John Pierpont Morgan
I have chosen John Pierpont Morgan as my business leader. Despite having little to no knowledge of John Pierpont Morgan, I found it fascinating how one man can shape the course of United States history and world financial history. I wanted to learn about the life and experiences of J.P. Morgan in hopes of enlightening myself with lessons that I can apply to my future. Not only is the life of J.P. Morgan an interesting topic by itself, I also wanted to learn about the history of a company I hoped to work for one day. I believe that knowing the beginning of a company can help me to understand what it takes to build my own company in the future or to help another company to grow and expand. Learning from past experiences can only help you rather than hinder you. John Pierpont Morgan is a man of great character that saved the United States from financial crisis not once, but twice.
John Pierpont Morgan was born on April 17, 1837, in Hartford, Connecticut. J.P. Morgan’s early childhood experiences have greatly shaped him to become the powerful person that he was in the financial and political world. Unlike many other great corporate leaders of his time, Morgan did not experience poverty from the time of his birth in 1837 to his death in 1913 (Bowen). He lived in luxury and gained valuable experiences from his family’s social standing. His father, Junius Spencer Morgan, saw the great business potential within his son (“John Pierpont Morgan”). Pierpont excelled in math, was able to compute numbers quickly, and was a natural leader in his classes (Kessner 209). This mathematical and leadership potential led Junius Spencer Morgan to raise Pierpont with strict, but loving gestures in hopes to shaped Pierpont into a great business leader. He taught Pierpont “how to speak, act, and think like a banker throughout his childhood” (Bowen). Opportunity shined upon the Morgan family when Junius Spencer entered into a “partnership with an American who possessed a thriving London brokerage,” which played a vital role in the “growth of J.P. Morgan’s career” (Dow and Noce 551). With Junius Spencer in a high and influential position in the bank of London, Pierpont ventured into the finance world and have access to the New York bank’s network (“John Pierpont Morgan”).
John Pierpont Morgan was a great leader of his time. He led the United States out of two financial crises. Until 1913, the United States government did not have any agency to deal with a financial crisis (“John Pierpont Morgan”). John Pierpont Morgan had the solo responsibility to control the financial world and to keep the economy from failing. His dominating powers in the finance world and the United States government have allowed him to influence decisions of many other great leaders. During the peak of the railroad crisis, where competitors in the railroad industry compete among each other to the point where resources were wasted on expansion of unprofitable tracks and many jobs were on the line, Pierpont was requested by some of the most influential people to help solve the crisis. Pierpont invited the leader of each respective railroad company to his yacht, Corsair, and forced the leaders to decide among each other to come up with a reasonable solution to the problem and if not, he was not going to let any of them off the yacht (“John Pierpont Morgan”). The only person capable of making such a risky and daring action was John Pierpont Morgan. His influences over the financial and political world had earned him respect and fear at the same time. He was criticized for “creating monopolies by making it difficult for any business to compete against his”, but yet without his interference, the United States would have suffered several great financial disasters (“John Pierpont Morgan”).
Pierpont continuously demonstrated his leadership skills throughout his life. His first financial decision occurred during his employment at Duncan, Sherman & Company. Pierpont traveled South to research for the firm. He gleaned information on the cotton trade of the South. While on his research mission for the firm, Pierpont stumbled on an opportunity to make a profit for the firm. Pierpont made a risky and daring decision of purchasing a large quantity of coffee from a Captain in the harbor of New Orleans with the firm’s capital in hopes to make a profit from the sales (Dow and Noce 151). He was relentless and was not afraid to take charge and opportunities. Despite earning a small profit for the firm, Pierpont was criticized for his daringness and inexperience by members of Duncan, Sherman & Company. Soon after, Pierpont resigned from his position at the firm to start his own company. In 1861, Pierpont founded J.P. Morgan & Company (Dow and Noce 152). He was straightforward and always goes after what he wanted. Pierpont was also known for his good judgment of character. He was able to stare at a person and tell what type of person he was (“John Pierpont Morgan”). Later in his life, during his trial after his retirement, Pierpont would explain his principle for his success in life as having to only work and deal with people of great character. He refused to lend people with weak character his capital or invest in their business (“John Pierpont Morgan”).
J.P. Morgan’s tragic experiences during his lifetime strengthen his resolve in maintain control and order. Pierpont was a person to be envy for all the business leaders during the time. He achieved influential power in the finance and political world, but what he achieved in one area, he lacked in others. When Pierpont’s wife, Amelia Sturges, died from tuberculosis, he buried himself in his work, but his work alone did not comfort him. Pierpont rediscovered his interest in religion during his childhood days with his grandfather. Pierpont started to visit St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City, where he met his second and last wife Frances Tracy (Dow Noce 553). From his experience, I learned that when everything look grim, always looks forward and continue to move on, but if you get stumble, seek comfort in a past enjoyment. No one is perfect or powerful enough to not suffer. Pierpont, a fearful and powerful man, found comfort in a church when he felt trouble and found something he thought he had lost, love.
John Pierpont Morgan made a huge contribution to the world of business as well as the rest of the world. During the American Civil War, Pierpont help fund the war and the paycheck of soldiers when Congress reached a stalemate to provide additional funding for the war (Bowen). In addition, he helped refinance the Civil War debt with federal bonds worth $1.4 billion dollar (Jackson 627). In 1893, after the depression, Pierpont once again had a hand in the overall financial stability of the entire nation. When the United States treasury’s gold reserve was being depleted, Pierpont offered to fund the government, but the President rejected the proposal. Pierpont, relentless and fearless, headed to D.C. to convince the President to accept the proposal, which he did (“John Pierpont Morgan”). The proposal resulted with an inflow of gold back into the national reserve.
Again, in the financial crisis of October 1907, Pierpont was asked by President Theodore Roosevelt to help solve the problem. Despite having a terrible relationship with the President and the government, Pierpont accepted the request and offer a helping hand. Pierpont was able to prevent the stock market from closing early by raising $25 million in 15 minutes (Gordon). Pierpont defines “our image of the tycoon as…big bellied, top-hatted and frock-coated, a fierce, swaggering buccaneer” (Kessner 207). He helped form many corporations and created a vessel of prosperity and contempt, opportunity and greed (Bowen). J.P. Morgan left a legacy that many of us admire today.
Bown, Liz. “J.P. Morgan”. Fordham University. Fordham University. < http://www.fordham.edu/academics/colleges__graduate_s/undergraduate_colleg/fordham_college_at_l/special_programs/honors_program/hudsonfulton_celebra/homepage/biographies/jp_morgan_32212.asp#_edn1>
Dow, Sheila and Noce, Jaime E. Business Leader Profiles for Students. Vol 1. Detroit. Gale, 2002.
Gordon, John Steele. "The Magnitude of J.P. Morgan.” American Heritage Magazine 40. 5 (1989), http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1989/5/1989_5_78.shtml.
Kessner,Thomas. Capital city: New York City and the men behind America's rise to economic dominance, 1860-1900 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), 207.
Jackson,Kenneth T. The Encyclopedia of New York City (New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 1995), 627.
“John Pierpont Morgan”. Bio True Story. 3/06/12 <http://www.biography.com/people/john-pierpont-morgan-9414735>