When we look at the people who are now household names for one reason or another, do we ask the question, how? Many of these men are people of industry. Some inherited the wealth, others worked towards it. Even by today’s standards, they would be people we would look up to.
Names synonymous with wealth might drive us to envy, nonetheless when we look at the effort it took for them to reach where they are, it should encourage us to work towards the same aspirations. Most of them lived in a time where the world of commerce was changing, and needed change. Here are some of those men.
John D. Rockefeller
Born in Richford, New York on July 8, 1839, John Davison Rockefeller was the second of six children of William A. Rockefeller and Eliza Davison. His greatest influence was his mother Eliza. Young John was behaved properly and seriously attended to his studies without fail. Some of his friends saw him as being earnest, religious, methodical, and reserved. At one time, he had considered music as a profession.
The family moved to Strongsville in 1853, a suburb in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of sixteen, he worked as an assistant bookkeeper. He had a knack for numbers and accounting. He received fifty cents a day during his first three months. He tithed ten percent to his Baptist church and donated six percent to charity.
He had been quoted as saying, “It was the day that determined my career.” He found himself in the center of post-war prosperity along the expansion to the west made possible by the new railroads and an economy based on fuel.
He is recognized as the first American to have worth more than a billion dollars. He not only set the standard for the petroleum industry, he helped push the envelope in the area of philanthropy. He was faithful in participating in church where he served as clerk, a trustee, taught Sunday school, and janitorial work as needed. He was married in 1864 to Laura Celestia Spelman, with whom he had four daughters and a son.
Adjusted for inflation, John D. Rockefeller’s net worth is reportedly upwards of USD$ 663 billion. To Mr. Rockefeller, his belief in God guided him throughout his career and life, to him; it was the source of his great fortune. He once said, “God gave me money.” which was why he followed an exhortation by John Wesley, “gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”
Andrew Carnegie, business magnate, steel tycoon, and philanthropist. How would you like those words to be part of your resume? This man born in Dunfermline, Scotland has those words that oft follow his name. Born on November 25, 1835, Andrew and his family migrated to the United States when he was just a child. Allegheny, Pennsylvania became home to the Carnegie household.
Young Andrew took on all types of jobs; the first one was as at a bobbin factory, then as a logger, and as a messenger boy. He later he moved up the ranks at a telegraph company. He made investments into the railroad industry, bridge building, and later accumulated more wealth by selling bonds to fund American businesses in Europe. Because Pennsylvania is known as a steel town, he became a co-founder along with other steel companies and created U.S. Steel.
He was generous with his money, he helped build libraries, gave to schools in America and England. Seen as the second richest man, puts his net worth at USD$ 293 billion.
The patriarch of the Vanderbilt family, Cornelius Vanderbilt gained his wealth through railroad and shipping enterprises and is seen as one of the richest men in American history. Cornelius was born on May 27, 1794 in Staten Island, New York. At the age of 11 he dropped out of school and worked for his father’s ferry along the New York harbor. When he was sixteen years old, he began his own ferry service in which he parlayed into moving freight and people to and from Manhattan and Staten Island.
He soon became a steamboat entrepreneur servicing businesses in New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia in collaboration with other people or on his own. He later started a steamship line that serviced ports in South America. This love for the boats earned him the nickname of “Commodore”.
The Vanderbilt Empire was built on the commercial transportation industry, which was why he added the railroads as part of that empire. His worth at the time of his death was at USD$ 167 billion.
William Henry Vanderbilt
Inheriting wealth isn’t so bad either. William Vanderbilt’s father, Cornelius Vanderbilt, was known as a railroad and shipping mogul at the time and when he did in 1877, was known as the richest man in the world.
William was born 1821 in New Brunswick, New York. He received early training in business through the help of his father. He worked as a clerk at the age of 19 for a New York bank. He later served for as an executive for several Railway companies. He also helped grow the railroad business for the family. When he retired in 1883, his older sons were given top positions in the railroad empire.
He and his wife, Maria Louisa Kissam, had eight children. William was known as an active philanthropist and an art enthusiast. His worth at the time of his death was USD$231 billion.
John Jacob Astor
John Jacob Astor made his fortune through real estate, fur trading, and opium. He was born on July 17, 1763 in Waldorf, Germany. He arrived in the United States at the end of the revolutionary war in 1784.
He opened a fur goods shop in the late 1780s in New York City. After the fur trade business, he got involved with real estate in New York City. At the time of his death in 1848, his net worth of USD$20 million dollars (today is worth 116 billion) made him the first multi-millionaire in the USA.
Using $28,000 dollars as capital, the Ford Motor Company was born in 1903. Among Henry Ford’s accomplishments; he introduced in 1914 the “wage motive”, giving five dollars per day to workers (equivalent to $111.00 per day in today’s economy) at his plant, introduced the Model T in 1908. The Ford legacy continues, today, Ford has a net worth of USD$ 188 billion.
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Reaching back through the sands of time, you have Marcus Licinius Crassus. His fame is not only being recognized as one of the richest men of all time, but he is also a Roman general and a politician. As general he defeated slaves, led by Spartacus, in a revolt.
This is one instance wherein someone profited from the woes of others. The man was ruthless. You might say he was in the real estate business. He bought homes and other types of property from victims of his boss Sulla’s plunder of Rome for almost nothing. Seen as the richest Roman in today’s value is worth USD$ 169 billion.
Basil II or Basil the Bulgarslayer) had been a Byzantine emperor who reigned from 976 to 1025 AD. As emperor of the Macedonian dynasty, he represented the height of the Middle Byzantine Empire. He increased the territories of the empire by the annexation of Bulgaria. This made the empire one of the largest and strongest in five centuries.
In today’s equivalent, Basil II was worth USD$ 169 billion. Because he did not have children, within one hundred years, the Byzantine Empire did not survive.
Frederich Weyerhäuser emigrated to the United States of America at the age of eighteen from Germany. He was born on November 21, 1834 in Nieder-Saulheim, Rheinhessen. He worked at a sawmill in Rock Island, Illinois. He is recognized as a timber tycoon and founded the Weyerhäuser Company.
His net worth reached, in today’s equivalent, which would be $77 billion dollars. He bought 900,000 acres in 1900 of prime Pacific Northwest timberland. The company continues to be the biggest seller of timber.
A name from across the Atlantic is Alan Rufus; some said was a companion of William the Conqueror during the Norman invasion of Britain. For his participation and allegiance to the realm, he received 250,000 acres worth of land.
The property he received included the areas of Yorkshire, Norfolk, Northhamptonshire, London, and Suffolk. When he died in 1093, all that property was worth 11,000 British pounds, which in today’s equivalent is 81 billion pounds (163 billion US dollars).