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Cornelius Vanderbilt IV
Born (1898-04-30)April 30, 1898
Staten Island, New York, U.S.
Died July 7, 1974(1974-07-07) (aged 76)
Reno, Nevada, U.S.
Other names Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.
Education St. Paul's School
Spouse(s) Rachel Littleton
(m. 1920; div. 1927)

Mary Weir Logan
(m. 1928; div. 1931)

Helen Varner
(m. 1935; div. 1940)

Maria Feliza Pablos
(m. 1946; div. 1948)

Patricia Murphy
(m. 1948; div. 1953)

Anna Bernadetta Needham
(m. 1957; div. 1960)

Mary Lou Bristol
(m. 1967; his death 1974)
Parents Cornelius Vanderbilt III
Grace Graham Wilson
Relatives See Vanderbilt family

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (April 30, 1898 – July 7, 1974) was a newspaper publisher, journalist, author and military officer.[1] He was an outcast of high society who was disinherited by his parents when he became a newspaper publisher. He desired to live a "normal" life but was burdened by large debt and could not maintain the lifestyle associated with his family's social position.

Early life

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV was born on April 30, 1898 in Staten Island to Cornelius "Neily" Vanderbilt III (1873–1942) and Grace Graham Wilson (1870–1953).[1][2] Throughout his life, the younger Vanderbilt was known as "Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr." whereas his father, after 1918, was commonly referred to as "General Vanderbilt", as he had served as a brigadier general in the First World War. The younger Vanderbilt was commonly called "Neil" by his family and friends.

Vanderbilt attended Harstrom's Tutoring School and St. Paul's School as a young man. He was preparing to enter Yale University when his studies were interrupted by the entry of the United States into the First World War in April 1917 - shortly before his 19th birthday.


World War I service

Shortly after the United State declared war on Germany, much to the chagrin of his mother, Vanderbilt enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1917, at the age of 19. He was originally assigned to the headquarters of the ammunition train of the 27th Division of the New York National Guard, commanded by Major General John F. O'Ryan.[3] His first posting was in Spartanburg, South Carolina where he was a wagoner driving mules.[4] As this assignment was not to his liking, Vanderbilt made a deal with General O'Ryan's orderly into changing his orders to go with the division overseas. In exchange, Vanderbilt became the orderly's assistant and helped with various chores.[5] He went overseas with the division in May 1918 aboard the transport Great Northern. Upon arriving in Brest, France, he was assigned as an orderly to the commander of the U.S. Army stockade there. Vanderbilt disliked his commander, whom he referred to as "my torturer". By chance, he was able to get a temporary assignment as driver to General Douglas Haig, the commander of the British forces in France. He got the posting when he was in a group of soldiers who asked if anyone knew how to drive a Rolls Royce. Vanderbilt raised his hand since his family only used Rolls-Royces and he was familiar with the peculiarities of their operation.[6]

After his posting with General Haig, Vanderbilt was reassigned to the 27th Division's headquarters where he served as a driver delivering dispatches. While driving on one mission, Vanderbilt had a near fatal accident.

Vanderbilt's father was promoted to brigadier general in July 1918 and was reassigned as a brigade commander at Camp Lewis in Washington state. Both Vanderbilts returned to the United States in August 1918 after three months of service in France. The younger Vanderbilt was promoted to the rank of wagoner (equivalent to a corporal) on August 24 and served as a transportation instructor at American Lake, near Camp Lewis for the remainder of his military service.

Vanderbilt was honorably discharged from the Army on January 25, 1919.[7][8][9] Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant of the Infantry branch in the Officers Reserve Corps.[10]

Post war life

To his parents' dismay, he decided to become a newspaperman. His parents detested the press, seen by them as an invasion of privacy. He worked as a staff member of the New York Herald and later The New York Times in which he had several articles published. Considered a bohemian by his parents, he was frequently at odds with them.

In the early 1920s, Vanderbilt launched several newspapers and tabloids—the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, the San Francisco Illustrated Daily Herald and the Miami Tab among them.[11] Despite claiming to uphold the highest standards of journalistic excellence, the publishings lasted only two and a half years, largely due to predatory competition by newspapers owned by William Randolf Hearst. Vanderbilt Inc. ceased operations with losses amounting to nearly $6 million. Vanderbilt subsequently went to work as an assistant managing editor of the New York Daily Mirror.

In 1922, he joined the newly organized New York Civitan Club, an organization whose purpose is "to build good citizenship by providing a volunteer organization of clubs dedicated to serving individual and community needs with an emphasis on helping people with developmental disabilities."[11][12]

In 1929, he released Reno, a novel about divorce set in Reno, Nevada, where he had been living since his first divorce in 1927.[13] The book was adapted into the similarly titled 1930 film Reno, starring Ruth Roland in her sound film debut.[14] Then, in 1931, he was engaged by Columbia Pictures to make a comedy about the city, in association with John P. Medbury, a humorist[15]

Hitler's Reign of Terror

In 1934 Vanderbilt made the anti-Nazi documentary, Hitler's Reign of Terror.[16] This film was made covertly by Vanderbilt while visiting Nazi Germany shortly after Hitler's rise to power. As its name implies it is an expose of the Nazi regime and is regarded to be the first anti-Nazi film produced. It particularly highlights the Nazis' oppression of Jews. In the film, Vanderbilt describes Hitler as a combination of politician Huey Long, preacher Billy Sunday and gangster Al Capone. It featured several re-enacted scenes including a brief meeting with Hitler and an interview with former German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm, which was necessary as the original encounters were not filmed. In his autobiographical Farewell to Fifth Avenue, Vanderbilt recounts attempting to interview Hitler a second time but balking at a Nazi demand that he pay $5,000 - ostensibly to benefit the families of Nazis who died in the Beer Hall Putsch.[17]

Hitler's Reign of Terror was released on April 30, 1934; a diplomatic protest was made against it by the German embassy. It was banned in New York state and Illinois would not allow its showing until the title was changed to Hitler Reigns. It received poor reviews and one reviewer scoffed at its prediction that Germany under Hitler would eventually pose a threat to world peace. The film was believed lost for many years until a single surviving copy was found in Belgium. The film was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013.

Farewell to Fifth Avenue

In 1935 Vanderbilt published his autobiography named Farewell to Fifth Avenue. The book provides significant insight to life of those in high society in the early 20th Century. In the book Vanderbilt recounts vacationing in Europe on his father's yacht North Star, his military experience in the First World War and his experiences as a newspaper publisher.

As the book's title implies, it was also Vanderbilt's point of no return in his rejection of the artifice of high society. Vanderbilt examines the artificial distinctions by which one is considered worthy to be a member of "society". He comments, "all of them building high fences and beating their heads against a stone wall, hating each other and boiling in their own juices and ... playing, for all it's worth, the game called Society."[18]

The book also recounts Vanderbilt acquaintance with a number of high-profile personages, some of whom he was able to interview on a trip to Europe in the early 1930s. These include President Franklin Roosevelt, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Benito Mussolini, Pope Pius XI, Joseph Stalin and Al Capone.

In addition to Farewell to Fifth Avenue, Vanderbilt authored other books, including a biography of his mother titled Queen of the Golden Age and Personal Experiences of a Cub Reporter.

World War II service

In 1938, Vanderbilt was commissioned in the United States Army Reserve. As of 1941 he was on active duty with the rank of major in the Intelligence Corps.[19] He was presented with a commendation by the FBI, probably for counterintelligence work, in 1942. As of December, 1942 he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Hospital and was discharged from the Army in 1943 due to poor health.[20][21]

Later life

In 1945, Vanderbilt became a member of the Society of the Cincinnati in Rhode Island by right of his descent from his granduncle, Major Ebenezer Flagg of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, who was killed in battle in 1781.[19]

In 1953, Vanderbilt obtained a divorce in Nevada from his fifth wife, Patricia Murphy Vanderbilt. Patricia appealed the divorce on the grounds that Cornelius did not have permanent residence in Nevada and the Nevada divorce did not overrule the terms of a separation decree she had earlier obtained in New York. The appeals went all the way to the United States Supreme Court which ruled in Patricia's favor in 1957.[22]

Vanderbilt made his home in Reno, Nevada and continued to write and lecture on world affairs. In 1948 he was a strong supporter of the newly created state of Israel.[23]

In 1960, he joined Airtronics International Corporation of Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a vice president and director. In that role, he acted as a liaison executive between Airtronics and its civilian customers.[24]

Personal life

Vanderbilt was married seven times throughout his lifetime, but had no children.[1][25] His first wedding, an elaborate affair for over 3,000 people, took place on April 29, 1929 where Vanderbilt married New York socialite Rachel Littleton (1901–1988), the sister of prominent lawyer and politician Martin W. Littleton.[26][27][28] The marriage ended in divorce in 1927, after Vanderbilt lost more than $2,000,000 in tabloid newspaper ventures.[29] She later married Jasper Morgan (1900–1964),[30] a nephew of J.P. Morgan.[31][32]

In July 1928, he married Mrs. Mary Weir Logan (1905–1984), who obtained a divorce from her former husband, Waldo Hancock Logan, a half hour before the ceremony.[30] Logan, after a subsequent marriage and divorce to actress Ruthelma Stevens, later committed suicide in Miami after ending up penniless.[33] Mary and Cornelius divorced in August 1931.[34][35][36] On January 4, 1935, the 36 year old Vanderbilt married Helen Virginia Varner (1908–1979), who was 26, after meeting her in Albuquerque, New Mexico three years earlier while he was writing a novel and she was sketching.[31] She was the daughter of Dr. H. V. Varner of Clarksburg, West Virginia and the former wife of Noah Anderson. They divorced in 1940.[37] She later married Jack Frye, founder of TWA.[38]

In 1946, he married Maria Feliza Pablos (b. 1912), heiress to a vast cattle estate in Mexico. She was a grandniece of Porfirio Diaz (1830–1915), the former President of Mexico, and a granddaughter of Dr. Francisco Castillo Nájera (1886–1954), the former Mexican Ambassador to the United States.[39] They divorced on April 29, 1948.[40]

Later that same year on September 7, 1948, the 50 year-old Vanderbilt married Patricia Murphy Wallace (b. 1920), who was 28, at the Pickwick Arms Hotel in Greenwich, Connecticut. Patricia was previously married to Earl Wallace, a Hollywood photographer.[41][42][43] They divorced in 1953.[44][45][46][47]

In 1957, the 59 year-old Vanderbilt married Anna Bernadetta Needham (b. 1933), his 25 year-old secretary. Among the guests at the wedding, which took place at the home of his lawyer, John Sinai, were Charles H. Russell, the Governor of Nevada, and George W. Malone, U.S. Senator of Nevada.[48] They divorced on May 5, 1960.[49]

In 1967, Vanderbilt, now 69, married Mary Lou Gardiner Bristol (b. 1926), who was 41, in Reno, Nevada. She was previously married to Albert S. Bristol of Terrell, Texas, with whom she had three children.[49] They remained married to until his death in 1974.[1]

Death and burial

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV died on July 7, 1974, aged 76, in Reno, Nevada and was buried in the Vanderbilt family mausoleum in the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island.[1]

Published works

  • Lines From the Front Lines, 1918.
  • The Gas Attack, 1919.[50]
  • Experiences of a Cub Reporter, George Sully and Company, New York, 1920.[51]
  • Reno, 1929. (Source material for the 1939 film, Reno)[25][52]
  • Park Avenue, 1928.
  • Palm Beach, 1929.
  • A Woman of Washington, E. P. Dutton, Inc., New York, 1937.[53]
  • Filthy Rich, 1939
  • The Living Past of America, Crown Publishers, New York, 1955. LCCN 55-7242.

Military awards


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., Newsman, Author, Dead. | Broke Family Tradition | Became a Reporter | Very Difficult Time". July 8, 1974. Retrieved 2011-05-28. "Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., author and former newspaperman, died here today at his home. He was 76 years old. Mr. Vanderbilt was married seven times. He is survived by his widow, Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr." 
  2. Times, Special To The New York (8 January 1953). "MRS. C. VANDERBILT DIES AT HOME HERE; Leader of New York, Newport Society for Many Years Was Hostess to Royal Figures MRS. C. NANDILT DIE5 AT HOME H". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  3. New York Times. July 19, 1917.
  4. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. pg. 32-33.
  5. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. pg. 36-38.
  6. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. pg. 38-40.
  7. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Simon and Schuster. 1935. pp. 32-46.
  8. New York Times. January 12, 1919.
  9. New York Times. January 20, 1919.
  10. Official List of Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps. August 31, 1919. The Adjutant General's Office. Washington, D.C. 1920. pg. 242.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Vanderbilt", Time magazine, Monday, May 10, 1926.
  12. "Civitans Organize Here" (PDF). The New York Times. 16 June 1922. Retrieved 21 January 2009. 
  13. Glotfelty, Cheryll (2008). Literary Nevada: Writings from the Silver State. University of Nevada Press. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-87417-759-6. 
  14. Hall, Mordaunt (4 November 1924). "Ruth Roland Sings in Film". p. 36. 
  15. Staff writer (24 May 1931). "Vanderbilt Jr. Gets Film Contract.". p. N7. 
  17. Farewell to Fifth Avenue. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. Simon and Schuster. 1935. pp. 193-194.
  18. Farewell to Fifth Avenue, p. 92.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Roster of the Society of the Cincinnati, 1974. p. 22.
  21. New York Times. December 10, 1942.
  23. Vanderbilt Jr., Cornelius (24 January 1960). "'Man of the World'". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  24. "C. Vanderbilt Jr. Takes Post". The New York Times. 9 April 1960. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "CORNELIUS VANDERBILT IV PAPERS 1897-1974". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  26. "Year 1920 Was Fruitful of Outstanding Events in America and Elsewhere". Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1920-12-26. p. 5 (Section 4). 
  27. "The Romantic Secret of Young Mr. Vanderbilt's $45 Job". Nashville, Tennessee. 1919-12-28. p. 42. 
  28. "C. VANDERBILT, JR., WED BEFORE 3,000; Fashion and Soldiery Fill St. Thomas's at His Marriage to Miss Rachel Littleton. BRIDAL GIFTS OF $1,000,000 Young Pair Greeted In Home of Martin W. Littleton--Their Wedding Cake Five Feet High.". The New York Times. 30 April 1920. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  29. Times, Special To The New York (27 November 1927). "WIFE DIVORCES C. VANDERBILT JR.; Decree Is Granted to Her at Reno, Nev., on Grounds of Desertion. HIS CHARGES NOT PRESSED Couple Had Been Long Separated, He Alleging She Lacked Interest In His Newspaper Work.". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 Times, Special To The New York (4 July 1928). "Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. Weds Again in Reno; His Bride, Mrs. Logan, Had Just Won Divorce". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 "C. VANDERBILT JR. TAKES THIRD BRIDE; Marriage to Helen Varner in Albuquerque, N.M., Comes as a Surprise.". The New York Times. 5 January 1935. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  32. "JASPER MORGAN, YACHT DESIGNER". The New York Times. 10 October 1964. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  33. "WALDO H. LOGAN KILLS HIMSELF IN MIAMI HOTEL". Chicago Tribune. January 12, 1957. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  34. "C. VANDERBILT JR. SUES FOR DIVORCE; But Former Mrs. Logan Says She, If Any One, Will Get the Decree. ARNO MAY SUE FOR SLANDER Couple at Reno Had Supposedly Agreed on Legal Separation and Action Is Surprise.". The New York Times. 20 June 1931. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  35. Times, Special To The New York (1 July 1931). "YOUNG VANDERBILT REPLIES; Denies His Wife's Charges of Cruelty in Reno Suit.". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  36. Times, Special To The New York (5 August 1931). "WIFE OBTAINS DIVORCE FROM C. VANDERBILT JR.; Reno Decree Is Granted on Grounds of Mental Cruelty--Marriage Was the Second for Both.". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  37. "C. VANDERBILT JR. FILES; Asks Divorce From His Third Wife in Nevada". The New York Times. 1 March 1940. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  38. Sedona Legend Helen Frye
  39. Times, Special To The New York (3 September 1946). "VANDERBILT, WRITER, TO WED TODAY IN RENO". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  40. "Vanderbilt Divorce Made Final". The New York Times. 30 April 1948. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  41. Times, Special To The New York (4 September 1948). "VANDERBILT JR. TO WED; Marriage to Mrs. Patricia Wallace Will Be His Fifth". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  42. "VANDERBILT TAKES WIFE; Fifth Marriage of Lecturer, 50, Occurs in Greenwich". The New York Times. 8 September 1948. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  43. "The Power of Refined Beauty: Photographing Society Women for Pond's, 1920s-1950s | Model Biographies" (in en). Duke University. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  44. Times, Special To The New York (11 June 1953). "Vanderbilt to Seek Divorce". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  45. Times, Special To The New York (12 June 1953). "Vanderbilt Divorce Suit Filed". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  46. Times, Special To The New York (5 April 1953). "Warrant Issued for Vanderbilt". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  47. Times, Special To The New York (1 July 1953). "VANDERBILT WINS DIVORCE; Cornelius Jr. Also Gets Stay of Warrant Sought by Wife". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  48. Times, Special To The New York (4 September 1957). "C.K. VANDERBILT JR. WED; Lecturer's Secretary, Ann Needham, Is His 6th Wife". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  49. 49.0 49.1 "Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. Weds Mrs. Mary Lou Bristol in Reno". The New York Times. 9 November 1967. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  50. "New York Soldiers Joke With Pencil and Pen; Men of the Twenty-seventh Division Make Merry in Christmas Number of "The Gas Attack"--An American Bairnsfather". The New York Times. 12 January 1919. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  51. Vanderbilt Jr., Cornelius (1920). Personal experiences of a cub reporter. New York, Beekman Publishers. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  52. Sonner, Scott (September 13, 2015). "Reno’s divorce history chronicled in new online exhibit". The Washington Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  53. Vanderbilt, Cornelius (1937) (in en). A Woman of Washington. E. P. Dutton, Incorporated. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 

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