Cornelius Vanderbilt II was the favorite grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who left him $500,000.00, and the eldest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, who left him close to $70 million. In his turn he succeeded them as head of the New York Central and related railroad lines in 1885.
He had a reputation as something of a workaholic, though a stroke in 1896 compelled him to reduce his active business involvement. He married Alice Claypoole Gwynne in 1867. Their eldest son William Henry Vanderbilt II died while a junior at Yale University, and Cornelius endowed a large dormitory there. He disinherited his second son Cornelius Vanderbilt III for marrying without his approval. Third son Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt went down with the RMS Lusitania.
His remaining son was Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, the father of Gloria Vanderbilt and grandfather of television news anchor Anderson Cooper. His daughters were Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Szechenyi.
The fabulous Fifth Avenue mansions he, his brothers, and his sons lived in have been demolished, but the Newport, Rhode Island vacation home he built, The Breakers, still stands as a memory of the lifestyle of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.
On his death, family leadership passed to his brother, William Kissam Vanderbilt. His philanthropy had been such that he did not increase the wealth that had been left to him.
Alice Vanderbilt Morris and her husband David Hennen Morris were benefactors of homeopathy. David Hennen Morris trained as a homeopathic physician as he was planning a career in medicine, but he eventually became the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.
The Szechenyi family were prominent supporters of homeopathy in Hungary. Count Istvan Szechenyi was the founder of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a supporter a a patient of homeopathy.