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  1. J.P. Morgan: Introduction
  2. J.P. Morgan: Early Life and Education
  3. J.P. Morgan: Success Story
  4. J.P. Morgan: Net Worth
  5. J.P. Morgan: Famous or Infamous
  6. J.P. Morgan: Most Influential Quotes

John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was a central figure in American finance, with interests in almost every major industry and near-complete control of a few, but his influence went well beyond business. His fingerprints are seemingly all over American history, from politics to journalism to monetary policy to art—and even geology.

Morgan, who went by his middle name, acted as the U.S. Treasury’s lender of last resort during the Panic of 1893 and organized the rescue of New York’s banks in 1907, presaging the role of the Federal Reserve. He consolidated a number of steel and iron businesses to create the world’s first billion-dollar corporation, U.S. Steel. He financed the formation of several other large and powerful firms, including General Electric and a couple dozen railroads. Were it not for him, the New York Times might have been a footnote in the history of Hearst-era journalism. (For related reading, see: Wall Street History: Panics, Scandals and Rogue Traders [Oh My!])

Morgan accumulated an enormous amount of power, reflected in a 1911 Puck cartoon that shows him rowing the ship—or rather, dinghy—of state while a tiny Uncle Sam drapes his hands uselessly over the oar. But if his place in American history cannot be denied, there is little consensus on how to assess J.P. Morgan’s legacy.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

For some, Morgan’s contributions were essentially positive. He kept the national economy from going off the rails more than once. To a large extent, he invented the modern American corporation. He placed great store in art, religion, philanthropy and personal integrity. He was the best capitalism had to offer: shrewd, farsighted and, as a result, successful.

To others, he is an embodiment of capitalism’s ills. He was born into money, and he spent his life turning that money into more money. He was an unapologetic monopolist, at the center of a cabal of powerful, unelected men. A shadowy plutocrat, he operated at a great distance from the people who labored in his factories for a pittance, and on whose backs he grew even richer. His role was fundamentally at odds with the ideals of democracy. (For more, see: The History of Capitalism: From Feudalism to Wall Street.)

There is evidence to support either interpretation, but one thing is certain. To be an informed investor or entrepreneur, it is crucial to understand the facts of Morgan’s life and work. Without him, Wall Street, Washington and everything in between would look very different than they do today.

J.P. Morgan: Early Life and Education
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