A Glimpse Into the Fortunes of the Richest American Families
Whether we strive to be like them or just plain envy them, Americans are fascinated with the wealthy. We love learning more about how much the wealthy have, where they live and what they spend their money on.
We’re even more fascinated with families that have earned their fortune the old fashioned way; through hard work and perseverance. This list covers some of the richest families in America, but you’re not going to see a celebrity or actor on this list. This list is full of regular people who built their fortune in other ways.
The Walton Family
If you haven’t heard of the Walton family, you’ve certainly heard of their brand. This family is the head of the Walmart empire. Founded by Samuel Moore Walton in 1962 in Arkansas, Walmart started off in rural areas in order to avoid competition with larger (at the time) retail stores like Kmart and Sears.
The Walton Family Today
While Sam Walton passed away in 1992, his stores and fortune have lived on through his family. Today, you can find Walmart stores, Walmart Supercenters and Sam’s Club warehouses in just about every state in America. Walmart is also a competitive player in the online sphere.
The Koch Family
The far reaching and influential Koch family empire started in 1940 when Fred Koch founded the Wood River Oil and Refining Company. It would later be renamed Koch Industries in 1968, a year after Fred Koch passed away.
The Koch Family Today
Today, Koch Industries is one of the largest privately held companies in America (second only to another privately owned company on this list). Businesses owned by the Koch family manufacture and distribute chemicals, petroleum, paper, fertilizers, minerals and much more.
The Mars Family
The Mars family made their billions with candy. Yup, you read that right! Like a real-life Willy Wonka, the Mars family has been head of the Mars Inc. empire for over 100 years. Franklin Clarence Mars started making candy at the age of 19 when his mother taught him how to hand- dip chocolate.
The Mars Family Today
Today, Mars Inc. is still a family-run business and is well-known for its secrecy when it comes to how exactly they manufacture their confectionary items. The company was passed down from Franklin Clarence Mars to son Forrest Edward Mars Sr., who passed the company down to his children.
The Cargill-MacMillan Family
Founded in 1865 by William Cargill, Cargill, Incorporated is an agricultural giant. The mission of the company has remained the same since the company’s inception – to help farmers prosper and to connect consumers to the products they want.
View this post on Instagram
Lessons from a legend: this morning I interviewed former Cargill CEO Whitney MacMillan, who shared some of his wisdom with employees at the Office Center. This included reading a letter on ethics he sent to all employees in 1975. That letter, in which Whitney distilled the company’s moral ethics down to a single piece of paper, eventually became the Guiding Principles we have today. Cargill would not be the company it has become without his leadership. DMac
The Cargill-MacMillan Family Today
Today, Cargill, Incorporated is the largest private company in America. The family still owns about 85 percent of the company and leaves over 75 percent of the net profit to be reinvested in the business the following year, largely avoiding the need for public funding.
The Cox Family
This is another family who started amassing their fortune over a century ago. James M. Cox was a publisher and politician in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cox bought the Dayton News in 1898 and went on to buy the Springfield Daily News in 1903.
The Cox Family Today
The Cox family may have started off small with their publishing company back in 1898, but have grown significantly since. The family now runs Cox Enterprises, which includes Cox Media Group (TV, radio and newspapers) and Cox Communications (cable and broadband).
The Pritzker Family
Unlike some of the other families on this list, the Pritzkers made their fortune by making a smart investment and not by creating their own company. In 1957, Jay Pritzker tapped into his savvy entrepreneurial side when he purchased Hyatt House from Hyatt Robert von Dehn and Jack Dyer Crouch.
The Pritzker Family Today
Though the Prizkers have reigned over the hotel industry for decades, members of this family have also gone into politics. Penny Pritzker was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2013 to 2017 and J.B. Pritzker was the co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The Johnson Family
The Johnson family owns Fidelity, one of the largest mutual fund companies operating today. Started in 1946 by Edward C Johnson II, Fidelity was initially known as Fidelity Management & Research. The company later created Fidelity International Limited in order to branch out to international markets.
The Johnson Family Today
Fidelity has always been one step ahead of its competitors in the finance game. The company was an early adopter of using technology to better serve their customers. The company purchased its first computer way back in 1965, decades before computers reached the mainstream.
The Hearst Family
William Randolph Hearst started the San Francisco Examiner in 1887 at the age of 24. He quickly grew his media empire by amassing several newspaper companies and eventually expanded to television and radio. Hearst also went on to become a Congressman in New York in 1902.
The Hearst Family Today
Today, Hearst Corp is a media giant running its formidable operations out of one of the greatest landmarks in New York City – Hearst Tower. Some of the publications owned by Hearst are Esquire, Cosmopolitan and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Hunt Family
Back in 1930, H.L. Hunt acquired a discovery well on the East Texas oil field and founded the Hunt Oil Company four years later. The Hunt Oil Company went on to found the first commercial oil well in Alabama in 1944. In the ‘60s, the company expanded into offshore oil drilling.
The Hunt Family Today
Over the years, H.L. Hunt went on to father 15 children who eventually made quite a name for themselves. Today, his children oversee the different subsidiaries of the Hunt Oil fortune. Son Ray Lee Hunt (pictured below) is in charge of Hunt Oil while another son, William Herbert Hunt, oversees the oil and gas firm Petro-Hunt.
The Sackler Family
If you’ve heard of the narcotic OxyContin, then you’ve heard of how this family made its mark. In 1952, brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler purchased drug manufacturer, Purdue Pharma from its founders, John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham.
The Sackler Family Today
OxyContin has made the Sackler family rich, but the narcotic is not without its controversies. By the early 2000s, OxyContin became one of the highest-selling pain relievers on the market, but it’s also one of the most abused medications by consumers.
The Mellon Family
In the mid-1800s, entrepreneur Thomas Mellon (pictured below) began setting his family up for financial abundance, later to become known as one of the most influential industrialists of his time. Although he was raised on a farm, Mellon quickly rejected this way of living in favor of an education.
The Mellon Family Today
Today, the business is known as Mellon Financial. Mellon passed his work and fortune onto his sons, all of whom took on various business ventures at young ages to become some of the wealthiest men in U.S. history.
The Hilton Family
We're all familiar with the Hilton Hotels, but how have they grown to be so successful over the years? The family's wealth began with Conrad Hilton in 1870. Picking up on business tactics in his father's grocery store, Conrad went on to college and later became involved with politics.
The Hilton Family Today
Over the years, Conrad bought hotels all over the world and began turning them into extravagant destinations. (One hotel in South Africa asks $8000 a night). Conrad passed away in 1979 and passed his wealth onto his children, Nicky, Barron (pictured), and Eric who continue to reign over the hotel business.
The Busch Family
Talk about resilient. The Busch family, makers of well-known adult beverages like Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck’s, started all the way back in 1876. Adolphus Busch and his father-in-law Eberhard Anheuser co-founded what is today known as Anheuser-Busch.
The Busch Family Today
The company has been passed down the generations, Busch to Busch, since the 19th century. Unfortunately, the Busch family has lost countless shares of the company over the years to failed marriages and not-so-airtight prenuptial agreements.
The Duncan Family
Life wasn’t always full of wealth and prosperity for Dan Duncan. The founder of Enterprise Products Partners, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the U.S., came from a poor family of farmers in rural Shelby County Texas.
The Duncan Family Today
Dan Duncan died in 2010 with an estimated net worth of nearly $10 billion, which was held in a trust for his wife and four children. Since then, the family’s fortune has grown tremendously (more than doubling) thanks in part to dividend payouts.
The Lauder Family
Let’s take it back to 1946 when Estée Lauder first got her start. Lauder created her now famous skincare line with her husband Joseph. The line started with just four products – a cleansing oil, lotion, all-purpose cream and cream pack – with the hopes of helping women look and feel beautiful.
The Lauder Family Today
Lauder passed away in 2004, but the company that she and her husband built still has multiple family members at the helm. Both the Lauders’ children and grandchildren have continued to be heavily invested in the operations of the company.