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The greatest financier ever – John Pierpont Morgan

March 1, 2012

 

 

 

J. P Morgan had a father who was a leading banker and a millionaire. JP had a classic education in the United States and Europe and was thoroughly prepared for his role as principal banker for the railroad, oil and steel interests. He began his career by selling defective rifles to the Union army during the army during the war and, by 1869, was lending to and controlling a number of small railways. In 1879, he organized a syndicate to buy Vanderbilt’s New Yorkcentral stock and emerged as the dominant US banker.

Morgan became so central to money lending that the federal government had to borrow $50 million from him in 1894 to buy foreign gold.

By 1901, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Morgan were the three largest interests in the steel industry. Rockefeller controlled the Mesabi iron range and offered Carnegie $100 million for his company but the deal failed when Carnegie called for cash.

Morgan loomed larger than life itself. He was the center of all financial transactions and dominated each. He was never challenged more than once and rarely bested. Even the gods favored him; one of his companies owned the titanic, and a stateroom had been set aside for Morgan’s personal use. He had been scheduled to make the maiden voyage in 1912 but decided to stay in Europe instead.

His house on Madison Avenue was the first electrically lit private residence New York. His interest in the new technology was a result of his financing Thomas Edison’s Edison Electric Illuminating Company in 1878.

Morgan was a notable collector of books, pictures, and other art objects, many loaned or given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (of which he was president and was a major force in its establishment), and many housed in his London house and in his private library on 36th Street, near Madison Avenue in New York City. His son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. made the Pierpont Morgan Library a public institution in 1924 as a memorial to his father and kept Belle da Costa Greene, his father’s private librarian, as its first director. Morgan was painted by many artists including the Peruvian Carlos Baca-Flor and the Swiss-born American Adolfo Müller-Ury, who also painted a double portrait of Morgan with his favorite grandchild Mabel Satterlee that for some years stood on an easel in the Satterlee mansion but has now disappeared.

By the turn of the century JP Morgan had become one of America’s most important collectors of gems and had assembled the most important gem collection in theU.S.as well as of American gemstones (over 1000 pieces). Tiffany & Co. assembled his first collection under their “chief gemologist” George Frederick Kunz. The collection was exhibited at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889. The exhibit won two golden awards and drew the attention of important scholars, lapidaries and the general public.

George Frederick Kunz then continued to build a second, even finer, collection which was exhibited in Paris in 1900. Collections have been donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New-York In 1911 Kunz named a newly found gem after his biggest customer: morganite.

Morgan was a benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Groton School, Harvard University (especially its medical school), Trinity College, the Lying-in-Hospital of the City of New York, and the New-York trade schools.

Morgan was also a patron to photographer Edward S. Curtis, offering Curtis $75,000 in 1906, for a series on the Native Americans. Curtis eventually published a 20-volume work entitled “The North American Indian.” Curtis went on to produce a motion picture In The Land Of The head Hunters (1914), which was later restored in 1974 and re-released as In The Land Of The War Canoes. Curtis was also famous for a 1911 Magic Lantern slide show The Indian Picture Opera which used his photos and original musical compositions by composer Henry F. Gilbert.

He often had a tremendous physical effect on people; one man said that a visit from Morgan left him feeling “as if a gale had blown through the house”. Morgan exuded such an aura of invincibility that the world was shocked at his passing in 1913.

He left an estate mostly art treasures – valued at $77.5 million. This prompted the admiring Rockefeller to come out behind his own $500 million pile and comment: “And to think he wasn’t even a rich man!” He was a man’s man and they don’t come any bigger than JP Morgan.

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From → Legends

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