J. Ogden Armour (1863-1927)

Jonathan Ogden Armour, of Chicago, Illinois

Associated Houses

Suffield House

Lake Forest

Mellody Farm

Lake Forest

He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father had started a successful meat-packing business in Chicago to which he became sole heir in 1901. Unlike his father, he wasn't a natural businessman, but while at the helm of Armour & Co., he rode the wave that by the end of World War I saw the business turn over, not millions, but a billion dollars a year, making it the most profitable corporation in the country. It was then said that if J.P. Morgan dictated how Americans banked, it was J. Ogden Armour who dictated how Americans ate, and what they paid to eat.

In 1918, he came in at 6th (tied with Ned Harkness and ahead of Henry Ford, William Kissam Vanderbilt and Edward H.R. Green) on the first ever Forbes Rich List with an estimated personal fortune of $125-million. However, whereas Ogden's father had correctly predicted the end of the Civil War - tying down contracts and meat prices which rocket-propelled the company's profits - Ogden incorrectly predicted that the Great War would roll on. Then, he incorrectly predicted that Germany would rise quickly from the ashes, leaving Britain in the dust. Relieved of his duties as President of Armour & Co., but in need of making money fast to maintain his now over-stretched lifestyle, he invested heavily in the wheat market and... lost, again. A long time friend said that he, "lost more than $100 million for the family and the meat-packing firm on the wheat speculation alone, and another $50 million through the Armour Grain Co." He died in 1927 with just $25k and a handful of "worthless" shares (which in fact were worth $3 million).
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 24/07/2019 and last updated on 28/02/2023.