Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

J. Pierpont Morgan: Industrialist and Financier

J. Pierpont Morgan: Industrialist and Financier

Michael Burgan
For ages 10 to 12
Signature Lives, 2006   ISBN: 978-0756518905

John Pierpont Morgan was the son of a wealthy and successful banker and businessman. He had a comfortable childhood, though his education was rather unconventional. Pierpont's father was sure that his son would follow in his footsteps and he made sure that the boy was taught the skills that he would need to have to be a businessman. Thus Pierpont not only went to a high school which specialized in mathematics, but he also was sent to Switzerland and Germany to improve his French and German.

Pierpont began working in his father's London bank when he was just twenty and he soon proved to everyone that he was not only very knowledgeable about the business world, but he also had good instincts when it came to managing money, stocks, and the purchasing of businesses. In 1860 Pierpont moved back to New York. He weathered the Civil War years well, and in 1892, as a partner in the firm of Drexel, Morgan & Company, he oversaw the merger of Edison General Electric and the Thompson-Houston Electric Company. General Electric was born and Pierpont's house in New York became the first private home to have electric lights installed.

In 1893 Tony Drexel died and the firm was renamed J.P. Morgan & Company. By 1900 the house was one of the most successful and wealthy banking establishments in the world. In 1901 Pierpont arranged for the consolidation of Carnegie Steel and several other similar businesses, to form the United States Steel Corporation. This kind of deal was one of many which Pierpont oversaw. In 1869 be began working to build an integrated railroad network and railroad deals became one of his specialties.

Many people were nervous of Pierpont's business machinations. They did not like the way big businesses were becoming ever bigger and feared this "trust building" activity would hurt the country. At the same time they could not deny that Pierpont was a very valuable person to have around at certain times. Pierpont personally helped to save the country from a financial disaster in 1893. The Federal Treasury was being emptied of gold and President Grover Cleveland asked for Pierpont's help. Pierpont's plan worked. In 1907 he helped to avert a massive financial panic on Wall Street.

In addition to being a phenomenal banker J. P Morgan was a prolific collector of valuable books, paintings, and precious things. He was one of the people who help to establish the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York city, and he gave money to many organizations and establishments.

Readers of this carefully written book will not only learn a great deal about J.P. Morgan's achievements but they will also come to see that this very powerful man was not as indomitable as he seemed. He had bouts with depression and his health was, at times, a great trial to him. Even though he had everything a person could dream of and more, J.P Morgan did not have a happy married life and he was often lonely. He would take extended trips abroad when life became too hard for him.

Superbly written and carefully arranged to include boxes full of interesting background information, this excellent title  will hold the reader's interest. The author provides young people with a fascinating picture of the American financial world from the mid 1800's to the early 1900's.

This is one of the titles in the "Signature Lives" series.