Cornelius Vanderbilt

  • Sculptor: Ernst Plassman
  • Dedicated: 1869
  • Medium & size: Bronze (8.5 feet), granite pedestal (about 9 feet)
  • Location: South facade of Grand Central Terminal, at the level of the Park Avenue Viaduct. (Pedestrians: enter the Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd St., just east of Grand Central. Go up the stair on the left to the reception level, then up the escalator to the left of the concierge's desk and through the revolving doors that are ahead and to your right. Outside, turn left on the sidewalk and follow the sidewalk around to the south side of Grand Central Terminal.
  • Subway: 4, 5, 6, 7, or S to Grand Central - 42nd St.


Currier & Ives Celebrate Progress

Although today we associate Currier & Ives with quaint images on cookie tins, no other publisher so enthusiastically captured the thrill of American industrial progress during the 19th century. The Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division has a fabulous collection of Currier & Ives prints, including this one from 1874 that expresses the wonder of high-speed travel: "American Railroad Scene: Lightning Express Trains Leaving the Junction."


Railroads in the United States

A mere 37 years earlier, when railroads had just begun to spread across the continent (see Cooper), this was the "high speed" train run by the Erie Railroad.


Mass transit? Hardly. Faster and more comfortable than a horse and buggy? Definitely.

Vanderbilt became involved in the Erie Railroad in the 1860s, when he waged a widely publicized battle for control of it with Daniel Drew, James Fisk, and Jay Gould. In this cartoon, Vanderbilt and Fisk are shown as cowboys riding locomotives.


On the expansion of railroads in the United States, see CooperHolley,Glory of Commerce, and Rea.

Vanderbilt's Obituary in the New York Times

When Vanderbilt died in 1877, the New York Times praised him for all the right reasons:

What he bought he bought to keep, to build up, and to make more productive. ... It required skill, patience, and that mental quality which we call forethought, to conduct successfully such vast concerns as those which employed Vanderbilt's energies. Every movement of his will was perceptible in the fleets which covered the waters, or in the network of rails which enmeshed the land. By him, therefore, the movements of population, the currents of trade and travel, and the requirements of commerce, must have been clearly seen and understood. It was his business, in a large way, to anticipate and meet all these requirements and changes. He did this so well that he is now set down as a highly successful man. (New York Times 1/5/1877)

Cross References

  • Mentioned in the Art section, for contrast with Vanderbilt: Marquis de Lafayette and William Earl Dodge.
  • Mentioned for its similarity as a monumental sculpture: the Statue of Liberty.
  • The curmudeonly editor of the New York Tribune is the focus of Horace Greeley.
  • The Erie Canal, the first great transportation project in the United States, is the focus of DeWitt Clinton.
  • The Hudson River Railroad Freight Depot, where Vanderbilt was originally dedicated, stood roughly where the Holland Tunnel entrance is today. It was replaced as the terminus of Vanderbilt's railroads by Grand Central Depot at 42nd St., then by Grand Central Terminal (the focus of Glory of Commerce).
  • By the late 19th century, the archrival of Vanderbilt's railroads was the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose entry to Manhattan via Penn Station is described in Samuel Rea.
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan has more on this sculpture's original situation and on Vanderbilt's career.

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante