John Pierpont Morgan was a successful businessman, financier, power broker and strategist, philanthropist, and dedicated art collector whose legacy has outlived his life. The multi-linguist and art lover born into a privileged family bailed the U.S. government twice, a feat few would ever achieve in one lifetime.
With the help of his family’s wealth, Morgan shuttled from Britain to the USA to attend the most prestigious institutions money could afford. His apprenticeship was arranged in the finest banking institutions of the time (skip to Bill Gates’ Bio).
Determined to rewrite the predefined course of his life as the ultimate successor to his father’s vast business empire, he began by selling coffee purchased from a stranded ship captain. Then arranging for the supply of war materials during the civil war.
The debate has been: was he a patriot or a ruthless baron who manipulated the system for selfish gain? It is a question to try and answer when you read this biography. Let’s start with his biofacts.
J.P. Morgan’s Bio Facts
Full Name: John Pierpont Morgan
Birth Date: April 17, 1837.
Died: March 31, 1913
Birth Place: Hartford, Connecticut
Nick Name: Pierpont
Siblings: Mary Lyman Morgan, Juliet Piepont Morgan, Sarah Spencer Morgan, and Junius Spencer Morgan, Jr.
Children: J. P. Morgan Jr., Louisa Pierpont Morgan, Anne Morgan, Juliet Pierpont Morgan.
Partner / Spouse: Amelia “Memie” Sturges (November 1861 – February 1862), Frances Louisa “Fanny” Tracy (1865 – 1913)
Profession: Entrepreneur, Businessman, Investor, Art Collector.
Salary: Not disclosed.
Net Worth: $118 billion.
Social Media: Not disclosed.
Companies Associated With United States Steel Company, Morgan, Grenfell & Company.
Last Updated: July 2021.
J.P. Morgan’s Key Facts
- President of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1904 to 1913.
- He backed Thomas Edison’s projects and laid the financial foundation for Edison Electric Company in 1878.
- Arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric
- Provided financial support to the U.S. government in order to prevent a Treasury crisis in 1893.
- Formed the U.S. Steel Company by merging Carnegie Steel Works along with several other steel and iron industries.
- Morgan was to be in the Titanic but backed out at the last minute.
- Morgan saved the banking industry during the 1907 panic.
J.P. Morgan’s Birthplace and Early Life
John Pierpont Morgan was born into an influential and distinguished New England family on April 17, 1837, in Hartford, Connecticut. His early years saw him confined at home for lengthy periods as he suffered from seizures and other mysterious ailments.
When healthy, Morgan spent days in the company of his parents, frequenting art galleries and concerts.
This early exposure fascinated and influenced the young Morgan that saw him grow into a dedicated art lover and collector in his adult life (proceed to Liz Claiborne’s Bio). In preparation for the commerce and finance world, Morgan shuttled across different countries to acquire education.
After elementary school, Morgan transferred to Hartford Public School in 1848 and then to the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut. To give him an edge in his English High school entrance exams, Morgan boarded with the Principal in September 1852.
He went on to pass his entrance exams and proceeded to The English High School Boston, where he specialized in Mathematics for commerce careers.
In April 1852, however, he suffered from a bout of Rheumatic Fever that had him in pain for a year. To recuperate, his father had him taken to the Azores before returning to Boston once again to resume his studies.
He finally graduated from Boston in 1854 and proceeded to Europe to gain fluency in French in Bellerive, a village La Tour-de-Peilz, in modern-day Switzerland.
Soon after graduation from Bellerive, he was again shuttled to the University of Göttingen to improve his German (check out Elon Musk’s Bio). A feat he successfully achieved in 6-months and even had time to pick a degree in art history before traveling back in 1857 to New York to begin his long and colorful finance career.
J.P. Morgan’s Business Success
Peabody Morgan and Co.
Morgan started his Finance career at Peabody Morgan and Co. in 1857, soon after graduating from University. The merchant banking company had been started by George Peabody in 1838 in London and was never formally incorporated until 1851.
Peabody later struck a partnership with Morgan’s father in 1854 that saw the company’s name change from George Peabody & Co to Peabody Morgan and Co.
In 1858, Morgan went to work with Duncan, Sherman, and Company, George Peabody Morgan & Co.’s representatives in New York. Here, he initially worked as a clerk/cashier and also trained as an accountant before starting his own company in the early 1860s (read Jeff Bezos’s bio).
First Stab at Business
During a visit to New Orleans, a young Morgan encountered a Ship captain with a boatload of coffee with no buyer. Using the company funds, he bought all the coffee and sold it at a profit to local merchants(read Jack Dorsey’s bio). This first attempt and success emboldened him to strike out on his own by registering a company, J. Pierpont Morgan & Co., early in the 1860s.
Civil War and Hall Carbine Affair
To avoid enlisting in the American Civil War, Morgan paid the legal $300 for a substitute soldier to take his place. While many saw chaos and conflict in the war, Morgan saw an opportunity.
For example, Morgan financed the purchase of five thousand defective rifles from an army arsenal at $3.50 per piece (proceed to Dan Bilzarian’s bio). He then resold them to a field general at $22 apiece.
The incident saw him charged and investigated for knowingly profiteering from the misfortunes of Americans. A congressional report in 1863 could report this about his scandalous involvement;
“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretending loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation, while patriot blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and bodies of their countrymen are mouldering in the dust.”
But as luck would have it, he was declared ignorant of the rifles’ poor quality and cleared of all charges.
Reorganization of Peabody Morgan and Co.
At retirement in 1864, Peabody ceded all control to his partner Junius Morgan who had the company reorganized and christened J.S. Morgan & Co. The New York agency, Duncan, Sherman & Co. -predecessor firm of JP Morgan Chase, was put under Morgan’s control and renamed J.P. Morgan & Co.
Dabney, Morgan & Co
Soon after her newlywed wife succumbed to tuberculosis in 1861, Morgan returned to New York in 1862. At his father’s request, he partnered with Charles Dabney to form Dabney, Morgan & Co.
Under the watchful eye of the senior partner, Charles Dabney, Morgan grew into an influential member of the firm before founding another company in 1872, a year before the retirement of Dabney (read Mike Speiser’s bio).
Drexel, Morgan & Co
With Dabney retired, Morgan struck another partnership with Anthony Drexel, a close confidant of Junius Morgan. Drexel, a successful Philadelphia Banker and senior partner in the firm, gave in to Morgan’s father to mentor the young Morgan to make a successful businessman (proceed to Mark Cuban’s bio).
The newly founded firm took residence in lower Manhattan in a newly constructed story building. By this time, Morgan was well into his mid-30s, and his enormous frame and piercing eyes that would live on to dominate the financial world had already taken shape.
After the death of Anthony Drexel in 1895, Morgan rechristened the company J. P. Morgan & Company. Despite the name change, the company didn’t sever ties with its associates and instead worked to bolster the ties with them.
The firms include Morgan, Harjes & Company of Paris, Drexel & Company of Philadelphia, and J.S. Morgan & Company, later renamed to Morgan, Grenfell & Company of London. Morgan, Grenfell & Company went on to be one of the most powerful banking houses whose major focus was reorganizations and consolidations.
Northern Pacific Railroad
His efforts to ascend to the helm of the most successful railroad construction business at the time began in early 1869. Using funds accumulated from diverse business assets, Morgan extended a mortgage of $500,000 for the construction of the road, and this saw him appointed a trustee.
New voting was organized by Morgan, who got elected as Vice president with the support of Ramsey’s supporters. However, leadership wrangles ensued over who should have controlling shares.
This was after a section of the leadership covertly arranged to have other reigning leaders overthrown. The wrangles turned ugly and forced Morgan to shuttle to New York to calm matters.
The warring faction, led by Gould and Fisk, held a separate parallel election and voted in different directors, a matter that saw Morgan move to New York Supreme Court. The court ruled in his favor, and he hit the ground running by purchasing 600 shares of A&S in the name of Dabney (checkout Neil Shen’s bio).
With a controlling stake, Morgan leased the company to Delaware and Hudson Canal Company for 99 years, effectively taking it out of play.
Having progressively amassed adequate wealth and power within the railroad construction business, Morgan was able to front a syndicate that sold $40 million in bonds to finance the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1880.
At the time, it was the largest ever railroad bond transaction in U.S. history.
Member of New York Central board of directors
Morgan’s other most definitive move came in 1879 through a proposal fronted by William Vanderbilt. In the proposal, Morgan acquired an estimated 250,000 shares of stock in the New York Central Railroad.
Trained to spot an opportunity, Morgan swiftly closed the deal covertly, without making the company’s stock lose value, securing a seat among New York Central’s board of directors.
Using the newly acquired influential seat as New York Central board director, Morgan reorganized West Shore & Buffalo and New York Railroad and leased them both to New York Central in 1885.
His streak of reorganization, acquisition, and amalgamation extended to Philadelphia & Reading in 1886 and Chesapeake & Ohio in 1888. This habit ran into early 1999 in what could later be christened “Morganization.”
In 1885 another feud erupted between Pennsylvania and New York Central railroad directors, threatening the peace pact and harmonious coexistence Morgan had fiercely fought for.
To foster an understanding and an agreement between the directors, Morgan took the directors on board his yacht and sailed to sea with an ultimatum that the yacht would never return to shore if they didn’t iron out their differences (proceed to Tom Vitale’s bio). The directors could later agree to compete fairly on what came to be known as the Cosair pact.
His acquisitions and stake buying saw him gain substantial interest with an expanded interest that was the equivalent of a sixth of the entire railroad business in the U.S.
Interstate Commerce Act of 1887
Concerned with the varying standards and newly set standards to govern commerce issued by Congress, Morgan organized conferences in 1889 and 1890. The conferences brought together railroad presidents to set rules on how best to conduct business within the confines of the Act.
By the wrap of the two conferences, the industry leaders were able to come to agree on a written agreement for the maintenance of “public, uniform and stable rates.”
Lending To Government
In the wake of an imminent collapse of the economy starting 1893, a gold rush ensued, and people hoarded cash. The Government was not spared either, as its treasury gold reserves steadily declined to the point of complete depletion. A reactionary president Grover Cleveland suggested extending bonds to the public.
However, this was not sustainable, and an opportunistic Morgan came to the Government’s rescue after demanding and securing an audience with the president. In the agreement, Morgan was to organize the acquisition of gold for the Government. In return, the Government was to extend a favorable 30-year bond to the financiers.
Morgan organized a syndicate that got the gold worth $60 million and bailed the Government before later reselling the bonds in 1897 under democrat president William McKinley to stabilize the shaky economy.
On yet another occasion, the banks were on the verge of collapsing before Morgan stepped in, organized a meeting in his New York home with numerous financiers, who came up with a solution to salvage the faltering banking institutions.
United States Steel Company
After the demise of Anthony Drexel in 1895 and subsequent reorganization and rechristening of Drexel, Morgan & Co to J. P. Morgan & Co. Morgan financed the formation of Federal Steel Company at an approximate cost of $500 million (proceed to Mark Zuckerberg’s bio). This was the first step for the prolific money maker to make an entry into the thriving steel business.
Soon after the formation of Federal Steel Company, Morgan started courting the president of Carnegie Co. and his business associate Andrew Carnegie with the prospect of acquiring the Carnegie business. After prolonged negotiations, the Carnegies agreed to a $480 million deal in exchange for their stakes in the steel company.
The sale was made in the absence of lawyers and without any written agreement. Information about the deal leaked and found its way into Newspapers fronting, in mid-January, as Monopoly in the making.
This acquisition was followed by numerous other acquisitions of companies in the steel and iron business. All the businesses were consolidated under one roof to form one vast, multi-million dollar company in the name of United States Steel Company, whose net worth was estimated to be $1.4 billion in the year 1901.
J.P. Morgan’s Business Failures
Money Trust Inquest
In 1912, following criticism from progressive politicians and investigative journalists, the Senate launched an inquest against Morgan and a few elite Wall Street businessmen.
In the allegations, Morgan and a few elite Wall Street businessmen were accused of wielding way too much power to the extent of manipulating financial institutions and industries for selfish gain.
A weary and sickly Morgan was summoned to testify before the committee. The findings of the committee lead to repealing of some acts. In their place came the formation of the Federal Reserve Act, the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment bill.
International Mercantile Marine Company
Having bagged the key to an income stream from the steel and Iron industry, Morgan trained his eyes in the cruise industry starting the year 1902. Through his amalgamated company, J.P. Morgan & Co., he purchased the Leyland line of Atlantic Steamships.
He then went for the Atlantic Shipping Company, a renowned British steamship maker among other acquisitions. And similar to his other businesses, he once again consolidated all his acquisitions into a single enterprise christened the International Mercantile Marine Company.
Through the new company, Morgan acquired White Star Line, builder, and operator of RMS Titanic, famous as the largest ocean liner built in its time. And infamous for sinking and causing the loss of over 1500 lives in its maiden Voyage of 1912.
The ship’s sinking left a huge financial dent in Morgan’s sea-faring company International Mercantile Marine Company. The company could take a year after Morgan’s death to file for bankruptcy protection in 1915.
It would again re-emerge as United States Line before closing shop due to bankruptcy in 1986.
Nikola Tesla was an inventor and investor who approached Morgan with a proposal to build a Trans-Atlantic Communication System in 1900. In Tesla’s assessment, the system was faster, efficient, and more suited to the century’s needs.
For a stake of 51%, Morgan agreed to finance the construction of the system, investing a whopping $150,000, the equivalent of $5 million in 2021. However, an ambitious Tesla wanted to scale up the system to include an idea, Terrestrial Wireless Power Transmission, he had earlier sidelined.
A furious Morgan was against the idea and even labeled it a breach of contractual terms. The venture broke ground but, being financially handicapped, sank 6-years after the start and with it sank Morgan’s $150,000.
Morgan’s effort to build and operate the Piccadily, City, and North East London Railway after transit magnate Charles Yerkes pulled the carpet from under Morgan’s feet. A defeated and humiliated Morgan could later label the defeat a coup he described as “the greatest rascality and conspiracy I ever heard of.”
J.P. Morgan’s Family
Morgan met Amelia “Memie” Sturges, daughter of a successful business merchant whom he fell in love with and later married in 1861. The blossoming romance was jarred with misfortune as his wife suffered from tuberculosis.
So severe was the ailment that it forced the couple to move to Algiers, where Morgan tried to nurse his ailing wife. As fate would have it, the ailment took a toll on her and had her succumb in February 1862, barely four months after their wedding.
His heart found favor in the heart of the daughter, Frances Louisa “Fanny” Tracy, of a prominent New York lawyer whom he married in 1865. The couple was blessed with 4-children; J. P. Morgan Jr., Louisa Pierpont Morgan, Anne Morgan, Juliet Pierpont Morgan.
J.P. Morgan’s YouTube Videos
In this finance documentary, a detailed sequential narration of Morgan’s life history is given, particularly the hits and misses he had regarding his financial undertakings.
In the documentary, the narrator talks of how Morgan’s business decisions shaped and continue to influence the global economy.
In the narration, the narrator wonders whether Morgan should be remembered as the patriot and savior who bailed out the Government twice or a selfish and manipulative magnate who manipulated institutions for selfish gain.
J.P. Morgan’s Net Worth and Salary
At the time of his death on March 31, 1931, Morgan’s wealth is estimated to have been $118.3 million. Others, including biographer Ron Chernow, cap it at $80 million.
This was the equivalent of America’s gross domestic product at the time and $45 billion currently. Half of this fortune was in his vast real estate assets and the other half in his art collection, including paintings and rare gems (skip to Arianna Huffington’s bio).
J.P. Morgan Quotes
- “The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where he is to where he wants to go.”
- “Money equals business which equals power, all of which come from character and trust.”
- “Anyone can be a millionaire, but to become a billionaire, you need an astrologer.”
- “Well, I don’t know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.”
- Remember, my son, that any man who is a bear on the future of this country will go broke.”
- “I made a fortune getting out too soon. (skip to Jonas Max Ferris bio)”
- “Nothing so undermines your financial judgment as the sight of your neighbor getting rich.”
- “A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.”
- “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 the business.”
J.P. Morgan’s Real Estate Holdings
Morgan bought his first main house in 1882. The Italian maisonette was located at 219 Madison Avenue and was originally built by John Jay Phelps in 1853. Morgan’s house was one of the few residences that had electricity-lit bulbs thanks to Morgan’s financing of Edison Electric Illuminating Company in 1878.
After the purchase of the Phelps home (proceed to Steve Job’s bio), Morgan undertook renovation for the 3-storey exterior and modernized the interior significantly. However, the house was demolished in 1927 to pave the way for the construction of the Morgan Library Annex.
His other home was to the East of New York, where he owned East Island in Glen Cove. The home had an expansive and spacious summer house.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is the J.P. Morgan family still wealthy?
Answer: The Morgan descendants are worth billions of dollars, most of which have been amassed through generations. The descendants also continue to enjoy passive income from the banking industries that J.P. Morgan financed and invested in. Other than this, they also have a kitty in seven trusts established by John D. in 1934.
Question: Was J.P. Morgan born Rich?
Answer: Morgan was born into a wealthy and influential family whose business interests traversed different European countries. When Morgan senior breathed his last, his business was valued at $12million, all of which was inherited by J.P. Morgan.
Question: How did J.P. Morgan become rich?
Answer: Morgan made a fortune through a series of ventures that include railroad, steel and iron, banking, and mergers. The venture that brought him the largest sums of money is United Steel Corporation.