5. The Goulds
$77 million (1892) to $5 million
Jason „Jay“ Gould (1836-1892) was very successful railroad developer and one of the richest Americans ever. He had worked with several partners before he started his career in the railroad business in 1859. By 1863, he started working as an appointed manager of the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad. Five years later, Jay Gould became the president of the Erie Railroad. He was a very powerful man, involved in gold speculations in 1869, which led to the Black Friday (September 24). He lost the Erie Railroads, but started again by building the railroads in the West.
Ten years later, he managed to control 10, 000 miles of railways. Jay Gould became rich, and it was estimated that he was worth $77 million. His children inherited the fortune. Unfortunately, George, Jay’s oldest son, had to give away more than a half to the creditors, and only three generations later, his children received only $5 million.