A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

Info  FAQ  Site map  Links  Books  Login



  Chronicles of American Wealth / Nr 27 / March 1, 2006

<<  List of chronicles   

Content :

1 – New thematic list – " Railroad Tycoons (1885) " now online
2 – New political list : "
Wealthy U.S. State Governors " now online
3 –
New options to subscribe to A Classification of American Wealth


New thematic list : " Railroad Tycoons (1885) "

Among the robber barons of the Gilded Age, that period of vast expansion and industrialization which followed the American Civil War, the railroad tycoons deserve privileged attention. They were the motive powers behind the conquest of the American continent and the opening of one great national market for U.S. merchants and industrialists. Building and controlling the highways of American commerce in the 19th century, the railroad tycoons were the first to accumulate the huge personal fortunes so characteristic of the Gilded Age.

The “Golden Age of Railroads”, as the two decades between the panics of 1873 and 1893 was variously called, presented railroad entrepreneurs with outstanding opportunities, never heard of before and never to be seen again. For sure, the 1873 crash felled some notorious titans, notably the great banker Jay Cooke, who was also the chief force behind the Northern Pacific railroad. But overall, the railroad tycoons feared well during these two decades, consolidating their already towering wealth or building yet new exceptional fortunes.

Our choice to date the new thematic list of American railroad tycoons in the year 1885 was notably motivated by the coincidence of that year with the death and estate appraisal of the richest railroad tycoon ever : William Henry Vanderbilt. The main heir to the $105’000’000 fortune of the great Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877 and whose nickname “Commodore” still revealed his origins as a shipping magnate, William Henry Vanderbilt managed to double his inheritance and leave a $200’000’000 fortune, when he died of apoplexy in 1885. This was the largest individual railroad fortune ever, both in real and in absolute terms.

Then there was Jay Gould, second on our list, whose initial pile from the Erie plunders and his devious gold corner in 1869 had in the meantime been multiplied by equally crooked financial assaults on the Union Pacific Railroad and the Western Union Telegraph Company. His main backer and ally, the parsimonious Russell Sage, once condemned in New York for usury, also figures in the top ten, along with Asa Packer, John Insley Blair and several members of the Pacific Quartet, the promoters of the Central Pacific Railroad.

Many of the 145 individuals listed are heirs : sons, daughters and sometimes widows of some of America’s most famous railroad builders and promoters, who died before our arbitrary reference year. The fortune estimates are extrapolations from historic information and may thus in certain cases still be under- or overstating reality. Significant railroad tycoons whose fortunes in 1885 could not sensibly be assessed, or whose fortunes were temporarily impaired, are included with the minimum amount set for this list at $1’000’000. Examples are Cyrus K. Holliday, promoter of the Santa Fe Pacific, and Henry Villard, who succeeded twice to gain control of the Northern Pacific, but failed to retain it both times..

Browse the list of
American Railway Tycoons (1885) and learn more about these extraordinary businessmen, or their peers in other sectors, at Encyclopedia of American Wealth and read Chapter 8 “Railroad Barons” (emphasizing on the Vanderbilts as well as on the first Transcontinental railroad) and other chapters of “A Classification of American Wealth”.


New political list : " Wealthy U.S. State Governors "

The new list of Wealthy US State Governors joins and completes the collection of lists of wealthy US politicians and public officials, we have started to publish in 2004. With 75 entries, the list is not quite complete yet, but it is representative of the wealthiest US State governors ever, in real terms, that is expressed in US Dollars of 2004. 

Incidentally, the wealthiest ever US State Governor was from California and (later) also the second wealthiest ever US Senator. He is representative for the various political careers of wealthy Americans in that he used his influence as governor to promote the railroad venture which made him a multi-millionaire and later in life, he used his railroad millions to buy himself a seat in the US Senate.

Careful analysts of our lists will notice that his fortune in the political lists exceeds our estimates in other wealth classification lists. This is due to our explicit practice for the political lists to use only the highest ascertained estimate of a politician’s fortune during his lifetime, also including the fortune of his/her spouse. 

Browse the lists of wealthy American politicians and public officials or other wealth classification lists and read more about the wealthy Americans and wealthy American families of the past
  at " Encyclopedia of American Wealth ".


New options to subscribe 

A Classification of American Wealth
and  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

In order to better accommodate the wishes of our various readers and sponsors, we have recently introduced new options to subscribe to “A Classification of American Wealth” :

Our regular ONE YEAR subscription now costs $36. It is best suited for all readers who wish to read the online book with all updates during one year as well as to use the encyclopedia section for the same period.

A new special ONE MONTH subscription only for $18 is proposed for readers who just wish to read the present content of the online book (now 428 pages) and search the encyclopedia for a limited time as a trial.

All subscribers are entitled to a ONE YEAR renewal offer for $24 (instead of $36), which is valid for acceptance during one month after expiration of the original subscription.

All subscriptions are non-recurring, that means there is no automatic renewal.

For those who wish to do yet more to support the author in his endeavor, we now propose Sponsorships (3 Year membership) and Patronage (Lifetime membership).

Read more about the new options to subscribe to “A Classification of American Wealth” or register now for the membership you wish.

Thank you for your support. Enjoy reading.


Copyright © 2000-2016 : D.C.Shouter and RAKEN Services