Cornelius Vanderbilt, IV Papers

Identifier: MSS.0467

Scope And Content Note

The Cornelius Vanderbilt IV Papers, 1897-1974, include correspondence, manuscripts of writings, lecture materials, reviews of his books and film, personal papers, legal and business documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks of his various writing and lecture projects. The forty-five boxes of the collection cover approximately 26.03 linear feet. Cornelius Vanderbilt IV was an inveterate traveler and much of his writing consists of articles written for several different periodicals as he journeyed throughout the world, observing the political and social scene. He was the biographer of his mother, Grace Wilson Vanderbilt, and the collection contains memorabilia, newspaper clippings, photographs, and correspondence related to his mother’s reign as queen of New York and Newport society. There are also many photographs and clippings pertaining to Cornelius Vanderbilt IV’s career as a journalist and lecturer, as well as radio scripts from the broadcasts he made in the 1930s and 1940s.

The bulk of the collection consists of his writings. His earliest work as a cub reporter for the “New York Herald”x is contained in leather-bound scrapbooks. Other scrapbooks hold the articles he wrote as a free-lance correspondent for other eastern newspapers. Four volumes of scrapbooks contain the work he produced as owner and editor of the “Illustrated Daily News” in Los Angeles in 1923-1924. By far the largest part of his writings are to be found in the seventeen boxes of the articles he wrote from the 1920s to the 1960s for his own newsletters as well as for the regular columns for Script magazine and other periodicals such as Liberty magazine. His topics, depending upon the periodical, usually had to do with the international or national political scene or with the latest social trends. As a foreign correspondent, his family name and connections, especially in the 1930s and 1940s, gained him access to exclusive political and military groups, so he was often able to “scoop” rival journalists. He offered his readers insight into the increasingly menacing world of the 1930s and early 1940s. He was a prolific writer and often reworked the same material for the variety of publications for which he wrote. As a reporter of social trends, he was in a unique position. He characterized himself as a man of the people but moved among the wealthiest and most influential social, political, and entertainment circles. He reported on these personalities and their activities to the buyers of magazines and the subscribers to his newsletters.

The collection of clippings involves much about his own career but also pertains to publicity about his famous family, especially his mother, Grace Wilson Vanderbilt, and his father, Cornelius Vanderbilt III.

Among the photographs are various studio portraits made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of the other photographs were taken by Cornelius Vanderbilt IV during various trips throughout the world in the 1930s and 1940s.

The collection will be of interest to those researching the Vanderbilt family and to those looking into journalism of the first half of the 20th century. The writings capture the personalities, social trends, and political views of the era.


  • 1897 - 1974

Language of Materials


Biographical Sketch

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, the first child of Grace Wilson Vanderbilt and Cornelius Vanderbilt III, was born in New York City on April 30, 1898. He was educated at various boys’ schools in the United States, as well as in Europe, where his parents took him on their frequent sojourns abroad. With the entrance of the United States into World War I in 1917, young Cornelius, against his parents’ wishes, enlisted in the American Expeditionary Force. He served in France as a dispatch driver and was honorably discharged in 1919.

He began work as a cub reporter for the “New York Herald” and other newspapers, then and ever afterward using the by-line Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. Later, as a free-lance journalist, he moved westward, writing articles about the western United State for eastern newspapers. In 1923, he began the “Illustrated Daily News,” based in Los Angeles and expanded to San Francisco and Miami, but he proved a better journalist than business man and by 1926 he lost this enterprise to bankruptcy.

In the 1920s-1930s, he worked as an associate editor for the “New York Mirror,” and he began traveling extensively throughout the world as a reporter for various news organizations. His syndicated column, “Going Places with Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.” continued into the 1940s, along with his newsletter, “Vagabonding with Vanderbilt,” which was published in the 1940s-1960s. In the 1940s, he also wrote a column, “High Spots” for “Script” magazine. During the years from the 1930s-1960s, he wrote over two hundred articles for many publications. He also wrote twelve books, some privately printed. In 1930, his novel, “Reno” was made into a movie by the same name and was widely reviewed. Many of his other books reflected his social and professional background, including “Farewell to Fifth Avenue “ (1930), “Queen of the Golden Age” (1956), and “Man of the World: My Life on Five Continents” (1959).

During World War II he served in the military again, as a major in the United States Army Intelligence Services from 1942-1943, when he was honorably discharged because of poor health. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross of the FBI in 1942.

He was married seven times but had no children. His wives were: Rachael Littleton (1920-1927), Mary Logan (1928-1931), Helen Varner (1935-1940), Felize Pablos (1946-1947), Patricia Wallace (1948-1953), Ann Needham (1957-1960), and Mary Lou Gardiner Bristol (1967-1974).

On July 7, 1974, Cornelius Vanderbilt IV died in Miami and was survived by his wife, Mary Lou Vanderbilt and her two children.


26.03 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives
Finding Aid for the Cornelius Vanderbilt IV Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States


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