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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  Part I-Chapter 4 : New YorkCity Landlords  >  Index and Introduction    :   « Previous   1 - 2   Next »

While Astor was an immigrant and made his large fortune by continuous strive, parsimony and ingenious industry, other New Yorkers just enriched themselves by the increasing values of their inherited real estate properties. In this way Henry Brevoort, whose family owned an 11 acre farm in Manhattan, got the basis of his 1'000'000 $ fortune, which along with his aristocratic Southern wife, his position as a Wall Street operator and his proper Dutch American ancestry made him on of these accomplished gentlemen of New York’s high society. An even greater social position, and a larger fortune derived from inherited real estate, came to the descendents of Peter Stuyvesant, the charismatic governor of New Amsterdam. The combined wealth of the not very numerous Stuyvesants, mostly New York City real estate, was counted in millions by 1850. Peter Gerardus Stuyvesant alone left 2'500'000 $ when he died in 1847. Another inherited 1'000'000 $ real estate fortune came to William B. Crosby from his uncle Colonel Henry Rutgers.

But the largest real estate fortunes in New York where made by the active investors, successful merchants like John Jacob Astor, who invested the surplus profits from their trade into vast landholdings in nascent New York. Peter Schermerhorn, a ship chandler and commission merchant, Peter Goelet, an ironmonger, the Rhinelander brothers Frederick and William, bakers and city aldermen and the Lorillards, sons of Pierre, the foremost tobacco merchants in New York. They all had money to invest, and they all believed in the development of the City. They all built large estates and their heirs would count among New York’s first set of millionaires in the 1850’s.

Of course, wealth accumulation through real estate was not confined to New York. All over the country cities were growing and along came the opportunity to accumulate vast fortunes in real estate. The concentration of wealth was proportional to the size and growth rates of the cities. New York, with its exposure to newly arrived immigrants, was of course the largest and one of the fastest growing city. But large real estate fortunes were also being made in the burgeoning cities of the Midwest. Nicholas Longworth made a large fortune with the development of Cincinnati, which in 1850 was the largest city West of the Alleghenies. Later, during the 1880’s, the explosive growth of Chicago created many real estate multi-millionaires among the city’s merchants, like Marshall Field and his partners Levi Leiter and Potter Palmer, or the latter’s father-in-law Henry Hamilton Honoré. Similarly in the 1920’s, further West in California, Harry Chandler, the owner and editor of the Los Angeles Times, was also the largest real estate developer of the City of the Angels.

Nowadays, large fortunes are still made with real estate development in or around large cities. Harry Helmsley or Donald Trump did it in New York, Don Bren with Orange County, South of Los Angeles. However, these modern real estate operations require the raise of large amounts of capital, which in conjunction of the high interest rates of the 1980’s almost broke Trump. Also, whereas it is still possible to make a lot of money with real estate, the odds are no longer as simple, as these operations now bear sizeable risks. In the early 19th century, investing into New York City real estate was virtually without risk.

New YorkCity Landlords  >  Index and Introduction    :   « Previous   1 - 2   Next »

Patroons and Manor Lords

Planter  Aristocrats

Shipping Merchants

The Landlords of New YorkCity

Bankers I

Early American Industrialists


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