April 17: Businessman and Financier J. P. Morgan Born in Hartford

 

Today in 1837, John Pierpont Morgan, one of the most famous businessmen and financiers in American history, was born in Hartford.

J. P. Morgan Sr., circa 1903.

Born into a wealthy and influential Connecticut family, J. P. Morgan was groomed to be a successful financier from an early age.  He quickly moved up the ranks of his father’s banking companies in London and New York, slowly but steadily consolidating his own business networks and influence throughout the latter half of the 19th century.

Morgan played a role in creating some of the most recognizable corporations in United States history, often by buying out competing businesses and reorganizing them into one larger and more efficient company.  Three of his most successful mergers resulted in the creation of General Electric in 1891, J. P. Morgan and Company (now J. P. Morgan Chase Bank) in 1895, and the United States Steel Company in 1901, which was the world’s first billion-dollar corporation.

Morgan wielded an outsized influence on the U.S. banking, business, and even government sectors. In 1895, when the U.S. Treasury was close to bankruptcy owing to the Panic of 1893, Morgan arranged to sell a portion of his companies’ own gold reserves to the government in exchange for a massive 30-year bond — saving the federal treasury but alarming many critics and politicians in the process.  In 1907, he helped deflect the damage from yet another financial panic by arranging a massive private-sector “bailout” of several large New York banks.  Even though Morgan had helped stave off financial disaster twice, Progressive-era politicians and reformers saw his intervention as a clear sign that increased federal oversight of America’s sprawling banking industry was needed — a concern that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Interior, Hartford Municipal Building

After his death in 1913, Morgan was buried alongside many other notable Connecticut citizens in Cedar Hill Cemetery, in the city of his birth.  Among his notable contributions to the city of Hartford was the financial support he provided for the Wadsworth Athaneum and city’s stunning Beaux-Arts municipal building, which was completed in 1915.

 

Further Reading

Nancy Finlay, “J. P. Morgan’s Connecticut Roots,” connecticuthistory.org

J. Pierpont Morgan,” Souvenir Book of the [Hartford] Municipal Building Dedication, 1915

Hartford Connecticut Landmarks: Municipal Building (City Hall)” Karen O’Maxfield

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