This Day in Financial History - January 4 . . .


1861 - With the outbreak of the Civil War, the NYS&EB; suspends trading in securities of seceding states. Source: www.nyse.com

1871 - Fiercely competitive and fabulously wealthy, Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of America’s archetypal businessmen, died on this day. Vanderbilt’s early life plays like a page out of a Horatio Alger novel: born to a downtrodden family in 1794, he fled school at age eleven to work on New York’s waterfront. A budding young capitalist, Vanderbilt bought a boat in 1810 and started a small ferry business. However, Vanderbilt sold his schooners in 1818 to go and learn the steamer business under the wing of Thomas Gibbons. By 1829, Vanderbilt had purchased his own steamship; by aggressively slashing fares and lavishly appointing his steamers, Vanderbilt became the ruling force in the shipping industry. In 1862, he turned his attention to the burgeoning rail industry, using his trademark competitive touch to build an empire that included the New York and Harlem Railroad, as well as the New York Central Railroad. Toward the end of his life, Vanderbilt tempered his competitive zeal with a touch of altruism. He donated $1 million to Central University (later renamed Vanderbilt University) and masterminded the construction of New York’s Grand Central Terminal, which employed a number of the workers who were devastated by the Panic of 1873. When Vanderbilt died in 1877 with an estate of some $100 million, he was the wealthiest man in America. Source: www.history.com





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