William K. Vanderbilt: Inside track to riches
When Cornelius Vanderbilt, the "Commodore," died in 1876, he was the richest man in America, and left most of his $105 million fortune to his 10 children. The bequests were not equal. Eight daughters shared $3.7 million; one son, Cornelius, received a trifling $200,000, while the balance -- $100 million -- went to his other son, William Henry. William then doubled his inheritance to $200 million in just nine years. Born in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1821, William attended the Columbia College Grammar School until he was 18. Frail and shy, he became a clerk for Drew, Robinson, and Co., Daniel Drew's banking firm, one of the largest on Wall Street, drawing $16 a week. Drew subsequently raised it to $1,000 a year and offered him a partnership. The offer was probably Drew's attempt to get closer to the Commodore, a man with whom Drew would clash over the years in some of the monumental railroad battles of the gilded age.