Special Report

30 Richest Americans of All Time

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The United States has arguably been, for generations, the best place to build a business empire. The country is home to by far the most billionaires than any country on Earth, with 735, according to an analysis by Forbes. China is second with 539, and no other country has over 200.

From the extravagant wealth of 18th century landowners to the multi-billionaire tech moguls of the 2020s, many of the wealthiest people to ever live have been Americans. These wealthy Americans have amassed fortunes worth tens and hundreds of billions of dollars.

To determine the richest Americans of all time, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed wealth estimates of prominent Americans, both living and dead, from historical and media sources, including the Forbes Real-Time BIllionaires list. We converted the estimated net worth of those who have passed away into current U.S. dollars using the Consumer Price Index inflation calculator from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many of the richest Americans lived during the Gilded Age, a time in the late 1800s when bankers and industrialists held outsized shares of power and wealth. This time coincided with America’s westward expansion and desire to build up cities.

So-called “robber barons,” many of the richest Americans, capitalized on these trends and made their fortunes in coal, steel, oil, railroads, and shipping. Many used shady business tactics, bribery, and union busting ploys to defeat competitors and amass their fortune.

The modern-day entries on this list are almost all wealthy from their tech ventures – Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others are now among the largest, most ubiquitous companies ever created. These are the world’s most valuable brands.

Click here to see the richest American of all time

Source: Courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons

25. Moses Taylor (1806-1882)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $62.9 billion

Moses Taylor’s father was an assistant to another one of the richest Americans of all time, John Jacob Astor. Taylor used the money his father earned to make a number of investments, notably in railroads, shipping, steel, and coal.

In 1837, Taylor became a director of New York’s City Bank, which today is known as CitiBank. He worked his way up the ranks to become president of the bank in 1856, a position he held until his death in 1882.

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Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

24. Mark Zuckerberg (1984-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $70.0 billion

Mark Zuckerberg is such an influential figure of modern life that by 26 years old, Hollywood had already made a film about his rise to prominence. While at Harvard, Zuckerberg co-created what would later become the social media juggernaut Facebook.

Facebook is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and Zuckerberg is the world’s wealthiest person under 40. However, the company’s recent problems with the security of its data and the accuracy of the information being shared on the platform has caused its value – and Zuckerberg’s by extension – to dip. His net worth declined from over $110 billion in 2021 to $70 billion.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

23. Andrew Mellon (1855-1937)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $72.9 billion

Andrew Mellon and his brother Richard worked together from a young age to become business magnates, and both rank among the richest Americans of all time. The son of wealthy banker Thomas Mellon, Andrew Mellon joined the family banking firm and eventually took ownership. He also helped found the Union Trust Company and the Union Savings Bank of Pittsburgh.

The success of these institutions allowed Mellon to invest heavily in emerging sectors, which would net him much of his fortune. He helped found the Aluminum Company of America and the Gulf Oil Corporation. He later served as a U.S. secretary of the treasury for more than a decade.

Source: Getty Images / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

22. Henry Ford (1863-1947)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $77.5 billion

Henry Ford was one of the most prominent American industrialists. He is celebrated not just for the car company that bears his name, but his business innovations like the assembly line that allowed his workers to construct an entire automobile in a fraction of the time it took before.

This quick build allowed Ford to sell his Model T cars inexpensively enough that it was the first automobile most Americans could actually afford to buy. In fact, at one point, more than half of all Americans owned a Model T. Thanks to the success of his company, Ford was believed to be the richest man in America for the last decade of his life, from 1937 to 1947.

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Source: Oli Scarff / Getty Images News via Getty Images

21. Michael Bloomberg (1942-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $82.0 billion

Michael Bloomberg worked on Wall Street at the beginning of his career but eventually created his own information technology company to serve the financial industry, which is the primary driver of his fortune. His company quickly became successful thanks to the Bloomberg Terminal, which in 1982 began offering traders a computerized way to collect, analyze, and share data.

Bloomberg eventually served as a three-term mayor of New York City and launched an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2019.

Source: Scott Halleran / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

20. Steve Ballmer (1956-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $85.8 billion

Steve Ballmer is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, and primarily made his fortune through his time at tech giant Microsoft. He became the company’s CEO after Bill Gates stepped down. He remained in the role from 2000 to 2014, though he had been at the company since 1980 and was one of the first employees to join.

In addition to Ballmer’s estimated 4% stake in Microsoft, he also bought a similar stake in social media company Twitter.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

19. Marshall Field (1834-1906)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $86.5 billion

A hardworking salesman, Marshall Field earned his fortune from his eponymous chain of department stores. He started a job at a Chicago mercantile house as a teen and worked his way up the store ranks to become a partner. He eventually bought out his partners and renamed the stores Marshall Field and Company.

Field is credited with coining the phrase “the customer is always right,” and this motto helped his business become successful. He is also seen as an innovator, catering to a newly emerging middle class and female customers in the years after the Civil War.

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

18. Jay Gould (1836-1892)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $90.3 billion

Jay Gould epitomized the “robber baron” era of American capitalism, often resorting to unscrupulous methods to gain and maintain wealth. Born to a poor farming family in New York, Gould worked in an animal hide tannery until he had enough money to invest in railroads.

Gould employed a number of underhanded tactics that made him, by his own admission, the most hated man in America. He fraudulently manipulated stock prices, and then bribed New York state politicians to allow such maneuvers. He also cracked down hard on labor organizers and strikes, and was vilified for it in the media. Yet Gould continued to accumulate wealth, and by the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest Americans in history, racking up a fortune worth over $84 billion today.

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

17. Sergey Brin (1973-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $92.1 billion

Born in Moscow in 1973, Sergey Brin and his family immigrated to the States to escape the Soviet era discrimination against Jewish people. While attending Stanford University to get his doctorate in computer science, he and fellow student Larry Page created a search engine that would find the most relevant results. This project would be the starting point for Google — now the world’s most popular search engine.

Brin became a billionaire in 2004, when Google went public. The company grew, buying YouTube and expanding its own offerings, and was eventually reorganized under parent company Alphabet in 2015, with Brin serving as president until stepping down in 2019.

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Source: Kimberly White / Getty Images

16. Larry Ellison (1944-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $95.5 billion

Larry Ellison founded software company Oracle in 1977. The company got its big break in 1981, when IBM opted to use Oracle’s database management system. Though he stepped down as Oracle’s CEO in 2014, Ellison still owns over a third of the company’s stock and serves as chairman and chief technology officer. He also sits on the board of Tesla.

Like many other living billionaires on this list, Ellison’s net worth has grown significantly in recent years — growing from $65 billion in October of 2019 to nearly $100 billion as of April 2022.

Source: Chris Hondros / Getty Images

15. Larry Page (1973-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $95.7 billion

Google co-founder Larry Page is one of the wealthiest people in the world and one of the richest Americans of all time, with an estimated net worth of nearly $96 billion as of 2022.

Page had two stints as Google CEO — running the company from its inception in 1998 through 2001, then serving as CEO from 2011 to 2015. He then ran Google’s newly created parent company Alphabet until 2019, when Sundar Pichai took over as CEO. Page still has a board seat at the company and is a controlling shareholder.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. Friedrich Weyerhäuser (1834-1914)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $105.2 billion

Friedrich Weyerhaeuser emigrated from Germany with his family as a young man and quickly found success in the timber industry. Weyerhaeuser and his brother in law bought a failed lumber mill in 1860. His idea of marking the logs his workers cut down to make it easier for his other workers downriver to identify them, and his business took off.

Weyerhaeuser worked his way up to become president of the Mississippi River Logging Company and eventually formed a group known as the Weyerhaeuser Syndicate, which controlled millions of acres of timberland as well as mills and processing plants. Towards the end of his life, investigators determined that some of his holdings amounted to a monopoly, and some of the syndicate’s subsidiaries were dissolved.

Source: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

13. Warren Buffett (1930-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $112.7 billion

Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett is a modern-day investing legend. He created his company, Buffett Partnership, in 1956 and quickly became a millionaire. He then purchased a textile company called Berkshire Hathaway but ended its textile division and began buying into varied companies like Geico and Exxon — either buying them fully or investing in the businesses. Berkshire Hathaway shares are now among the most coveted stocks on the market.

Buffett is also known for his generous donations to charity. He has given away more than $28 billion and pledged to give all of his fortune to philanthropic causes and helped to convince other wealthy people to do the same.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

12. Alexander Turney Stewart (1803-1876)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $115.3 billion

Alexander Turney Stewart is one of just 13 Americans who have amassed a fortune worth over $100 billion in 2021 dollars. He did so by slowly transforming his $3,000 inheritance into one of the largest retail empires in U.S. history.

Born in Ireland, Stewart traveled to America to sell dry goods. He became one of the first retailers to offer standard prices instead of haggling with customers. Stewart’s company became so large, it won a contract to supply uniforms for Union soldiers during the Civil War.

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Source: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

11. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $116.5 billion

At a time when considerable portions of America’s new transportation infrastructure were being built, Andrew Carnegie’s company supplied the needed steel. Carnegie Steel Corporation used technologically advanced methods to make prodigious amounts of steel and owned the requisite raw materials to make production cheaper.

Unlike many of the richest men of his era, Carnegie was committed to philanthropy. He once wrote that a “man who dies rich dies disgraced,” and he donated virtually all of his money to various organizations and libraries.

Source: Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery via Wikimedia Commons

10. Stephen Van Rensselaer (1764-1839)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $116.5 billion

Stephen Van Rensselaer inherited virtually all of his fortune, worth nearly $109 billion in 2021 dollars. Born in 1764, he was the final member of his bloodline to get a large land grant in the new Dutch colonial area of the New World, in present day New York state. At one point, Van Rensselaer owned over a million acres of land in America and may have had as many as 100,000 tenants renting land from him.

Apart from owning land, Van Rensselaer was involved in politics, serving as an assemblyman, senator, and lieutenant governor for New York, as well as a representative in Congress. Van Rensselaer was well liked, often forgiving missed rent payments. After his death, however, many tenants refused to pay rent to his heirs, sparking what came to be known as the “Anti-Rent Wars.”

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Source: Courtesy of National Photo Company Collection via Wikimedia Commons

9. Richard Mellon (1858-1933)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $118.8 billion

Richard Mellon ranks as one of the 10 richest Americans of all time, with his massive fortune amounting to the equivalent of $111 billion in 2021 dollars. Richard and his brother Andrew, who also ranks as one of the richest Americans of all time, were born to wealthy Pennsylvania banker Thomas Mellon. They eventually took charge of the family banking firm.

Being wealthy in late 1800s Pennsylvania provided the Mellons with the perfect opportunity to invest in the steel, coal, and railroad industries that made so many other men of their era extremely wealthy as the U.S. rapidly industrialized and stretched its population out west.

Source: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

8. Bill Gates (1955-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $125.1 billion

Bill Gates has held the title of world’s richest person several times since the 1990s, and his fortune of $125 billion as of 2022 makes him one of the 10 wealthiest Americans in history.

Gates dropped out of Harvard University to co-found computer giant Microsoft in 1975. By 1987, Gates was the world’s youngest billionaire, at 31, and became the world’s richest man just eight years later. In recent years, Gates has increasingly stepped back from running Microsoft and focused on philanthropy.

Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images News via Getty Images

7. Jeff Bezos (1964-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $130.9 billion

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos ranks as one of the richest people in the world and the seventh richest American of all time, with a net worth of $130.9 billion as of May 2022. The company, which started as an online book seller in 1994, has become the dominant force in e-commerce.

Amazon has also diversified successfully into a web service provider and a streaming entertainment service. Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in July 2021. In addition to Amazon, Bezos owns the Washington Post and a rocket company called Blue Origin.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

6. Stephen Girard (1750-1831)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $138.4 billion

Though he was born before the founding of the United States, Stephen Girard became one of its most important early business tycoons. Born in France in 1750, Girard sailed to the colonies in 1774, selling goods like sugar and coffee. He amassed a fleet of trading ships and invested much of his money in the First Bank of the United States.

In 1778, Girard became an American citizen. He eventually bought the bank’s assets and used them to lend millions of dollars to the young country during the War of 1812, keeping its government afloat.

Source: John Wesley Jarvis / National Portrait Gallery / Public Domain

5. John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $159.1 billion

John Jacob Astor became one of the first people to live out the American Dream, working his way up from being a poor German immigrant to real estate mogul whose net worth amounted to nearly $160 billion in 2021 dollars.

Astor married into a wealthy family in 1785 and used his wife’s money to launch his empire. A year after marrying, he began his business, which became the nation’s largest fur company by 1800. Astor exported furs to China, and imported silk and tea. In the 1830s, he sold his fur businesses and focused on real estate holdings in New York City, like hotels and residences. These high-price properties made him the richest man in America by the time of his death in 1848.

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4. Sam Walton (1918-1992)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $194.6 billion

Sam Walton is one of the most successful businessmen of all time, taking Walmart from a small discount store in Arkansas into the largest retailer in the world. Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962. By 1970, the company went public. As the store’s footprint grew, so did Walton’s wealth, and by 1985, he was the richest man in America.

Sam Walton’s heirs have held onto about half of Walmart’s stock, netting them a combined net worth exceeding $200 billion and making the Waltons the richest family in America.

Source: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

3. Elon Musk (1971-present)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $207.0 billion

Elon Musk was born in South Africa, before moving to Canada at 17, then to the U.S. to study at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. Musk first became a millionaire by selling the online city guide company he co-founded with his brother, Zip2, in 1999. He continued to raise his profile and his net worth in 2002, when eBay acquired another one of the companies he co-founded, PayPal.

The bulk of Musk’s net worth stems from his more recent ventures, notably his electric carmaker Tesla Motors and rocket company SpaceX. Elon Musk’s net worth has skyrocketed over the past two years, from $24.6 billion in April 2020 to over $200 billion in 2022. As of May 2022, Musk was in the process of acquiring Twitter, but has since said he wants to lower the initially-agreed-upon price of $44 billion.

Source: United States Library of Congress

2. Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $236.4 billion

Cornelius Vanderbilt is one of just two Americans who amassed a fortune that was worth over $236 billion in 2022 dollars. He first made his fortune ferrying goods on the rivers surrounding New York City, working his way up from steamship captain to building ships and operating ferry routes. He developed a reputation as a ruthless businessman, undercutting and intimidating competitors.

Vanderbilt became extravagantly wealthy by launching the fastest steamship route from New York to California during the middle of the 19th century, capitalizing on the many people heading west to search for gold. He later shifted focus to the nascent transcontinental railroad industry, which helped to make him one of the wealthiest people in history.

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Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

1. John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)
> 2022 estimated net worth: $291.8 billion

John D. Rockefeller was the first American billionaire, and to this day, he is by far the wealthiest American of all time. Rockefeller began his business career as a merchant, dealing in goods like meats and grains. Though his business was successful, he soon turned his attention to the oil industry, sensing an opportunity for greater wealth. In 1870, he and his business partners founded one of the most successful companies in American history, Standard Oil.

Rockefeller pioneered concepts like vertical integration. By controlling many facets of the supply chain of his oil business, he could keep costs low and margins high. He also figured out a way to standardize the quality of oil, which had been poor up to that point. A decade after its founding, Standard Oil controlled over 90% of all oil production in America. The Supreme Court eventually broke up Standard Oil in 1911, citing antitrust laws, but by then Rockefeller had become America’s first billionaire and amassed a fortune worth $291.8 billion in 2022 dollars.

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