Cornelius Vanderbilt was an American industrialist who was born on Staten Island, New York in 1794. He entered the transportation business at the age of 16 by establishing a freight and passenger ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan. He bought a fleet of schooners which he used to much profit during the War of 1812, and entered the steamer business in 1818, and bought his first steamship in 1829. He became a vigorous competitor in the business by rapidly exanding his operations, reducing rates, and improving his ships. Vanderbilt went on to control most of the Hudson River trade and set up routes from Long Island to Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston. By 1846 he was a wealthy man, widely known as Commodore Vanderbilt. He made a killing during the Califonia gold rush by opening a land and sea line which ran from New York to San Francisco, and he opened a line between New York and Le Havre, France in 1855. He began to sell his steamboats and buy into railroads in 1862, and he controlled all of the New York Central Railroad by 1867. Late in his life, Vanderbilt became an important figure in financial circles and a philanthropist. His endowments included a million dollars to the Vanderbilt University. When he died in 1877, his wealth was estimated at a hundred million dollars, a lot of money now and a huge fortune back then.