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

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  Chronicles of American Wealth / Nr 24 / July 4, 2005

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Content :

1 - New Historical list : " The wealthiest American Families (1920) "
2 - Updated wealth classification lists :
1900 - 1925 - Families 1900 - Families 1925


New historical list :The wealthiest American families (1920)
   inspired by Henry H. Klein

In his “Dynastic America and Those Who Own It”, published in 1921, Henry H. Klein analyzes the, in his eyes unacceptable, economic influence of the top wealth holders and their families. Unlike Ferdinand Lundberg, who quickly derives on the interference of wealth and politics (in “America’s Sixty Families”), Klein essentially focuses on his analysis of the estates left by some 240 individuals who died (mostly) in the twenty years before his book and on the pecuniary interest the leading American capitalists and their families had in 1920. His work thus contains valuable details which helped us complete and correct our own wealth classification lists, both of 1900 and 1925.

H. H. Klein also lists (but does not explicitly cover) some 500 American families with fortunes of more than $20 million in 1920 ($200 million if expressed in dollars of 2004). Led by the [John D.] Rockefeller family ($2.5 billion) and four families with some $500 million accumulations (Astor, DuPont, Guggenheim and Vanderbilt), Henry Klein’s summarized list helps us identify the wealthiest families of the period, which corresponds roughly to the end of the Gilded Age, an era known for unprecedented wealth creation and concentration. We have now analyzed Henry Klein’s list top down to the level of family fortunes of $50 million or more (ie $500 million plus expressed in nowadays money), leaving the $20 million fortunes for a later update. 

The resulting new historical list “The Wealthiest American Families (1920)” is based on Klein’s summarized listing and our more explicit American Wealth database, in which we indicate the founders of the families’ wealth, their (main) activities and major properties. As a comparison, we also indicate our own [AW] estimates of the family fortunes in 1925. More details, notably genealogical information and the identities of the wealthy individuals aggregated in our [AW] family wealth classification lists, can now be found in this list [AW Family Fortunes 1925], which at the occasion has been thoroughly updated. 

Browse the list of America's wealthiest families or other wealth classification lists and read more about the wealthy Americans and wealthy American families of the past at "
Encyclopedia of American Wealth ".


Updated wealth classification lists

1900 - 1925 - Families 1900 - Families 1925


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