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William Henry Vanderbilt
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    (May 8, 1821-December 8, 1885)
    Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey
    Son and principal heir of 'Commodore' Cornelius Vanderbilt
    Railroad tycoon
    The Commodore left 95% of his fortune to William, slighting his three other children, allegedly based on instructions received from his late wife during a seance. (William was rumored to have bribed the medium to ensure a favorable message.)
    When he was asked by a reporter about the New York Central's elimination of a popular mail train, he snapped, 'The public be damned! I'm working for my stockholders.'
    'Working for my stockholders' was not all that civic-minded, given that he owned 87% of the company.
    He sported fierce mutton chops.
    Shortly before his death he complained, 'I have had no real gratification or enjoyment of any sort more than my neighbor down the block who is worth only half a million.'
    In less than ten years, he doubled the family fortune to $200 million (equivalent to over $50 billion today).
    He weathered the nationwide 1877 railroad strike by setting up a $100,000 fund for workers who stayed loyal to the New York Central.
    He was more philanthropic than his dad, donating to the YMCA and Vanderbilt University and helping to establish the Metropolitan Opera and the medical school at Columbia University.

Credit: C. Fishel

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