Throughout the 21st century, wealth in America has become increasingly concentrated at the top, and during the pandemic, that gap has only widened. Since February 2019, the estimated net worths of billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk have increased by tens of billions of dollars while wage and job cuts have disproportionately affected minority groups and low-wage workers.
Even before the effects of the pandemic were felt, the United States was the home of extreme wealth inequality. The least wealthy half of Americans were worth a combined $255 billion in 2016, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. The two richest Americans — Tesla CEO Musk and Amazon founder Bezos — are today worth more than $364 billion.
Yet neither Bezos nor Musk 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. Extremely wealthy Americans have often had significant influence on their community, city, or state. Several buildings in New York bear the Rockefeller name, for example. Similarly, Bill 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. 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 they 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.