How to see the private life of an American financial titan

People tend to imagine that American financial titans were able to become what they finally became only by themselves, relying almost exclusively on hard work, stubbornness, and a bit of luck. They can be seen sometimes as people who had a very humble start, and that had to risk everything in their lives to achieve all those things that make them famous now. To some extent, they are seen as people with just a bit of human features, more as very rational machines that were able to produce really important financial and industrial empires, but without no one around them to support them most of the times.

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Image courtesy of Dirk Knight at

However, that is not actually the case. The most important financial titans in the United States, people such as J. P. Morgan (1837 – 1913), Cornelius ‘Commodore’ Vanderbilt, (1794 – 1877), Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919), John D. Rockefeller (1839 – 1937), and Henry Ford (1863 – 1947), did have a private life. They enjoyed simple things and spent time with their families and friends, all of whom contributed to their success in one way or another.

It is no accident when people say that behind every great man, there is always a great woman. And that was the case with those American titans that helped to make the United States the kind of country that we know today.

J.P. Morgan, for example, had two wifes. The first one, Amelia Sturges, called Memie as a nickname, was the daughter of Jonathan Sturges, a New York merchant and patron of the arts very well known at that time. Morgan fell in love with Amelia not long after he arrived in New York. Memie’s family planned a grand tour of their own in 1859, and Morgan joined them in London, when the tour was coming to an end. He had the chance to see Memie every day during the two weeks that he spent with the family there, and later escorted them in the trip across the Atlantic to get back home. 

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Image courtesy of Simon Cunningham at

Morgan proposed Memie once they were again in the United States, and she accepted to marry him. All this happened during the spring of 1860. However, she became sick during the following winter. She caught a rather severe cough, which did not go away at any point. Even so, they did not want to postpone the wedding, and agreed to continue with their plans. So, they married on October 7, 1861, and decided to go to the Mediterranean, as a way to use their honeymoon as an opportunity for Memie to get better. But unfortunately, that was not the case. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in Paris, where the couple visited lung specialists to treat Memie. And despite all the efforts made by Morgan to find a cure for Memie, efforts that she described as a loving devoted care for her, she died in February, 1862, only four months after their wedding. Morgan was twenty-four years old at that moment.

Morgan married again in 1865, by the time that the Civil War was coming to an end. His second wife, Frances Louisa Tracy, called Fanny by everyone, belonged to his social circle in New York. However, they were rather incompatible with respect to their temperament, an incompatibility that was strengthened due to their different tastes and instincts regarding several things. So, for example, whereas Fanny would prefer to spend time at home with their children and some good friends, Morgan liked to have an adventurous travel or simply be busy in New York City, working or just enjoying the kind of social life that he could have there.

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Image courtesy of Charles (Chuck) Peterson at

Even so, the couple had four children. The first one, Louisa Pierpont Morgan (1866 – 1946), was her father’s favorite, and would join him frequently in his travels before she married  Herbert L. Satterlee, a lawyer, writer, and businessman who served as United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1908 to 1909. The second child, J. P. ‘Jack’ Morgan, Jr. (1867 – 1943), became the head of the house of Morgan after the death of his father. He married Jane Norton Grew, the daughter of Henry Sturgis Grew, a banker and mill owner from Boston. The third child was Juliet Pierpont Morgan (1870 – 1952). She married William Pierson Hamilton, who joined Morgan’s banking firm, and was a descendant of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Finally, the fourth child was Anne Tracy Morgan (1873 – 1952), who became a well known philanthropist, and contributed to provide relief efforts to France during and after World War I and World War II through her agency American Friends of France.

After a trip to Egypt with friends and family, J. P. Morgan died on March 31, 1913, at the Grand Hotel in Rome, Italy.


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