Thursday, May 26, 2005


As the History Channel website puts it, "This day in 1794 marks the birth of rail baron and arch-capitalist, Cornelius Vanderbilt." I assume they call him an "arch-capitalist" because he was born years before The Batman TV show coined the term "arch-villain." Known as "Corny" to friends, but he didn't have any, so no one called him that, Vanderbilt amassed a huge fortune in an age without an income tax, so he didn't even have to pay scads of accountants to keep every cent of his dough. Times were simpler then, especially when you owned time.

The good news was that being busy making money didn't stop him from marrying twice, both times to cousins. And to think he didn't even live in the South. He was 43 years older than his second wife, so if he were still alive, he would be named an honorary member of the Rolling Stones.

At the time of his death in 1877, Cornelius Vanderbilt's fortune was estimated at more than $100 million, back in the day when the dollar was worth way more than the Euro. He willed $95 million to son William - in order to keep the family fortune together - and split the rest among his other 13 children, who unforutnately had to wait several decades for Freud to invent analysis.

Memorial Day was originally a holiday he set up in his honor, but the U.S. changed it to its more palatable reason to help disguise our country's truly mercenary nature.


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