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Q: statistics on millionaires, late 1800s ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: statistics on millionaires, late 1800s
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: narrative-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 24 Nov 2003 12:11 PST
Expires: 24 Dec 2003 12:11 PST
Question ID: 280120
When did U.S. law first allow for the establishment of corporations?
How many millionaires were there in the U.S. that year? How many
millionaires were there in 1890?

Request for Question Clarification by juggler-ga on 24 Nov 2003 16:55 PST
I've located an estimate of the number of millionaires in the U.S. in
1900.  I realized that that's a few years after 1890, but it's close. 
Would you accept that along with information about when corporations
were first established in America?

Request for Question Clarification by juggler-ga on 24 Nov 2003 16:56 PST
Sorry for that typo:
"I realize that..."
Subject: Re: statistics on millionaires, late 1800s
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 25 Nov 2003 13:42 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The power to grant charters and articles of incorporation originally
reposed in the Crown and Parliament, and arrived in the New World with
the colonists. The Virginia Company was a royally chartered stock
company. New Hampshire was an incorporated government by act of
Parliament. The first indigenous American corporation was Harvard
College. When the colonies separated from Britain, the power to issue
articles of incorporation was assumed by the States, and was
established in their constitutions, the Constitution of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania being an example. Therefore, the law of
incorporation existed prior to the Declaration of Independence and the
formation of the United States.

The first person in America who could be called a millionaire might
have been Jabez Bacon, a store owner and land speculator in Woodbury,
Connecticut, circa 1750. This evaluation seems to be based on a net
worth that included estimates of the value of land in the Bacon land
company. Probably a better case for status as a cash millionaire can
be made for Robert Morris of Philadelphia, a merchant and banker, best
known as the "financier of the Revolution." Morris arranged for credit
that paid for the Revolution, and contributed from his personal
fortune to support the revolutionary cause. He was a signer of The
Declaration, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, and
served in Congress. However, he died a pauper, three million dollars
in debt.

The three men usually named as the first millionaires are Stephen
Girard, a French immigrant who settled in Philadelphia and founded a
shipping and banking empire, Thomas Perkins, a Bostonian, and John
Jacob Astor, a German immigrant who made millions in import-export and
finance, all of them involved in the China Trade.

Thus, early in the 19th Century there were barely a handful of men who
could be called millionaires in the United States.

By 1890, there were about 4000 millionaires in the United States,
almost half of them living in the New York area.

Patent for Providence Plantations - March 14, 1643

"And whereas divers well affected and industrious English Inhabitants,
of the Towns of Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport in the tract
aforesaid, have adventured to make a nearer neighborhood and Society
with the great Body of the Narragansets, which may in time by the
blessing of God upon their Endeavours, lay a sure foundation of
Happiness to all America. And have also purchased, and are purchasing
of and amongst the said Natives, some other Places, which may be
convenient both for Plantations, and also for building of Ships Supply
of Pipe Staves and other Merchandize. And whereas the said English,
have represented their Desire to the said Earl, and Commissioners, to
have their hopeful beginnings approved and confirmed, by granting unto
them a free Charter of Civil Incorporation and Government; that they
may order and govern their Plantation in such a Manner as to maintain
Justice and peace, both among themselves, and towards all Men with
whom they shall have to do. In due Consideration of the said Premises,
the said Robert Earl of Warwick, Governor in Chief, and Lord High
Admiral of the said Plantations, and the greater Number of the said
Commissioners, whose Names and Seals are here under-written and
subjoined, out of a Desire to encour age the good Beginnings of the
said Planters, Do, by the Authority of the aforesaid Ordinance of the
Lords and Commons, give, grant' and confirm, to the aforesaid
Inhabitants of the Towns of Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport, a
free and absolute Charter of Incorporation, to be known by the Name of
the Incorporation of Providence Plantations, in the Narraganset-Bay,
in New-England."

Constitution of Pennsylvania - September 28, 1776

"SECT. 9. The members of the house of representatives shall be chosen
annually by ballot, by the freemen of the commonwealth, on the second
Tuesday in October forever, (except this present year,) and shall meet
on the fourth Monday of the same month, and shall be stiled, The
general assembly of the representatives of the freemen of
Pennsylvania, and shall have power to choose their speaker... grant
charters of incorporation; constitute towns, boroughs, cities, and
counties; and shall have all other powers necessary for the
legislature of a free state or commonwealth: But they shall have no
power to add to, alter, abolish, or infringe any part of this

Early American Land Companies: Their Influence on Corporate Development


"In the beginning, if you wanted to form a corporation you needed a
state charter and had to prove it was in the public interest,
convenience and necessity. During the entire colonial period only
about a half-dozen business corporations were chartered; between the
end of the Revolution and 1795 this rose to about a 150. Jefferson to
the end opposed liberal grants of corporate charters and argued that
states should be allowed to intervene in corporate matters or take
back a charter if necessary."

The Development of Corporations and Corporate Law in America

"In colonial times, America used Britainís corporate law, which is
significantly different than today.  A corporation was considered an
extension of the state, and it could only be created by the state. 
There was no such thing as a "private" corporation or a "public"
corporation.  The concept of limited liability had not been adopted,
and many of the earliest corporations were granted monopoly
 In the first decades of the United States of America, business
corporations expanded.  America wanted to restore commerce, and this
required infrastructure.  Many corporations were chartered to build
transportation facilities and establish bank and insurance facilities.
 Starting in the 1810s, manufacturing corporations flourished.  New
York was the first state to institute limited liability, and other
states followed over the next two decades.  In the U.S. Supreme
Court's Dartmouth College decision, private corporations, which exist
to benefit shareholders, were differentiated from public corporations,
which exist only for public purposes.  The Court also held that after
granting a corporate charter, a legislature could no longer repeal or
revise it."

History of Tea : USA

"The first three American millionaires, Thomas Handasyd
Perkins(1764-1854) of Boston, Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, and
*John Jacob Astor <>
of New York, all made their fortunes in the China trade. America began
direct trade with China soon after the Revolution was over in 1789."
"The new American ships established sailing records that still stand
for speed and distance. John Jacob Astor began his tea trading in
1800. He required a minimum profit on each venture of 50% and often
made 100%. Stephen Girard of Philadelphia was known as the "gentle tea
merchant". His critical loans to the young (and still weak) American
government enabled the nation to re-arm for the War of 1812. The
orphanage founded by him still perpetuates his good name. Thomas
Perkins was from one of Boston's oldest sailing families. The Chinese
trust in him as a gentleman of his word enabled him to conduct
enormous transactions half way around the world without a single
written contract. "

Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips,1413,36%257E27%257E604262%257E,00.html

"Self-made men were the best-known standard-bearers of wealth. A
humble immigrant could become the richest man in America, because two
did - French-born Stephen Girard, who came to Philadelphia as a
merchant ship officer, and Astor, son of a poor German butcher.

The egalitarian-minded working classes of New York and Philadelphia,
as we will see, quickly rallied against the Federalist merchants and
financiers of the 1790s, with their predilection for British manners
and contempt for the common man. Neither of these self-made
businessmen had such vulnerabilities: Girard, besides being a
supporter of the antiaristocratic French Revolution, was ugly; Astor
was uncouth, with relatively little social pretense. Most of the
Frenchman's clerks dressed better than he did, and Astor and his son
handled and "beat" their own furs well into their second decade of
business. Neither put on aristocratic airs or offended republican

New York

"1890 - Nearly half the millionaires in America -- 1,800 in all --
have flocked to the city and its suburbs, bringing with them a scale
of extravagance startling even by the standards of New York. Along
Fifth Avenue opulent mansions shoot up."

AMERICA 1865-1920

"Before the Civil War there had been few millionaires in America, by
1892 there were more than 4,000 of them.  Some of the most prominent
tycoons had emerged from humble origins and this was enough to create
the belief that anyone could _emulate_ (follow) their rags to riches
story.  Andrew Carnegie had worked as a bobbin boy in a Pittsburgh
cotton mill and John D. Rockefeller was the son of a traveling
salesman.  A few millionaires, in other words, were in fact what
nearly all claimed to be: "self-made men.""

Town of Woodbury
Walking Tour of Woodbury

"Across the street is the colonial home of Jabez Bacon built circa
1763. The adjacent building served as his store and was built circa
1750. Unconfirmed reports put Jabez as the first millionaire in

Morris, Robert, 1734-1806, American merchant

"American merchant, known as the "financier of the American
Revolution," and signer of the Declaration of Independence, b.
Liverpool, England. Morris emigrated to America in 1747 and was soon
apprenticed to the merchant Charles Willing in Philadelphia. He showed
an unusual aptitude for business and by 1754 became a partner in the
firm with the son, Thomas Willing, after the elder Willing?s death."
"Although Morris's vast mercantile interests profited greatly from his
congressional activities, both he and his firm were acquitted by
Congress of charges of fraud. After leaving Congress, Morris expanded
his mercantile and investment operations independently of Willing and
by 1781 was almost universally acknowledged as the most prominent
merchant in America."

Robert Morris by Frank Gaylord Cook
The Atlantic monthly. / Volume 66, Issue 397 November 1890

Stephen Girard  - Merchant, Mariner, Banker, Philanthropist, Humanitarian, Patriot

"Stephen Girard came to America by way of Philadelphia in 1776 through
circumstance rather than by purpose. He had been to New York on
earlier voyages, but it was not until his arrival in Philadelphia that
Girard made America his permanent home. He went on to be the
wealthiest citizen and, in several ways, he contributed much to the
early growth of the new nation he adopted. His influence was evident
in shipping, construction, banking, and even in politics, later into
coal mining and railroads. In a more benign display of control, Girard
gained great civic regard with his attention to the human tragedies
that took a toll in the early years of the Republic. His generosity
was exhibited in many charitable works, the most notable of which
[Girard College] thrives today."

Stephen Girard Collection

"When he died in 1831, Stephen Girard left the bulk of his estate to
set up Girard College, a school for orphaned boys that opened in

Stephen Girard

"Mr. Girard was the financial mainstay of the government, he continued
to make it large advances, down to the establishment, in 1816, of the
second United States bank, of which he became a director, and whose
policy he influenced greatly. In 1814, when the government could
obtain only $20,000 instead of the $5,000,000 that it wished, he
promptly furnished the entire amount, and in the same year, when the
interest on the public debt could not be paid, he wrote to the
secretary of the treasury, offering to wait for his money, or to
receive it in treasury notes. At his death his property amounted to
about $9,000,000, the bulk of which he bequeathed for charitable

Girard College and its Founder
The North American review. / Volume 100, Issue 206 January 1865

Thomas Handasyd Perkins

Memoir of Thomas Handasyd Perkins 
The North American review.  Volume 83, Issue 172 July 1856

"He was born in Boston in 1764. His father was a merchant, and his
mother, who survived her husband for thirty-six years, continued his
business with eminent skill, prudence, and success, at the same time
discharging all a mother?s duties for her numerous family, and filling
a large and honored place in connection with the charitable
associations of her native town.
His husiness and that of the firm of J. & T. H. Perkins, formed after
the St. Domingo insurrection in 1792, had thenceforward China and the
northwest coast of America for their most important and lucrative
directions; and the brothers eventually established a house at Canton.
But their operations extended also to almost every quarter of the
world then open to American commerce."

John Jacob Astor

Astor and the Capitalists of New-York
Continental monthly: devoted to literature and national policy. Volume
2, Issue 2 August 1862

"We may get the better idea of the Astor estate by a comparative view.
Thus, a man worth one hundred thousand dollars is a rich man; a man
worth five hundred thousand dollars is a very rich man; a millionaire
is still more the ideal of wealth. Mr. Astor, then, is, if rightly
estimated, equal to twenty-five millionaires, or two hundred and fifty
rich men of the class first mentioned. In the seven hundred thousand
inhabitants of New-York, there are not more than two hundred men worth
one hundred thousand dollars; not more than twenty- five of the
second; not more than ten of the last. Approaching the
assessment-roll, we may estimate the Astor estate at one thirtieth of
the entire city."




Clarification of Answer by hlabadie-ga on 25 Nov 2003 13:58 PST
I noticed belatedly that the first two Search links have incorrect
syntaz. They should be:


narrative-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for the wonderful information -- it's greatly appreciated!


Subject: Re: statistics on millionaires, late 1800s
From: hlabadie-ga on 24 Nov 2003 18:10 PST
In 1890, almost half (1800) the millionaires in America lived in or
around New York City. In 1892, there were about 4000 millionaires in

Jabez Bacon of Connecticut is usually called the first American
millionaire in the 18th Century.

Subject: Re: statistics on millionaires, late 1800s
From: hlabadie-ga on 01 Dec 2003 09:38 PST
Thank you for the favorable rating.


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