J.P. Morgan: The Finance King Is Born

Forbes.com editors ranked him as the second most influential businessman of all time as well as the most important banker who ever lived. An American financier and banker, J.P. Morgan became one of the wealthiest men in the world, who created a reputation for himself after having rescued the U.S. government from financial nightmare, and after having created the world’s first billion-dollar company among other feats. The empire and the company he created live on to this day as the third-largest financial services firm in the U.S.

Born on April 17, 1837, in Hartford, Connecticut, John Pierpont Morgan had business already running through his blood. His father, Junius Spencer Morgan had been the owner of a mercantile house in Boston prior to founding his own successful investment firm, J.S. Morgan & Co. in London, England. He was highly respected by his peers for helping failing companies and giving loans when they were badly needed, including a loan to the French after the Franco-Prussian War. Junius would also later go on to finance many of his son’s ventures. Meanwhile, Morgan’s mother, Sarah Pierpont, came from a reputable and wealthy family in Boston, whose father was also well versed with the business world. Although he was a well-known preacher, Sarah’s father would take advantage of any opportunity to distribute his own two business cents to anyone who would hear it.

Morgan was forced to overcome a rare disorder as a young boy that often caused fainting spells and fatigue, but he dedicated himself from an early age to academic excellence and attended only the very best schools, including the English High School of Boston. After graduating from high school, Morgan moved to Germany to study at its most prestigious institution, the University of Gottigen. It was here where he would meet his future wife, Amelia Sturges. Despite being in the later stages of tuberculosis, Morgan married her, hoping that a Mediterranean honeymoon would help cure her. Unfortunately, Amelia died of tuberculosis just four months later. Heavily traumatized by this incident, Morgan would forever after visit Amelia’s grave on their anniversary each year. This also led him to immerse himself completely in work as a distraction. He later remarried Frances Tracy, with whom he would have four children, all of whom would go on to follow in their father’s footsteps.

In 1857, after a brief study tour in the Caribbean, Morgan took up employment at Duncan, Sherman and Co., a banking firm based in New York City. Here, he worked without pay in order to better learn the ins and outs of investment banking. After three years, Morgan moved to George Peabody and Co. to work as an American agent. His father was a partner with Peabody and so Morgan strove doubly hard to establish himself.

Under his father’s wing, Morgan excelled. He left Peabody to work for Dabney, Morgan & Co. and later, Drexel, Morgan & Co in 1871. He had found his niche and knew that he was meant for a life in investment banking. It would not be long before Morgan would break out from under his father’s shadow and carve out a reputation for himself.

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