Cornelius Vanderbilt was not only a robber baron, he was the first robber baron, according to History. A robber baron is an individual who acquires wealth in a dishonest way.
Cornelius Vanderbilt had a reputation for being a villainous person, even as a child. He bought his first ferry boat, at age 16, and would often get into fights with other men, beating them until they were unconscious. He continued his cutthroat business dealings until the day he died. Despite being known as a shrewd and violent businessman, what he may be best known for is his $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University. This donation was the largest donation ever made at the time.