THE ORIG­I­NAL RICH LIST

Our 1918 wealth rank­ing.

Forbes - - CON­TENTS -

Forbes be­gan pub­lish­ing its an­nual Forbes 400 list of the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans in 1982, but the magazine started track­ing the sub­ject all the way back in 1918. The first-ever Forbes rich list, com­piled by B.C. him­self, sur­veyed “the fore­most bankers in the coun­try” to find Amer­ica’s 30 great­est for­tunes—stag­ger­ing sums, even by to­day’s stan­dards.* 1 “Mr. Rock­e­feller’s wealth,” B.C. Forbes wrote, “if it could be turned into cash and dis­trib­uted equally—which it couldn’t—would give ev­ery man, woman and child in the United States $10 each.” 2 Rock­e­feller gave away more than $500 mil­lion dur­ing his life­time (worth at least $8 bil­lion to­day), but his heirs are still worth an es­ti­mated $11 bil­lion. 3 Not ei­ther of your first two guesses: It’s the raw ma­te­rial used in steel­mak­ing. 4 A long­time part­ner/fren­emy of Carnegie; helped form U.S. Steel in 1901. 5 Carnegie wrote The Gospel of Wealth— a pre­cur­sor to Gates and Buf­fett’s Giv­ing Pledge—preach­ing, “He who dies thus rich, dies dis­graced.” He do­nated an es­ti­mated $350 mil­lion (worth at least $5 bil­lion to­day) to char­ity dur­ing his life.

6 Baker rose from bank teller to pres­i­dent of the First Na­tional Bank but re­mained fairly un­known away from Wall Street. “You have never once seen Ge­orge F. Baker quoted in the news­pa­pers,” B.C. Forbes noted. “His aver­sion to be­ing in­ter­viewed is deeper than the At­lantic.” 7 Baker took $5 mil­lion in 1924 (worth $72 mil­lion to­day) and sin­gle-hand­edly funded the creation of the Har­vard Busi­ness School.

8 John D.’s younger brother.

9 Hark­ness’ father, Stephen, was a Stan­dard Oil part­ner. 10 He took over Chicago meat­pack­ing firm Ar­mour & Co. upon his father’s death in 1901 and grew sales from $182 mil­lion to more than $1 bil­lion.

11 A post-world War I slump, bad in­vest­ments and re­ally bad in­vest­ments ($50 mil­lion worth of Ger­man marks) wiped out nearly all of Ar­mour’s for­tune by the time of his death.

12 “Mr. Ford’s ca­reer is too well known to call for re­ca­pit­u­la­tion,” B.C. Forbes wrote.

13 Grand­son of Com­modore Van­der­bilt, he be­came the fam­ily pa­tri­arch in 1899 upon the death of older brother Cor­nelius II.

14 Son of “Witch of Wall Street” Hetty Green, he grew up in cheap board­ing houses thanks to his miserly mil­lion­aire mother’s fear of kid­nap­ping and re­fusal to pay prop­erty taxes. 15 Green even­tu­ally in­her­ited some of the for­tune Hetty forged from fru­gal liv­ing and shrewd in­vest­ments—and bought es­tates, yachts, au­to­mo­biles and a pri­vate air­port.

16 Mary Wil­liamson Averell Har­ri­man.

17 Har­ri­man in­her­ited $69 mil­lion when her rail­road ty­coon hus­band died in 1909.

18 Great-great grand­son of John Ja­cob As­tor, a fur trader con­sid­ered Amer­ica’s first mul­ti­mil­lion­aire.

19 When As­tor made B.C. Forbes’ rich list, he was over­seas, fight­ing in World War I. As­tor joined the Navy in 1917, de­spite his father go­ing down with the Ti­tanic, and loaned the gov­ern­ment his yacht for use as a war­ship.

20 The F stands, fit­tingly, for For­tune.

21 A Wall Street fi­nancier who con­sol­i­dated Man­hat­tan street­car lines into Amer­ica’s first hold­ing com­pany; his tobacco in­ter­ests were rolled into James Duke’s gi­ant Amer­i­can Tobacco Co.

22 Guggen­heim’s younger brother Solomon founded the New York mu­seum de­signed by Frank Lloyd Wright. 23 No re­la­tion to the other Charles Sch­wab, your bro­ker.

24 Sch­wab rose from stake driver to pres­i­dent of Carnegie Steel, then U.S. Steel, then Bethlehem Steel.

25 He lav­ished money on friends and fam­ily; died broke. 26 Son and spit­ting im­age of the J.P. Mor­gan

*FOR­TUNES HAVE BEEN CON­VERTED TO 2017 DOL­LARS US­ING CPI IN­FLA­TION AD­JUST­MENT; OTHER METH­ODS—WHICH AP­PLY A PER­SON’S SHARE OF HIS OR HER DAY’S ECON­OMY TO TO­DAY’S MUCH, MUCH LARGER ECON­OMY—YIELD HIGHER ES­TI­MATES, IN­CLUD­ING AS MUCH AS $340 BIL­LION FOR JOHN D. ROCK­E­FELLER.

John D. Rock­e­feller

Henry Ford

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