April - December 2001

Guest Curator: Jean Strouse, author of Morgan: American Financier

In the years following the Civil War, American industry was growing at a rapid pace and Wall Street provided the capital to fund new, often risky ventures. The demand for capital was greater than the supply, and American bankers looked to foreign markets for financial assistance. J. Pierpont Morgan gained a reputation on Wall Street for seeking out profitable investments for his European clients.

Morgan was the preeminent figure in American finance at the dawn of the 20th century. He used his solid reputation and shrewd negotiating skills to finance America's troubled railroads -- dubbed "Morganization" -- and to incorporate such major companies as General Electric, International Harvester, and AT&T. He also created financial markets for government securities and, at a time when America had no central bank, he was the country's unofficial "lender of last resort."

Perhaps Morgan's greatest achievement was to save the nation from financial collapse during the Panic of 1907. He was celebrated on Wall Street and saluted by world leaders for his statesmanship, but the crisis convinced the rest of the country that its financial welfare could no longer be left in private hands. The events of 1907 led to the founding of the Federal Reserve Bank.

As the lessons of financial history enable us to better understand modern-day Wall Street, we invite you to explore the business career of the legendary financier, J. Pierpont Morgan.