Jump to navigation
The Wealthiest New Yorkers of the Jacksonian Era: A New List By EDWARD PESSEN Wh h o were New York City's wealthiest persons during the Jacksonian period? Having decided some time ago to test empirically the accuracy of the statement made by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 that in Jacksonian America "most of the rich men were formerly poor"11 found it necessary first to find out who in fact the rich men were. For New York City the task was no easy one. There were available of course the contemporary lists of "Wealthy Citizens" and capitalists published by Moses Yale Beach, owner of the New York Sun.2 Yet since Beach's first edition came out only in 1842, rather late in the era, it would hardly do as a listing of the richest New Yorkers for the period of Tocqueville's visit a decade before. Although there are a number of useful printed sources to aid in the construction of an "elite" listing for *The author, professor of history at Staten Island Community College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, wishes to express his appreciation to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, whose award of a University Research Fellowship permitted him to take a leave of absence to do research for this article. He also wishes to acknowledge the assistance in collecting and alphabetizing some of the tax data by two students, Miss June Cressy and Miss Dinah Ruth Pessen, and the cooperation of the staffs of the Long Island Historical Society, the Genealogical Division of the New York Public Library, The New-York Historical Society, and above all the New York City Municipal Archives and Records Center. 1 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. by Phillips Bradley (2 vols., New York, 1945), I, 52. 2 The first edition appeared in 1842. Moses Yale Beach, Wealth and Wealthy Citizens of New York City: Comprising an Alphabetical Arrangement of Persons Estimated to Be Worth $100,000, and Upwards . .. (New York, 1842). The list purported to be comprehensive since in the preface to the third edition, which came out later that year, Beach invited readers to advise him of "any names of wealthy individuals over $100,000 [who] have been omitted" so that he could list them in subsequent editions. By the time Beach retired as publisher of The Sun in 1848 he had put out eleven editions. The twelfth and thirteenth editions, both of which came out in 1855, were published by his son, Moses S. Beach.