Philanthropist, Financier He is remembered for being a financial genius and in his old age, the “father of modern philanthropy”. Since he never married or had children, he mentored Junius Spencer Morgan, to step into his shoes upon his retirement. His business career began at the age of eleven with on-the-job training in his brother's grocery store; he had very little formal education. His father's death in 1811 impacted his life greatly as his family had to sell their home to resolve debt and to provide for his widowed mother and younger siblings. When his brother's store burnt to the ground, he relocated to Washington, D.C and Georgetown, Maryland to work in his uncle's store. He served in the War of 1812 where he met Elisha Riggs. By the age of nineteen, he was a partner in Peabody, Riggs and Company, a successful dry goods store with locations not only in Baltimore, Maryland, but in New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In three years, he made $40,000, thus resolving his father's debts. He traveled frequently to England to purchase dry goods for his stores. On one trip, he negotiated an $8,000,000 loan for the nearly bankrupted State of Maryland, accepting no commission on the transaction but learning the ways and means of world finance. He relocated permanently to England in 1837 expanding his business as George Peabody and Company, a financial service and banking company; he stayed in England the rest of his life except for three visits to the United States. He sold U.S. Government bonds to European buyers, enabling several state governments to maintain financial health after the Depression of the late 1830's. As he earned his fortune, he watched his pennies and for a dozen years, had long workdays without a day off. He partnered with Morgan, the father of famed financier J.P. Morgan. Ten years later, he retired and his business was changed to J.S. Morgan and Company, relocating the main office to New York City from London; then J.P. Morgan inherited the firm changing the name to J. P. Morgan and Company; and today, his original business is the financial giant, JPMorgan Chase. During the American Civil War, he played a key role in selling securities to finance the Union Army. After amassing a fortune of nearly $20 million, he decided to begin philanthropy activities. He established several charities in the United States and England: After the Civil War, he visited the war-torn Southeastern United States, resulting in the Peabody Education Fund, which was endowed with $3,500,000 to promote education for nearly 50 years for children of all races in the eleven Confederate States and West Virginia. This educational fund enabled many southern colleges, such as Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, to rebuild after the Civil War. In some cases, state funds were required to match his donations. In Baltimore, he founded the Peabody Library in 1857, which is now a research center for John Hopkins University. Also in Baltimore, another part of the Peabody Institute was a conservatory for music education and an art gallery, which with the library, became the first cultural center in the United States. In his hometown, the Peabody Essex Museum, which ranks among the top 20 art museums in the nation, and the Peabody Library are two of his endowments. The Natural History Museum at Yale University and the Museum of Archaeology at Harvard University also made his list. To get rid of the London's rat-infested slums, in 1862 he donated $2,500,000 for the construction of apartments for working poor of high moral character. Naming only a few here, Peabody's endowments go on and on. He has received many honors: On July 10, 1862, the prestigious award, The Honorary Freeman of the City of London, was presented to him for his charitable works, as well as the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in 1867. In 1868 his birthplace of Danvers was changed to Peabody, Massachusetts. On July 23, 1869 a bronze statue to honor him was unveiled by the Prince of Wales in London, followed with a replica erected in Baltimore in 1890. In 1900, he became one of the first 28 members of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in the State of New York. He was offered the title of a Baronet or Knighthood by Queen Victoria of England, but he refused. The house of his death was marked with a British Historical Blue Plaque. The British had arranged for his body to be the first American to be buried in Westminster Abbey in London, but following the request in his will, his body was transported to the United States making his final resting place near his birthplace. Both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes were a half-mast in a sorrowful respect for George Peabody. According to some sources, he donated half of his wealth.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Gravesite Details Buried here briefly in 1869 before being moved to Peabody, MA, US