August 20th, 2012 4:50 pm EST
How Does Rockefeller's Wealth Compare To Today's Richest People?
John D. Rockefeller (July 8th, 1839 - May 23rd, 1937) was one of the richest people to ever live.
Rockefeller, who is probably best known for his philanthropy, founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870. According to Wikipedia.org, Standard Oil was "a predominant American integrated oil producing, transporting, refining and marketing company." If you want to read up on the rise and fall of Standard Oil (the company was broken up by the Supreme Court in 1911), you might want to visit the Wikipedia link below:
Source: Wikipedia.org - Standard Oil
At the time of his death in 1937, John D. Rockefeller was worth an estimated $1.4 billion. Rockefeller was the first man in history to ever accumulate more than $1 billion (nominal dollars) in total wealth.
Rockefeller's $1.4 billion net worth in 1937 was 1/65th of the total GDP of the United States. In 2011, the total GDP of the United States was $15.09 trillion. If somebody currently had 1/65th of the total GDP of the United States, they would have a fortune of over $232 billion.
It's also important to note that Rockefeller gave away over $500 million (nominal dollars) over his lifetime, which helped to significantly shrink his net worth.
If we plug Rockefeller's $1.4 billion net worth (as of 1937) into our inflation calculator, we are left with a figure of approximately $22.22 billion.
However, relative to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the United States, Rockefeller's wealth was massive and surpasses the net worths of any of the richest people in the modern era.
Was Rockefeller the richest person ever? That is up for debate, as historians are split are split on the question - the Rothschilds, Musa I and Marcus Licinius Crassus are some of the historical figures that could lay stake to that claim.
Source: Forbes.com - The Richest Americans