Biographies: J.P. Morgan (1837-1913)


Figure 1.--Pierpont and presumably his sisters are seen here about 1843. He loks to be about 5-6 years old. The girls wear dresses with full skiers, the youngest has low-neckline. Pierpont wrs a kind of blouse with a frilly white collar and buttons set off in black velvet, long oants, and white sicks. This is onee of our earliest photographic images. It looks to be a CDV reproduction of a Dag.

John Pierpont Morgan was the greatest financier in American history. He was of Welsh origins and born into a Connecticut banking family just as the United states was beginning to begin its transition from a backwater mostly rural country with an expeimental republican government to the industrial powerhouse of the 20th century. HAfter finishing his high chool, he studied in Europe. He played an important role in financing America's transition. He became known as "The Master of the Money," He helped create both General Electric and U.S. Steel as well becomingb involved in rail roading. He became the nation's foremost banker and one of the most successful bankers in the age of the "Robber Barons." He was in effect the unofficial central banker of the United States in the period before the Federal Reserve. At the time he was hailed as a master of finance by some and as a cut-throat capitalist by others. hat image was imprtalized in a photographic portrait by Edward Steichen. That same dichotomy continues to be the case today, largely depending on how one views capitalism and socialism.

Parents

The family was of Welsh ancestry. The family was deeply involved in insurnce and banking at the formative stage of American ecomomic history. Pierpont's grandfather, Joseph Morgan, was a founder of the insurance company Aetna's parent company. His father, Junius Spencer Morgan (1813-90), was a sucessful banker and business partner of George Peabody. He had business interests in both America and Europe

Boyhood

John Pierpont Morgan, or J.P. as he was known to the world, was born in Hartford, Connecticut (1837). And because photography was invented 2 years later, we have a record of his childhood. America at the time was an expanding, but still lagely pre-industrial nation. We know next to nothing about his childhood, except that he was raised in Hartford and that he prferred to be called Pierpont. A portrait of him at about 5 years of age with his sisters show them wearing plaid dresses. His dress had a button front. A later photograph show him at about 12 wearing a peaked military-style cap.


Figure 2.--Here Pierpont is at about 13 years of age. This would have been just before he entered the English High School in Boston.

Education

Pierpont attended high schools in America. Pierpont transferred to the Hartford Public School (1848) and then to the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut, (now called Cheshire Academy), boarding with the principal. He passed the entrance exam for the English High School of Boston (1851). This was a prestigious school school specializing in mathematics to prepare young men for careers in business. He contracted rheumatic fever (pring 1852). Hewas in so much pain that he could not walk. His father sentb him to the Azores Islands to recuperate. He convalesed there for a year. Pierpont returned to the English High School to resume his studies. After graduating fom the English High School (1854), his father next sent him to Bellerive (Institution Sillig), a school near the Swiss village of Vevey. I believe this was a kind of prep school to improve his French skills. This meant by the time that Pierpont was a teenager, he was traveling throughout Europe and began his passion of collecting art. His farher instructed Pierpont from an early age how to manage the family holdings that he would eventually inherit. Pierpont appears to to have been an apt student. America at the time was just beginning to develop an important university system. Families with money commonly sent their sons abroad for an education. His father sent him to Europe to attend university and learning European languages. Europe and especially Germany in the 19th century was very influential in education circles. When Pierpont Morgan had attained fluency in French, his father sent him to the University of Göttingen in order to improve his German. Göttingen was one of Germany's most prestigious universities. He was speaking a passable level of German within 6 months and earned a degree in art history (1857). Pierpont traveled back to London via Wiesbaden. His education at the age of 20 years was finished.

Career

J.P. literally grew up in the banking business where his father had attained great success. His fatheraftervheretuned from Europe arranged his first job, an accountant with the New York banking firm of Duncan, Sherman, & Company. This was the American representative of the London firm George Peabody and Company. Morgan would later brag that he had used the bank's money to arrange a lucrative deal for himself, speculating in coffee beans. After working for his father, Morgan set up his own private bank which became --J.P. Morgan & Co (1871). He became even more successful than his father. He played a role in developing elped build a credit bridge between Europe and the rising industrial powerhouse of the United States. He was an admier of Thomas Edison nd helped finnce someof Edison's business ventures. He arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thompson-Houson Electric Company to form General Electric (GE) (1891). GE became the country's main electrical-equipment manufacturing company and continues to be a major Americn corporation. Morgan eventually became active in railroading for whuch he is best known (1890). He also marketing federal securities on a massive scale. Both actions allowed him to build up a great personal fortune, although not on the scale of other great industrial figures of the day. He entered the steel business and bought out Andrew Carnegie's company for $480 million (1898). He joined his new Federal Steel Company with several smaller firms, establishing U.S. Steel (1901). The new firm was America's first billion-dollar corporation. It was headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has dominated the industry ever since. A crucial material in the industrial expnsion of America, U.S. Steel became the world's largest steel manufacturer.

Government Scrutiny

The Federal Government duing the Progressive Era became increasingly concernd that Morgan and other industrialisrs were creating monopolies. In Morgn's case it was the steel industry, one of the country's most importnt industries. The Federl Governmnt filed suit against J.P. Morgn (1911). This was followed by Pujo Committee Congressional Committee (1912). He told the Congrssmen, "The first thing [in credit] is character … before money or anything else. Money cannot buy it.… A man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom. I think that is the fundamental basis of business."

Financial Role

Morgan is commonly depicted as s a coldhearted banker--the arch cut-throat capitalist. While he is accused of running roughshod over antitrust laws, Morgan stayed within the law and proved to be a conservative, cautious influence on American industry. Biogrphers describehim as the 'driving force' behind American capitalism in banking, railroads, shipping, the telegraph, the telephone, the new electrical industry, and most famously of steel. His influence was so important in the financial world that the U.S. Federal Government government before the creation of the Federal Reserve looked to him for assistance during the depression of 1895. The company also assisted in preventing afinancial crisis from developing into a depression (1907).

Family

Morgan married Amelia Sturges (1860), but she unexpectedly died of tuberculosis only a few months after their wedding. His second marriage was more enduring. He married Frances Louise Tracy (1865). They had four children, three girls and boy. They included Louisa Pierpont Morgan Satterlee (1866-1946). John Pierpont Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), Juliet Pierpont Morgan Hamilton (1870-1952), and Anne Tracy Morgan (1873-1952). John Jr. followed his father into banking. Anne was a noted philanthropist, and had four children: John Pierpont Jr., Louisa, Juliet, and Anne. J.P Morgan and his wife Frances became estranged (1875). She outlivd him by more than a decde, dieing (1924).

Philantrophy

A great collector of art, Morgan gave many priceless works to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. His collection of manuscripts and books can be found in the Morgan Library in New York City.

Later Life

Morgan died in Rome (1913). Ironically this was the same year that President Wilson established the Federal Reserve. At the time he was hailed as a master of finance by some and as robber baron by others. That same dichotomy continues to this day.

Assessment

J.P. Morgan is idely considered one of America's leading financeers helping to create America as a financial and industrial powerhouse. The Progressives at the time with a little help from photographer Edward Steichen became the personification of cut-throat capitlism. There is no doubt that Morgan was a tough-minded businessman. The Progressive assumption like many today is that financeers and infdustrilists who git rich did so by taking money from the workers. It is essentily Marx's Labor Theory of Value. There is non sence of capitalism creating wealth. Or the simple fact that the countries withour bankers and financeers are the poorest countries, countries like Cuba, North Korea, Zimbanwe, ect. The reason that the capitlist countries are the most wealthy countries is that capitalism through finnceers and bankers act to make sure that capital is provided the most effient nd priductive sectors, meaning the sectors creating jobs. In Morgan's time this meant industril firms. This is why Europeam emigranys flocked o merica. History textbooks stress how the workers were poorly paid and fail to mention thst American workers ere paid more than European workers which is why they cam to Ameica in such large numbers..







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Created: 1:17 AM 11/25/2012
Last updated: 1:17 AM 11/25/2012