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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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