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Great Fortunes of the Gilded Age

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  • Hugh Rockoff

Abstract

This paper explores the origins of the great fortunes of the Gilded Age. It relies mainly on two lists of millionaires published in 1892 and 1902, similar to the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans. Manufacturing, as might be expected, was the most important source of Gilded Age fortunes. Many of the millionaires, moreover, won their fortunes by exploiting the latest technology: Alfred D. Chandler's "continuous-flow production." A more surprising finding is that wholesale and retail trade, real estate, and finance together produced more millionaires than manufacturing. Real estate and finance, moreover, were by far the most important secondary and tertiary sources of Gilded Age fortunes: entrepreneurs started in many sectors, but then expanded their fortunes mainly through investments in real estate and financial assets. Inheritance was also important, especially in older regions

Suggested Citation

  • Hugh Rockoff, 2008. "Great Fortunes of the Gilded Age," NBER Working Papers 14555, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14555
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Firth, Michael & He, Xianjie & Rui, Oliver M. & Xiao, Tusheng, 2014. "Paragon or pariah? The consequences of being conspicuously rich in China's new economy," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 430-448.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions

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