It was January 4, 1877 and the world’s richest man had just died. Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt had amassed a fortune of over $100 million over the course of his lifetime as a railroad/transportation pioneer. The Commodore was of the belief that splitting the family fortune would lead to ruin, so he left a majority of his wealth ($95 million) to his son William H. Vanderbilt. At the time of this bequest, $95 million was more money than was held in the entire U.S. Treasury.
The Commodore’s decision not to split his empire proved right. Over the next 9 years, William H. doubled his father’s fortune to nearly $200 million through proper management of the railroad business. After adjusting for inflation, the $200 million Vanderbilt fortune would be worth roughly $5 billion in 2017 dollars.
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