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Vanderbilt Legacy: From American Royalty to Anderson Cooper Who Avoided Association with Family Name

Busayo Ogunjimi
Sep 17, 2021
02:30 P.M.
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Anderson Cooper is a brilliant journalist and father to a young son, Wyatt Anderson. The reporter recently embarked on a journey to introduce his son to his roots, from which he had disassociated — the royal Vanderbilt family.


History is part of a man's existence. While many have lived to rewrite their family's history, some simply disassociate themselves from it, deny it or bury the truth.

CNN's journalist, Anderson Cooper, is among those who wanted nothing to do with his family's legacy for a long time. However, he is now a father and feels the need to share his personal story with his son, Wyatt Morgan.

Pictures of Anderson Cooper with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt  | Photo: Getty Images

Pictures of Anderson Cooper with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt | Photo: Getty Images


Although Wyatt is only a toddler, the father of one believes that by penning down details of his roots, the toddler will have access to it at any time. The story is titled "Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty."

It was written with the help of another author named Katherine Howe and contained everything worth knowing about the once-famous and wealthy Vanderbilt family.

Anderson Cooper at Hudson Yards, New York's Newest Neighborhood, Official Opening Event on March 15, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper at Hudson Yards, New York's Newest Neighborhood, Official Opening Event on March 15, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images



Cooper is currently co-parenting with his former lover Benjamin Maisani. While he is learning the ropes of parenting, the TV personality admitted that some of these lessons are from his family's history, which he once deemed irrelevant.

He explained that he only knew most of his ancestors by studying the book written by his dad and letters from his mom. While speaking to People, he noted that his dad wrote a book before he died and the bulk of what he knows came from that book.


Cooper also opened up on his mother's letters, noting that some were personal letters from her grandmother, aunt, and mother. Reading those letters helped Cooper understand his background.

On co-parenting his son Wyatt with his ex, Cooper reportedly said he and his ex still lived together to care for the toddler. However, he noted that he was surprised that Maisani was a good parent since having kids was one of the reasons why they broke up.

Although he assured fans that they were not getting back together, he confessed that it felt great for his son to grow up with a family. Already, Wyatt has proven to be a big hit amongst Cooper's fans.



Cooper's maternal great-great-great-grandfather was the renowned shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. In his lifetime, Cornelius gathered wealth from his businesses and once touted as the richest man in the world. He went on to make the Vanderbilts one of America's wealthiest families.

Cornelius was billed as one of the greatest industrialists of the late 19th century. As a 16-year-old teenager in 1810, he took a $100 loan from his mother and amassed a fortune worth $100 million, which would be worth over $200 billion in today's world.


The late tycoon started his empire with his first purchase of a passenger boat, which he then built up into a small passenger fleet. This was the beginning of his shipping business that would go on to change a generation.

He later moved to steamboats which catapulted his fortune and made him the envy of his time. In his fifties, Cornelius was already a force to be reckoned with, and that was when he made the switch into the railroad business.

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt at Tiffany Store in New York, New York, United States | Photo: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt at Tiffany Store in New York, New York, United States | Photo: Getty Images


Cornelius was a brilliant businessman. His business prowess saw him beat off his competitors, some folded up, and others simply ran under his umbrella, expanding his empire in amazement.

He canvassed for freedom of competition and the reduction of the government's intervention in business. When he got into the shipping business, he built faster boats and made his services affordable.



After he died in 1877, Cornelius' son William took charge of the family's empire and doubled the value of the Vanderbilt fortune to $200 million by the time he died in 1885.

Fifty years after Cornelius died, the family's fortune began to rot. The family started to live a luxurious lifestyle that the deceased would never have encouraged.


The family began to live like the rich of America and built huge palaces and acquired several toys. They became the hub of the rich, and soon, the wealth left by their patriarch was squandered.

In the space of 30 years, the Vanderbilt family were no longer amongst the richest in the country, and after 50 years of Cornelius's death, all that was left was the history of their wealth. Everything had been squandered.



The Vanderbilts were involved in what was termed "the trial of the century," which involved a fierce custody battle for the sickly 10-year-old heiress, Gloria Vanderbilt.

The case was between Gertrude Whitney and the child's 29-year-old mother, also named Gloria. What would follow were weeks of untold revelations that would go on to shock the world.

The case gave the world a glimpse into the lives of the ultra family of the Vanderbilts and was classified as the OJ Simpson case of the era of the great depression. Almost 50 years later, the story of the custody trial became a bestselling book by Barbara Goldsmith called "Little Gloria…Happy at Last."



Gloria Vanderbilt was considered the last of America's Gilded Age. She was the heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune, but her life was filled with sadness as she lacked the freedom and privacy she hoped for

Most of her life was lived in the public eye, but a big part of her life included her messy custody battle and the broad coverage her marriage received to her relationship with her sons.

Gloria, Cooper's mom, died at age 95 in 2019, but she shared a good relationship with Cooper, her youngest child. Despite the many tragedies that befell her, motherhood was one of her biggest blessings.

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