An American entrepreneur who made his wealth in shipping and railroads. Although he never received much formal schooling, he grew to control most of the ferry traffic in the New York waters. However in 1818, he sold his fleet to go work with Thomas Gibbons on a steamship line. After he learned all he could and established enough savings, he left to set off on his own. During the 1830s, Vanderbilt's line became dominant on the Hudson River. Eventually, competitors banded together and bought him out. Playing off of the gold rush, Vanderbilt created a cheap way for settlers to travel there. This became very successful.
In 1857, he joined the railroad market and eventually gained control of the New York and Harlem Railroad. By 1873, he had linked New York and Chicago by rail. During the Panic of 1873, Vanderbilt employed thousands to the Grand Central Terminal in New York City who would have been unemployed if he had not done so. After his retirement, he donated much of his money to Central university in Nashville which is now known as Vanderbilt.