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According to Whos Running America by Thomas R Dye It is widely believed that great personal wealth in America today is inherited and that opportunities to acquire great personal fortunes dried up after the Industrial Revolution Dye 2002 p 50 From a historical point of view I can see why the above statement was accepted as truth For example Anna Richardson Harkness the widow of Stephen Vanderburgh Harkness and the mother of Edward Stephen Harkness Edward was listed in the Forbes list of 1918 largest individual American fortunes of its days Her fortune was certainly as substantial as her sons She was the instigator of the great Commonwealth Foundation which she initially created in the honor of her deceased son Charles William Harkness Her fortune certainly exceeds the one of Mrs Edward Henry Harriman cited as the richest woman of that time Another noticeable wealthy woman is Anna Maria Weightman Walker Penfield the main heiress to the William Weightman fortune of Philadelphia Her wealth was put at 120 million in 1907 and she lived until 1926 The list goes on Dye indicated a larger list from Forbes magazine he states Forbes magazine regularly tracks the richest Americans--the Forbes 400 In 1982 there were only 13 billionaires on the Forbes list the total net worth of the entire list was only 92 billion dollars In 2000 there were 274 billionaires and the total net worth of the list was an astonishing 12 trillion Dye 2002 p 50 After presenting the above evidence Dye concludes that the Marxist critics of American society are wrong He states that all the available evidence points to considerable social mobility among the wealthiest Americans Dye 2002 p 51 According to Edward Wolff a professor of economics at New York University The most common measure used and the most understandable is what share of total wealth is owned by the richest households typically the top 1 percent In the
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