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I generally see the wealth of Rockefeller and Carnegie variously estimated between \$150 billion and $400 billion when translated into modern terms.

However, when only taking inflation into account, as does a biography of Rockefeller I've been reading lately, their wealth comes out at just a few billion in modern terms, nowhere near the scale the fortunes of today's richest. This seems like some sort of miscalculation, since the scale of their philanthropy and expenditures suggests a far greater heap of funds.

The estimates placing their wealth in the hundreds of billions seem to have reached their conclusion by looking at the moguls' net worth as a percentage of GDP at the time, and calculating how much they'd have to have nowadays to achieve the same percentage.

Is this an accurate way of thinking of it? Does the growth of the country's economy in the past 100+ years necessitate doing more than just accounting for inflation when looking at such fortunes?

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    $\begingroup$ What are you trying to understand about their wealth, the influence and status it afforded, the goods and services it would buy, or something else? $\endgroup$
    – BKay
    Jan 13 '16 at 16:30

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