Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The First Vanderbilt Tycoon - Good, Bad or Ugly?

Today, 27 May, was the birthday of one of the USA's first "robber barons", Cornelius Vanderbilt. Was he a figure to be admired for his rise from ill-educated obscurity to one of the richest men in the USA ? Or should we, on closer inspection, despise him for his money-grabbing, power-hungry attitudes? His example is probably what spawned the kind of corporate mess into which the USA has currently degenerated, and dragged the rest of the world's economy with it.

Cornelius Vanderbilt built his fortune with a loan of $100 from his mother. He began his illustrious career buying a barge, finished it, via ferries, steamboats and railways, as transportation magnate. He has been called America's "first tycoon", and nicknamed "The Commodore".

From an article about his life (here)

"The contrast between heroism and meanness is constantly baffling in the study of his long career. The man who was willing to kindle a small civil war in Nicaragua against such unprincipled adventurers as the shippers Cornelius Garrison and Charles Morgan and the wild Central American political fanatic William Walker; the man who, after age 70, had the foresight and energy to alter his main interest from steamships to railroads, build the empire of the New York Central lines, and put together the largest fortune in the world; the man who could bust a corrupt city council and a vicious state legislature by his genius at cornering stock, was also the man who knew better than any other how to buy judges and lawmakers and how to shove off on the public the cheapest and tawdriest services to enhance his profits."
"Yet to many in his era — long before the FTC, SEC, OSHA, and myriad other regulating bodies helped make business as it was commonly conducted on the Zeitgeist of the Commodore unthinkable today — Cornelius Vanderbilt, warts and all, was a hero....."

Vanderbilt dabbled in the occult. He consulted mediums.
"Like millions of Americans of his time, the Commodore was a believer in occult practices and enlisted the help of mediums to contact departed family members. Following his wife Sophia's death in 1868, according to Stasz, Cornelius became involved with the Chaflin sisters, two mediums who claimed to be able to materialize ectoplasm. Victoria was said to have been clairvoyant from the age of three; Tennessee, the younger, had once been billed as "the Wonder Child" in a traveling medicine show.
"Tennessee, with her petite, overripe plumpness...tempted men with her flamboyant gaiety and proclivity to stand very close to them during a conversation, closer than a lady should," wrote Stasz. "Adding to that forwardness were her quick hands, which would emphasize a phrase by patting or caressing a gentleman with most pleasing results."

Born 27 May 1794 in Staten Island, New York, at (accoridng to Astrotheme) 10am. I'm using this birth time, but have no great confidence in its validity - it seems rather convenient, and is probably arrived at by rectification, but it'll suffice as an illustration.

Sun and Venus in Gemini, Mercury conjunct Saturn and Moon in Taurus. This cluster tells a good proportion of Vanderbilt's story! Gemini - place of his Sun (self), rules transportation, and, being an Air sign links to mental acuity - both of which are reflected in this tale of a tycoon. Mercury, ruler of Gemini, also links to transportation, and located in Taurus connects to possessions. Mercury is conjunct Saturn (work, business & engineering) as well as to the Moon, the inner life of this man. It's all there!

If this time of birth is to be believed, Leo was rising as Vanderbilt was born - Leo, the sign of the leader, it would put the Sun and three Taruus planets in 10th house of career and public image.

What about his interest in the occult though? Where's that? Perhaps in the sextile (harmonious link) between Neptune and Jupiter at 1 Scorpio and 1 Capricorn? Scorpio and Neptune have links to the occult, Jupiter's ancient ruler was Neptune.

There's more to the story of his association with mediums than meets the eye though.

Victoria Woodhull and her younger sister, Tennie C., on the other hand, had found a way to acquire accurate and very valuable information. Working as part-time prostitutes and spiritualists in New York City, they befriended actresses and other sex workers. (New York had an estimated 20,000 sex workers and 600 brothels). These women relayed back to the sisters insider information about business deals of their influential clients. The sisters were very experienced in blackmailing their "respectible" clients. They had grown up in a family of con artists and quack medical healers. Their father Buck Clafin had incested Tennie C. and beat her into accepting her role as a prostitute to support the Clafin family. Victoria escaped her family through marriage: first to a drunk physician and later to Colonel Blood, a demoralized war veteran.

Tennie C. eventually leaves the Clafin gang, and she joins Victoria, the Colonel, and their children in New York. Shortly after arriving, the sisters made a bee-line over to the mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was a former ferry boat captain who cleverly amassed a fortune in shipping and later railroads. He was also a rapacious, old skinflint, who put his wife in an insane asylum while he sexually harassed every parlor maid and governess in his employ.
Tennie C. virtually moved into Vanderbilt's residence, and she started treating his enlarged prostate condition with . . . "magnetic healing." (Here)

Good, bad or ugly? With hindsight it all looks pretty ugly. But for ordinary people living in the USA back then, Vanderbilt's transportation industry provided what was badly needed. Perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on him.


Shawn Carson said...

We can see that this old guy liked to party! Venus/Mars/Uranus in supportive aspects to one another, in the 25th degree and Pluto in the 27th degree. Is that configuration a kite ? That UR/PL opposition along the nodal axis indicates that his associates are a little "different".
Keep up the Great Work.

R J Adams said...

After Vanderbilt's wife died, he married Frank Armstrong Crawford - a second cousin, I think.

No, he wasn't gay. Frank was a woman.

I'm serious!

Wisewebwoman said...

He was an extraordinary man and as a lot of wealthy old me do, fell prey to the wiles of a winsome women.
I find the sisters' stories fascinating.

anthonynorth said...

I've looked into quite a few of these early mega-tycoons, including the ones who forged the British Empire, and I've come to the conclusion that they lacked self-esteem, and it is this that drove them on.
Like so many systems, modern super-capitalism was forged from a kind of insanity. No wonder such systems eventually become so extreme.

Twilight said...

Shawn ~~~ Yes there's a chain reaction going on there! I think that is part of several different patterns, one called a Seer, and probably Kite too.
According to my software there are more than 20 patterns in his chart.
complex guy!

Yes - he was a bit of a party animal it seems. ;-)

Twilight said...

RJ ~~ Yes I noticed that - lol! It's a shame she was a she - a same sex marriage back then would have really caused a stir.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ He seems to have been driven by all kinds of passion - mainly passion for money - but I suppose that once his coffers were overflowing he looked for another obsession. :-)

Twilight said...

AN ~~~ I think you're right - yes. Certainly a form of obsession verging on insanity was part of his story. Yes - we humans never know when to stop - it'll be our downfall, I guess.