John Pierpont Morgan was born in Hartford. A graduate of Boston’s English High School, he went to Europe to learn French and German. He then moved to New York to work as an apprentice banker.
Most Powerful American Banker
Morgan became an excellent banker and investor. With his father Junius, he funneled capital from Europe to the emerging American economy. He invested in the railroad industry and industrial corporations.
Morgan took over floundering organizations and reorganized them to make then profitable again. He was so successful that this process came to be coined “morganization.”
U. S. Bailout
In 1895, President Grover Cleveland contacted Morgan because the Federal Treasury was nearly out of gold. In response, Morgan made an arrangement for Wall Street to supply the U.S. Treasury with $65 million in gold.
In 1901, Morgan bought out Andrew Carnegie and launched the U. S. Steel Corporation. This gave him control of almost half of the nation’s steelmaking capacity.
Also, at this time, the U. S. had no central bank. Morgan served as the country’s unofficial lender of last resort. In 1907, he stopped a major public panic in New York. He rallied fellow bankers to supply liquidity to shore up the endangered economy.
Although hailed a hero, some were appalled that one private citizen held so much power. This led to the establishment of a National Monetary Commission. And eventually to the founding of the Federal Reserve.
Morgan donated millions to charities and public institutions. He gave art collections to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, American Academy in Rome, Wadsworth Atheneum, and Yale University.
Death in Rome
In 1913, Pierpont died in his sleep at the age of 76. Nearly 4000 condolence letters were received overnight at the Grand Hotel in Rome where he died. The body was taken by train to Paris and to New York by boat. A memorial service was held in New York and then he was brought to Hartford by private train.
At the time of his death, his estimated worth was $68.3 million, which today would be $1.39 billion.
Section 11, Lot 1
The Morgan Library and Museum. History. Accessed at http://www.themorgan.org/about/history.asp
Strouse, Jean. Morgan: American Financier. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999.
Wikipedia. J. P. Morgan. Accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._P._Morgan
John Pierpont Morgan, photographed by Edward Steichen in 1903, Public Domain