Think you know who are the richest Americans? Think again, you may be surprised.
A billion has become the new million. Making money is no rocket science feat. Every year when Forbes publishes lists of the richest people in America and the world. While the last 5 years have been tough economically that has not stopped some people from growing their wealth to much more than ever before, the richest Americans ever lived many years ago; this despite the wealth records that have been set in the last few years.
Using some inflation rates and estimates by economists, the following is an estimated valuation of the richest Americans that ever lived. Enjoy!
To build this list, we will start at the bottom of the list based on Forbes economic estimates.
Warren Buffett: $66 Billion*
Source of Wealth: Investments
Although one of the top 3 richest men on the list, The Oracle of Omaha as Warren Buffett is called, started out in Insurance with the company Berkshire Hathaway and has become the Guru of investments. Despite all this he is at the bottom of the list of the richest Americans that have lived so far. One notable thing is that he has pledged to give 99% of his wealth away.
Sam Walton – Peak Fortune : $64.5 Billion
Source of Wealth: Retail
He started the largest retail store chain in the world. Starting from humble roots, Mr Walton carved one of the best management styles in the world that focused on reducing head office expenses and cutting costs to create deep discounts for his customers thus creating a $300 billion a year plus company which is one of the highest revenue amounts of any company in the world. Today his wealth is divided up between his 4 children.
Marshal Field - Peak Fortune - $66.1 Billion
Source of Wealth: Retail
He was the founder of Marshal Field and Co, a leading department store in Chicago. He went on to build a successful retail chain during the Civil War. Would he have been alive today with inflation and estimates, he would be richer than Mr Sam Walton.
Stephen Van Rensselaer – Peak Fortune - $68.5 Billion
Source of Wealth: Investments and Education
Mr Van Rensselaer was a member of the New York State Assembly and head of the US Militia and inherited most of his wealth. He used some of his money to start a learning institute but was still one of the wealthiest Americans ever.
Jay Gould – Peak Fortune - $71.2 Billion
Source of Wealth: Transportation/Railroad
Mr. Gould was a huge player in the transportation industry as well as railroad industry in the 19th Century; he invested in gold with a fellow investor and was able to control most of the gold in his lifetime making him the Gold magnet of the 19th Century. This made him the King of Gold!
Frederick Weyerhaeuser – Peak Fortune - $79.4 Billion
Source of Wealth: Timber Trading
The 19th Century brought out a lot of wealthy Americans. Mr. Frederick founded the Weyerhaeuser Company, probably the biggest timber company at that time in the United States. He came to the US from Germany and managed to build his company to such a state that if he was alive today, he would be probably be richer than Carlos Slim.
A.T. Stewart - Peak Fortune - $88.9 Billion
Source of Wealth: Department Stores
A true American Enterpreneur, Mr A.T Steward started a retail department store and expanded his business throughout the Manhattan area. He would have lived to become one of the richest people in the world having built a successful department store chain.
Stephen Girard – Peak Fortune - $105 Billion
Source of Wealth: Transportation and Shipping
French born, Stephen Girard was successful in two industries, Shipping and Banking. Though he went into banking later in life, he had the backing of his shipping business to motivate him as he pursued banking and owned his own bank, Girard’s Bank. With inflation and estimates, he was and would have been wealthy.
John Jacob Astor – Peak Fortune - $121 Billion
Source of Wealth: Investments and Trading
Fathoming the billionaires on the list of Forbes Richest List today is hard for many people, but Mr Astor was even richer than some. He was a fur trader and also got involved in real estate in the New York City, making him very successful.
Bill Gates – Peak Fortune - $136 Billion
Source of Wealth: Computer Technology
Probably the most shocking person to have made it into the hundred billion mark, but the founder of Microsoft, the most dominant technology company in the world until recently, was very rich at the peak of the dot com bubble at the turn of the century. Had he been smart and continued he would be way richer than he is now. His wealth is based on inflation added to his 1999 wealth estimates.
Cornelius Vanderbilt – Peak Fortune - $185 Billion
Source of Wealth: Transportation
Mr Conelius was loaded in the transportation business and made most his wealth in the 19th century prosperity. He was a steam boat owner and involved in railroad business, one of the largest businesses at that time. He is one of the Richest Americans of all time.
Andrew Carnegie – Peak Fortune - $309 Billion
Source of Wealth: Steel
One thing is clear about the richest Americans ever, most lived in the 19th century. Mr Carnegie made it big in the steel business and invested well enough to become the undisputed King of Steel. That alone made him way beyond rich. Add estimates and inflation, Mr Carnegie would be worth $309 Billion and would make Bill Gates look almost poor.
John D. Rockefeller – Peak Fortune - $335 Billion
Source of Wealth: Oil Refineries
Undoubtedly one of the most legendary business people of all time, Mr John D. Rockfeller was not only good in business but probably the richest American of all time. Even back in the 19th century when oil was big, he invested and started Standard Oil at age 31 and became so smart that he ended up 90% of all the oil refineries in the United States. Had he been alive today, the Middle East would be threatened by his power. A true American legend.
Source: Forbes, NYTimes and adjusted with Inflation