The lesson from Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt was an entrepreneur who helped to build American industry during the times of great changes.

The commodore

Cornelius Vanderbilt aka The Commodore was born in 1794. His parents were not rich by any stretch of imagination. Hence he left school at 11 to help his father run a boat ferrying service across the Hudson River in New York.

‘The commodore’ left the employment of his father to start his own ferry service using $100 he borrowed from his parents. Bought more boats and using a low pricing strategy drove out the competition and became a leading provider of ferry service across the river. Vanderbilt moved into steam boats because they were faster.

Shrewd business man

Vanderbilt was a determined and shrewd businessman, quick to find opportunities and very keen to exploit them. With a reputation for providing efficient service at very low cost,  many competitors paid him to stay away from their routes.

The commodore had bigger goals and saw the opportunities in the rail business. Subsequently moved into the rail road business and was instrumental in the development of railways in America. He introduced steam engines to trains and dominated that sector as well.

A Writing Adventure – Blogsoulfood



One thing to note. America was developing fast, there were great opportunities and men like Vanderbilt, Ford, Carnegie and many others were pioneers who saw opportunities and took their chances. These men started with nothing, but a lot of determination, grit and a desire to see far beyond what was imaginable by many people in the 19th and 20th centuries. These were pioneers.

The American dream was the culmination of the activities of these men and women of vision at the time.

Several lessons were learned from these men during a time when there were opportunities, but only for those willing and able to do foresee them.

The great men and women of those times did not have a good standard of education, they started work earlier than most people, they were very focused and determined to succeed and went the extra mile. Vanderbilt was into efficiency and cutting costs, eliminated competition in the process and tried to create a monopoly.

A great business man

Once he was done with the steam boats, then the next was the railway. In this sector as well, he went all the way to get rid of competition to form the largest railway company.

He was nicknamed the ‘Commodore’ during his steam boat days. Vanderbilt had the support of his mother who believed in him.

By the time of his death in 1899, he was worth over $100m. He left most of his money to his son; William who further increased the family fortune.

What happened to his money?

So what happened to all that money? Over the next 4 generations, the wealth diminished due to extravagant spending.

It seems easier to build wealth, but generations of people who were born with a silver spoon tend to waste the money they have not worked for.

The lesson from Ronald Read


You can learn more about this from


10 Reasons the Vanderbilts Lost the World’s Greatest Fortune