Vanderbilt Biographies

Frederick William Vanderbilt

  Frederick was born on February 2, 1856, the grandson of Cornelius "the Commodore" Vanderbilt, who had built the vast Vanderbilt fortune. He graduated from Sheffield Scientific School (Yale) in 1878. Working in his father's office of the New York Central Railroad, he went through every department in the railroad service, mastering the general details of the whole business. He impressed everyone with his studious application and willingness to submit to the rules and regulations of the office.

Frederick W. Vanderbilt, Esquire

 

  Unlike many of his more famous relatives and siblings, Frederick became an extremely successful businessman. During his lifetime, he was director of 22 railroads, the Western Union Telegraphy Company, Hudson River Bridge Company, Detroit Tunnel Co., and the New York State Realty and Terminal Co. His chief holdings were in the New York Central Railroad and the directorships in other railroads stemmed from that system. His fortune, which amounted to more than 78 million dollars, was invested in steel, tobacco, mining, banking, oil, and government securities as well as railroads.

  By all accounts, Frederick was a modest and unassuming person. He gave millions of dollars to philanthropy, but always avoided personal recognition from his benefactors. He gave more than 1 million dollars to Yale for the construction of dormitories and willed them 4 million more after his death. He also gave more than 3 million dollars to Vanderbilt University. The Red Cross Fund, YMCA, and the Vanderbilt Clinic were among his favorite charities, and the Salvation Army was willed 1 million dollars at the time of his death.

  Frederick and his wife, Louise, were childless. After her death in 1926, he spent the rest of his life in quiet seclusion in Hyde Park. He lived on the third floor of the mansion with the servants and directed the affairs of the estate from his bedroom. He died on June 29, 1938 at the age of 82. He was buried in the Vanderbilt mausoleum at New Dorp, Staten Island.

Frederick - older man

 

Louise Holmes Anthony Vanderbilt

  Mrs. Vanderbilt was born in 1844. Early in her life, she was married to Albert Torrance, Frederick's first cousin. That marriage ended in divorce and she and Frederick married, secretly, on December 17, 1878. The family, especially his father, disapproved of the marriage. Not only was Louise a divorcee (not a common thing in the 19th century), but she was much older than Frederick and it appeared that she could not have children. The marriage, however, was a true love-match, which endured for the rest of their lives.

Louise Vanderbilt

 

  Frederick's father never forgave him for his disobeyance. In his will, he left Frederick only 10 million dollars, which was a pittance compared with his brothers and sisters. Frederick managed to amass a fortune in his own right, while many of his siblings ended up bankrupt by the end of their lives.

  Unlike Frederick, Louise was outgoing and social. She loved to entertain friends and family on the estate, while Frederick would take refuge in his study. Since she had no children of her own, she 'adopted' the children of the estate employees and servants, holding parties for them and sending presents at Christmas. One of the favorite activities was her 'ice cream social', which was held every summer in the garden. Mrs. Vanderbilt would serve the children ice cream and strawberries and host games on the lawn.

   In keeping with her interest in children, Louise contributed a great deal of time and money to organizations and groups which worked with them. She helped found the St. Anthony Home for Girls in New York City and, for 29 years, hosted an annual Thanksgiving dinner at Newport for hundreds of the New York's newsboys and messenger boys. Louise was also involved in bringing the Red Cross to Hyde Park and in establishing the District Health Nurses movement. During World War I, she and Frederick were involved with the Red Cross. She also donated $100,000 in 1925 toward the completion of the Cathedral of St. John the Devine in New York City.

  Louise Vanderbilt died suddenly in Paris, France on August 21, 1926, apparently from complications after a ruptured appendix. She was 82.

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