Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt

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Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt
Mrs Vanderbilt ElectricLight.jpg
Gwynne as "The Electric Light" at a costume ball on March 26, 1883
Born Alice Claypoole Gwynne
November 26, 1845
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died April 22, 1934 (aged 88)
Manhattan, New York City
Spouse(s) Cornelius Vanderbilt II
(m. 1867; his death 1899)
Children Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt
William Henry Vanderbilt II
Cornelius Vanderbilt III
Gertrude Vanderbilt
Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt
Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt
Gladys Moore Vanderbilt

Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt (November 26, 1845 – April 22, 1934) was the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and reigned as the matriarch of the Vanderbilt family for over 60 years.[1]

Personal Life[edit]

Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, II and her daughters, Gladys and Gertrude, having tea in the libtary at the Breakers Newport, Rhode Island, William Bruce Ellis Ranken, 1932

Alice Claypoole Gwynne was born and raised in Cincinnati, the daughter of lawyer Abraham Evan Gwynne and Rachel Moore Flagg, and stepdaughter of Albert Mathews, who wrote under the name Paul Siogvolk.[1] She was the great great granddaughter of Major Ebenezer Flagg who served in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment during the American Revolution who was killed in action in 1781.

She met Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the eldest son of William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam, while teaching Sunday school at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church. They were married on February 4, 1867 at the Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue in New York. She and her husband had four sons and three daughters:[1][2]

Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt died at 7 o'clock on April 22, 1934 in her home at 1 East Sixty-seventh Street in Manhattan, New York City.[1] Her youngest daughter, Countess Széchenyi, inherited both The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, and her mother's second New York townhouse located at 1 East 67th Street (the former George Jay Gould, Sr. residence). Gertrude received the proceeds from the sale of 1 West 57th Street (sold in 1925) totaling $7,000,000 while son Neily received ownership of the Gwynne Building in Cincinnati, Ohio.[2]

Public Life[edit]

Alice was responsible for constructing several massive family houses, including the enlargement of 1 West 57th Street, making it the largest private residence to ever be built in an American city at the time. She also played a role in constructing the massive summer "cottage", The Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island. Her affection for Newport was because many of her earliest colonial ancestors were from the city. An early ancestor was Roger Williams, who founded the State of Rhode Island.Another ancestor was former Rhode Island Governor Samuel Ward, Sr.. Many Flagg family members are buried in Newport's Island Cemetery.[2]

Alice donated to various charitable causes. Throughout her life she was a large supporter of the YMCA, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Trinity Church and St. Bartholomew's Church. She and her husband donated Vanderbilt Hall to Yale College in memory of their eldest son, Bill, a student there when he died in 1892. She gave the front gates to her former mansion on Fifth Avenue to be placed in Central Park. Mrs. Vanderbilt also donated a facility to Newport Hospital in 1903 in memory of her husband, Cornelius.

In 1914, she was responsible for the construction of the Gwynne Building in Cincinnati, Ohio, site of the first shop of Procter & Gamble, later the company's headquarters.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Mrs. Vanderbilt Sr. Dies In Home At 89. Widow Of Financier, Long Ill. Was A Leader In Brilliant Era Of New York Society". New York Times. April 23, 1934. 
  2. ^ a b c d Arthur T. Vanderbilt II (1989). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07279-8. 
  3. ^ "Gen. C. Vanderbilt Dies On His Yacht. Great-Grandson and Namesake of Commodore Succumbs in Miami to Brain Hemorrhage. Family With Him At End. He Won Distinction as Soldier, Inventor, Engineer, Yachtsman. Often Host to Royalty". New York Times. Associated Press. March 2, 1942. 
  4. ^ Times Wide World (27 October 1930). "H.P. WHITNEY DIES AT 58 OF PNEUMONIA; ILL ONLY A FEW DAYS; Sportsman and Financier Succumbs Unexpectedly at HisFifth Avenue Home.CAUGHT COLD ON TUESDAY His Wife, the Former GertrudeVanderbilt, and Their ThreeChildren at Bedside.HE INHERITED A FORTUNE Built Up Vast Properties and Became One of Nation's Richest Men-- Famed for Racing Stables. One of America's Richest Men. H.P. WHITNEY DIES AT 58 OF PNEUMONIA Heir to Wealth and Prestige. Guggenheim Guided His Start. Known Also as Dog Fancier. Many Concerns Now Merged". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2016. 
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Homans, James E., ed. (1918). "Vanderbilt, Alfred Gwynne". The Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: The Press Association Compilers, Inc. 
  6. ^ "Reginald Vanderbilt Dies Suddenly Today". The Meridien Daily Journal. 4 September 1925. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Times, Special To The New York (4 October 1907). "MISS VANDERBILT WILL WED A COUNT; Gladys, Youngest Daughter of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Financee of Laszlo Szechenyi. HUNGARIAN HERE FOR BRIDE Young Court Chamberlain Is a Guest at the Breakers, Newport -- Betrothal Made in Europe Last Summer". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2017. 

See also[edit]