George Peabody

From Academic Kids

This article is about George Peabody, a dry goods merchant and philanthropist in the northern United States, founder of the Peabody Institute. For information about George Peabody, the banker and philanthropist in the southern United States associated with Peabody College and the Peabody Award, see George Foster Peabody.

George Peabody (February 18, 1795November 4, 1869) was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded the Peabody Institute. He was born in Danvers, Massachusetts to a middle class family.

While serving as a volunteer in the War of 1812, Peabody met Elisha Riggs, who, in 1814, provided financial backing for the wholesale dry goods firm of Peabody, Riggs, and Company.

In 1816, Peabody moved to Baltimore, where he would live for the next 20 years.

The town of South Danvers, Massachusetts changed its name to The City of Peabody, Massachusetts in honor of its favorite son. Peabody is a member of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans sponsored by the City University of New York.

In the 1830s, Peabody moved to London, where he would spend the rest of his life. There the irrepressible American patriot started a bank and entered into a partnership with Junius Morgan; today's assorted financial businesses with the name Morgan trace their roots to Peabody's bank. (Chernow: The House of Morgan)

In London, Peabody established the Peabody Donation Fund, which continues to this day to provide subsidized housing to the working class in London. In America, Peabody founded and supported numerous institutions in New England and elsewhere. At the close of the American Civil War, he established the Peabody Education Fund to "encourage the intellectual, moral, and industrial education of the destitute children of the Southern States." His grandest beneficence, however, was to Baltimore; the city in which he achieved his earliest success.

Missing image
Peabody Estates provide cheap housing in Central London even today. This sign is on the side of an estate in Westminster.

George Peabody is known to have provided benefactions of more than $8 million, most of them in his own lifetime. Among the list are included:

1852 The Peabody Institute, Peabody, Mass: $217,000
1856 The Peabody Institute, Danvers, Mass: $100,000
1857 The Peabody Institute, Baltimore: $1,400,000
1862 The Peabody Donation Fund, London: $2,500,000
1866 The Peabody Museum, Yale University: $150,000
1867 The Peabody Museum, Salem, Mass: $140,000
1867 Peabody Education Fund: $2,000,000

George Peabody died in London on November 4, 1869. At the request of the Dean of Westminster and with the approval of the Queen, Peabody was given a temporary burial in Westminster Abbey. His will provided that he be buried in the town of his birth, Danvers, Massachusetts, and Prime Minster Gladstone arranged for Peabody's remains to be returned to America on the Monarch, the newest and largest ship in Her Majesty's Navy.


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