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 3 / September 30, 2001

 Content :

Now Online : Chapter 7 “Bankers part 1 :  Banking in the Early Republic”
    2. Introducing : Nicholas Biddle - the second most powerful man in America
    3. New at “Encyclopedia of American Wealth” : wealth classification lists 1800, 1825 and 1850

 1. Now Online : Chapter 7 “Bankers part 1 : Banking in the Early Republic

Banking is so well entrenched in our modern life that it is difficult to imagine how our great nation functioned at its beginning, as no such institutions as banks existed to organize the financing of the American Revolutionary War or the activities of our first Federal government thereafter. Whereas our nation’s military leaders and political patriots, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are well remembered as our founding fathers, the not less vital figures of revolutionary financiers
Robert Morris and Haym Salomon have long been forgotten by the masses.  Yet without Robert Morris, the Continental Army of George Washington would most likely have run out supplies that proved vital to his 1877 campaigns and American Independence may have been lost. Robert Morris was made superintendent of finance in 1781 and among his other achievements he created the Bank of North America, the country’s firs commercial bank. Other commercial banks were chartered in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland. Under the influence of Alexander Hamilton and his leading Federalist party, the government sponsored a national bank, the (First) Bank of the United States. Capitalized at $ 10 million, the BUS was the largest American corporation at the time, with a head office in Philadelphia and branches in many other American cities. It’s charter expired in 1811 and a Republican dominated Congress refused the renewal of its charter. The BUS was liquidated and its branches sold to leading state banks. The Philadelphia head office was taken over by a wealthy shipping merchant of French origins, who also happened to be the  bank’s largest shareholder. Stephen Girard subsequently became America’s richest man and a great philanthropist. A Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 as the country needed a national bank to warrant its economic development. This second BUS went under in a violent clash of personalities between its chief executive, Nicholas Biddle, and the president of the United States of America, Andrew Jackson.

Read more about the financiers who brought banking to the early American republic in Chapter 7 of “A Classification of American Wealth”.  

2. Introducing : Nicholas Biddle – the second most powerful man in America

Who is the second most powerful man in the US ? Clearly assuming that the president is the most powerful, the question regarding to his second, depends on the times in which we relate. Towards the end of Civil War, the answer would have probably been General Ulysses Simpson Grant, during World War II, chief of staff General George C. Marshall. During the longest economic expansion of the American economy, the name of Allan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, would naturally emerge as an answer, given his definite influence on one of our main concern, the economy. Surprisingly Allan Greenspan has a somewhat less famous historic predecessor in Nicholas Biddle, the third president of the (Second) Bank of the United States from 1823-36
A child progeny, born into one of Philadelphia’s most illustrious families, Nicholas Biddle studied when still in his teens, first at the University of Pennsylvania, then at Princeton. Biddle graduated in 1801, at the age of fifteen, too young to engage in a profession. He went on studying law at home and became the personal secretary to General John Armstrong, when the latter was named US Ambassador to France in 1804. During his years in Paris, Biddle forged friendship with James Monroe, the future president of the United States. After his return to Philadelphia, Nicholas Biddle practiced law in his brother William’s office, wrote literary articles for magazines and edited the journals of Lewis and Clark. Elected to the lower house of the Pennsylvania State Legislature, Nicholas Biddle impressed with his congressional address defending the First Bank of the United States in 1811. Congress failed to renew the charter of the BUS, but Biddle should have a chance to serve as a board member and later president of the second Bank of the United States. In 1819, his friend James Monroe appointed him a director, and in 1823, Biddle was named president of the institution, which was then the country’s largest corporation and foremost banking house. Biddle proved an able banker both building value for the bank’s shareholders and maintaining the precarious financial markets in equilibrium. His long unchallenged position as the nation’s foremost banker conferred him powers only surpassed by the US president. However, Biddle’s stubborn ignorance of president Andrew Jackson’s proposed alterations to the bank’s charter led to the demise of the Second Bank of the United States in 1836. Biddle went on running the bank on a Pennsylvania State charter and involved it in a series of cotton speculations, which were first successful but later produced heavy losses under which the bank eventually failed. Biddle retired on his country estate “Andalusia” where he had experimented in agriculture in his pre-banking years. Check out the
profile of Nicholas Biddle and other famous wealthy Americans at “Encyclopedia of American Wealth”

3. Wealth classification lists 1800, 1825 and 1850

Who are the richest Americans ? How many billionaires are there in the World ? And how many of them are Americans ? Answers to these questions are nowadays quite easy to find in such financial magazines as “Forbes” or “Fortune”. But who were the richest Americans in the past and how much were they worth ? In our “Encyclopedia of American Wealth”  we try to answer these questions by listing wealthy Americans of the past and estimating their fortunes. In addition to the still somewhat incomplete list of the 18th century, we have now published the remaining lists covering the period of Mercantile America :
1800, 1825 and 1850. Check out “Encyclopedia of American Wealth” to learn who were the wealthy people in America in those days …


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