New York Times

During All That Time He Has Successfully Hidden from the Public His Real
Self, Which Combines Diffidence and a Gentleness Very Unlike the Gruff
Autocrat Familiar to Wall Street
Should J. Pierpont Morgan feel moved next Wednesday evening to spend a
contemplative hour on some waterway of Venice, and, leaning comfortably
back against the cushions of his gondola in the enjoyment of one of his
famous black cigars, allow his thoughts to wander in the past, as they
are supposed to when birthdays come at this time of life, will his
retrospect of seventy-five active years deal with his triumphs in
finance or art, and his mastery of men and things, or will they fall
into the more human vein which, to the average man, even among his Wall
Street acquaintances, is a little known side of the Master of American
Finance? Like any other man who has lived a full life and is approaching
four-score years, his visions should be mostly of the past---a good deal
of himself, perhaps more of his family, as might be expected in a man
who has brought up one son and three daughters, and can boast eleven
grandchildren. But, one of his intimates would probably tell you, his
birthday thoughts on April 17 are not likely to be of business.

He is one of those rare Americans who have learned how to keep vital
interests alive and to keep the wheels of business rolling from the
driver's seat and not in the harness. To the average man who knows John
Pierpont Morgan as the "JP" of Wall Street, the focus of the "Money
Trust," and the sun around which all the smaller capitalistic planets
revolve, the picture of a somewhat bourgeois old gentleman, with a good
deal of the simplicity under his bristling exterior, may seem out of
drawing. Light on this side of the man is rare, for he makes a sharp
distinction between his Wall Street associates and his real friends, and
these are apt to be among the sort of quiet old-fashioned Americans who
do not break into print and whose anecdotes seldom reach channels of
current gossip.

Would it match your idea of the hard-eyed, beetle-browed, iron-jawed
financial ogre of the comic supplement cartoonist to be told that one of
the strongest personal traits of the man is his devotion to his father's
memory, that he is absurdly fond of small dogs, that he gets as much
pleasure out of the triumphs at fairs of his blooded cattle as he does
from the successful pursuit of some missing link in one of his great
collections, and that he has a dozen of the little foibles of an
ordinary old gentleman, loves to fasten a joke on an old friend, never
tires of his old stories, and tells them often and not too well? Homely
tomatoes and strawberries are his horticultural hobbies and solitaire is
his besetting vice.

His grim silences and love of mental privacy, brusque aloofness in his
business contacts, and short, sharp. and direct methods in dealing with
affairs are chiefly what Wall Street sees. No one ever saw him
sauntering in the financial district with a friend. His passages to and
fro down town are usually in the motor which lately replaced his
four-wheeler, and when rarely he walks from the old Drexel, Morgan & Co.
building, at [a line of type is apparently missing here in the original
and a later line appears in its place] the Steel meetings in the Empire
Building at Broadway and Rector Streets, he strides straight ahead, eyes
front. Hatred of notice is a passion with him. It is when he is away
from the scrutiny of curious eyes, at home, on his yacht, in the
country, and, chiefly, in the socially-tempered atmosphere of England
or the Continent that the human side of the man comes out of its shell.

It is not an uncommon sight in England to discover the Great Man of Wall
Street riding about in his motor car with a tiny Pekingese spaniel in
his lap, or walking about the grounds of Dover House, his big suburban
estate out Putney way from London, with the same dog tucked under his
arm.  This is Sing, the successor of a Pekingese given him by Lady
Gordon-Lenox some years ago.  The original Sing was the beginning of a
whole brood of tiny dogs now kept at Dover House.  This little fellow
became the inseparable companion of his master, even being privileged to
a lap-seat at quiet dinners.

English friends of the financier often tell, as emphasizing the
soft-heartedness of Morgan, of the grief of Sing's master when he was
the accidental cause of the dog's death.  Mr. Morgan had Sing in his
arms one day, alighting from his carriage, when a sudden start of the
horses frightened at a massing motor, threw him off his balance.  He
dropped Sing grasping for support and the dog fell under the wheels. It
was days before he got over a real shock from the thing, they say.

Dover House throws a light on Morgan's devotion to the memory of his
father, Junius Spencer Morgan bought Dover House shortly after he went
to London to become a partner in Peabody & Co., succeeded by J. S.
Morgan & Co., the precursor of the present international banking firm
which J. P. Morgan heads. Young John Pierpont, after his course at
Göttingen University, got his apprenticeship in finance in his father's
London office, and lived during these years in close association with
him at the Morgan town house in Prince's Gate and the big country house
out Putney way. Dover House stands on a slope of the Thames Valley and
looks across it to London. It was bought and furnished by the elder
Morgan in the mid-Victorian era. Although the son has in later years
added vastly in the grounds surrounding the old house, and now owns many
acres in what is hardly outside of the London suburbs, those who know
the place any that not a thing bas been changed in the furnishing of the
house. One room has been repapered, the story goes, and that is all
wherein the place differs from its aspect during the years when father
and son lived together. The heavy Victorian furnishings remain, black
walnut, antimacassars, passementerie, and all.

It is at Dover House that the famous Morgan strawberries are grown. They
are famed as the most luscious in England, and English strawberries are
the best in the world. There may be acres under the glass in these
suburban gardens. The Morgan greenhouses are famous around London, and
it is said that of all they produce strawberries and tomatoes are what
chiefly delight the owner. Mr. Morgan proves his fruit with his
appetite. Breakfast is a serious meal with him, and it is said that he
consumes gargantuan quantities of strawberries and cream as a starter,
following with cereal, eggs, bacon, and successive breakfast courses
enough to feed a Cornish giant, all interspersed with never-omitted
sliced tomatoes. For tomatoes may be said to be the financier's staff of
life. He eats them all year round, according to tradition, and no meal
is complete without them.

There is a strong conservative streak in the American banker which
emphasizes his likeness in many ways to an English country gentleman.
Many of the things he does are the things his father did before him. He
has inflexible habits of living. His nightly session at solitaire has
hardly been interrupted for years, except during the panic of 1907, when
he took command of the financial forces, working to save the situation
for a critical week and made financial history at the head of the
nightly councils of dismayed bankers in his white marble library in
Thirty-sixth Street.

In his trips abroad he has followed practically the same programme for
years, sailing at the end of the Winter, visiting France, Italy, and the
Continent generally, until the London season opens. May, therefore,
usually finds him at Dover House and, in obedience to another
established habit, he invariably returns to America in time for the
height of the season at Bar Harbor. In London the house at Prince's Gate
has been enlarged since his father's time to take in the building next
door, and since it was, until he completed the library adjoining his
Madison Avenue house here in 1905, the home of most of his most precious
art collections, the imprint of the elder Morgan's personality has not
been preserved here as at Dover House.

Perhaps this is why Mr. Morgan spends little of his time at Prince's
Gate. It is his usual practice to make the half hour's journey to Dover
House at the end of a day in London. There is one curious thing that
strikes a visitor's eye at Prince's Gate. In the main hall there is a
shelf against the wall supporting a curious array of china dogs and
cats, the small Chinese grotesques which were popular "parlor ornaments"
in the fifties. These, like the unchanged interior of Dover House and
the linen still in use there marked with the elder Morgan's initials,
represent the banker's devotion to his father's memory. They stand on
the shelf just as they did in J. P. Morgan's youth. This almost
sentimental regard for his father's memory is so well known among his
English friends that they got something of a shock when, a year or so
ago, he changed the name of the London firm to Morgan, Grenfell & Co.,
abandoning the title of J. S. Morgan & Co., which had linked his
father's name to the present banking generation.

One of the reasons why tales which throw light on the human side of the
financier have mostly to do with his life in England, is no doubt
because of the greater freedom of his intercourse with people on the
other side.  Mr. Morgan goes about a great deal abroad.  He appears at
public functions and talks with what seems like freedom by contrast with
his habit here.  His self-sufficiency is less apparent.  One man who has
had the opportunity to observe the banker at foreign functions has
called him a shy man.  The story, at any rate, is told of a visit he
paid to Germany after presenting the Kaiser with the Luther Bible, which
he had learned the German Emperor was keenly anxious to possess, and had
lost because the American banker's agent had outbid his.

Mr. Morgan has often dined with the Kaiser and found nothing unusual in
another command to attend an Imperial function.  Emperor William
approached him unceremoniously during the evening and pinned on him the
order of the Black Eagle.  It was his recognition of the gift of the
Luther Bible.  The American, the tale goes, feeling the eyes of the
whole assemblage on him, showed about the same graceful command of the
situation as a schoolboy confronting his first commencement audience.

Out of all the stories of the man that a long search for personal
anecdotes has brought together there is only one which indicates a
lurking personal vanity, though there are numberless evidences of an
Olympian magnificence in following his hobbies. It has been remarked by
those who meet him abroad that he wears with some self-consciousness a
decoration bestowed on him by the King of Italy. This was in recognition
of his prompt return of the famous Ascoli cope as soon as he learned
that his costly purchase had been stolen from the Italian church where
it had been preserved for centuries.

In Italy Mr. Morgan always finds a! warm reception. Only a year ago when
he was invited to accept the honorary Presidency of the foreign
committee at the time of the National Art Exhibition, he was addressed
officially in these terms:

>It is very natural, Sir, that our first thought should turn to you,
>whose enlightened taste, profound knowledge, and limitless generosity
>have made you the most enlightened Maecenas of our times.

It is as a Midas, perhaps, that he is most popularly known here and
abroad. Certainly it is his ability to absorb at will for his
collections in all branches of art the world's best examples of each
that is the basis of his fame abroad. Europe is too accustomed to the
Rothschild fortune to be awed or interested by his millions, but,
nevertheless, the name of Morgan is familiarly known abroad to those
whose knowledge of Americans may be limited otherwise to Washington and

The latest phase of the Olympian side of the Morgan personality is his
appropriation at an enormous yearly rental of the entire top floor of
the new Bankers' Trust Company Building at the northwest corner of Wall
and Nassau Streets, diagonally opposite the famous old building which
houses his banking firm. Though not the tallest building down town, it
overtops everything to the south, east, and west. On the north only
segments of the view are obscured by such skyscrapers as the Singer
tower and the rising Woolworth Building. This top floor is to be a
down-town private retreat for the banker. Directly under the
stepped-pyramid of marble which surmounts the building and distinguishes
it miles away from New York's other skyscrapers this floor now being
fitted up is surrounded by a ledge broad enough to be a promenade. It
completely obscures the windows of the Morgan floor from the street,
and, indeed, from all but the upper stories of the surrounding

To just what use the banker intends to put these spacious quarters has
not yet been made known, but that he intends to leave nothing lacking
there for his personal comfort is evidenced by the immense glass and
bronze sun parlor which has just been completed on the westerly side.
Here, safe from any weather, perhaps the most magnificent view of New
York, of the harbor, the North and East Rivers, and the fading
perspective of the Jersey hills and Long Island may be obtained.

There are many lesser extravagances to be cited. Few have heard the
story of what became of the china service of the Corsair after her
master ceased to be Commodore of tile New York Yacht Club, and the big
steam yacht could no longer fly the Commodore's pennant as flagship of
the club's fleet. In token of his command, Commodore Morgan had
furnished his yacht with china blazoned with twin flags, his Commodore's
pennant and the ensign of the club.  Somewhere up the Sound, on the day
he ceased to be the chief officer of the club, Mr. Morgan ordered all of
the twin-flag tableware on deck. He and his guests joined in a smashing
carnival . Plates were scaled overboard, saucers tossed in the air,
while the throwers tested their aim trying to hit them with their
companion cups before they touched the water. A soup tureen floating
astern was a target for crockery missiles.

As a collector, it is said, Mr. Morgan is not a reckless buyer, though
he gets what he considers indispensable at any price. About his vast
co!lections, both those in his Thirty-sixth Street library and those
coming from London to enrich the Metropolitan Museum, more exact facts
are known, perhaps, than about any other of his interests.

There are many anecdotes of his pursuit of coveted prizes. Here are one
or two that have perhaps had but limited circulation.

As is generally known. the owner of some of the world's greatest art
treasures is not a more buyer. He has an almost photographic memory and
a wide knowledge. It would be difficult to deceive his trained eye in
almost any branch of the arts. It was this experience which enabled him
to pick up a bargain in a way that would delight any collector's.heart
and to supply him with a story which, his friends testify, he has told
many times since with unstaled enjoyment. His London collection
contained two famous yellow Sevres vases. It was known that the master
had turned out four.

Mr. Morgan's agents had been on watch for years to locate the missing
pair. One morning, after one of his occasional overnight stops at the
Prince's Gate house, he was told that an insistent stranger was at the
door with what he declared were two rare pieces of Sevres. The Morgan
house in London is besieged at times with sellers of alleged
masterpieces. As Mr. Morgan tells the story, he had a sudden inspiration
to go down stairs, this once, and see what was offered. He was still in
his dressing gown. When the wrappings were undone he beheld the missing
yellow Sevres vases. The tale, as it is recounted, pauses here while
Mr.Morgan describes his feelings.  He says he trembled and scarcely
could find his voice to ask the price. The other two vases, completing
the set of four, were only a few yards away, where they had rested for
years. He didn't dare get one for comparison for fear that the seller
might suspect his prospective customer's intent of having the
long-sought missing pair at any price. He trusted his expertness, and
closed with the man at his first price, $5,000, the story tells, a
fraction of what he would have been willing to pay.

Another tale of luck in completing one of the Morgan Sevres sets has
equal zest. It is of the famous three pieces made for Louis XV, which
comprised Du Barry, an altar of love on which the lady offered her heart
to the King, and Louis XV himself. The figure of Louis was missing, and
all efforts to trace it had been vain. The collector's agents had been
watching for it for years.

One of the dealers from whom Mr. Morgan had bought a great deal of his
porcelains was inspecting the ancestral possessions of an old French
family. There was nothing much left of great value, the story goes, and
the dealer asked per mission to pry around in the cellar.  It was a
lumber room containing the household discards of centuries, dismantled
furniture, mostly. .A dusty bundle of old brocade caught the visitor's
eye. He picked it up curiously and found it heavy.As he peeled away the
rotted cloth there was revealed the missing Louis XV.

Of another side of Morgan, anecdotes are scarcest, for these only a
few, and the most intimate of his friends, can tell. He is pictured as a
man of instantaneous decision always, knowing no doubts, never uncertain
of the outcome once he has moved. During the panic of 1907 his
impenetrable control and his fiery certainty of resolution overawed the
money kings who came to the library conferences to take his commands.
He forced his will without question on bewildered men regarded in the
Street as his peers in finance, and rode rough-shod over doubters. After
the worst was over, and the Black Friday of 1907 (when the question of
closing the Stock Exchange hung in the balance until $25,000,000
gathered by Morgan had been doled out at 6 per cent. in the loan crowd,
saving the day) safely passed, the leader showed his only doubts. That
story has never been told. He had started up the Sound in the Corsair
before the close of the market. His partner, Charles Steele, left the
Street later, also bound up the Sound in his yacht. The Corsair was
steaming slowly for once, and was overtaken. The head of the firm called
his partner aboard and learned that the slump, checked the previous day,
had showed signs of being renewed. Mr. Morgan lost his nerve. The big
yacht was put about and headed back for the East River. The leader
anchored off the yacht club pier at Twenty-third Street, to be within
call of his lieutenants.

Morgan's impatience with incompetence and his intolerance of mistakes
are as much part of his Wall Street reputation as his taciturnity and
aloofness. There was one bright young man taken into his office who
failed of the promotion which his cleverness first promised.  He had
risen to a confidential standing with the head of the house, it is
related.  Once Mr. Morgan gave instructions to buy a certain amount of
stock at a given price, say, at 87.  The bright young man had a chance
to get it at 86 ½, the story goes, and took it.  He reported jubilantly
of the half point saved, but met with a rebuffing, "I said buy at 87."
That ended him as a Morgan man.

Whether it is pride or lack of talent for mixing with all sorts and
conditions of men, J. P. Morgan's reputation gives him no credit for
democracy.  There are many little-known instances, however, of his
unsuspected interest in the small affairs of others.  Outside of the
Morgan offices, and protected from infringement on the city's sidewalk
by the Morgan area fence is a lemonade stand.  It has been there for
years, and has a daily patronage from messengers and the office boy army
of the Street.  It has puzzled many why this humble trade should be
allowed to flourish on the very steps of the office.  The oldest porter
in the Mills Building insists he knows the answer.  He will tell you
that the seller of the lemonade and hokey-pokey once peddled from the
curb, got to be a daily fixture at the corner, and finally got in the
bad books of the man on post.  It was because the banker saw one of his
periodic routings by the arm of the law, the porter says, that he was
invited one day to establish himself inside the railing.

There are numberless stories current in the street of flaring temper and
impatient wrath.  Any one who has seen the head of the house of Morgan
burst through the glass doors which lead to the mysterious inner offices
somewhere in the Mills Building, and call a name in his gruff bellow, is
prepared to believe all of them.  There is not an office in the Street
where the entrance of the boss causes less stir.

Before the panic made it apparent that J. Pierpont Morgan was the
central figure in Wall Street, and dissipated the idea that he might be
classed as a retired capitalist, as might have become a reasonable
impression from his long absences abroad and the increasing publicity
given to his art-collecting hobby, there was a paucity of detail in the
public's knowledge of his financial activities.  He was the "Steel King"
and the "Railroad King" and the "Steamship King" of popular fancy, but
what had then been printed of his financial methods has since been
snowed under in an avalanche of paper and ink.

He has been muckraked as thoroughly as John D. Rockefeller.  His
billion-dollar "Steel Trust," in the face of the certificate of good
character obtained from the Administration which started the Federal
machinery grinding up the Rockefeller "Oil Trust" and the Ryan "Tobacco
Trust," is now itself on trial.  The "Money Trust" may finally be
investigated by Congress.  Mr. Morgan has shown none of the apprehension
of the drift of public opinion which influenced the head of another
group of "malefactors of great wealth" to organize one of the most
complete and effective bureaus for the damming of the flood of public
criticism which the Big Business has yet evolved.

Should his seventy-fifth birthday really inspire in J. Pierpont Morgan a
philosophic mood there is nothing in what he has shown of the nature to
allow it to be it to be suspected that he will squander any of his
birthday reflections on thoughts of his birthday reflections on thoughts
of his position in the public mind.  He has been a figure of National
importance for a quarter century at least, but has seemingly been
completely indifferent to popular praise or blame.

There have been many tabulations made of the power of Morgan since the
ramifications of the money power have been occupying public attention.

It is largely a matter of arbitrary choice how far into the billions the
figures extend.  One of the writers who has dealt with the subject
credits the control of fifty-four railroads with aggregate capital of
$4,157,000,000 to less than a dozen men, and to a like few the control
of fifty-six great industrial companies with total capital of

"The great central power of this concentration," he says, "is the bank.
Mr. Morgan, by his recent merger, has accordingly placed himself at the
head of the greatest power in control of all of the great powers of
wealth. It was said a few years ago that eight men virtually controlled
the bulk of the banking resources of cash and credit in the country.
To-day one man is fast getting that power into his hands."

Another writer says this:

"His gigantic power is still new, and as yet little understood.  He
inspires his countrymen with awe, and with another feeling, which is not
exactly fear, but akin to it---a feeling of uneasiness.  They see him in
the terrific national changes of the times."

A cynical birthday reverie might prompt the reflection that seventy-five
years which have made a man the symbol of a nation's burning political
issue have been strenuously lived, at least.  But the biographer acquits
the banker of conscious efforts to reach that pinnacle.  "In fact," he
says, "when young Morgan entered business in New York no man could
possibly have foreseen the peculiar opportunities which the twentieth
century would offer---the chance of an American kingship was utterly
invisible to the most restless and conquering eye."

Passing recollections of his business career, should Mr. Morgan indulge
in that reminiscent birthday smoke next Wednesday in Venice, might be
complacent enough.  Listen to what the leading analyst of the dangers of
the money power says of that:

"He was never a stock gambler; never a bear.  He never wrecked a
property nor depressed values that gain might follow.  His work was
always to reconstruct, to repair, to build up.  Instances of his force
and ability in this direction are the Philadelphia & Reading, the West
Shore, the Erie, and the Northern Pacific.  In these instances and
others he saved and rehabilitated property that otherwise would have
been ruined and rendered useless.  His enemies may charge him with many
faults---and he undoubtedly has many---but they can never say that he
destroyed property."

[This article appeared in the Sunday Magazine section, and the text was
accompanied by photos of Morgan, and his homes in Manhattan, Highland
Falls, N.Y., and London.]

Related Biographies:

John Pierpont Morgan


Mark Baber

Comment and discuss

Leave a comment...


Copyright © 1996-2019 Encyclopedia Titanica (www.encyclopedia-titanica.org) and third parties (ref: #6141, published 9 May 2008, generated 19th September 2019 01:43:51 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/j-pierpont-morgan-75-this-week.html