Focus Activity - Determining a Purpose for Reading
John Pierpont Morgan
The Money Man
J.P. Morgan - The All Powerful Banker -
There are so many myths about John Pierpont Morgan that we need to get a few things straight. He was not the richest man in America. People just thought he was. Rockefeller and Carnegie were richer. And he was not the most powerful man in America. There were two or three men who were equally powerful.
But he was very rich and very powerful, and vain and arrogant, too. Which means he was very sure of himself. He was a bit like a regal lion who lords over the whole jungle. The jungle where he was king was the world of business and finance. Morgan was a banker - a money man - and he had the ability to take a confused situation and make it orderly. In the years after the Civil War, the American world of business was very disorderly. J.P. Morgan helped make it efficient.
J.P. Gives Bankers A "Timeout"
J.P. Morgan's Library
Once when the U.S. Treasury seemed to be on the edge of collapse - it didn't have enough gold in reserve to meet its bills - J.P. Morgan loaned the nation $62 million. Another time the country was facing a financial crisis that might have led to a depression (you will learn more about this later). People were pulling their money out of banks and the stock market. A leading trust company was about to collapse. If that happened, people would panic. Morgan called the nation's leading financiers to a meeting to a meeting in his own marble library building. He asked them to lend money to save the trust. Then he locked the library's doors. He sat and played solitaire while the bankers paced and argued.
Morgan had one of the world's great private art collections. Some magnificent art treasures hung on the library's walls. A Gutenberg Bible and Thoreau's manuscripts sat on the shelves. Do you think the bankers enjoyed these treasures that night? No one knows the answer to that question, but we do know that at five o'clock in the morning, when the financiers agreed to do as he wished, Morgan unlocked the doors and let them out. The country was saved from financial disaster.
Wall Street, New York City, New York
Don't Mess With J.P.
An older J.P. Morgan but same scowl
Few people dared disagree with J.P. Morgan. He was dignified and very imposing. Besides that, he had integrity. Everyone knew that if Morgan gave his word, you could rely on it. A famous photographer shows him sitting in a chair, a hand gripping the arm rest, eyes electric with energy. "Meeting his blazing dark eyes," said the photographer, "was like confronting the headlights of an express train bearing down on you."
Yes, I'll Help You, Now Good Bye!
Harvard Medical School funded by J.P. Morgan
When the trustees of Harvard Medical School needed money to expand their school, they went to several rich men. Rockefeller, with his careful methodical mind, told them it would take six months to study their plans. Morgan listened to the Harvard representatives, looked at his watch - he was busy that day - pointed to their plans, and said, "I will build that, and that, and that. Good Morning, gentlemen." And he led them to the door.
John Pierpont Morgan at age 18
J.P. Morgan was not like Andrew Carnegie. He did not start off as a poor boy and work his way to riches. He started at the top. His father was an international banker. The first Morgans arrived in Massachusetts in 1636. Miles Morgan, an early ancestor, moved from rigid Puritan Boston to more tolerant Connecticut and there acquired land, prominence, and fame as an Indian fighter. By the time the 19th century came around, the family was wealthy, and snobbish about it, too!
Fix It - I'm Rich!
Young Pierpont usually got his way. He was smart with a talent for mathematics and languages. Once, when he disagreed with an answer in his arithmetic book, he claimed he was right and the book was wrong. Turned out he was right. He had caught the book in a misprint.
His mind was very orderly. He got a weekly allowance and he kept a record of every penny he spent. When he grew up, he did the same thing.
He was sent to schools in the United States, Switzerland, and Germany and became a well educated man, interested in art and music. He was an imposing man, vain about his clothes and his looks. He lived in enormous homes - he had seven of them - and he also owned a yacht and his own railroad cars. Morgan had one problem: a huge, bulb-like nose that was often red as a strawberry. It was bad enough to be considered a medical problem - though he never had a doctor fix it. In that famous photograph of him above, sitting in the chair with his blazing eyes, the photographer fixed the negative to shade the well known nose.
I'll Take Boardwalk and Park Place
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J. Pierpont Morgan: the most successful banker in America during the Gilded Age that bought out Carnegie Steel and bailed the U.S. out of financial crisis
Miles Morgan: an ancestor of J.P. Morgan who acquired land, prominence, and fame as an Indian fighter and making the Morgan family wealthy and prestigious
Vocabulary words are also available in the glossary pages
stock market: a place where stocks are bought and sold. The most famous is the Wall Street Stock Exchange in New York.
trust company: a corporation (such as a bank) organized to act as a trustee
trustee: person, organization, or corporation who has been given responsibility for someone else's property
the branch of business that deals with how funds are raised, budgeted, and invested
financiers: a person who specializes in the financing of businesses
solitaire: a card game played by one person alone
Gutenberg Bible: The edition of the Bible completed by Johannes Gutenberg in about 1455 in Mainz, Germany. It is the first complete book in the West and is also the earliest to be printed from movable type. It is worth a lot of money today.
dignified: a look or way of behaving that suggests seriousness and self-control
imposing: to take charge or to force one's own wants
integrity: total honesty and sincerity
methodical: to be in the routine of do something in the same way every time very precisely
international: involving more than one nation or working with many nations outside of your own nation
tolerant: showing sympathy for or acceptance of feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from one's own
prominence: the state of being well known and respected
yacht: a small usually privately owned ship used for pleasure cruising or racing
negative: camera film in which the light and dark parts are approximately opposite to those of the thing or person photographed and the means by which non-digital photographs are made
monopoly: a person or company having complete control over the entire supply of goods and services including means by which these goods and services are produced, transported, or distributed.
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Harvard Medical School
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The Panic of 1907
J.P. Morgan Trivia Game
Think you know everything about J.P. Morgan now? Prove it. Play J.P. Morgan Trivia to test what you remember. Click on the icon below to play.