Anderson Cooper has opened up about how the birth of his son Wyatt inspired him to pen a book about his family’s history after years of not knowing much about the Vanderbilt dynasty.
The CNN anchor, whose mother was socialite-turned-designer Gloria Vanderbilt, teamed up with historian and novelist Katherine Howe to co-write The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty, which is slated for release on September 21.
‘In some ways I wanted this to be a letter to my son,’ Cooper, 54, told People magazine of his motivation to publish the historical book.
Candid: Anderson Cooper, 54, opened up about how the birth of his son Wyatt inspired him to write about his family in his new book Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty
Cover story: The CNN anchor covers the latest issue of People magazine, in which he talks about his family’s ‘painful’ past
The journalist welcomed his one-year-old son Wyatt Morgan Cooper via surrogate on April 27, 2020, and named after him after his father, Wyatt Cooper, who died during heart surgery when he was 10.
History: Cooper co-wrote his upcoming book with historian Katherine Howe. It’s slated for release on September 21
‘My dad wrote a book before he died about his family growing up in Mississippi. And because he died when I was so young, a lot that I know of him came from that book,’ he explained in the cover interview. ‘I wanted to write a letter to Wyatt about this crazy and unusual part of his family’s past.’
The Vanderbilts were once one of the most powerful dynasties in the US after having risen to prominence and wealth during the Gilded Age.
Cooper’s great-great-great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt amassed a fortune through his shipping and railroad empires.
Cornelius was the richest man in American when he died in 1877. He left behind an estimated $100 million that was equivalent to $2.5 billion in today’s currency, but it was later squandered by his heirs.
‘As a kid, my mom didn’t really talk about her childhood. It was very painful for her. So I grew up not really knowing much about the Vanderbilts, and the little I did know was that they were very wealthy and they had built enormous palaces, and some of those were museums, but a lot of them had disappeared,’ Cooper said.
Looking back: Cooper admitted he didn’t know much about the Vanderbilts growing up because his mother Gloria (pictured in 2010) didn’t really talk about her childhood
Family: Gloria was the daughter of Reginald and Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (pictured). Her great-great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt was once the richest man in America
Looking back: Gloria (pictured in 1938) became known as ‘the poor little rich girl’ thanks to a highly publicized custody trial between her mother and her father’s sister Gertrude Whitney
‘It was always this question in my mind: How, in a hundred years, does a family go from having more money than anybody else in the world to having all their houses torn down because nobody can afford them?’
Gloria, who spent her entire life in the public eye, passed away at age 95 on June 17, 2019, after a short battle with stomach cancer.
Cooper was going through boxes in her apartment after her death when he found a number of family letters from relatives he had never met.
‘There were very personal letters from her grandmother and her aunt and her mother, and all these people who I didn’t really know, who I’d never met, but whose voices suddenly kind of came alive in these letters,’ he said.
‘It was really fascinating to start to think of them as human beings and not just historical characters or people I’d read about, people you can read about in history books.’
Parents: Cooper was raised by his mother Gloria and father, writer Wyatt Cooper (pictured in 1970)
Looking back: Cooper’s son was named Wyatt Cooper after his father, who died when he was 10 years old. He is pictured with his parents and brother Carter in 1972
Tragedy: Cooper’s brother Carter (pictured in 1976) died by suicide in 1988 when he was 23 years old