes the eastbound "New England States" (Chicago - Cleveland - Boston) near U.S. Steel's South Works at 87th Street (Chicago) during January, 1951.

Background And Early Life

The early life and childhood of Cornelius Vanderbilt is not particularly noteworthy.  While it will be discussed here in brief this article will predominantly focus on the Commodore's railroad career. 

If interested in a complete biography of Vanderbilt please consider a copy of T.J. Stiles' "The First Tycoon: The Epic Life Of Cornelius Vanderbilt." 

It is the quintessential book on his life.  Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on May 27, 1794, the fourth child of Phebe Hand and਌ornelius Van Der Bilt (original spelling). 

His parents were Dutch although their family's history can be traced back to immigrants who settled the colony of "New Netherlands" in 1650. 

By trade, father Cornelius was a farmer and, living so close to New York (then a city of only 33,000), would sell his produce in the city.  Ferrying his goods to market required water transport.  In Van Der Bilt's case he piloted a two-masted vessel known as a periauger. 

This little boat was a Dutch invention specifically meant to carry people and/or goods across the bay.  Cornelius never became rich in this trade although it did supplement farming. 

Because of their limited means, he and his wife were quite frugal and always saved what disposable income they had.  Phebe even lent her silver, earning a profit through the accrued interest.   

Industry And Facts

This background set the stage for young Cornelius's future endeavors.  As a child he put in long hours on his father's farm and from this impressionable age learned the value of hard work.  His father was often overbearing in pursuit of the family farm. 

For this reason the lad never had a great interest in formal schooling and quit at the age of 11 to focus exclusively on farming.  Vanderbilt's lack of education would prove costly as he climbed the corporate ladder.  He never learned to write proper English and instead spelled words phonetically. 

This handicap plagued Vanderbilt throughout his life it was not only embarrassing but also caused his shunning by the social elite for many years.  Over the years he partially tackled the issue but always hated putting pen to paper. 

By the age of 12, he had grasped the ferry business quite well coupled with his mother's teachings of savings, borrowing, and collateral he was primed to enter the business world. 

This came at the age of 16 when he put a periauger to work, which was technically the property of his parents.  After saving enough money he acquired his very own boat by 1813 and his career on the water officially began (that same year, on December 19, he married first cousin, Sophia Johnson).

A New York Central publicity photo featuring the railroad's flagship service, the "20th Century Limited," at Cold Spring, New York in June, 1947.

During the War of 1812, Vanderbilt secured a government contract for the movement of military supplies to forts and other projects under construction around New York Harbor. 

While the story's validity cannot be confirmed it is said he was awarded this undertaking due to his growing reputation as a competent and able ferryman who offered fair prices. 

Vanderbilt's attention to cost, frugality, customers, and his tenacious competitiveness earned him increasingly more money.  His aggression continually drove rivals out of business.  In some cases they bought him off simply to eliminate the headache.

His usual tactic involved slashing prices so low the opposition would capitulate.  He usually lost money himself in the short term but nearly always achieved victory in the long term. 

Vanderbilt continually accrued hard capital through either direct cash savings, real estate, or interest earned on loans.  As his financial security grew it aided future conquests. 

On November 24, 1817, at the age of 23, he took command of the steamboat Miš, a vessel owned by the wealthy Thomas Gibbons, then one of the nation's most successful merchants. 

New York Central E7A #4002 pulls into Chicago's Englewood Union Station on April 21, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

Steam, of course, was the future in transportation as one no longer needed the winds or currents to power vessels.  During his time overseeing Gibbons' fleet he honed his skills as both a seaman and businessman. 

On May 16, 1826 Vanderbilt's long-time mentor passed away and the estate passed on to his son.  Vanderbilt never cared much for William Gibbons who he saw as weak, a trait the Commodore loathed. 

In early 1828 the rising seafarer launched his very own steamboat, the Citizen a 106-foot, 145-ton sidewheeler.  As his means grew, Vanderbilt became a force within the maritime industry. 

He acquired evermore steamships and was equally adept at designing his own boats with a constant eye towards cost and speed.  A personal clerk who he hired in 1837, Lambert Wardell, once remarked, "He never had a debt and never bought anything on credit.  He was economical almost to extremes." 

Vanderbilt was believed to be worth a half-million dollars by 1834 and six years later set foot in his new mansion on Staten Island. (Interestingly, he would live in this home for only 13 years.  In 1846 he moved into a new home at 10 Washington Place in Manhattan.  This would remain his residence until his death.)

Earning The Title Of "Commodore"

Until the late 1840's, Vanderbilt had largely concentrated solely on freight and passenger traffic (both ferry and maritime) between New York-Boston, and Long Island Sound in particular. 

That changed with the California Gold Rush of 1849.  He also became involved with railroads at this time and as his prestige grew so, too, did his celebrity. 

The New York Herald reported on March 6, 1851, "Commodore Vanderbilt's character for energy and go-aheadativeness is well known in this community.

He is a man whose resolution is indomitable, and before whose determination obstacles, no matter how great, disappear as the morning dew before a July sun.

The result of the Gold Rush brought thousands of settlers into California, especially into the then-small community of San Francisco. 

As an increasing number of Europeans flocked westward, predominantly via steamboat around Cape Horn, California achieved statehood on September 9, 1850 with travel needs so strong, many companies stepped forward to fill the demand as millions of dollars was poured into waterborne transportation. 

On April 19, 1849, 226 steamships alone would depart New York for California, carrying some 20,000 travelers.  In addition to people, the federal government was interested in shipping mail to and from the west coast.  The most practical way was the ocean and South America's Cape Horn. 

Recognizing this immense monetary opportunity, Vanderbilt and a few associates believed a canal across Nicaragua was not only practical but could also shave days off the journey. 

It was an arduous albeit predominately natural passage, one which would utilize the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

The only man-made section was a 12-mile component along the western fringe.  The project was incorporated as the American Atlantic & Pacific Ship Canal Company and following considerable delays, dealings, and political bickering (particularly involving England) Vanderbilt's steamship Prometej made its way to Greytown, Nicaragua on a trail run from New York. 

After arriving at its destination, the goods and passengers were offloaded onto smaller vessels to complete the inland journey.  Vanderbilt, himself, was on this trip and became convinced of its merits once he had returned to New York. 

On July 14, 1851 the Prometej again departed New York Harbor, this time on theਊmerican Atlantic & Pacific Ship Canal Company's inaugural run.  It proved a short-lived venture as the corporation's charter was transferred to another Vanderbilt-controlled entity on August 14th that year, the Accessory Transit Company.  

An A-B-A set of New York Central covered wagons led by F7A #1707 is stopped at St. Thomas, Ontario on subsidiary Canadian Southern (CASO) with a westbound freight as the train waits for the electrified London and Port Stanley Railway during September of 1957. Much of this double-tracked route, a very important corridor under the Central, has since been abandoned. David Sweetland photo.

Unfortunately, his interest in the Nicaraguan venture was always a tumultuous affair, largely due to a meddling associate, one Joseph L. White. 

The operation nevertheless proved quite successful and by the 1850's his nickname as the਌ommodore, typically reserved for the highest ranking title of a naval officer, was well-established.

He later tapped the transatlantic steamship market (late 1854), a venture which also proved successful.  For his many achievements at home and abroad, Vanderbilt's coveted U.S. mail contract always alluded him.  Over the next decade he continued to focus on his various maritime dealings. 

With a great sense of patriotism he even played a key role during the Civil War.  More than once Vanderbilt was offered top positions within President Abraham Lincoln's staff.  However, always fiercely against the politic arena he declined each time. 

His primary contribution to the war effort involved lending his maritime expertise and gifting the United States his most prized steamship, the five-decked Vanderbilt

This enormous boat was placed into service on May 5, 1857 where it competed in the transatlantic arena.  It was not only large but also fast, able to reduce the New York-Liverpool run from eighteen days to nine.  At first, the Navy rejected his offer.  However, when the Confederacy unveiled the ironclad CSS Virginia on March 8, 1862 everything changed.

- The CSS Virginia was always referred to as the Merrimack਋y Union forces as the warship was rebuilt from the salvaged USS Merrimack. -With nearly impenetrable armor the vessel was capable of single-handedly crushing the Union fleet which consisted of traditional wooden-hauled designs.

During that day it sank the USS Cumberlandਊnd USS Congress while severely damaging the USS Minnesota.  On March 9th, it was met by the United States' own new ironclad, the USS Monitor.  The two battled to a stalemate within the James River at Hampton Roads, Virginia. 

As an added protection against the Rebels' new creation, President Lincoln and the War Department acquired the Vanderbilt.  While it would never engage the CSS Virginia਍irectly the titanic sidewheeler nevertheless kept her from wreaking further havoc.  

On May 10, 1862 Union forces captured Norfolk, denying the Virginia port facilities.  With nowhere to refit and reequip itself, Confederate forces scuttled the ship on May 11th to avoid its capture. 

The Vanderbilt would later earn acclaim chasing another infamous Confederate warship, the CSS Alabama.  This sloop-of-war earned recognition as one of the war's most successful raiders.  Once again, the Vanderbilt never engaged the Alabamaਊlthough she did prevent the vessel from creating further trouble along the U.S. coast.

 Theਊlabama was eventually sunk by the USS Kearsargeਊt the Battle of Cherbourg outside the port of Cherbourg, France on June 19, 1864.  For the service to his country, Vanderbilt was awarded a special gold medal following a resolution passed by Congress on January 28, 1864.

A New Era, The Railroads

Dok je Commodore's direct involvement with railroads did not begin until age 70, he had nevertheless maintained a long history in the industry.  It began on November 8, 1833 when he traveled to nearby South Amboy, New Jersey to inspect the recently completed Camden & Amboy Railroad. 

At the time the new technology was little more than a novelty although that would soon change.  In a decision that nearly killed him, Vanderbilt rode the new contraption that day. 

The train derailed en route and despite the traumatic event he held no serious grudge against the iron horse.  In fact, Vanderbilt remained keenly interested in the newfangled device. 

On November 10, 1837 the New York, Providence & Boston Railroad (NYP&B) opened its first 50 miles southwestward from Providence, Rhode Island.  Better known as the "Stonington Railroad" (a future component of the modern New York, New Haven & Hartford) Vanderbilt also rode this line and became convinced of its potential. 

He stated it was the fastest way to Boston (from New York) and later, during the summer of 1845, purchased considerable shares in the NYP&B.  The following year he also acquired substantial stakes in the Hartford & New Haven Railroad (the precursor to the modern New Haven). 

By 1847, he had ascended to the presidency of the Stonington.  While the system was well-managed under his direction, the Commodore's interest in railroads remained subdued as he pursued the Nicaragua canal project.  This led to his resignation from the Stonington on May 14, 1849.

It was in 1854 that he first became involved with the railroad he would later control, the New York & Harlem Railroad (NY&H).  It was the city's first such system, incorporated on April 25, 1831. 

Only after Vanderbilt's involvement (On May 18, 1863 he won a directorship and the following day was elected president.), who recognized the railroad's potential, did it thrive. 

Prior to this the NY&H had been a poorly managed, unprofitable operation.  In 1864 he took control of the nearby Hudson River Railroad, which maintained a roughly parallel route between Albany and New York City. 

An A-B-A set of New York Central E7's hustle the eastbound "20th Century Limited" along the Hudson River north of New York City in July of 1947. Storm King Mountain can be seen in the background to the left. Ed Nowak photo.

Interestingly, as Mr. Stiles notes, Vanderbilt's business tactics changed as his railroad involvement deepened. Perhaps, in part, due to his advancing age he often chose diplomacy over open hostility. 

Another reason was a result of railroading's very nature unlike steamships, where one could simply chart a course between two points, railroads operated on fixed infrastructure.  Since no singular company then owned a through route between major cities, companies were forced to work together.

The Children Of Cornelius And Sophia Vanderbilt

Phebe Jane Vanderbilt (1814–1878)

Ethelinda Vanderbilt (1817–1889)

Eliza Vanderbilt (1819–1890)

William Henry "Billy" Vanderbilt (1821–1885)

Emily Almira Vanderbilt (1823–1896)

Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt (1825–1912)

Maria Louisa Vanderbilt (1827–1896)

Frances Lavinia Vanderbilt (1828–1868)

Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt (1830–1882)

George Washington Vanderbilt I (1832–1836)

Mary Alicia Vanderbilt (1834–1902)

Catherine Juliette Vanderbilt (1836–1881)

George Washington Vanderbilt II (1839–1864)

Corporate America of the 19th century was a cutthroat affair with speculators and Wall Street magnates constantly undercutting one another in an attempt to line their own pockets.  This was especially true with railroads, the largest businesses in the country. 

Unfortunately, with little government oversight, executives like Jay Gould, Daniel Drew, and Collis Huntington often put profits ahead of public service. 

Even Vanderbilt could be rightfully accused of this although his empire was not the result of direct conquests.  Time and again he added systems as a defensive measures. 

After becoming involved in the Harlem, he acquired the competing Hudson River Railroad (via stock control) to protect the NY&H.  A plot by Leonard Jerome in 1864 to takeover the original New York Central Railroad (NYC) would have essentially made the NY&H redundant. 

Jerome also controlled the Hudson River and his addition of the NYC would have provided him a direct route from New York City to Buffalo via Albany. 

Following Vanderbilt's Hudson River conquest he stated: "I said this is wrong, these roads should not clash.  Then step-by-step I went into the Hudson River.

Typical of Vanderbilt he was concise and to the point although the actual process of acquiring the system was a chess game, one in which he had become a master.  As his railroad portfolios grew, Vanderbilt left the ocean for good in 1864. 

New York Central's eastbound "Missourian" (St. Louis - New York) skirts the Mohawk River between Utica and Albany, New York during July of 1952.

Interestingly, his railroading career was predominantly from a leadership level.  Vanderbilt was rarely involved in the day-to-day, operational management of his properties instead, he delegated these responsibilities to subordinates.  He did, however, regularly take inspection trips. 

According to Mr. Stiles' book, "Vanderbilt. set general policies, as well as the overall tone of management. The Commodore created an atmosphere of efficiency, frugality, and diligence, as well as swift retribution for dishonesty or sloth."  The Commodore's greatest single acquisition was the original New York Central Railroad. 

For years, the NYC was controlled by Erastus Corning, a man who, after some time, became an ally of Vanderbilt's.  In April, 1864 Corning retired and was replaced by vice president Dean Richmond, another competent railroader who Vanderbilt respected. 

During his tenure they enjoyed friendly, mutual traffic interchanges.  Alas, he passed away unexpectedly in late 1866 and was subsequently replaced by Henry Keep on December 12, 1866. 

Keep had no interest in working with the Commodoreਊnd became extremely hostile to Vanderbilt's railroads. 

So much so the NYC refused to handle westbound shipments of the Harlem and Hudson River.  After many failed attempts at appeasement, Vanderbilt retaliated by refusing to send eastbound NYC shipments beyond the Albany gateway after January 18, 1867.

New York Central E8A's have a passenger consist at Chicago's Englewood Union Station on April 21, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

As the largest American city, New York was a vital market and Vanderbilt controlled the only direct entry.  His move scared Keep so badly the man yielded and immediately settled for terms on January 19th.  In the aftermath, Keep and his associates sold large blocks of their NYC shares, which Vanderbilt acquired. 

Less than a year later he was named New York Central's president (December 11, 1867).  Now under control of all lines between New York and Buffalo, the Commodoreਏormed the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1869 the HRRR and NYC were merged into the new operation while the Harlem was leased. 

As Brian Solomon and Mike Schafer note in their book, "New York Central Railroad," another important addition was the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway.  

This very large Midwestern had a history tracing as far back as the 1830s and grew through a combination of takeovers and mergers. ਊt its peak the LS&MS connected Buffalo with Chicago via Toledo, Cleveland, and Elkhart.  

It also reached Detroit, southern parts of Michigan, and Oil City, Pennsylvania.  Vanderbilt assumed the presidency of this road on July 2, 1873 after learning the previous management had nearly bankrupted the railroad.    Thanks to his leadership, within a year the company had paid off its debts.

Vanderbilt's last major acquisition occurred on January 1, 1876 when he added the Canada Southern Railway through stock control.  Better known by its initials, "CASO," it offered a shorter route through southern Ontario between Buffalo and Detroit.  It remained an integral part of the New York Central throughout the 20th century.   

After the Commodore's򠷪th the New York Central continued to expand reaching Boston Pittsburgh (through the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie) Wheeling (West Virginia) the coalfields of southern West Virginia (via the Toledo & Ohio Central) Columbus Cincinnati Cleveland St. Louis over the Big Four Route (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago & St. Louis Railway) Detroit (via the Michigan Central) and even Montreal, Quebec.

In addition, the Indiana Harbor Belt provided the NYC terminal and switching services throughout Chicago.  In 1868 Vanderbilt sparked the "Erie War" with Jim (James) Fisk, Jay Gould, and Daniel Drew when he attempted to gain control of the Erie Railroad.

An A-B-A set of New York Central "C-Liners" (CFA/B-16-4's) help showcase the railroad's "Pacemaker" high-speed freight service, circa 1952. Ed Nowak photo.

During this time the Erie was one of the largest American railroads.  The fight was a battle of wills between Gould and Vanderbilt. 

Kao Commodore gained increasingly more shares, Gould and his associates issued evermore stock to inflate the Erie's stock value (also known as "watered stock") and prevent Vanderbilt from acquiring majority control. 

Gould would eventually win the tilt by bribing the New York state legislature, which authorized the stock as legal.  Over the years Cornelius Vanderbilt had disputes with many in the business world such as Drew, Fisk, and others.

His quarrels were almost never personal and he became friends with most later on in life Gould and Jim Fisk, though, proved an exception. 

Net Worth And Estate

The Commodore passed away on January 4, 1877 at the age of 82 having amassed a fortune of nearly $100 million, which would be worth more than $233 billion in today's dollars making him one of the richest Americans in history.

In his will Vanderbilt left $95 million directly to his son, William,  with his eight daughters receiving between $250,000 and $500,000 each.

Unlike James Hill, and a number of the other famed railroad tycoons,  Vanderbilt was not noteworthy for philanthropy.  He did, however, endow $1 million for the establishment of Central University in Nashville, Tennessee.  This higher institution of learning became today's prestigious Vanderbilt University.  


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