During the 1850s he also bought control of a major shipyard and the Allaire Iron Works a leading manufacturer of marine steam engines in Manhattan. Vanderbilt's life story has inspired works of fiction including the ambitious character of Nat Taggart in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957). Three of his daughters and son Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt contested the will on the grounds that their father was of unsound mind and under the influence of his son William Henry and of spiritualists he consulted on a regular basis.
Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27 1794 – January 4 1877) also known by the sobriquet Commodore was an American industrialist and philanthropist who built his wealth in shipping and railroads. He was also the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and one of the richest Americans in history. He provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University which is named in his honor.