Their names evoke an opulent and grandiose era. That of the Industrial Revolution taking over from the Wild West, of gigantic neo-colonial mansions lining the Hudson River, of New York’s first skyscrapers…And of personalities who, above all, prefigured those who would later be called the great captains of industry and even the founders of GAFAM.
Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, JP Morgan…Embodiments of the American dream, these self-made men from rural America made their fortunes by revolutionizing the daily lives of millions of Americans through mass industry.
But in this world of the HNWI before its time, gentlemanly behavior didn’t matter, as long as you won a total victory over the competition.
110 years before Reagan’s ultra-liberalization, the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies and JP Morgans built American capitalism.
This is their story, made of steam, oil, steel and, above all, dollars!
America, too, has its Old Money
Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie and JP Morgan. What remains of these four names, apart from a few namesake buildings such as the gigantic Fifth Avenue shopping complex, Rockefeller Center, the legendary Carnegie Hall concert hall and a powerful Manhattan investment bank? Monumental portraits of their respective wives adorned with the finest jewelry by Cartier, Tiffany’s and Van Cleef & Arpels?
Today, while JP Morgan Chase remains a household name and Gloria Vanderbilt a perfume brand in disuse, only Rockefeller has entered the vernacular, to the point of replacing the expression “rich as Croesus” with his fortune and his title – stainless in the collective unconscious – of America’s first fortune.
While Ralph Lauren has been fantasizing about an American aristocracy through a preppy aesthetic since the 1970s, and Francis Scott Fitzgerald recounts the vicissitudes of the great families of the 1920s in their very posh suburb of East Eggs, outrageously shocked by a parvenu named Gatsby, these made-in-the-USA dynasties are well and truly rooted in the country.
The most emblematic of these Old Money companies surfaced on the other side of the Atlantic, long after the Gold Rush, on the ruins of the fratricidal Civil War.
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Featured Photo: The Men Who Built America © Amazon Prime Video