The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates by Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther attempts to compare the fortunes of various Americans across time. But how can you compare one of Bill Gates dollars with one from John Jacob Astor? There are various formulas you could play with, but the authors of this book chose to compare the individual’s wealth to the nation’s Gross National Product.

So, for example, the richest man ever in America was John D. Rockefeller, whose wealth was 1/65th of the U.S. GNP when he died. Bill Gates, on the other hand, only had wealth amounting to 1/425th of the U.S. GNP when this book was published several years ago. Here is Klepper and Gunther’s list:

Rank Name Born Died Wealth
in 1000s
Ratio
(Wealth:
GNP)
1. John D. Rockefeller 1839 1937 $1,400,000 65
2. Cornelius Vanderbilt 1794 1877 $105,000 87
3. John Jacob Astor 1763 1848 $20,000 107
4. Stephen Girard 1750 1831 $7,500 150
5. Andrew Carnegie 1835 1919 $475,000 166
6. A.T. Stewart 1803 1876 $50,000 178
7. Frederick Weyerhaeuser 1834 1914 $200,000 182
8. Jay Gould 1836 1892 $77,000 185
9. Stephen Van Rensselaer 1764 1839 $10,000 194
10. Marshall Field 1834 1906 $140,000 205
11. Henry Ford 1863 1947 $1,000,000 231
12. Andrew W. Mellon 1855 1937 $350,000 258
13. Richard B. Mellon 1858 1933 $350,000 258
14. Sam M. Walton 1918 1992 $22,000,000 275
15. James G. Fair 1831 1894 $45,000 280
16. William Weightman 1813 1904 $80,000 286
17. Moses Taylor 1806 1882 $40,000 286
18. Russell Sage 1816 1906 $100,000 287
19. John I. Blair 1802 1899 $60,000 289
20. Cyrus Curtis 1850 1933 $174,000 320
21. Edward Henry Harriman 1848 1909 $100,000 322
22. Henry H. Rogers 1840 1909 $100,000 322
23. J.P. Morgan 1837 1913 $119,000 328
24. Col. Oliver Payne 1839 1917 $178,000 337
25. Henry C. Frick 1849 1919 $225,000 351
26. Collis Potter Huntington 1821 1900 $50,000 374
27. Peter A. Widener 1834 1915 $100,000 387
28. James Cair Flood 1826 1888 $30,000 405
29. Nicholas Longworth 1782 1863 $15,000 411
30. Philip Danforth Armour 1832 1901 $50,000 413
31. Bill Gates 1955   $15,000,000 425
32. Mark Hopkins 1813 1878 $20,000 446
33. Edward Clark 1810 1882 $25,000 458
34. Leland Stanford 1824 1893 $30,000 462
35. William Rockefeller 1841 1922 $150,000 493
36. Hetty Green 1834 1916 $100,000 498
37. James J. Hill 1838 1916 $100,000 498
38. Elias Hasket Derby 1739 1799 $800 515
39. Warren Buffett 1930   $12,000,000 532
40. Claus Spreckels 1828 1908 $50,000 554
41. George Peabody 1795 1869 $16,000 556
42. Charles Crocker 1822 1888 $20,000 608
43. William Andrews Clark 1839 1925 $150,000 609
44. George Eastman 1854 1932 $95,000 611
45. Charles Tiffany 1812 1902 $35,000 616
46. Thomas Fortune Ryan 1851 1928 $155,000 633
47. Edward Stephen Harkness 1874 1940 $155,000 643
48. Henry M. Flagler 1830 1913 $60,000 651
49. James Buchanan Duke 1856 1925 $140,000 652
50. Israel Thorndike 1755 1832 $1,800 674
51. William S. O’Brien 1825 1878 $12,000 696
52. Isaac Merritt Singer 1811 1875 $13,000 709
53. George Hearst 1820 1891 $19,000 712
54. John Hancock 1736 1793 $350 714
55. John W. Garrett 1820 1884 $15,000 715
56. John W. Mackay 1831 1902 $30,000 718
57. Julius Rosenwald 1862 1932 $80,000 726
58. George F. Baker 1840 1931 $100,000 758
59. George Washington 1732 1799 $530 777
60. Anthony N. Brady 1834 1913 $50,000 781
61. Adolphus Busch 1839 1919 $50,000 781
62. John T. Dorrance 1873 1930 $115,000 786
63. George Pullman 1831 1897 $17,500 835
64. Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. 1893 1968 $1,000,000 864
65. Horace E. Dodge 1868 1920 $100,000 889
66. John F. Dodge 1864 1920 $100,000 889
67. J. Paul Getty 1892 1976 $2,000,000 893
68. William Aspinwall 1807 1875 $4,000 913
69. Johns Hopkins 1795 1873 $10,000 944
70. John Werner Kluge 1914   $6,700,000 952
71. Samuel Colt 1814 1862 $5,000 966
72. James Stillman 1850 1918 $77,000 989
73. William Collins Whitney 1841 1904 $23,000 993
74. William Thaw 1818 1889 $12,000 1040
75. Paul G. Allen 1953   $6,100,000 1046
76. Cyrus McCormick 1809 1884 $10,000 1072
77. Arthur Vining Davis 1867 1962 $400,000 1103
78. Thomas H. Perkins 1764 1854 $3,000 1116
79. Joseph Pulitzer 1847 1911 $30,000 1142
80. Daniel Willis James 1832 1907 $26,000 1169
81. Howard Hughes 1905 1976 $1,500,000 1190
82. Frank W. Woolworth 1852 1919 $6,500 1214
83. John McDonogh 1779 1850 $2,000 1278
84. Samuel Slater 1768 1835 $1,200 1312
85. August Belmont 1816 1890 $10,000 1313
86. Benjamin Franklin 1706 1790 $150 1320
87. Sumner Murray Redstone 1923   $4,800,000 1329
88. Capt. Robert Dollar 1844 1932 $40,000 1451
89. Richard Warren Sears 1863 1914 $25,000 1457
90. H.L. Hunt 1889 1974 $1,000,000 1474
91. Jay Van Andel 1924   $4,300,000 1483
92. Richard M. DeVos 1926   $4,300,000 1483
93. Henry Phipps 1839 1930 $60,000 1506
94. Lawrence J. Ellison 1944   $4,300,000 1519
95. Ronald Owen Perelman 1943   $4,300,000 1519
96. Peter Chardon Brooks 1767 1849 $1,300 1646
97. Charles W. Post 1854 1914 $22,000 1656
98. Samuel I. Newhouse 1895 1979 $1,500,000 1681
99. William Wrigley, Jr. 1861 1932 $34,000 1707
100. David Packard 1912 1996 $3,700,000 1724

[The Wealthy 100Do try this at home.]

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