Both on and off Wall Street, it seems as though JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is always in the news. Whether it be making an $8.3 billion profit, or its resilience to trade wars and volatile political climates, JPMorgan Chase has stood the test of time.
But who was the man behind the powerhouse bank? And how did he build his finance empire?
Who Was J.P. Morgan?
John Pierpont Morgan was born in 1837 in Hartford, CT, to financier Junius Spencer Morgan. Through the turn of the century, Morgan made influential inroads in the financial sector and helped finance, organize and consolidate some of the biggest railroad, electric and industry projects of the pre-war era.
Morgan was one of the most pivotal Gilded Age figures, working with United States Steel, General Electric and even forming a syndicate to resupply the U.S. government's depleted gold reserve in 1895.
Still, the banker's legacy is perhaps more impressive. Forming JPMorgan Chase in 1871, Morgan created an enduring institution that is still seeing remarkable growth, according to recent numbers.
J.P. Morgan's Life
Born on April 17, 1837 to a successful banker, Morgan followed in his father's footsteps by entering into the financier world in the 1850s.
As a child, Morgan was reportedly sickly, suffering seizers and other health problems, forcing him to spend time indoors and at galleries - possibly where the mogul fostered an appreciation for the art he would later collect.
In 1854, Morgan graduated from a Boston high school and, after moving to London with his family in 1854, continued his studies abroad at the Insitute Sillig in Switzerland, and after Gottingen University in Germany. Morgan spent time learning French and German, before returning to the states to begin a career in finance.
After moving back to the United States in 1857, Morgan began working at a New York branch of his father's firm called Duncan, Sherman & Co. as a clerk.
The banker in 1861 married his first wife Amelia Sturges, daughter of a wealthy New York businessman, but after her untimely death four months into the union, Morgan wed Frances Louisa Tracy, in 1865, and went on to have four children with her.
By 1864, Morgan formed Dabney, Morgan & Co., but in 1871, the banker opted to partner with Philadelphia banker Anthony Drexel to form Drexel, Morgan & Co.
J.P. Morgan's Career
But, in the 1850s, the titan founded a private merchant banking partnership in New York called Drexel, Morgan & Co., according to the company's website. Only a few short years later, Chase National Bank was founded in 1877 by New York Banker John Thompson, and by 1880, Drexel, Morgan & Co. helped complete the Northern Pacific Railroad by financing the deal - which had an enormous impact on restructuring America's "ailing" railroad industry at the time.
Not stopping there, the finance titan helped reorganize several railroads - and, in 1885, Morgan facilitated the agreement between the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad (the two largest railroads in the country at the time). The restructuring dissipated tensions with competition between the two powerhouses. And, following the panic of 1893, the banker helped rehabilitate several more railroads including the Southern Railroad, the Erie Railroad and Norther Pacific.
According to Britannica, by 1902, the mogul controlled via stock over 5,000 miles of American railroads due to his incredibly influential status.
Perhaps most notably, Morgan created a syndicate to help resupply the U.S. government's dwindling gold reserve to the tune of $62 million in gold. By providing the government with the gold, Morgan was critical in aiding the Treasury crisis and the depression.
Still, only a few years later, the titan ventured into financing industrial consolidations, including his 1891 financing of the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric (GE) - one of the most enduring industry legacies in the country. Not finished with groundbreaking corporations, Morgan charged on to finance the merging of Carnegie Steel Company with the Federal Steel Company and others, in 1901, to create the United States Steel Corporation (X) - which was reportedly the world's first corporation worth $1 billion.
However, the banker avoided disaster when his planned trip in 1912 on the fated Titanic was cancelled due to an illness - saving Morgan from a travesty.
But, in 1907, Morgan convinced fellow bankers to help bail out several failing financial institutions during the financial panic to save markets. It was this as well as previous actions that caused Morgan to be called to testify before a congressional committee under Arsene Pujo of Lousianna, which reportedly investigated a "money trust" of some of the Wall Street heavy-hitters who, as the concern went, had accumulated too much power. The Pujo Committee influenced both the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913 and even the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914 to help regulate markets and power.
The titan of banking eventually died at the age of 75 in 1913 in Rome, Italy, but had accumulated an impressive art collection which he donated much of to the Metropolitan Museum of Art - apparently donating 7,000 items in 1917.
Originally, J.P. Morgan & Co. was called Drexel, Morgan & Co., and according to the JPMorgan Chase website, was mostly servicing Europeans who wished to invest in the United States. But after becoming successful, the firm became one of the foremost private domestic and foreign banks in the country.
The bank's first major act was selling New York Central Railroad stock while keeping the stock price stable - making a smash success. The bank then became a go-to for financing mergers, consolidations, and founding of mega industry titans in the railroad, electric and steel industries.
By 1904, J.P. Morgan & Co. helped finance projects like the Panama Canal, raising $40 million for the United States to help purchase the land rights from cash-poor French Panama Canal Co. And, notably, J.P. Morgan & Co. played an influential role in financing the Allied victory during World War I, reportedly arranging a $500 million Anglo-French loan - the "largest foreign loan in Wall Street history" at the time, according to JPMorgan Chase's site.
After Morgan's death in 1913, the bank remained a staple of the American financial sector.
The JPMorgan Chase (JPM) stock is certainly having a heyday right now.
The bank's stock is sitting at a little more than $106 per share, and despite a dip in the stock market, analysts are happy with their projections.
TheStreet's Executive Editor Brian Sozzi reported that the bank is the "best stock to own" after seeing its second-quarter results Friday. The stock is also a key holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club.
"JPMorgan is most representative of the value inherent in the universal banking model," Credit Suisse analysts wrote. "Look to JPMorgan for best-in-class execution-sustainable organic revenue growth and market share gains (leveraging the benefits of its complete, scaled and well-integrated product set), a willingness to drive down unit operating costs (capacity for investment to drive incremental growth; a virtuous circle) and an ability to optimize capital; this should sustain better-than-average earnings growth and returns on equity."
The bank showed a record second-quarter profit of $8.32 billion - that's an 18% increase. Additionally, its trading revenue increased by 13%, to $5.4 billion. And, to top it off, the company's loans rose 4% to $948.4 billion.