Harold Stirling Vanderbilt was a son of William K. Vanderbilt and a great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the founder of the Vanderbilt family fortune. After graduating from Harvard College in 1907 and Harvard Law in 1910, he joined the family railroad business as an executive of the New York Central Railroad. He served in the United States Navy during World War I, seeing duty off Atlantic coast of America and later in the European theater.
When his father died in 1920, Harold S. Vanderbilt inherited a vast fortune as well as estate, but he is remembered less for his business interests than his contributions to yacht racing and the creation of contract bridge. The pinnacle of yacht racing is the America`s Cup, between representatives of the United States and foreign countries. The United States had held the cup for a long time already, and Vanderbilt successfully defended it on three occasions between 1930 and 1937.
Nowhere, however, did Vanderbilt have a greater effect than in the world of bridge, which he largely invented while cruising on his yacht in 1925. He created a new scoring system that made the play more exciting and within a few years, his system, known as "contract" bridge, had entirely supplanted its predecessor, "auction" bridge. Vanderbilt endowed the Vanderbilt Cup, which remains one of the most prized trophies in bridge.