John Pierpont“J.P. Morgan was born on April 17, 1837, in Hartford, Connecticut to Junius Spencer Morgan (1813-1890) and Juliet Pierpont (1816-1884) of Boston, Massachusetts. Morgan began the 1848-1849 school year at Harford Public School; he then transferred to the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut (now known as Cheshire Academy) where he boarded with the principal. Morgan prepared to attend the English High School of Boston by passing the entrance exam in September 1851. English High School specialized in “mathematics to prepare young men for careers in commerce.”
Morgan contracted rheumatic fever in the spring of 1852; he was in so much pain that he could not walk. His father sent him to the Azores to recover his health. He convalesced for a year and then returned to the English High School to resume his studies. After he graduated from high school, his father sent him to a school in Switzerland until he became fluent in French; then his father sent him to the University of Gottingen to become more fluent in German. He completed that task as well as earned a degree in art history in less than six months. With his education complete, he went back to London.
In 1861 Morgan married Amelia (Mimi) Sturges only to lose her the next year. He married Frances Louise (Fanny) Tracy in 1865, and they became the parents of four children: Louisa Pierpont Morgan (1866-1946; married Herbert L. Satterlee [1863-1947]), John Pierpont Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943; married Jane Norton Grew), Juliet Pierpont Morgan (1870-1952; married William Pierson Hamilton [1869-1947]), and Anne Tracy Morgan (1873-1952; philanthropist).
While in London in 1857 Morgan began his banking career at the London branch of Peabody, Morgan & Co, a banking firm his father and George Peabody founded three years previously. Morgan moved to New York City in 1858 to join Duncan, Sherman & Company, the American branch of George Peabody and Company. He continued to learn the banking business by moving from place to place under the mentorship of his father until 1871 when he became a partner with the Drexels of Philadelphia and formed Drexel, Morgan & Company in New York. Upon the death of Anthony Drexel, the company became known as “J.P. Morgan & Company” in 1895. Morgan had many partners over the years but always remained in charge.
“Morgan 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 was physically large with massive shoulders, piercing eyes, and a purple nose (because of a chronic skin disease, rosacea). He was known to dislike publicity and hated being photographed; as a result of his self-consciousness of his rosacea, all of his professional portraits were retouched. His deformed nose was due to a disease called rhinophyma, which can result from rosacea. As the deformity worsens, pits, nodules, fissures, lobulations, and pedunculation contort the nose. This condition inspired the crude taunt `Johnny Morgan’s nasal organ has a purple hue.’ Surgeons could have shaved away the rhinophymous growth of sebaceous tissue during Morgan’s lifetime, but as a child Morgan suffered from infantile seizures, and Morgan’s son-in-law, Herbert L. Satterlee, has speculated that he did not seek surgery for his nose because he feared the seizures would return. His social and professional self-confidence were too well established to be undermined by this affliction. It appeared as if he dared people to meet him squarely and not shrink from the sight, asserting the force of his character over the ugliness of his face. Morgan smoked dozens of cigars per day and favored large Havana cigars dubbed Hercules’ Clubs by observers.”
“In 1895, at the depths of the Panic of 1893, the Federal Treasury was nearly out of gold. President Grover Cleveland accepted Morgan’s offer to join with the Rothschilds and supply the U.S. Treasury with 3.5 million ounces of gold to restore the treasury surplus in exchange for a 30-year bond issue. The episode saved the Treasury but hurt Cleveland’s standing with the agrarian wing of the Democratic Party, and became an issue in the election of 1896, when banks came under a withering attack from William Jennings Bryan. Morgan and Wall Street bankers donated heavily to Republican William McKinley, who was elected in 1896 and re-elected in 1900.”
Morgan continued to succeed in banking circles with few failures. He was a “financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. In 1892, Morgan arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomason-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric. After financing the creation of the Federal Steel Company, he merged it in 1901 with the Carnegie Steel Company and several other steel and iron businesses, including Consolidated Steel and Wire Company, owned by William Edenborn, to form the United States Steel Corporation.
“At the height of Morgan’s career during the early 1900s, he and his partners had financial investments in many large corporation and had significant influence over the nation’s high finance and United States Congress members. He directed the banking coalition that stopped the Panic of 1907. He was the leading financier of the Progressive Era, and his dedication to efficiency and modernization helped transform American business.”
J. P. Morgan died in his sleep at age 75 on March 31, 1913, in Rome, Italy. He left his fortune and business to his son, John Pierpont Morgan, Jr.