Throughout the 21st century, wealth in America has become increasingly concentrated at the top. The bottom half of Americans in terms of wealth were worth a combined $255 billion in 2016, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. In 2020, the two richest Americans — Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos — were worth more than $285 billion.
Yet neither Gates nor Bezos is the richest American of all time. That title belongs to John D. Rockefeller, whose personal net worth peaked at nearly $285 billion when adjusted to 2020 dollars. The identity of these individuals who created vast personal fortunes in the United States is often closely tied to the part of the country they are from. Several buildings in New York bear the Rockefeller name, for example. Similarly, Gates’ success with Microsoft helped build Seattle’s reputation as a tech hub.
There are many examples of the nation’s extremely wealthy becoming a significant part of an area’s identity. While not every state was the childhood home of one of the nation’s billionaires, every state has produced at least one person worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
To determine the richest person of all time from every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed sources such as the Forbes real-time billionaires list and historical lists of the wealthiest Americans of all time.
Those on this list who are alive were ranked on their current net worth, as of August 2020, while the deceased were ranked on their net worth at the height of their wealth, adjusted for inflation. When estimates for net worth were not adjusted for inflation, we used the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index inflation adjustment calculator.
We considered the state where the individuals spent the majority of their childhood to be their state of origin. When information about where an individual spent his or her childhood was not available, birthplaces were used.
Many of the people on this list took advantage of the unique conditions provided by their home state to become titans of an industry. Some relied on favorable conditions to start a business, while others found a large labor pool of quality employees to help their company grow or were able to take advantage of natural resources in their state, like coal or oil, to make their fortune. This is the top selling product from every state.