John Pierpont Morgan Sr. was born on April 17th, 1837 in Hartford, Connecticut and died on the last day of March 1913 in Rome, Italy. He was America’s greatest and most influential banking mogul of the so-called Gilded Age – a period of rapid industrialization and economic boom that lasted from 1870 to 1900.
The first company that he set up, J.P. Morgan and Co., quickly became America’s largest corporate taxpayer and the driving force behind the rapid expansion of the country’s industrial sector. There probably isn’t an American with whom the name General Electric won’t ring a bell, but few of J. P. Morgan’s compatriots may know that he was one of the men who founded the company so many years ago.
In addition to being a Wall Street tycoon and a prodigious financier, John Pierpont Morgan Sr. was also an ardent art-lover and a philanthropist. More than a century after his death, he remains one of the greatest players on the international financial stage.
Interesting Facts About J. P. Morgan
1. J. P. Morgan’s remarkable nose
John Pierpont Morgan Sr. was a bear of a man with flashing black eyes that appeared to pierce through his interlocutors. His voice was deep and loud like a peal of thunder roaring in the distance. His whole being projected confidence and a strong character. Yet, his most distinctive feature was his large, remarkably purple nose, an interesting fact about J. P. Morgan.
The purple hue of J. P. Morgan’s nasal organ was the result of a condition known as Rhinophyma. It is usually the result of rosacea that has been left untreated for a long time. Doctors once told him that the lobulations, nodules, and fissures on his nose could be surgically removed, but Morgan just waved them away and thoughtfully puffed on his massive, club-like cigar.
2. J. P. Morgan the crisis quencher
J. P. Morgan stepped in to help curb a raging financial crisis known as The Panic of 1907 that threatened to cripple the U.S. economy. His success earned him a reputation of an adept crisis manager.
He convinced then-Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou to put $35 million of federal money in some of the most troubled New York banks. This clever move calmed down thousands of small depositors who had begun to hectically withdraw their meager means from the ailing lenders.
As a next step, Morgan and National City Bank President James Stillman called a meeting of the most influential financiers in the country and urged them to devise a safeguard mechanism against future financial calamities. This is how the foundations of the Federal Reserve were laid.
3. Morgan and Tesla’s ill-fated partnership
Nobody said that J. P. Morgan’s investments were always successful. One such example is the ill-fated partnership he started with controversial American inventor Nikola Tesla. An interesting fact about J. P. Morgan is that he lent Tesla $150,000 (about $5 million in today’s money) to build the world’s first wireless communication system across the Atlantic Ocean.
Instead of sticking to the initial plan, Tesla used Morgan’s money to begin a series of experiments on what he called “terrestrial wireless power transmission”. Morgan did not like his partner’s new ideas and quickly turned off the money tap.
4. J. P. Morgan – America’s railroad magnate
At the turn of the 20th century, J. P. Morgan had laid a hand on half of the railroad transport in the USA, and his companies owned and operated over 100,000 miles of railroad. This meant that Morgan and his associates and business partners indirectly controlled all movements of merchandise, goods, and commodities in America. It won’t be an overstatement to claim that J. P. Morgan was the man who was moving the American economy in the 1900s.
5. Morganization or how he used to save troubled businesses as a hobby
Few men in J. P. Morgan’s lifetime knew more about business and moneymaking than he did. An interesting fact about J. P. Morgan is that he was so fascinated by the mechanics of wealth accumulation that he adopted the resuscitation and revitalization of ailing small businesses as his hobby.
Later, this practice of his was dubbed “Morganization”. Rather than on a big central mother company, Morgan’s business model was based on a viable network of small and highly competitive businesses that could absorb monstrous financial shocks and repercussions.
6. J. P. Morgan had so many books that his son founded a public library after his death
Without any doubt, J. P. Morgan was an educated man, but he was very far from an omnivorous reader. He was a man of action, rather than of contemplation. And yet, after his death, it transpired that he’d collected so many rare and precious books that his son, Jack Morgan, used the collection to found the Pierpont Morgan Library.
7. J. P. Morgan had bought a ticket for Titanic’s first and only voyage
J. P. Morgan was a very lucky man. He’d bought a first-class ticket for the star-crossed maiden voyage of Titanic, but changed his plans in the last minute and sold it to a stranger, an interesting fact about J. P. Morgan. Upon learning about the ship’s tragic sinking, he uttered the famous quote, “Monetary losses amount to nothing in life… It is the loss of life that counts.”
8. Morgan lent some gold to the Federal Treasury
The year was 1895 and the Federal Treasury was in serious trouble. In fact, it was almost empty! J. P. Morgan and his friends of the Rothschild family lent the U.S. government 3.5 million ounces of gold against a 30-year bond issue. This fact shows that large businesses have always been the backbone of the U.S. economy.
The above snippets reflect some highlights of J. P. Morgan’s life. Towards the end of this post, it should probably be mentioned that this remarkable man was also an intrepid mariner, who owned several yachts and was not afraid of rough seas. In 1913, a few months prior to his 76th birthday, Morgan took a voyage to Rome, his favorite city. On the 31st of March that year, he died peacefully in his sleep at the Grand Hotel Plaza.
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