The First Robber Baron
-By: Nikko Schaff
Born May 27th, 1794 on Staten Island
Family owned a large area of farming land on the island
Worked on the farm as he grew up
Found more of an interest in the transport and markets in Manhattan
At age sixteen, made a deal with his mother to plow eight acres for $1,300
Used the money to purchase a sail boat
Began to make a living transporting up to four people a day between the
Most of the city was downtown those days, giving him a large market in transport
Contracted by the government to transport supplies to Hudson Bay forts
during the War of 1812
Ferry work was still to profitable to give up, so he ferried in the day and transported
military supplies in the night
Earned enough to construct two additional ships
Successful Events in his Career
1817: Abandoned sails to join a steamboat corporation
1830: United steamboat builders and led their construction and activity
1854: Granted government subsidy for a route between America and England
1854: Cheated by a Nicaraguan company
Stated “Gentlemen, I will not sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you”
Created a competing transport company, destroyed Nicaraguan Transit
1864: Bravely piloted a transport to the famous Union ironclad: the Monitor
Saved the Monitor from future destruction
Vanderbilt’s Destructive Potential
June 1860: Vanderbilt acquires the Pacific Mail Co.
Gives him control of the majority of east and west coast transport
Government demanded he be granted a partial subsidy for west
coast transport to be delivered without customer pay
His losses would have amounted to a quarter million each voyage
In retaliation, he ceased all steamboat transport operations for two weeks
Only restarts activity after the government granted a full subsidy
Therefore, Vanderbilt proved that the lack of government regulation
can greatly damage society.
How is that Important Today?
Google is the most powerful company in the internet
Stock is worth $500 per share
Acts as the crux of information exchange
Has 28 separate functions, including Gmail and Youtube
Owns a web browser and an operating system (in development)
Imagine a situation where Google reacted similarly…
The internet would largely be inoperative
Businesses requiring Google would crash
A recession would be triggered
Bought millions in stock of Harlem construction
Made profitable investments in the New York Central Railroad Co.
Near the end of his life, he focused more on railroads throughout the
Died on January 4th, 1877, at the age of 83
5: Commodore Vanderbilt’s Life”. NY Times, 5 January 1877.
6: “Murdering the Mails” NY Times, 3 July 1860
7: “Commodore Vanderbilt Accedes to the Terms of the Government” NY Times,
10 July 1860
8: “ The Pacific Mails and their Master” NY Times, 4 January 1877
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