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J. Paul Getty Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

J. PAUL GETTY
Born: December 15, 1892 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died: June 6, 1976 in Sutton Place, Guildford, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Biography | show moreshow less
When JEAN PAUL GETTY (1892-1976) was born in 1892, his father, George F. Getty, had a net worth $150,000; by January 1917, the elder Getty had accumulated $1,621,590.14. The previous year, the Gettys had incorporated the Getty Oil Company and J. Paul made his first million dollars from speculating in Oklahoma oil leases with money lent to him by his father. When George F. Getty died in May 1930, less than three years before this letter was written, he left his son only $500,000 of his estate, valued at more than $10 million. Getty's mother, SARAH GETTY, controlled two thirds of George F. Getty, Inc., which she sold to her son before the year was out (Christmas 1933) for $4.5 million. J. Paul, who had earlier secured the use of his mother's larger portion to buy stock (he controlled Pacific Western Oil Corporation by 1932), paid for the corporation in notes, not cash. Over the next few years, Getty acquired more than 100 companies, accumulating a personal fortune of more than $1 billion by 1976. It is interesting that Getty is writing this letter while on a vacation. Although he "retired" at age 24 after making his first million, Getty quickly shunned the "life of leisure" to return to the excitement of oil prospecting in 1918. Although he became one of the world's richest men, Getty had a legendary reputation for miserliness. Partly because of the frugal lifestyle he had lived when his father gave him only a small living allowance. Getty indulged in few luxuries and only gave up living in inexpensive hotel suites at an advanced age. However, he shared his multimillion dollar collection of art and antiquities with the public by establishing the J. Paul Getty Museum-the largest endowment granted to an art museum at that time.
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