Why family matters for a titan, and how it matters

P. Morgan (1837 – 1913), Cornelius ‘Commodore’ Vanderbilt, (1794 – 1877), Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919), John D. Rockefeller (1839 – 1937), and Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) had many things in common. They were very successful businessmen in their respective fields, they modified and even created different industries, and they changed the ways in which everything works in modern societies in a form that still affects how we do things nowadays, not only in the United States, but even around the entire globe. These are aspects that probably we have not totally assimilated yet, and it is hard to imagine how we would live now without the sort of things that they did.

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Image courtesy of William Warby at Flickr.com

But none of them would have achieved what they did without the support of certains groups of people that surrounded them. Those groups included colleagues, business partners, friends, workers, and of course, families. All of them played important roles in the configuration of the financial empires built by those American titans. For that reason, the following lines attempt to highlight some points about their families, in order to have an idea of the sort of atmosphere that they could have had at home.

J.P. Morgan

J. P. Morgan was married two times. His first wife, Amelia Sturges, died of tuberculosis only four months after they got married. J. P. Morgan was twenty-four when this happened in February, 1862. Three years later, in 1865, he married Louisa Pierpont Morgan, a woman who belonged to his social circle in New York City, but with whom he did not have as much compatibility of temperament as one would like to imagine. Louisa would prefer staying at home with her children and friends, whereas her husband would rather prefer to go for a trip somewhere in the world, work hard, or spend some time with his friends in New York City, enjoying the pleasures of the social life at that time. Nonetheless, they had four children: three girls (Louisa Pierpont Morgan, Juliet Pierpont Morgan, and Anne Tracy Morgan) and one boy (J. P. ‘Jack’ Morgan, Jr.). After the death of J. P. Morgan, Jack would become the head of the Morgan house. Louisa and Juliet, on the other hand, married men who were very influential at that moment, whereas Anne, who became a philanthropist, travelled to Europe and founded the agency American Friends of France, with which she helped French people during and after World War I and World War II.

Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt was also married two times. His first wife was Sophia Johnson. They married on December 19, 1813, and had thirteen children together. They were Phebe Jane Gross, William Henry Vanderbilt, Elizabeth Osgood, Emily Almira Thorn, Sophia Johnson Torrance, Frances Lavinia Vanderbilt, Ethelinda Allen, Cornelius Jeremiah Vanderbilt, Mary Alicia Berger, Catherine Juliette Lafitte, George Washington Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Clark. Sophia died on August 17, 1868, and after her death, Cornelius married again. His new wife was Frank Armstrong Crawford, a cousin of Cornelius from Mobile, Alabama, and 45 years younger than him. They had no children.

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie married only once. His wife, Louise Whitfield, the daughter of John D. Whitfield, a merchant from New York City, was twenty-one years younger than him. They married on April 22, 1887, when he was 51 years old and she 30. The couple had only one child, Margaret Carnegie Miller, who was born on March 30, 1897. Despite their enormous wealth, due mainly to the success of Andrew Carnegie in the American steel industry in the nineteenth century, the three members of the family were well known as leading philanthropists during their lives.

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Image courtesy of Thomas Quine at Flickr.com

John D. Rockefeller

Like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller also married just once. His wife was Laura Celestia ‘Cettie’ Spelman, whom he admired for her good judgment regarding many practical things, among other reasons. She was a philanthropist and a schoolteacher, but also an abolitionist. The Spelman College, named after her, was founded with the purpose to educate black women in the South. They had five children. Four girls: Elizabeth “Bessie” Rockefeller, Alice Rockefeller, Alta Rockefeller, and Edith Rockefeller. And one boy: John Davison Rockefeller, Jr.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford also married just once. His wife was Clara Jane Bryant, and they married when he was 24 years old, and she was 22, on April 11, 1888. Both Henry and Clara came from farm families, and the admiration that he had for her was so big during all his life that even after founding the Ford Motor Company and becoming one of the richest men in the world, he would still repeat that the greatest day of his life was when he married Mrs. Ford. They had only one child, Edsel Bryant Ford, who became president of the Ford Motor Company in 1919 until his death in 1943. Edsel continued with the work done by his father in the company, but introduced important new features in the development of cars by the the Ford Motor Company.

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