In September 2013, Syria dominates the headlines, as the US contemplates entering another foreign entanglement. At least President Obama doesn't have to worry about the big banks financing foreign governments, as President Woodrow Wilson did in 1914.
John Pierpont "Jack" Morgan, Jr. was born on September 7, 1867. He inherited his father's banking empire, by all accounts big shoes to fill. He made his mark through international investments, particularly his role in financing World War I.
Following its outbreak, he made the first loan of $12 million to Russia, and in 1915, a loan of $50 million to France. By 1915, his firm was the official purchasing agent for the British government, buying cotton, steel, chemicals and food, in exchange for a 1% commission on all purchases. Having a financial stake in the Allies' success, he advocated strongly for US military involvement, a position which made him the target of assassins.
He miraculously survived an attempt on July 14, 1915. The confessed attacker, Frank Holt (aka Eric Muenter), wielded a gun as well as PhD in philosophy from Cornell. The polished and shrewd assailant was hailed by the New York Tribune as "one of the most remarkable criminals in New York." (Though New York police captain Thomas Tunney said "he looks like a boob.")
Holt managed to shoot Morgan twice, in the hip and groin. Morgan survived, in part, because of his wife's heroics, Jane Norton Morgan. The Tribune described the scene.
"As [Holt] reached the landing on the second floor Mrs. Morgan opened a door and emerged into the hallway. Directly behind her was her husband. She saw Holt with a pistol in either hand. Screaming she hurled herself upon him, only to be brushed aside by Mr. Morgan who grappled with the intruder just as the pistol spoke.
Physically Mr. Morgan is a giant; his assailant is slim, almost anemic. Holt went to the floor the banker on top wrestling to get the pistol that was in his assailant's right hand. Mrs. Morgan tore the other revolver from Holt's left hand just as her husband threw the weapon to one side and began pounding the man head's against the floor...
The butler had picked up a huge lump of canal coal which be banged on Holt's head with all his might. That took the fight out of the intruder, and in a few minutes he was trussed up like a turkey and awaiting police."
To round out the weekend, let's celebrate the birthday of singer-songwriter Jimmie Rodgers, born on September 8, 1897 by listening to his 1933 classic "California Blues."
The Week That Was (in Banker's Notes)
Sep 6 Thoreau Leaves Walden
Sep 5 Born: Paul Volker
Sep 4 Peekskill Riots
Sep 3 Born: George Hearst
Sep 2 Rock Springs Massacre