Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt Biography

Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, a fourth generation member of the renowned Vanderbilt family, was not only an American millionaire but also a leading equestrian in the country. With his family’s multimillion dollar railroad business as a backdrop, Reginald made a name for himself as a horseman and founded several equestrian organizations. He held prestigious positions such as the president of the National Horseshow association of America and the American Hackney Horse Society. Known for his opulent lifestyle, Reginald’s legacy extends beyond his lifetime as he is recognized as the father of famous fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt. Furthermore, he is the maternal grandfather of Anderson Hays Cooper, a CNN television news anchor and the most prominent descendant of the Vanderbilt family today.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Reggie
  • Died At Age: 45
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Cathleen Neilson (m. 1903; div. 1920), Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (m. 1923; his death 1925)
    • Father: Cornelius Vanderbilt II
    • Mother: Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt
    • Siblings: Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Gertrude Vanderbilt, Gladys Moore Vanderbilt, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, William Henry Vanderbilt II
    • Children: Cathleen Vanderbilt, Gloria Vanderbilt
  • Millionaires
  • College Dropouts
  • Died on: September 4, 1925
  • City: New York City, Staten Island, New York
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers
  • More Facts
  • Education: Yale University (dropped out)

The Meteoric Rise to Stardom

While most members of the Vanderbilt family were famous for their family fortune built by patriarch Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt did not pursue a business career. In his teenage days, he was a successful sportsman and a noted polo player. He had attended Yale University following his brothers, but dropped out after two years without completing graduation. Rather, he earned a reputation for dissipation. While he turned to gambling at racecourses, he also became interested in the equestrian industry. He started to frequent various horse-riding clubs and also became an organizer for the National Horseshow association of America. During his short lifetime, he founded a number of equestrian organizations, of which, he was also the president.

Controversies & Scandals

Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, the most famous fourth generation Vanderbilt, remained in the news for about a decade after his death due to the much publicized court battle over his daughter Gloria’s custody. Vanderbilt, who had squandered much of his fortune through gambling and drinking, had left a $2.5 million trust for his daughter Gloria. His wife, Gloria Morgan, took care of the child initially, sometimes leaving her in the care of her aunts during her travels. Due to Gloria Morgan’s young age, and a dispute over her actual birth year, she was considered by some as a minor herself, requiring a guardian. The Vanderbilt family came to believe that she had a bad influence on young Gloria and started a custody battle in 1934. The news made national headlines and became a sensational plot for tabloid stories involving the ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ Gloria. Eventually, Reginald’s sister, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, won the custody of his 10-year-old daughter.

Personal Life

Reginald “Reggie” Claypoole Vanderbilt was born on January 15, 1880 on Staten Island, New York. His father, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family, was an American socialite, and businessman. His mother, Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt, reigned as the matriarch of the Vanderbilt family for over 60 years. His father, the favorite grandson of one of America’s richest business magnets Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, had inherited and maintained the family business, New York Central Railroad. However, after he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 12, 1899, his brother William Kissam Vanderbilt took over the leadership of the family. Known for his philanthropy, he donated large amounts of money to various universities and helped to built tenement houses in New York City with a $1 million donation. As such, the family wealth reduced considerably in the fourth generation.

Reginald was the sixth of his seven siblings, of which the eldest two did not survive to reach adulthood. The third child of his parents, Cornelius “Neily” Vanderbilt III, was disinherited by his father for marrying Grace Graham Wilson without his approval. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, the fifth child of his parents, inherited most of the fortune, while the rest was divided among Reginald and his two sisters. He inherited $10 million from his father at the age of 21, and in 1915, he inherited $5 million from his brother Alfred who died aboard the RMS ‘Lusitania’.

Reginald married Cathleen Neilson in 1903 and together they had a daughter named Cathleen Vanderbilt. After a few years of separation, the couple divorced in April 1920, following which his first wife married again in January 1921. He also got married a second time on March 6, 1923, to Gloria Morgan, a Swiss-born American socialite. The couple had a daughter named Gloria Laura Vanderbilt who was born on February 20, 1924. On September 4, 1925, Reginald died of liver failure due to alcohol abuse at his country home, Sandy Point Farm, in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He was interred at the Vanderbilt family vault in the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp on Staten Island, New York. Known as an avid gambler and a playboy, he squandered most of his fortune, leaving only a $5 million trust to be divided between his two daughters.

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