clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Just How Rich Were Those Whales?

If you thought the Silicon Valley folks were rolling in dough, those guys have nothing on the original Bay Area whales. From railroads to mining to merchants, the historic money makers of yore dominated the west, and had the luxurious spreads to prove it.

This past week we looked at the massive spreads of historic railroad, mining, and merchant whales. Sure their houses were bigger than anything being built today, but just how rich were these guys? Let's break it down in today's dollars.

In a list of the 30 richest Americans of all time:

#17: James G. Fair (1831-1894) – $49.2 Billion
#28: Collis Potter Huntington (1821-1900) – $36 Billion
#30: James C. Flood (1826-1889) – $34 Billion

The other folks weren't struggling too much either:
Mark Hopkins: $450M
Charles Crocker: $7-10B
Leland Stanford: $1.3B
Claus Spreckels: $15B

Looks like the key to making billions in olden-days San Francisco was gutsy real estate investments, and some killer facial hair.
[Whale photos: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

· Merchants Made the Money Back in the Day [Curbed SF]
· Mining Millionaires Collected Mega Mansions [Curbed SF]
· Railroad Whales Were Richer Than You Could Ever Hope to Be [Curbed SF]