Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 9. Segment 5
Powerful Pierpont

It was John Pierpont Morgan See It Now - J.P. Morgan who bought Andrew Carnegie's steel company. He was not the richest man in America. People just thought he was. Short of stature, afflicted with a skin disease that disfigured his nose, Morgan dominated those around him by his sheer personality. Photographer Edward Steichen once described Morgan's intensity. "Meeting his blazing dark eyes was like confronting the headlights of an express train bearing down on you." The writer Lincoln Steffens described him this way: "His eyes glared, his great red nose seemed to flash and darken." Check The Source - "The Shame of the Cities": By Lincoln Steffens

Morgan was a banker—a money man—and he had the ability to make a confused situation orderly. In the years after the Civil War, the business world was very disorderly. Morgan helped make it efficient.

Once, when the U.S. Treasury seemed on the edge of collapse—it didn't have enough gold in reserve to meet its bills—J. P. Morgan loaned the nation $62 million. Another time, the country was facing a financial crisis that might have led to a depression. People were pulling their money out of banks and the stock market. Morgan called the leading financiers to a meeting in his home—in his marble library See It Now - J.P. Morgan House in New York City. He asked them to lend money to save the trust. Then he locked the doors. He sat and played solitaire while the bankers paced and argued. At five in the morning, when they agreed to do as he wished, Morgan unlocked the doors. The country was saved from financial disaster.

The House of Morgan controlled railroads, shipping, the manufacture of agricultural tools, telephones, telegraphs, electrical power, insurance, city transportation. After Morgan bought Carnegie's company, he bought metal ore reserves from Rockefeller and founded the U.S. Steel Corporation. It was the nation's first billion-dollar corporation.

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