Gloria Vanderbilt, a socialite who became known, among other things, as a pioneer of designer jeans fashion, died Monday at age 95. Her death was announced on CNN by Anderson Cooper, who is her son.
Both Vanderbilt and Cooper are descendants of the famed Vanderbilt railroad family. Here's what to know about Gloria and her family.
What is the history of the Vanderbilt family?
The Vanderbilt fortune was originally built by Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt, who founded railroad empire New York Central. By the time of Commodore's death, the family fortune was reportedly worth more than what was in the American treasury at the time, according to Forbes. His son, William Henry "Billy" Vanderbilt, reportedly doubled that fortune to $200 million.
In the third generation, the fortune was split between two heirs for the first time, according to Forbes. One of them, also named Cornelius, was Gloria's grandfather. That generation did not expand the fortune, instead devoting money to philanthropic efforts and the family's increased spending habits.
The changing nature of the railroad business, along with an expanding number of descendants and a high level of spending, eventually depleted the Vanderbilt's massive fortune. The company that was once called New York Central declared bankruptcy in 1970. When Forbes released a list of America's Oldest Billion-Dollar Family Fortunes in 2015, the publication noted that the Vanderbilts were noticeably absent.
Though their fortune is not what it once was, the Vanderbilt namesake can still be found around the country: There is a Vanderbilt Avenue in Manhattan, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
Who were Gloria Vanderbilt's parents?
Gloria was a Vanderbilt on her father's side. Her father, Reginald "Reggie" Claypool Vanderbilt, was a gambler and heavy drinker. He was 43 when he married 19-year-old Gloria Morgan in 1923. Two years later, when Gloria was just a year old, Reggie passed away.
Gloria's young mother would leave her behind while going on extensive overseas travels, the New York Times reports. When Gloria was 10, her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, fought for custody of Gloria and won. A book and miniseries were written about the custody battle in the early '80s.
The hardships she endured as a young child prompted newspapers to pen the nickname "poor little rich girl."
How did Gloria Vanderbilt make money?
Gloria was born into a personal fortune that was equivalent to about $37 million today, according to the New York Times, though she was not allowed to access this until age 21.
But Gloria's work ethic made it clear that she did not plan to just live off of her family's fortune. She made a name for herself as a fashion designer, artist, writer and actress. Most notably, she built the Gloria Vanderbilt brand, which at its peak in 1980 was reportedly doing about $200 million in sales.
Who are Gloria Vanderbilt's children?
Gloria, who was known for several high-profile relationships, had four sons in all. The most well-known of her sons is CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, the youngest. Gloria's other sons were Stanislaus and Christopher Stokowski, with her second husband, and Carter Cooper, with her fourth husand. Carter killed himself at age 23 in 1988.
Anderson and Gloria reflected on the tragedies and triumphs they have shared in a 2016 book they co-authored called "The Rainbow Comes and Goes."
In 2014, Cooper told Howard Stern that his mother instilled in them the importance of working for a living. He said does not like the idea of inheritance and that his mom had told him, "there is no trust fund." He said during that interview that he had no idea what would happen to his mother's money after her death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Gloria Vanderbilt family: Things to know about heritage, children of late socialite
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