Morgan, J. P.

John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was an American banker whose investments helped stabilize the economy, build monopolies, and earn the wrath of Theodore Roosevelt. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Morgan went to work in his father’s bank at the age of nineteen and, after four years, struck out on his own. He specialized in taking over promising but floundering businesses. His method was to gain control of a corporation, appoint his own managers and directors, and reorganize with an eye to creating profitable concerns.

This process, which became known as “Morganizing” an industry, included reducing competition. A prime example was the creation of United States Steel in 1901, the world’s first billion-dollar company. Morgan invested heavily in railroads, becoming a powerful figure in the New York Central and many other lines. His timely investments helped complete the bankrupt Northern Pacific.

It was his interest in this last railroad that brought Morgan into conflict with President Roosevelt in 1904. In order to rationalize railroading across the northern part of the United States, Morgan, James J. Hill, and E. H. Harriman created the Northern Securities Corporation. This holding company controlled the three major transcontinental railroads from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest. Roosevelt believed that the Northern Securities Corporation was a monopoly, and so after an investigation, he ordered his Justice Department to break up the company. The Supreme Court upheld this action in a 5-4 decision on the grounds that the holding company violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by operating in restraint of trade. It was Roosevelt’s first major act of trust busting and set the stage for others.

Despite this setback, Morgan amassed a fortune worth some $70 million and accumulated an important art collection. He financed Thomas Edison, and his house in New York City was the first to be supplied with electricity.

Morgan was widowed after one year of marriage to Amelia Sturgis. He wed Frances Tracy in 1865. J. P. Morgan died in Rome, and was buried in Hartford, Connecticut. He was survived by Frances Morgan and their four children.