John Pierpont Morgan, better known as J.P. Morgan, was one of the most famous and renowned bankers in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. By financing some of the most important companies at the time such as railroads and creating the U.S. Steel J.P. Morgan was actually criticized at some points of his career due to the amount of power he had, which some considered to be too much. His father, along with other family members such as his relative James Pierpont who was one of the founders of Yale University, were also prestigious businessmen and each excelled in their fields, setting the path for Morgan.
Having been born in a wealthy and well-distinguished family, John Pierpont Morgan always had the opportunities necessary to turn him into a financial tycoon someday. He was born on April 17, 1837 in Connecticut, but later traveled to Europe where he learned French and German after finishing school in Boston and then finally returned to the United States. In 1857, he moved to New York where he began his financial career. He initially married Amelia Sturges, but she unfortunately passed away of tuberculosis shortly after. He later married Francis Louisa Tracy in 1865 and they had four children.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Morgan opened his own private banking company in 1871, later to be known as J.P. Morgan & Co. This company became one of the leading financial companies in the United States to the point that the United States Government even turned to them when in moment of crisis during the depression of 1895. Later on, it would again offer assistance during the 1907 financial crisis.
America’s railroads were rapidly expanding in the late 19th century, especially with the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental line in 1869. J.P. Morgan as a newfound banking titan began becoming more and more involved in reorganizing some financially unstable railroad companies. He also acquired stocks and even had at one point one-eight of the nation’s rail lines. He also had an important role in the financing for the creation of the Federal Steel Company, which would later on be merged with Carnegie Steel Company and other steel and iron businesses to become the United States Steel Corporation.
Morgan’s influence and wealth had reached such a point that he was able to aid the United States during several financial crises. During the first crisis in 1895, he led a syndicate that was able to loan the government $60 million. In 1907, using his influence he was able to stabilize the market by getting the top financial institutions to bail out of some unstable companies. His power, wealth and influence had become so notorious that it was getting all kinds of media cover, which also made the government start investigating to assure that he was not in fact monopolizing the government for his own financial benefit.
He was in fact put under a great deal of scrutiny by the media and later on in court. In 1911, Morgan’s company, U.S. Steel was sued due to the fact that it had allegedly monopolized the steel industry. He was part of a congressional investigation in 1912, where he was questioned on the existence of a “money trust”, which consisted of a small group of financial magnates, who allegedly planned to control American banking and industry. These hearings led to a series of changes in banking, including the establishment of the Federal Reserve System.
J.P. Morgan did not always have success in all of his ventures. A clear example of this was the fall out of the contract with Tesla, who was initially going to make a wireless communication transmission surpassing anything seen before at the time. Unfortunately, due to some changes on Tesla’s part, Morgan ended the contract before going through with the investment. Similarly, his attempt to enter the London Underground business was not successful either. All his efforts to make investments were kept at bay by Charles Tyson Yerkes, who did everything in his power to not allow entry to Morgan in this business and succeeded. Continuing his ventures, he attempted to control transatlantic sea transport by buying the International Mercantile Marine Company (IMMC), which due to the unscheduled sea transit did not pan out as expected. Additionally, this was the company that owned the Titanic and once the tragedy occurred the company was in the need to apply for bankruptcy in 1915.
John Pierpont Morgan was a man of business, successful as a financial entrepreneur and in his last years became an avid art collector. He passed away on March 31, 1913 in Rome, Italy. On the day of his funeral, April 14th, the New York Stock Exchange closed in his honor until noon. He, to this day, continues being one of the leading businessmen of all time.