Cornelius Vanderbilt IV

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Cornelius Vanderbilt IV
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00023, Cornelius Vanderbilt jr..jpg
Born (1898-04-30)April 30, 1898
Staten Island
Died July 7, 1974(1974-07-07) (aged 76)
Staten Island
Spouse(s) 7 wives including:
Rachel Littleton (m. 1919–27)
Mary Weir Logan (m. 1928–31)
Helen Varner (m. 1935–40)
Maria Feliza Pablos (m. 1946–48)
Patricia Murphy (m. 1948–53)
Anna Bernadetta Needham (m. 1957–60)
Mary Lou Bristol (m. 1967–74)
Children Cornelius Vanderbilt V
Parent(s) Cornelius Vanderbilt III
Grace Graham Wilson

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (April 30, 1898 – July 7, 1974) was a newspaper publisher, journalist, author and military officer.[1] He was an outcast of high society and who was disinherited by his parents when he became a newspaper publisher. He desired to live a "normal" life but was burdened by large debt and could not maintain the lifestyle associated with his family's social position.

Early life

He was born on April 30, 1898 in Staten Island to Cornelius "Neily" Vanderbilt III and Grace Graham Wilson. Throughout his life, the younger Vanderbilt was known as "Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr." whereas his father, after 1918, was commonly referred to as "General Vanderbilt", as he had served as a brigadier general in the First World War.

Vanderbilt attended Harstrom's Tutoring School and St. Paul's School as a young man. He was preparing to enter Yale University when his studies were interrupted by the entry of the United States into the First World War in April 1917 - shortly before his 19th birthday.

World War I service

In July 1917 he enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 19. He was originally assigned to the headquarters of the ammunition train of the 27th Division of the New York National Guard, commanded by Major General John F. O'Ryan.[2] He went overseas with the division in May 1918 and had a temporary assignment as driver to General Douglas Haig, the commander of the British forces in France. He got the posting when he was in a group of soldiers who asked if anyone knew how to drive a Rolls Royce. Vanderbilt raised his hand since his family only used Rolls-Royces and he was familiar with the peculiarities of their operation.

After his posting with General Haig, Vanderbilt was reassigned to the 27th Division's headquarters where he served as a driver delivering dispatches. While driving on one mission, Vanderbilt had a near fatal accident.

Vanderbilt's father was promoted to brigadier general in July 1918 and was reassigned as a brigade commander at Camp Lewis in Washington state. Both Vanderbilts returned to the United States in August 1918. The younger Vanderbilt served as a transportation instructor at American Lake, near Camp Lewis.

Vanderbilt was discharged from the Army in January 1919 with the rank of wagoner which was roughly equivalent to the line rank of corporal.[3][4][5] Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant of the Infantry branch in the Officers Reserve Corps. [6]

Post war life

In 1919 Vanderbilt married a well-connected New York socialite named Rachel Littleton. The marriage ended in divorce in 1927. He was to marry six more times, including to Helen Varner who later married Jack Frye, founder of TWA.[7]

Newspaper ventures

To his parents' dismay, he decided to become a newspaperman. His parents detested the press, seen by them as an invasion of privacy. He worked as a staff member of the New York Herald and later The New York Times in which he had several articles published. Considered a bohemian by his parents, he was frequently at odds with them.

In the early 1920s, Vanderbilt launched several newspapers and tabloids—the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, the San Francisco Illustrated Daily Herald and the Miami Tab among them.[8] Despite claiming to uphold the highest standards of journalistic excellence, the publishings lasted only two and a half years. Vanderbilt Inc. ceased operations with losses amounting to nearly $6 million. Vanderbilt subsequently went to work as an assistant managing editor of the New York Daily Mirror.

In 1922, he joined the newly organized New York Civitan Club - an organization whose purpose is "to build good citizenship by providing a volunteer organization of clubs dedicated to serving individual and community needs with an emphasis on helping people with developmental disabilities.".[9][8]

In addition to his memoirs, Personal Experiences of a Cub Reporter and Farewell to Fifth Avenue, Vanderbilt authored other books, including a biography of his mother titled Queen of the Golden Age.

Hitler's Reign of Terror

He made the 1934 anti-Nazi documentary, Hitler's Reign of Terror.[10] This film was made covertly by Vanderbilt while visiting Nazi Germany shortly after Hitler's rise to power. As its name implies it is an expose of the Nazi regime and is regarded to be the first anti-Nazi film produced. It particularly highlights the Nazi's oppression of Jews. In the film Vanderbilt describes Hitler as a combination of politician Huey Long, preacher Billy Sunday and gangster Al Capone. It featured several re-enacted scenes including interviews with Hitler and former Kaiser Wilhelm, which was necessary as the original interviews were not filmed. (It is debatable as to if Vanderbilt actually interviewed Hitler. In his autobiographical Farewell to Fifth Avenue, Vanderbilt recounts attempting to interview Hitler but balking at a Nazi demand that he pay $5,000 ostensibly to benefit the families of Nazis who died in the Beer Hall Putsch.) [11]

Hitler's Reign of Terror was released on April 30, 1934 (ironically, eleven years to the day before Hitler's suicide) and a diplomatic protest was made against it by the German embassy. It was banned in New York state and Illinois would not allow its showing until the title was changed to Hitler Reigns. It received poor reviews and one reviewer scoffed at its prediction that Germany under Hitler would eventually pose a threat to world peace. The film was "lost" for many years until a single surviving copy was found in Belgium. The film was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013.

World War II service

In 1938, Vanderbilt was commissioned in the United States Army Reserve. As of 1941 he was on active duty with the rank of major in the Intelligence Corps.[12] He was presented with a commendation by the FBI, probably for counterintelligence work, in 1942. As of December, 1942 he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Hospital and was discharged from the Army in 1943 due to poor health.[13][14]

Later life

In 1945, he became a member of the Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati by right of his descent from his granduncle, Major Ebenezer Flagg, who was killed in battle in 1781.[12]

In 1953 Vanderbilt obtained a divorce in Nevada from his fifth wife, Patricia Murphy Vanderbilt. Patricia appealed the divorce on the grounds that Cornelius did not have permanent residence in Nevada and the Nevada divorce did not overrule the terms of a separation decree she had earlier obtained in New York. The appeals went all the way to the United States Supreme Court which ruled in Patricia's favor in 1957.[15]

Vanderbilt made his home in Reno, Nevada and continued to write and lecture on world affairs. He was a strong supporter of the newly created state of Israel.

Death and burial

He died on July 7, 1974 and is buried in the Vanderbilt family mausoleum in the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island. His place of death is reported in various sources as in Miami, Florida, Staten Island or Reno, Nevada.[16]

Military awards


The Living Past of America (written under the name Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.), (Crown Publishers, New York City 1955) Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-7242


  1. [1]
  2. New York Times. July 19, 1917.
  3. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Simon and Schuster. 1935. pp. 32-46.
  4. New York Times. January 12, 1919.
  5. New York Times. January 20, 1919.
  6. Official List of Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps. August 31, 1919. The Adjutant General's Office. Washington, D.C. 1920. pg. 242.
  7. Sedona Legend Helen Frye
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Vanderbilt", TIME, Monday, May 10, 1926.
  9. "Civitans Organize Here" (PDF). The New York Times. 16 June 1922. Retrieved 21 January 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. Simon and Schuster. 1935. pp. 193-194.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Roster of the Society of the Cincinnati, 1974. p. 22.
  14. New York Times. December 10, 1942.
  16. "Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., Newsman, Author, Dead; Broke Family Tradition Became a Reporter Very Difficult Time". The New York Times. July 8, 1974. Retrieved 2011-05-28. Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, author and former newspaperman, died here today at his home. He was 76 years old. Mr. Vanderbilt was married seven times. He is survived by his widow, Cornelius Vanderbilt V newspaper=New York Times <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>