Financial tycoons, history and philanthropy in America

Financial activities have been present in humankind for thousands of years, probably since the invention of money around 600 B.C., when Lydia’s King Alyattes minted the first official currency. During all these years, new concepts and ideas were developed such as the invention of credit, creditworthy, banks among many others until the more modern concepts of decentralized payments and settlement systems, peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, robot advisers and, even more, nobody would disagree in stating that the financial world is nowadays one of the most complex phenomenon that we have to deal with if we want to have a proper understanding of our modern societies.

american stock exchange
Image courtesy of Jonathan Dawkins on Flickr.com

Besides all these ideas, concept and techniques developed during centuries to build up what we call today our financial world, there have been very important figures that have played an important role. Most of them have been know as a business magnate, which means an entrepreneur of great influence, importance, or standing in a particular enterprise or field of business. Some of the most renown financial titans were widely known in connection with these entrepreneurial activities, others through high-visibility secondary pursuits such as philanthropy, political fundraising and campaign financing, university founders, and sports team ownership or sponsorship. Below there is tribute to some of the greatest financial titans of all time in American history.

Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877)

Descendent of a Dutch family from Utrecht and one of the richest Americans of all times, patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University. From a poor background and mediocre education, his luck, perseverance and intelligence led into leadership positions in the inland water trade, and the rapidly growing railroad industry. He began a passenger ferry business in New York harbor with one boat, then started his own steamship company, eventually controlling Hudson River traffic. He also provided the first rail service between New York and Chicago.

cornelius vanderbilt
Image courtesy of Peter Roan on Flickr.com

JP Morgan (1837 – 1913)

Was an American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. Morgan was part of the influential Morgan family, he attended the English High School of Boston, a school specializing in mathematics to prepare young men for careers in commerce, he then got a degree in art history from the University of Göttingen a leading university in Europe by that time.
After completing his education, he went into banking and worked for several companies related with financial activities. In 1871, Morgan began his own private banking company, which later became known as J.P. Morgan & Co., one of the leading financial firms in the country. His company became one of the leading financial firms in the country. It was so powerful that even the U.S. government looked to the firm for help with the depression of 1895. The company also assisted in thwarting the 1907 financial crisis. He was an ardent art collector, creating one of the most significant collections of his time. He later donated his art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

Andrew Carnegie, a self-made steel tycoon and one of the wealthiest 19th century U.S. businessmen. Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and immigrated to the United States with his very poor parents in 1848, Carnegie started work as a telegrapher and by the 1860s had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. He accumulated further wealth as a bond salesman raising money for American enterprise in Europe. By 1889 he owned Carnegie Steel Corporation, the largest of its kind in the world. In 1901 he sold his business and dedicated his time to expanding his philanthropic work, including the establishment of Carnegie-Mellon University in 1904 and the expansion of the New York Public Library.

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)

John D. Rockefeller was the head of the Standard Oil Company and one of the world’s richest men. He was born July 8, 1839, in Richford, New York. He built his first oil refinery near Cleveland and in 1870 incorporated the Standard Oil Company. By 1882 he had a near-monopoly of the oil business in the U.S., but his business practices led to the passing of antitrust laws. Late in life, Rockefeller devoted himself to philanthropy. His money helped pay for the creation of the University of Chicago (1892). He also helped found the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (later named Rockefeller University) in New York and the Rockefeller Foundation. He died in 1937

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

One of America’s foremost industrialists, Henry Ford revolutionized assembly-line modes of production for the automobile. He was born on July 30, 1863, near Dearborn, Michigan, Henry Ford created the Ford Model T car in 1908 and went on to develop the assembly line mode of production, which revolutionized the industry. As a result, Ford sold millions of cars and became a world-famous company head. The company lost its market dominance but had a lasting impact on other technological development and U.S. infrastructure.

ford and edison
Image courtesy of Tom Raftery on Flickr.com

 

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