Later on, he became the market leader in the steamboat business. When railroads came, he embraced and dominated the new industry. “Say nothing and jump quick.”
Despite massive wealth, the commodore lived modestly, splurging only on his passion, horseracing. Once Vanderbilt had dyspepsia and the doctor prescribed him champagne. Vanderbilt said “Oh, no, doctor, I can’t afford champagne! Won’t sody-water do?”
Vanderbilt would be worth $143 billion in 2007 United States dollars if his total wealth as a share of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) in 1877 (the year of his death) were taken and applied in that same proportion in 2007 (The Wealthy 100) “We’ve made it . . . I knew all it needed was guts.”
His $1 million gift to found Vanderbilt University was the largest charitable contribution in American history at that time. A lifelong Christian, most of his philanthropy supported the church.