JP Morgan's near iceberg encounter

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Robert Hauser

Aug 18, 2005
Have recently been reading a biography of JP Morgan by Jean Strouse (which seems to be the most comprehensive of them all) and came across an interesting anecdote.

Apparently, Titanic's future financier (who's knickname at that point was 'Jupiter') was a devoted White Star patron long before IMM.

Contrarty to the popular myth, that Morgan was nothing other than a rapacious robber baron boogey man, Jupiter had a romantic streak which he indulged through European travel and art collecting, (at the time of his death, he probably had the greatest private art collection of modern times, which today forms the core of the Metropolitan Museum). He spent at least 3 months a year abroad, and took periods of over a year off to travel at several points in his career.

According to most accounts, Pierpontifex Maximus also enjoyed the hell out ocean travel, and was at his happiest when boarding a transatlantic steamship. He sailed on the Great Western as an adolescent, and made several voyages on the last Cunard paddle wheelers such as the Persia and the Scotia.

There was an incident in December of 1881 which caused him to boycott Cundard and become an ardent White Star fan. Supposedly, after crossing on the Servia right before Xmass, he got peeved because the stewards, wanting to get home for the holiday, tended to stash their tips and run, and were less than helpful with his mountain of luggage. After that he swore to never sail on Cunard again, a vow that he kept until 1908 when he broke down and took the Lusitania to get some idea of IMM's competition before the construction of the Olympic class.

In 1882, Morgan was crossing on the Brittanic near the grand banks in heavy fog when he heard a commotion and shouted helm orders above his cabin, which was below the bridge. They passed a green tinted iceberg that was close enough "to throw a biscuit at" from his port. The ship stopped for the night after that incident.

Interesting twists of fate. If that steward hadn;t pissed off JP Morgan, would he have been as adament to include the company in the IMM? If the Brittanic had sunk with Jupiter, would their have even been a Titanic in the first place? Maybe an iceberg could have pre-empted the whole thing.

Rob H.
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