Three Brothers was originally named the Vanderbilt; it was originally a transatlantic passenger and mail steamer and was built by Jeremiah Simonson of Greenpoint, Long Island, N.Y., between 1856 and 1857. She was initially chartered by the Union Army shortly after the start of the Civil War in April 1861, offered to the Army by her owner, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt in early 1862 and transferred to the Navy on March, 24, 1862. During the war, she served as a patrol for blockade runners between Halifax and Wilmington, North Carolina; after the war, she sailed for the Pacific to join the Pacific fleet based out of San Francisco. She was decommissioned in 1867 and subsequently, she was purchased by Howe & Company in April, 1873, who removed her machinery, gave her a graceful clipper bow and full rigging, and renamed her Three Brothers. As Three Brothers, she spent most of her time in the grain trade between San Francisco, Le Havre, Liverpool, and New York where she acquired an enviable reputation for speed and handling. She traded owners until 1899, when the ship, at that point a coal hulk, was sold for scrap at Gibraltar.