On this day in 1837, “J.P.” (John Pierpont) Morgan was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Among America’s most notorious “Titans of Industry,” he was a noted banker, financier and deal-maker—and a man who collected art with the same passion with which he collected corporations. Morgan created both General Electric and U.S. Steel by merging smaller, regional companies into the famous behemoths. Amongst the dozens of companies he invested-in or controlled one will find AT&T, International Harvester, and The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.
Morgan studied in America and Europe before taking his first banking job at a London firm followed by a position in New York. One of his early money-making schemes—during the American Civil War—was to buy 5,000 defective rifles from an Army arsenal (for $3.50 apiece) and re-sell them to an Army field general (for $22.00 each).
Despite this rather unscrupulous start, Morgan’s philanthropy endowed many of the Nation’s art, culture, and science establishments. He gave much to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Natural History, and other institutions around the country. In 1906, Morgan built a free-standing library to house his books and collection of papers. After J.P. Morgan’s death, his son, John Pierpont Morgan, Jr., opened the library to the public—in honor of his father.
The wallets above, made of farm-raised alligator, are hand stitched in an American workshop. The collection ranges from $125 to $1,200.