Impressions on Arthur T. Vanderbilt's Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt

How do you squander a great fortune? That's the first question that came to my mind when I started reading Arthur T. Vanderbilt's book, "Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt."

One of the popular American journalists of our time is Anderson Cooper. And some of us might not know is that Mr. Cooper is a member of the House of Vanderbilt. Anderson Cooper is also not the first member of his family to be involved with Journalism. It was his mother's first cousin, Cornelius Vanderbilt IV who first became a member of the fourth estate in the early 1900s. Gloria Vanderbilt (who was in the middle of a custody battle between her Aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt) is the mother of Anderson Cooper. 

Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria is the daughter of Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt who in turn was a great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in the United States during the 19th Century. The Vanderbilt wealth was at its pinnacle during the Gilded Age. 

Marble House
At one point, there were at least 6 Vanderbilt-owned mansions on New York's Fifth Avenue and 4 Newport summer mansions. 
But in less than 5 generations, all of those earned and inherited wealth was gone. Cornelius IV actually declared bankruptcy in the 1920s. Profligate spending, divorces, ambition, lack of business vision, squabbling---these are all hallmarks of how to lose a fortune.

Consuelo Vanderbilt Churchill,
Duchess of Marlborough
Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt,
The founder of the House of Vanderbilt

Arthur T. Vanderbilt easily narrates one family's journey from humble beginnings in Staten Island to East Coast railroad magnates to New York Society's darlings to British Aristocracy to a family in aimless wandering. Their story is told alongside those of New York's memorable Society characters as well as significant historical events.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II
William K. Vanderbilt
This is a recommended read to those who are interested in American society, culture, business, history or for someone who is just looking for something good to read.