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Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on May 27, 1794, into a poor family in Staten Island, New York City, New York.
At 11 years old Vanderbilt quit school and began working on a ferry boat. With a $100 loan from his mother at the age of 16 Vanderbilt purchased a small ferry boat.
On December 19, 1813, Vanderbilt married his first cousin, Sophia Johnson. Together they had 13 children, all of whom they raised in Manhattan.
After Vanderbilt realized how successful his small ferry was he began transporting food and merchandise in partnership with his father. His first large boat was the "Charlotte."
As soon as the California Gold Rush began Vanderbilt switched all of his regional steamboats to ocean steamboats to transport migrants and gold from the west coast back to the east coast
In 1861, Vanderbilt donated his largest steamboat to the Union Army during the Civil War. He realized that the railroads would be the next big thing for America and he quickly shifted industries.
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