The Rich And The Wealthy

Reggie Vanderbilt was born into a family of bitter feuds, fragile egos, and impossible expectations. Everything went downhill from there.

When Reggie’s great-grandfather, Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt died in 1877, the New York Daily Tribune wrote an editorial predicting the legacy of the world’s richest man:

The Vanderbilt case is an impressive lesson in the folly of attempting to “found a family” upon no better basis than the possession of money.

The ruling idea of the Old Commodore’s latter years was to amass a huge fortune which should stand for generations as a monument to the name of Vanderbilt, and make the head of the house a permanent power in American society.

There is no country in the world where fortunes are made so quickly … and none in which inherited money has done so little for its possessors.

The Vanderbilt money is certainly bringing no happiness and no greatness to its present claimants, and we have little doubt that in the course of a few years, it will go the way of most American fortunes; a multitude of heirs will have the spending of it, and it will be absorbed in the vast circulating system of the country.

The plans of the dead railway king will come to naught; and if he ever revisits the earth to look after what he had so much at heart in his last years, he will be satisfied that the art of founding a family was one of the things that he did not know.

This harsh opinion underestimated what was to come.

Cornelius Vanderbilt left his heirs the inflation-adjusted equivalent of something like $300 billion. Within 50 years it was gone.

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