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Intergenerational Wealth: Examining the Roosevelt Family Fortune

renew:2024-06-29 18:18:24read:118

The Roosevelt Family Fortune: A Tale of Two Branches

The Roosevelt family, a name synonymous with American politics and history, boasts a legacy intertwined with wealth and influence. However, the question of "how did the roosevelts make their money" requires a nuanced answer, as the family's fortune branched out from two distinct lineages: the Oyster Bay Roosevelts (Theodore's lineage) and the Hyde Park Roosevelts (Franklin's lineage).

The Oyster Bay Roosevelts: Inheritance and Entrepreneurship

Theodore Roosevelt's branch, the Oyster Bay Roosevelts, built their wealth on a foundation of inherited wealth and entrepreneurial ventures. Their fortune originated in the 17th century with the arrival of Claes Martenszen van Rosenvelt to New Amsterdam. Engaging in land speculation and trade, the early Roosevelts established a foothold in the city's burgeoning economy. Through shrewd investments in real estate, particularly in Manhattan, their wealth steadily grew over generations.

By the time Theodore Roosevelt's father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., inherited the family fortune, it comprised substantial real estate holdings, lucrative investments in banking and shipping, and an ownership stake in a plate-glass importing business. Roosevelt Sr. further diversified the family's portfolio, venturing into coal and railroads, solidifying their position as prominent figures in New York's financial elite.

While Theodore Roosevelt himself did not inherit the entirety of the family fortune, he benefited from a comfortable upbringing and a substantial trust fund. Although he pursued a career in public service, Roosevelt’s family wealth afforded him the financial security to navigate his political aspirations. His inheritance, combined with the earnings of his wife, Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt, who came from a wealthy family herself, ensured a comfortable lifestyle for their family.

The Hyde Park Roosevelts: An Aristocratic Legacy

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's branch, the Hyde Park Roosevelts, traced their wealth back to a long line of landowning gentry with roots in colonial New York. Their ancestral home, Springwood in Hyde Park, was a testament to their privileged status, representing generations of accumulated landholdings and agricultural prosperity. Unlike the Oyster Bay branch, who actively grew their wealth through mercantile endeavors, the Hyde Park Roosevelts primarily relied on land ownership, tenant farming, and prudent investments.

James Roosevelt, Franklin's father, inherited a considerable fortune, including vast acres of land in Dutchess County and a substantial trust fund. He further augmented the family's wealth through shrewd investments in railroads, banking, and real estate, securing their position among the Hudson Valley aristocracy. While James Roosevelt was not as actively involved in business as his Oyster Bay counterparts, he ensured the preservation and growth of the Hyde Park Roosevelts' financial standing.

Franklin Roosevelt grew up in an environment of privilege and affluence. He inherited a trust fund that provided him with a steady income, even before entering politics. His marriage to Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin who also hailed from a wealthy and influential family, further solidified his social and financial standing. This inherited wealth afforded Franklin the freedom to pursue a career in public service, unburdened by financial concerns.

A Common Thread: Legacy and Influence


Though the two branches of the Roosevelt family pursued different paths to wealth accumulation, they shared a common thread. Both branches understood the power and influence that came with wealth, leveraging their financial resources to shape their destinies and leave an indelible mark on American history. While how did the roosevelts make their money differs between the branches, their astute management of inherited wealth and strategic investments ensured their continued prosperity. Their stories offer a glimpse into the complex interplay between family fortune, personal ambition, and the pursuit of power in American society.

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