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The Richest Men in the World., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889, Supplement
The Richest Men in the World.
An interesting article appears in e recent issue of the ‘Revue dcs Deux Mondcs’ on “The Richest Men in the World.” The writer is M. De Varigcy, who has been doing a series of papers on similar subjects for the popular ‘ International Magazine’ and won a right to be considered an authority on Croesuses generally. Ho declares j There are in the world about 700 people, each of whom possesses a capital equivalent to not leas than a million sterling. Of these favored individuals Great Britain contains 200, the United States 100, France 75, and all other countries smaller number# or none. The richest man of all is the American “railroad king,” Mr Jay Gould, who began life as the son of a small New York farmer, and who owes his huge fortune entirely to his own exertions and abilities. His capital, when he left homo at the age of twelve, consisted of a suit of clothes and half a dollar. It is now said to be no less than300,000,000d01,0rL60,000,000 sterling; and his annual income is about L 2,800,000, or nearly L 8,009 a day. One of his exploits, carried out with Mr James Fisk, in 1860, was to create a “ corner ” in gold in New York, and in little more than a week the firm cleared L 2,200,000, Next to Mr Jay Gould in wealth stands another American, Mr J. W. Mackay, who enjoys a capital of L 50,000,000 and an income of L 2,500,000. The English representative of the house of Rothschild comes third, with a capital of L 40,000,000. After these Croesuses come, according to those who profess to know— Mr Astor £38,000,000 Mr Vanderbilt 25,000,000 Mr J. B. Jones ... 20,000,000 Duke of Westminster .. 16,000,000 Mr Russell Sage ... 12,000,000 Duke of Sutherland ... 6,000,000 Mr J. Gordon Bennett... 6,000,000 Duke of Northumberland 5,000,000 Marqu’s of Bute ... 4.000,000 Mr A, Belmont .. 4,000,000 Mr R. Garrett 4,000,000 Mr P. Morgan... .. 3,000,000 Mr Sidney Dillon ... 2.000,000 Mr Cyrus Field ... 2,000,000 But it is tolerably obvious that a good many millionaires, such for example as at least two members of the House of Rothschild, Herr Bleichroder, the Baroness BurdettCoutts, and a dozen or more Englishmen are omitted from the list. Nor can the figures in any case be accepted as absolutely accurate; for, probably, no millionaire, no matter how systematically he may keep his accounts, can tell at any given moment what he is worth; and, if this be so, certainly no one else can. Some curious calculations have been mads relative to Mr Jay Gould’s alleged fortune of L 60,000,000. If it were changed into Ld-notes and the notes were fastened end to end, the strip of paper would be long enough to reach, unbroken, from London to Moscow; or, if the notes were sewn together, they would form a sheet large enough to cover an area half a mile long and over a quarter of a mile wide. If, again, the fortune were changed into sovereigns, the coins, piled singly one upon another, would reach to a height of nearly seventy-three miles. The weight of the column of sovereigns would be about 570 tons, or sufficient load for fifty-seven strong railway trucks, or for an army of 11,400 powerful porters, each carrying 1121b, If, once more, the fortune were changed into penny postage stamps of the current issue, the stamps placed end to end would cover a distance of about 1,020,000 miles, or four times from the earth to the moon and back again. If the fortune were changed into penny pieces, and if ten men, each counting by night and day at the rate of 100 per minute, were set to count the coins, the operation would lash more than twenty-seven years. The owner is rich enough to be able to give a shilling to every person at present alive in the world; but if all the existing members of the human race passed before Mr Gould, and if, at the rate of ten men per minute, each person were presented with a shilling by the millionaire, the benevolent giver would have to get his life lengthened by about 230 years to enable him to complete the business, even if he worked day and night without ceasing and took no rest on Sundays. These calculations assist us in realising what the sum of L 00,000,000 means. It is enough to pay off the united public debts of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Servia, and all the Central American Republics; it produces a revenue equal to that of the whole kingdom of Wurtemburg, it would supply 3,000 persons each with an income of LI,OOO a year for ever, if invested, as it might be, at 5 per cent.
To the pertinent and natural question: Does a millionaire enjoy life in proportion to the magnitude of his wealth ? Mr Vanderbilt has supplied an answer, which, although it may not be altogether ingenuous, is at lewt interesting. “Such wealth as mine,” he said to a friend, “is too heavy a burden for any man to bear. The weight of it is crushing me and killing me. I have no pleasure in it and no use for it, In what respect am I really better off than my neighbor who has only half a million dollars (1/100,000) ? He commands more readily than I can all the true happiness of life; his house is as comfortable as mine ; he is healthier than I, because he has less anxiety ; he will probably live longer than I shall; and, above all, he can trust his friends.” It is melancholy that a man possessed of 25,000,000 sterling should speak in this way. Vet, after all, nothing is much easier than for Mr Vanderbilt to get rid of as much of his wealth as may appear to him to bo superfluous. Almost anyone would accept a slice of the big cake, even at the risk of burdening himself with a few new anxieties. That Mr Vanderbilt still retains his millions makes one inclined to doubt the genuineness of his jeremiads over his exceeding riches. The millionaire, in tho sense in which we understand the term, is, comparatively speaking, a very modern creation. It has been doubted whether there were in England in the 17th cencury any private individuals who possessed a capital equal to a million sterling. In the last century such persons undoubtedly existed, but they were very few in number. Even in the first half of the present century they were rare in England, France, and America, and almost unknown elsewhere. Dumas’s conception of the Count of Monte Christo was meant to pourtray a man possessed of wealth beyond the dreams of the avarice of the times ; yet Monte Christo, judged by modern standards, was not a character whose fortune would place him. in the first or even the second rank of very rich men. Mr Jay Gould could, to use the favorite expression of a nouveau riche, buy him up over and over again. Even Mr Cyrus Field could, probably, make him feel envious; for, translated into francs, Mr Field’s reputed fortune is 50,000,000—a sum which, to the Frenchman of the elder Dumas’s day, was about as much as was comprehensible.
The Richest Men in the World., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889, Supplement
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