Monday, May 30, 2011

225. The First American Millionaire and China

Before Bill Gates (born 1955 , Donald Trump (born in 1946), the Rockefellers , Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) and Henry Ford (1863-1947)there was a gentleman, John Jacob Astor (1763-1848). Astor was the first American millionaire. I write this essay because he made himself the first millionaire based on the profits he earned from the China Trade initiated by the founders of the United States.

John came into the United States in 1784, the year when the founders of this country sent the first American trade ship, the Empress of China to Canton, China. Sixteen years later, the history saw Astor sent his first ship to China. He loaded his ship with 30,573 sealskins, and other animal skins, and North American ginseng. From 1800 on, Astor expanded his trade with China greatly. Three years later, he focused his attention on the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest. He established the American Fur Company. His fleet of ships would collect the furs and sell them in China. By 1820, he became a leader of American trade with China.

How much money he made from the China trade, we don't know. However, we know that he owned one-fifteenth of all personal wealth of the entire United States. Between 1803 and 1806, he invested $300,000 of his profits from China in Manhattan real estate. The land he bought would "pour millions into the coffers his descendants." In addition, he also exerted great influence on the relations between China and the United States. President Thomas Jefferson even gave green lights for Astor to send the latter’s commercial ship to China in a time when no ships were allowed to leave the American coast.

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