10. Jay Gould

richest americans
  • Adjusted wealth*: $78.3 billion
  • Lived: 1836-1892

Gould was a railroad executive, financier and speculator, and considered one of the most unscrupulous businessmen in U.S. history.

Land grabs, stock watering, bribes -- Gould was accused of it all. He once won control of a railroad company from Vanderbilt by issuing false stock, and then bribing New York regulators to approve the sale.

As a result, he had few friends and was largely shunned by New York society, though he died a rich man.

First published June 2, 2014: 6:18 PM ET
Source: *Most nominal wealth estimates are from The Wealthy 100 by Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther, and include wealth at time of death, including bequests. Estimates were then calculated as a fraction of the overall economy at time of death by Sam Williamson of Measuring Worth, and then presented in 2013 dollars based on the size of the current U.S. economy. Estimates for Gates and Buffett provided by Wealth-X.

Biographical information from The Wealthy 100 by Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther, Encyclopedia Britannica, and The Prize by Daniel Yergin.

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