Grace Vanderbilt

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Grace Vanderbilt
Grace Graham Wilson.jpg
Born Grace Graham Wilson
(1870-09-03)September 3, 1870
512 Fifth Avenue
Manhattan, New York City
Died January 7, 1953(1953-01-07) (aged 82)
1048 Fifth Avenue
Manhattan, New York City
Resting place Moravian Cemetery
Residence 640 Fifth Avenue
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cornelius Vanderbilt III
Children Cornelius Vanderbilt IV
Grace Vanderbilt
Parent(s) Richard Thornton Wilson
Melissa Clementine Johnston
Relatives Richard Thornton Wilson, Jr. (brother)
Mary Goelet (niece)
Vanderbilt in 1936 by Porter Woodruff

Grace Graham Wilson Vanderbilt (September 3, 1870 – January 7, 1953) was an American socialite. She was the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt III.[1] She was one of the last Vanderbilts to live the luxurious life of the "head of society" that her predecessors such as Alice and Alva Vanderbilt enjoyed.

Early years[edit]

Born on September 3, 1870, Grace was the youngest child of New York banker Richard Thornton Wilson, Sr. and Melissa Clementine Johnston.[2] Grace's sister Mary ("May") married Ogden Goelet and her sister Belle married Sir Michael Henry Herbert, younger brother of the 13th Earl of Pembroke. The sisters were known in London society as "the marrying Wilsons." One of her brothers was banker Richard Thornton Wilson, Jr.. Another brother, Marshall Orme Wilson, married Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, youngest daughter of William Backhouse Astor, Jr. and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn of the Astor family.


She eloped with Cornelius "Neily" Vanderbilt III, son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Alice Claypoole Gwynne of the Vanderbilt family, in 1896. This led to a violent disagreement between Neily and his father, which lasted many years.[2] Neily and Grace remained married for the rest of their lives and had two children, Cornelius IV (April 30, 1898 – July 7, 1974) and Grace (September 25, 1899 – January 28, 1964).

Following the War, she and her husband frequently returned to Europe, becoming friends and guests of numerous members of European royalty including Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and his brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, King Albert I of Belgium, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, Queen Marie of Romania, the Shah of Iran, and every British monarch since Queen Victoria.[2]

In 1940, Neily sold his Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City to members of the Astor family but remained living there until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing in Miami Beach, Florida aboard his yacht in 1942. Following Neily's death Grace Vanderbilt was forced to move out of their massive Fifth Avenue mansion, and moved into the William Starr Miller House at 1048 Fifth Avenue which still stands today as the Neue Galerie.

Death and legacy[edit]

Grace lived another eleven years, and she died on January 7, 1953.[3] They are buried together in the Vanderbilt family mausoleum in the Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp on Staten Island, New York.


  1. ^ "Grace Vanderbilt Wed In City Chapel. Becomes Bride of Henry G. Davis 3d, With Patrolman as a Witness. Church Ceremony Later. Cornelius Jr. Declares Family Refuses Forgiveness. Honeymoon in Far West. Grace Vanderbilt Wed In City Chapel". The New York Times. June 29, 1927. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Quality". Time magazine. January 19, 1953. Retrieved May 4, 2010. The elder Vanderbilts never really forgave the young couple. Neily's inheritance from his father was cut to $1,500,000 — though brother Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I, who fell heir to the bulk of the estate, evened things up somewhat by giving Cornelius another $6,000,000. Cornelius' mother, who made little secret of the fact that she regarded her daughter-in-law as a climber, did nothing to ease Grace into the charmed circle of the elite..... 
  3. ^ "Mrs. C. Vanderbilt Dies At Home Here. Leader of New York, Newport Society for Many Years Was Hostess to Royal Figures". New York Times. January 8, 1953. Retrieved 2011-05-28. Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, still recognized as the leader of New York and Newport society although inactive in recent years, died of pneumonia last night at her home, 1048 Fifth Avenue. She was believed to have been in her eighty-third year..... 

Further reading[edit]

  • Vanderbilt, Arthur T., II (1989). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07279-8
  • Gavan, Terrence. 'The Barons of Newport: A Guide to the Gilded Age'. Newport: Pineapple Publications, 1998. ISBN 0-929249-06-2