Rash's Surname Index
Notes for Alfred Gwynne VANDERBILT
Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (October 20, 1877 - died May 7, 1915) was a sportsman and a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.
Alfred VanderbiltBorn in New York City, the third son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Alice Claypoole Gwynne, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was educated at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and at Yale University, where he was a member of Skull & Bones.
As his eldest brother, William Henry Vanderbilt II, had died in 1892 at the age of 22 and their father had disinherited Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Alfred received the largest share of his father's estate when he died in 1899, though it was also divided among their sisters and youngest son Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt. Among Alfred Vanderbilt's many holdings, were positions in the New York Central Railroad, Beech Creek Railroad, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, Michigan Central Railroad and Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad as well as the Pullman Company.
Alfred Vanderbilt married Ellen French in 1901 in Newport, Rhode Island. A scandal erupted in 1908 after she filed for divorce, alleging adultery with Agnes Ruíz, the wife of the Cuban attaché in Washington, D.C.. The publicity ultimately led Agnes Ruíz to commit suicide in 1909. Vanderbilt spent considerable time in London and remarried there in 1911 to the wealthy American divorcée Margaret Emerson.
On May 1, 1915 Alfred Vanderbilt boarded the RMS Lusitania bound for Liverpool. It was a business trip, and he traveled with only his valet, leaving his family at home in New York. On May 7 in the Irish Sea, the German submarine, Unterseeboot 20 torpedoed the ship, triggering a secondary explosion that sank the giant ocean liner within eighteen minutes. Vanderbilt and his valet, Ronald Denyer, helped others into lifeboats, and then Vanderbilt gave his lifejacket to save a female passenger. According to the 2002 book TORPEDOED: The Sinking of the Lusitania, author Diana Preston writes that Vanderbilt had promised the young mother of a small baby that he would locate an extra lifevest for her. Failing to do so, he offered her his own lifevest, which he proceeded to even tie on to her himself since she was holding her infant child in her arms at the time. Many consider his actions to be very brave and gallant since he could not swim, he knew that there were no other lifevests or lifeboats available, and yet he still gave away his only chance to survive to the young mother and child. Because of his fame, several people on the Lusitania who survived the tragedy were observing him while events unfolded at the time and so they took note of his brave actions. He and Denyer were among the 1198 passengers who did not survive the incident. His body was never recovered. "Torpedoed!" by Diana Preston, Smithsonian, May 2002, pp. 64-65.
Ironically enough, Vanderbilt had originally planned to travel on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but had to cancel at the last moment.
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