Grace Vanderbilt

Grace Wilson Vanderbilt, nee Grace Graham Wilson ( born September 3, 1870 in New York City; † January 8, 1953 ibid ) was by marriage a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family and rose as Society - queen of New York society at the beginning of the 20. century.


Grace Wilson was the eldest daughter of five children of the wealthy banker, stockbroker and millionaire Richard Thornton Wilson (1830-1910) and his wife Melissa Graham, a daughter of a wealthy London family. The summer of her youth she spent in Newport, Rhode Iceland, the home of her family. She was educated there by private tutors and at the exclusive Brearley School in New York.

1894 she was short with Cecil Baring, son of a London banker, engaged. On August 3, 1896 Grace Wilson married in New York the rubber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt III, called Neily ( 1873-1942 ), son of a wealthy businessman and financier Cornelius Vanderbilt II ( 1843-1899 ) and his wife Alice Claypoole Gwynne (1845 - 1934); and thus great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Her husband was disinherited by his father because of the unacceptable marriage and was in contrast to his siblings, William Henry Vanderbilt II (1870-1922), Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942), Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877-1915), Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880-1925) and Gladys Moore Vanderbilt (1886-1965), only one million U.S. dollars. From the marriage, which by all accounts was happy, had two children:

  • Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (1898-1974), writer
  • Grace (1899-1964)

The rivalry between Grace Vanderbilt and her mother started within one year after her marriage to Cornelius Vanderbilt, both led by a salon in Saratoga. In 1902, the couple traveled to Europe, where they took part in a regatta in Kiel. Here they learned to Kaiser Wilhelm II and his wife Empress Auguste Viktoria know and were often a guest in Berlin. At the special request of the emperor, the couple Vanderbilt was accompanied by Prince Henry of Prussia, and his nephew, the Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia.

This meant for Vanderbilt Grace upward social mobility - their dinner parties, cocktail parties and charity balls for the New York society were famous and filled the society columns of the newspapers. In the following years, several members of the European aristocracy enjoyed the hospitality of the Vanderbilt family, including all British monarch since Queen Victoria, Belgium's King Albert I and his wife Queen Elisabeth Gabriele, Tsar Boris III. of Bulgaria, King Haakon VII of Norway and his wife, Queen Maud, Queen Marie of Romania and Reza Shah Pahlavi.

In addition to the social obligations Grace Vanderbilt engaged in several charitable organizations; particularly the Salvation Army. During the First World War, she financially supported the Red Cross organization. In the 1930s, she collected money and donations for the needy population in New York; and during the Second World War, she supported various American organizations.

Grace Vanderbilt died in her New York townhouse ( 1048 Fifth Avenue ) from the effects of pneumonia and was buried beside her husband in the family vault of the Vanderbilts.


Her siblings were:

  • Brother Richard T. Wilson, Jr., married Katherine Garrison, granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Kingsland Garrison (1809 - 1885), Reeder, capitalist, Mayor of San Francisco from 1853 to 1854.
  • Sister May Wilson married Ogden Goelet (1851 - 1897), millionaire, real estate brokers, yacht owner ( member of the New York Yacht Club ). They had two children, May and Robert Goelet II
  • Eldest brother Marshall Orme Wilson (1860 - 1926), married Caroline Schermerhorn Astor (1861 - 1948), daughter of William Backhouse Astor Jr. (1830 - 1892) and his wife Caroline Webster Schermerhorn (1830 - 1908). William B. Astor, Jr. was the father of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV
  • Sister Leila B. Wilson married in 1888, The Honourable Michael Henry Herbert (1857 - 1903), brother of the Earl of Pembroke, son of Sidney Herbert 1st Baron Herbert of Lea and Lady Mary Elizabeth Court Repington. Herbert was Secretary of the British Embassy in Paris and a close relative of Lord Carnarvon.

Worth mentioning

  • The jewelry collection of Grace Vanderbilt was considered the most exclusive and extravagant after the collection of Eugénie, Empress of the French, and the Duchess of Windsor. Mrs. Vanderbilt became a mentor Louis Cartier and acquired thanks to their enormous wealth significant objects, as well as European crown jewels, including Princess Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte, La Belle Otéro, Joséphine de Beauharnais and of some Russian grand duchesses.
  • In her home at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue is now home to a museum, The New Gallery in New York, for German and Austrian art of the early 20th century.