Vanderbilt family

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This article details the family of Cornelius Vanderbilt. For other uses, see Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt Mausoleum (edit).jpg
Ethnicity Dutch-American
Current region United States East Coast
Earlier spellings Van der Bilt, van Derbilt
Place of origin De Bilt, Netherlands
Notable members Cornelius Vanderbilt
William Henry Vanderbilt
Anderson Cooper
John Hammond
Estate Vanderbilt houses
Name origin and meaning Dutch Van de[r] Bilt ("from De Bilt")

The Vanderbilt family is an American family of Dutch origin that was prominent during the Gilded Age. Their success began with the shipping and railroad empires of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the family expanded into various other areas of industry and philanthropy. Cornelius Vanderbilt's descendants went on to build grand mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York City, luxurious "summer cottages" in Newport, Rhode Island, the palatial Biltmore House in North Carolina, and various other opulent homes.

The Vanderbilts' prominence lasted until the mid-20th century, when the family's ten great Fifth Avenue mansions were torn down and other Vanderbilt houses were sold or turned into museums. The family's downturn in prominence has been referred to as the 'Fall of the House of Vanderbilt'.[1] Despite the family's current reduction in fortune, the Vanderbilts were one of the wealthiest American families in history.

Branches of the family are found on the United States East Coast. Sandra Topping, granddaughter of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and the former Margaret Emerson, had two daughters, Alexandra Baker and Whitney Baker. Contemporary descendants include fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, her youngest son, journalist Anderson Cooper, musicians Joey Page and John P. Hammond, female singer Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin and screenwriter James Vanderbilt. Actor Timothy Olyphant is also a descendant[citation needed] through the Emily Thorn Vanderbilt branch of the family.


The Breakers, built in 1892–1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Anthony and Abraham van Salee were the ancestors of the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Humphrey Bogart.[citation needed]

They were among the earliest arrivals to 17th century New Amsterdam. In a number of documents dating back to this period, they are both described as "mulatto".[2] The prominence of the family began with Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794–1877), the fourth of nine children born to a Staten Island family of modest and simple means. His great-great-great-grandfather, Jan Aertszoon or Aertson (1620–1705), was a Dutch farmer from the village of De Bilt in Utrecht, Netherlands, who emigrated to the Dutch colony of New Netherland as an indentured servant in 1650. Jan's village name was added to the Dutch "Van der" (from the) to create "Van der Bilt" which evolved into Vanderbilt when the English took control of New Amsterdam (now New York). The family is associated with the Dutch patrician Van der Bilt.[3]

Cornelius Vanderbilt left school at age 11 and went on to build a shipping and railroad empire that, during the 19th century, made him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Starting with a single boat, he grew in size and power until he was competing with Robert Fulton for dominance of the New York waterways. Fulton's company had established a monopoly on trade in and out of New York harbor. Vanderbilt, based in New Jersey at the time, flouted the law, steaming in and out of the harbor under a flag that read, "New Jersey Must Be Free!" He hired the attorney Daniel Webster to argue his case before the United States Supreme Court. Vanderbilt won, thereby establishing America's first laws of Interstate Commerce.

The Vanderbilt family lived on Staten Island until the mid 1800s, when the Commodore built a house on Washington Place. Although he always occupied a relatively modest home, members of his family would use their wealth to build magnificent mansions. Shortly before his death in 1877, Vanderbilt donated US$1 million for the establishment of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The Commodore left the majority of his enormous fortune to his eldest son, William Henry Vanderbilt. William Henry, who outlived his father by just eight years, increased the profitability of his father's holdings, increased the reach of the New York Central and doubled the Vanderbilt wealth. He built the first of what would become many grand Vanderbilt mansions on Fifth Avenue, at 640 Fifth Avenue. His first son, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, was personally appointed by the Commodore to become the next "Head of House." Cornelius II built the largest private home in New York, at 1 West 58th Street, containing approximately 154 rooms, designed by George Post. His brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt, also featured prominently in the family's affairs. He also built a magnificent home on Fifth Avenue and would become one of the great architectural patrons of the Gilded Age, personally hiring the architects for (the third, and surviving) Grand Central Terminal. George Washington Vanderbilt, youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, built Biltmore, in Asheville, North Carolina. In Newport, Rhode Island The Breakers, built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, and Marble House, built for William Kissam Vanderbilt, can be visited by the public.

While some of Cornelius Vanderbilt's descendants gained fame in business, others achieved prominence in other ways: such as, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877–1915), who went down on the RMS Lusitania. His son Alfred Jr. became a noted horse breeder and racing elder. Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884–1970) gained fame as a sportsman. He invented the contract form of bridge, and won the most coveted prize in yacht racing, the America's Cup, on three occasions. His brother "Willie K" launched the Vanderbilt Cup for auto racing. William Henry Vanderbilt was Governor of Rhode Island. Gloria Vanderbilt is a noted artist, designer and author; her son, Anderson Cooper, is a television producer and personality.

In 1855, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt donated 45 acres (34,000 m²) of property to the Moravian Church and cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island, New York. Later, his son William Henry Vanderbilt donated a further 4 acres (16,000 m²). The Vanderbilt Mausoleum mausoleum was designed in 1885 by architect Richard Morris Hunt. The landscape was provided by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Family connection (listed by ancestry/generation)[edit]

The following list uses the d'Aboville numbering system with the leading 1 omitted. The generation is indicated by the number of digits in the descendant's index number: 1. Child, 2. Grandchild, 3. Great-grandchild, 4. Great-great-grandchild, etc.

1 Phebe Jane Vanderbilt (1814–1878), married James Madison Cross (1809–1889) in 1841
1.1 Cornelius Vanderbilt Cross (1834–1902)
1.2 William Harrison Cross (1836–1843)
1.3 Edward Babcock Cross (b 1838)
1.4 Sophia Vanderbilt Cross (1839–1903)
1.5 Norman Franklin Cross (1842–1907)
1.6 James Madison Cross (1845–1845)
1.7 Ethelinda Cross (1847–1924)
2 Ethelinda Vanderbilt (1817–1889), married Daniel Bicknell Allen (1815–1902 in 1834
2.1 William Barton Allen (1835–1910), married Mary Sutton in 1859
2.1.1 William Sullivant Vanderbilt Allen (1860–1931)
2.1.2 Ethelinda Vanderbilt Allen (1868–1939)
2.2 Jacob Hand Allen (1836–1838)
2.3 Franklin Allen (1838–1909)
2.4 Vanderbilt Allen (b 1840)
2.5 Harry Allen (1842–1899)
2.6 Ethelinda Allen (b 1848)
2.7 Dexter Allen (b 1850)
2.8 Annie Allen (b 1853)
3 Eliza Vanderbilt (1819–1890), married George Archer Osgood (1820–1882). Buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City. Had no children.
4 William Henry Vanderbilt (1821–1885), married Maria Louisa Kissam (1821–1896)
4.1 Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843–1899), married Alice Claypoole Gwynne (1845–1934) in 1867
4.1.1 Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt (1869–1874)
4.1.2 William Henry Vanderbilt II (1870–1892)
4.1.3 Cornelius Vanderbilt III (1873–1942) Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (1898–1974) Cornelius Vanderbilt V Grace Vanderbilt (1899–1964)
4.1.4 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942) Flora Payne Whitney (1897–1986) Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (1899–1992)
4.1.5 Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877–1915) Governor William Henry Vanderbilt III (1901–1981) Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt II (1912–1999) Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt III (born 1943) Rita L Vanderbilt (born 1957) James Platten Vanderbilt (born 1975), married Amber Freeman Corey Stephen Vanderbilt (born 1979) Deryck Gray Vanderbilt (born 1990) Spencer William Macdonald Vanderbilt (born 1991) Candice Celia Macdonald Vanderbilt (born 1992) Harrison Asher David Macdonald Vanderbilt (born 2000) Serena Vanderbilt Van Ingen McCallum, married Brackenridge Costin Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin (1980), married Rafael Feldman Marc M Blum Vanderbilt (1966), married Natalie Anne Cummings Lily Amelia Vanderbilt (2005) Amanda Rose Vanderbilt (2007) Theresa Vanderbilt Thesopolis Schropfer (1968–2011) Geo Washington Vanderbilt III (1914–1961)
4.1.6 Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880–1925) Gloria Vanderbilt (born 1924) m. Pasquale ("Pat") DiCicco (1941; divorced 1945); m. Leopold Stokowski (1945; divorced 1955); m. Sidney Lumet (1956; divorced 1963); m. Wyatt Emory Cooper (1963; Wyatt Cooper died in 1978).[4] Leopold Stanislas Stokowski (born 1950) Aurora Stokowski Mazzei (born 1983) Anthony Thomas Mazzei III (born 2014) Abra Stokowski (born 1985) Myles Stokowski (born 1998) Christopher Stokowski (born 1952) Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (1965–1988) Anderson Hays Cooper (born 1967)
4.1.7 Gladys Vanderbilt, Countess Széchenyi (1886–1965) Cornelia Széchényi (1908–1958) m. Maryland colonial old family heir Eugene Bowie Roberts, of Bowie, Maryland Gladys Roberts Cornelia Roberts Eugene Roberts Jr. Alice Széchényi (1911–1974) m. Hungarian Count Béla Hadik László Hadik János Hadik Gladys Széchényi m. the English Earl of Winchelsea and Nottingham Christopher Denys Stormont Finch-Hatton, 16th Earl of Winchilsea (1936–1999) Robin Heneage Finch-Hatton (born 1939) Sylvia Széchényi (1918–1998) m. Hungarian Count Antal Szapáry Pál Gladys Ferdinandine Széchényi m. Austrian Count Alexander zu Eltz Peter Nicholas (1950–2012)
4.2 Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt (1845–1924), m. Elliott Fitch Shepard, Sr. in 1868
4.2.1 Florence (1869–1869)
4.2.2 Maria Louise Shepard (1870–1948)
4.2.3 Edith Shepard (1872–1954)
4.2.4 Margaret (1873–1895)
4.2.5 Alice Vanderbilt Shepard (1874–1950), m. Dave Hennen Morris (1872–1944)
4.2.6 Elliott Fitch Shepard, Jr. m. Esther Potter in 1897. divorced 1905
4.3 William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849–1920)
4.3.1 Consuelo Vanderbilt (1877–1964) m. Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough (1895; divorced 1921, annulled 1926); m. Jacques Balsan (1921; Balsan died in 1956) John Spencer-Churchill, 10th Duke of Marlborough (1897–1972) Lady Sarah Consuelo Spencer-Churchill (1921–2000) Lady Caroline Spencer-Churchill (1923–1992) John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough (1926–2014) John David Ivor Spencer-Churchill, Earl of Sunderland (1952–1955) Jamie Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough (born 1955) George Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (born 1992) Lady Araminta Clementine Megan Spencer-Churchill (born 2007) Lord Caspar Sasha Ivor Spencer-Churchill (born 2008) Lady Henrietta Mary Spencer-Churchill (born 1958) Lord Richard Spencer-Churchill (1973–1973) Lord Edward Albert Charles Spencer-Churchill (born 1974) Lady Alexandra Elizabeth Mary Spencer-Churchill (born 1977) Lady Rosemary Mildred Spencer-Churchill (born 1929) Lord Charles George William Colin Spencer-Churchill (born 1940) Rupert John Harold Mark Spencer-Churchill (born 1971) Dominic Albert Charles Spencer-Churchill (born 1979) Alexander David Spencer-Churchill (born 1983) Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill (1898–1956) Robert William Charles Spencer-Churchill (born 1954) John Robert Spencer-Churchill (born 1984) Ivor Charles Spencer-Churchill (born 1986)
4.3.2 William Kissam ("Willie K") Vanderbilt II (1878–1944) Muriel Vanderbilt (1902–1982) Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl (1903–2011)
4.3.3 Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884–1970)
4.4 Emily Thorn Vanderbilt (1850–1946), married William Douglas Sloane, then married Henry White
4.4.1 Florence Adele Sloane (1866–1960), married James A. Burden Jr. William Douglas Burden (1898–1978) Sheila Burden, married Blake Lawrence Adele Burden Lawrence, married Louis Auchincloss
4.4.2 Emily Vanderbilt Sloane (1873–1960), married John Henry Hammond Alice Frances Hammond, married Arthur Duckworth in 1927 (div. Feb 1942 or 1945), then married Benny Goodman on March 20, 1942 (or 1945) Benjie Goodman Rachel Goodman John H. Hammond (1910–1987) John P. Hammond (born 1942) Adele Sloane Hammond, married John Kensett Olyphant, Jr. Adele Olyphant Miller David Olyphant (born 1938) John Vernon Bevan Olyphant (born 1941) Andrew Olyphant (born 1966) Timothy David Olyphant (born 1968) Matthew Olyphant (born 1972)
4.4.3 Lila Vanderbilt Sloane (1877–1934), married William Bradhurst Osgood Field[5] William Osgood Field (1904–1994) Frederick Vanderbilt Field (1905–2000) Marjorie Field Wilde (1910–1997) Mary Augusta Field Jackson (1911–2000)
4.4.4 William Douglas Sloane (1884–1886)
4.4.5 Malcolm Douglas Sloane (1885–1924)
4.5 Florence Adele Vanderbilt Twombly (1854–1952), married Hamilton McKown Twombly, Sr. (died in January 1910) on Nov. 21, 1877 in New York City. They had four children.
4.5.1 Alice Twombly (1879–1896), died at the age of sixteen on the eve of her society debut.
4.5.2 Florence Adele Twombly (1881–1969), married William A. M. Burden William A.M. Burden Jr., a president of the Museum of Modern Art; and ambassador to Belgium 1959–1961. He married Margaret Livingston Partridge.[6] William A.M. Burden, III (died 2/27/1962), married Leslie Hamilton (died 1/14/1998)[6] Will Burden[6] Wendy Burden (born 12/18/1955), author of family memoir Dead End Gene Pool (2010); fourth great-granddaughter of Cornelius; two husbands: first, father of daughters; second, William "Tiger" Warren[6] (died November 27, 1999)[7] Edward Burden Robert Burden Hamilton Burden Ordway Burden Shirley Carter Burden – Authored The Vanderbilts in My Life: A Personal Memoir.[8] Married Flobelle Fairbanks, niece of famed actor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
4.5.3 Ruth Twombly (c. 1884–Sept. 1954). Never married.
4.5.4 Hamilton M. Twombly, Jr. (1887–1906), drowned in a tragic accident at a summer camp where he was working as a camp counselor.
4.6 Frederick William Vanderbilt (1856–1938), married Louise Anthony Torrance (1844–1926). Had no children, though a niece, Margaret Louise Post Van Alen (1877–1969).
4.7 Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt Webb (1860–1936), married William Seward Webb
4.7.1 James Watson Webb (1884–1960) married Electra Havemeyer Webb, a.k.a. Mrs. James Watson Webb — (1888–1960); marriage February, 1910;[9] five children,:[10] Electra Webb Bostwick (1910–1982[11]),[12] married to Dunbar W. Bostwick[10] (c. 1908 – January 2006)[13] Samuel Webb (1912–1988)[11] Jacob L. "Jakie" Webb Lila Vanderbilt Webb (Wilmerding)(1913–1961), married to John Currie Wilmerding (1911–1965)[14] John Wilmerding (born 1938) American art historian[14] J. Watson Webb, Jr. (1916–2000) Monroe Webb Daniel R. Webb William D. Webb Steven M. Webb Harry Webb (1922–1975)[11]
4.7.2 Frederica Vanderbilt Webb, married Ralph Pulitzer in 1905. They divorced in 1924 Ralph Jr. Pulitzer Seward Webb Pulitzer
4.8 George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862–1914)
4.8.1 Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt (1900–1976) George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil (born 1925) William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil (born 1928)
5 Emily Almira Vanderbilt (1823–1896), married William K. Thorn in 1849
5.1 William Knapp Thorn (1851–1911)
5.2 Carolin Thorn, married Gustav Edward Kissel in 1884
5.2.1 William Thorn Kissel William Thorn Kissel II Emeliea Grace Kissel Alexsis Jordan Hamilton Emeliea Grace Hamilton Michael Case Kissel Siena Kissel Lucy Kissel Rosalie Kissel
5.2.2 Jeannette Thorn Kissel, married Sir Richard Arthur Pease, 2nd Baronet of Hammersknott Aline Thorn Pease (m. Kenneth James William Mackay, 3rd Earl of Inchcape) Kenneth Peter Lyle Mackay, 4th Earl of Inchcape Fergus James Kenneth Mackay, Viscount Glenapp
6 Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt (1825–1912), married Daniel Torrance in 1849
6.1 Alfred Torrance
6.2 Marie Torrance
7 Maria Louisa Vanderbilt (1827–1896) married Horace Clark, then married Robert Niven
8 Frances Lavinia Vanderbilt (1828–1868)
9 Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt (1830–1882), was diagnosed with epilepsy and committed suicide in 1882
10 George W. Vanderbilt (1832–1836)
11 Mary Alicia Vanderbilt (1834–1902), married State Senator Nicholas B. La Bau (1823–1873), then married Mr. Berger
11.1 Edith La Bau (born 1854), married Edward Tiffany Dyer (born 1848)
12 Catherine Juliette Vanderbilt (1836–1881) married Mr. Barker, then married Mr. LaFitte
13 George Washington Vanderbilt (1839–1864), died during the Civil War

Family connection (chronological listing)[edit]

The following list includes etiquette guru Amy Vanderbilt although it is believed she descended from either an uncle or brother of Cornelius Vanderbilt and is therefore not an official descendant-member of this family. As well as Illegitimate grand child Deryck Gray-Vanderbilt of Alfred Vanderbilt . The list also includes Josiah Hornblower (1975) [2], a distant cousin of the Vanderbilt and Whitney family who was featured in the 2003 documentary Born Rich. In addition the list shows Alfred G. Vanderbilt's daughter Rita L. Vanderbilt (née. Macdonald).

By birth[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt
  2. ^ "The Van Salee Family". Frontline (PBS). Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  3. ^ List of Dutch patrician families in the Nederland's Patriciaat 1910-2007/2008
  4. ^ From Gloria Vanderbilt Wikipedia article.
  5. ^ "Leaders of Society Expected at Lenox; Great Preparations Made for Field-Sloane Wedding — Social Functions of the Week," Special to The New York Times, July 6, 1902, Magazine Section, p. 28
  6. ^ a b c d "At Home With Wendy Burden: A Vanderbilt Descendant Laughs Off Dysfunction" by Joyce Wadler, The New York Times, March 24, 2010 (March 25, 2010 p. D1, NY ed.). Retrieved 27 Mar 2010.
  7. ^ "‘The spirit of what my sons loved’" by Jill Spitznass, The Portland Tribune, Nov 12, 2002, updated Oct 30, 2009. Retrieved 28 Mar 2010.
  8. ^ "Vanderbilt’s In My Life" Blog entry at Vanderbilt Family Genealogy; [1], blogger; August 30, 2008. Retrieved 27 Mar 2010.
  9. ^ "Miss Havemeyer Bride of J.W. Webb" The New York Times, February 9, 1910. Retrieved 28 Mar 2010.
  10. ^ a b Karp, Walter, "Electra Webb and Her American Past", American Heritage, April/May 1982 (33:3) Retrieved 21 Jul 2011.
  11. ^ a b c From Electra Havemeyer Webb Wikipedia article.
  12. ^ Stamberg, Susan, "Now That's An Artifact: See Mary Cassatt's Pastels At The National Gallery", NPR Morning Edition, September 23, 2014. Retrieved 23 Sep 2014.
  13. ^ "Dunbar W. Bostwick, Harness Racing Innovator, Dies at 98" by Wolfgang Saxon, The New York Times, January 28, 2006. Retrieved 28 Mar 2010.
  14. ^ a b Wilmerding, John (Currie) Entry, Dictionary of Art Historians. Retrieved 27 Mar 2010.
  • Vanderbilt, Arthur T., II (1989). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07279-8. 

Further reading[edit]